Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A visit to the MST

Tomorrow we leave at 7 AM for the wild blue yonder, a.k.a. the interior. We're going to be spending 5 days at a settlement started by the MST (Movimento de Trabalhadores Sem-Terras), a HUGE movement here in Brazil. As many of you may know, Brazil is big on agriculture--it produces a whole lot of the world's corn, sugar, coffee, just to name a few crops, as well as over a third of the world's meat (cattle and poultry, primarily). Most of this agriculture is controlled by huge, international conglomerates--many agribusinesses hold huge tracts of land, the size of Belgium and Portugal combined. I'm not making a judgment on this fact (at least not yet; I don't know enough), I'm just attempting to set the stage.

The MST is a movement for rural landless workers, attempting through various means to secure land reform in Brazil--to fight these huge companies and try to bring back a little opportunity for communities of farmers. Their trademark 'revolutionary' tactic is to go and camp out on latifundos (big farms).

Brasileiros view the MST in various different ways, but there's no denying that it tends to be a polarizing organization--either people really love it and think the MST is doing something that's necessary and vital (maybe even noble), or, conversely, 'those good-for-nothing rabble rousers who insist on making a scene'. But many Brazilians, perhaps the majority, classify MST as the most important social movement in Brazil and perhaps in Latin America. The MST has, without doubt presented poor Brazilians with real alternatives in terms of land tenure. But MST is not only about land reform. There are important objectives related to the full democratization of Brazilian society that are of fundamental concern to MST and part of its program and strategy.

Anyways, I'm trying not to go with too many preconcieved notions, though it's beyond difficult, due to the nature of the organization and the fact that it's portrayed in so many different ways that sometimes seem to contradict one another!

What I am looking forward to, beyond a doubt, is getting to see a different part of Brazil. This will be a vastly different experience than city life (much closer to 'roughing it' :)--hammocks ('redes') outside under the stars!! The moon is sadly pretty full right now but that won't stop me from stargazing, hopefully.

Apparently the Portuguese accents are horrifically different once you get out of the city, though...shoot! Just as I thought I was beginning to make progress, something new.

Until Tuesday, over and out.

1 comment:

Cristle Collins Judd said...

Eager for an update!!!!