Tens of thousands of Brazilian families live in encampments along the high-ways
in various parts of the country. These are families of the landless who have
generally come together to form veritable cities, sometimes containing over
Conditions of life are very rudimentary. Everything is lacking: water, food,
sanitary facilities, schools for the children, medical attention, etc. In addition,
the people live in the greatest insecurity, subject to provocations and violence
from jagunços, or hired gunmen, and other forces of repression organized
by the estate owners, who fear the occupation of their unproductive lands by
the landless. In reality, the situation in these ‘cities’ of the
landless is worse than in refugee camps in Africa, for they cannot depend upon
any protection from the authorities, they do not receive the slightest institutional
assistance and neither the United States nor any humanitarian organization comes
to their aid.
In any case, the disinherited of the earth nurse the hope of better days. And
one thing is certain: they no longer wish to flee to the cities that cannot
absorb them, provide them with jobs or the conditions of a life of dignity.
Shielding themselves from the threat of delinquency and prostitution in the
large urban centres, they prefer to remain in the encampments along the highways
and await the opportunity to occupy the land so long dreamed of, even at the
risk of their lives. The plan of each one is identical: to work a piece of land
that will finally be his own, to build a house for his family, to guarantee
its support and, through the cooperative to be created, sell the surplus of
his agricultural production, ensuring the maintenance of the school for his
children. In synthesis, this is the common dream of the landless.
Salgado,Sebastião. Terra: Struggle of the Landless. Preface
by José Saramago. Verses by Chico Buarque. Translated by Clifford Landers.
London: Phaidon Press, 1998, pp. 141. Thanks to Sebastião Salgado for providing free use of his photographs and captions on this web site. For further information about the photographs and captions contact firstname.lastname@example.org