August 9, 2006 by cosmoakacitizensmith
The MST camp I am staying on used to belong to a large company called Aracruz Cellulose. Aracruz are a large, Brazilian land-owning family. The possess 375 hectares, have 2000 workers and made nintey million quid in the first 3rd of 2006!
Compare this to Maria Helena below who was working all hours for 200 sq m as a serf.
The problems caused by the concentration of land ownership became acute in Brazilian society in the 60s and 70s. Changes in the economic structure of the country meant that thousands of smallholder families were driven from the land by large companies.
Many of them went to the cities to find work, but most had no luck. They simply stayed where they were in the shanty-towns. Hence the favelas.
Others ended up eeking out a subsistance living back in the country.
The MST started to mobilise as the dictatorship totterered, performing their first land occupation in 1985. It had a lot of support from the grassroots and the Church, including liberation theologan Leonardo Boff. The basic fact was it provided poor families with land, security and infrastructure that society had been unable or unwilling to do for so long.
When democratic elections were held in 1989, the MST refused to ally itself with any party, although many involved look to the ruling left-wing Workers’ Party of Presisdent Lula.
The fact is, though, that by stepping outside of the political mainstream it has been able to keep its integrity and carry on with its mission of helping the dispossessed.