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The Sights and Voices of Dispossession: The Fight for the Land and the Emerging Culture of the MST (The Movement of the Landless Rural Workers of Brazil)


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Emerging culture by categories -> Settlements: Ecology projects 11 resources (Cultural categories devised by & © Else R P Vieira)

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Culture: Rehabilitation of traditions and country culture


Aracy Cachoeira


Signs of erosion

One afternoon, sitting on a stump under the guava tree, my eyes out on stalks when I looked at the hill in front of me at my old mud-block house(1).

The bare land of the flat hilltop, seemed an open wound bleeding silently, "the sorrow of the sign of erosion".

Three days went by!
Now the afternoon is stormy, with heavy rain that falls suddenly washing everything away, casting leaves on every side.
I, at the veranda windows, again felt panic as I looked at the flat hill-top
The torrent of red earth that poured down the hill seemed like a river of blood hurtling down, its waters bearing cockerels, insects, roots and, with the mud and the plants, "the sorrow of the sign of erosion".

On the third day the rain abated, I got out of the house to see the plantation in the gully (2)
I settled down in front of what used to be my plot. Now it was my heart that bled, broken by the pain of loss.
Not a stalk of beans to be seen, the orchards not a clue where they'd been, mandioc uprooted, I'd no idea where my pumpkin and squash patch was.
All I could see was red earth covering the plantations.

I looked over there at the hilltop stripped bare. The crater on the slope, now cleaner, deeper, seemed like a gaping throat, an open mouth guffawing, laughing at men for futilely sowing his own woes.
If there had been any trees on the hill, if there had been some protection, my plot would have been saved, for bushes hold back in the rain flood and spread the water evenly across the whole surface.
But when man has cut down woods forever, the water flows straight through the little furrows and breaks out, carrying before it everything in its path, even nature's loam of the soil, leaving the land ever drier.

I looked again at the hillside, it seemed to laugh no longer.
I too fell grave. For days face to face, the hill stripped naked and defenceless, and I paying a high price for the destruction of nature, feeling in my torn heart, "the sorrow of the sign of erosion".

1 Editor's note: mud-block hut: a type of dwelling common in the north of Minas Gerais, built with a lattice-work of sticks on which mud is packed.

2 Editor's note: hollow: a preferred locale for planting, generally on the side of a mountain where the hills form a half-moon.

Poems : Edited by Else R P Vieira. Translation © Bernard McGuirk.


November 2002

Resource ID:


Anthology of poems
A first-hand selection, unpublished in Brazil and elsewhere. A militant poetics; the social and political importance of the poet-singer (cantador), the construction of a canon of exclusion; the landless woman; the theme of death as life's horizon; the pedagogic project.
Else R P Vieira

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