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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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Cultural categories by media type: The media specificity of landless cultural expression.

Cultural category:

 History: Marches, defining moments, congresses

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History: Massacres and martyrs


Ademar Bogo


The land and its warriors (the day of absolution of Zé Rainha)

The land stands face to face
To tell the bourgeois court
Its child is always innocent.
On the ground lie "weapons" of crime, sleeping
Scythes, machetes and confiscated hoes
Shall they condemn the earth again?
To 500 more years of chess?
Of torture, death and senselessness?
What shall they condemn?
Our will to fight?
Our destiny of victory?
Our right to dream?

What guilt can rest in hands
That put up black plastic to people the
That use hunger as a weapon of war
And turn freedom into a new song?

No! The sentences do not flow from the gold pens
That sleep lazily in the magistrates' pockets
The steps of the Sem Terra write the sentences
And the land gives them the recompenses

And the pleasure of eating freedom

Now in celebration will the land embrace its child
Who will march in search of hope

We shall free the land and those who live there
That will be the greatest gift
To be inscribed in memory.
Go on Zé! Fight on and create more children
Go on Zé! Help to make rails
For the train of history.

And there in front under the banners
Life will be born again in a single trench
And we shall sing the anthem of victory.

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


November 2002

Resource ID:



Compiled by Else R P Vieira. Translation © Thomas Burns.

Houses of black plastic
'Term used to describe the huts of the Sem Terra encampments. As the huts are built for temporary use (although they sometimes may last as long as three years), the families make use of the black plastic commonly used to protect industrial products from inclement weather, a cheap product a few meters of which can cover the area needed to shelter a family. On the other hand, this type of material collects a lot of heat, so that during the day it is practically impossible to stay inside the huts. When there is a large concentration of these huts, the media usually calls it a "city of black plastic"' (Fernandes, Bernardo Mançano. Pequeno Vocabulário da Luta pela Terra. Unpublished Unpublished). EDITOR'S NOTE: the original term in Portuguese, "casa de lona preta", can be a misnomer in that "tarpaulin"or "canvas" are expensive materials; it was thus translated as 'houses of black plastic'. 

Zé Rainha
'MST leader in Pontal do Paranapanema (São Paulo). Stood out along with other militants for exposing the greatest falsifying of land documents in the state of São Paulo. From the beginning of MST work in Pontal, the Sem Terra have succeeded in establishing 55 settlements in the region' (Fernandes, Bernardo Mançano e Stedile, João Pedro. Brava gente: a trajetória do MST e a luta pela terra no Brasil. São Paulo: Editora Fundação Perseu Abramo, 1999 ,p. 116, n. 4). 

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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