Maria Helena

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August 9, 2006 by cosmoakacitizensmith

The next day it is completely pissing it down and and all the tasks scheduled have been postponed.

Looks like my run of luck is up. It is winter in Brazil and yet the weather has been better than back home. Till now, that is.

So we go for a walk with Maria Helena, one of the people we met yesterday, and have a look around the camp.

Maria Helena used to work as a domestic in Sao Paulo. However, she was brought up in Bahia in the North East, where she lived on a farm with her mother until the age of six. She always hated city life and longed to return to the country.

Her boss in Sao Paulo owned a farm near to where the camp is now and he needed someone to work for him out there. Maria Helena seized the opportunity and moved.

She says she got a mortgage on a small piece of land but she was working very hard keeping the farm and the family together.

Then she was approached by MST militantes, as were others who worked on the land in the area. The militantes are local MST activists whose job it is to get people interested in and co-ordinate a particular land occupation.

Maria Helena said she didn’t want to know. She had heard on the TV and on other media outlets that the MST were a bunch of terrorists and she didn’t want anything to do with them.

But as the area was occupied she got talking to several of the families and individuals involved. She came to change her opinion as to what was going on, and what the MST were about.

This is a very common theme I found running through many of the stories from the people I got talking to.

She decided to join, despite the fact that she only had a year to go on her mortgage repayments. That was in 2003. The families involved in the occupation lived in an encampment just next to the area of land targeted. Then a year ago they got the legal go ahead and they moved onto where they are now.

Maria Helena told us that she was working like a serf before, and now she has dignity, community and respect. Now, she says, she has a little piece of heaven.

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