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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


Zé Pinto


Oziel is with us still

The boy was a child of the wind
So he flew like a swift
The boy reaped horizons
Not even a darting deer might risk
On his face forever peaceful
Was a flowering smile for the dawn
The highway sun reflected his war
He looked upon his people with justice's gaze
For his soul smelled of earth
So many springs he'd still to live
For so few eras saw your birth
He kissed the serpent of hunger and fear
But made of courage his secret dear
He raised the banner scarlet red
An "a" for agrarian he added to reform
And so marched on.
He took each step with burning faith
His voice echoed out at the front of the line
With a magical tone in an ever-present melody
And the march went on, as did the men,
And the women marched, as did the kids
But there where the bend was shaped like an "S"
- not standing here for sonho or sorte(1)
To the bands of the north the old demon
Showed its power.
There the dragon roared, the crowd pointed,
Weapons spat fire, and nineteen
sem terra embraced chill death.
But the enemy trembled at the dignity of the boy
Still but an adolescent, dark-skinned, small
Under soldiers' kicks, carbine and rifle
He cried out his love for Brazil, viva to his movement,
And he died!
He died for those yet to grasp
how so many shoots are sprouting still
Under black bags, or in training,
Or in the settlements, too,
Whenever a song is sung,
Or in a moment's silence,
Oziel is with us still,
Because people even feel
His pulsing heartbeat.

1 Editor's note: sonho ou sorte: dream or fate.

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'. 

'Young man of 18 who was killed during the state police ambush at Eldorado de Carajás. He was tortured to death and made to cry "Long live the MST"' (Calendário Histórico dos Trabalhadores. São Paulo: MST, Setor de Educação. 3a. edição, 1999, p. 38). 

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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