Quilombolas reclaim land from Aracruz

Posted: 13 October 2006 in Aracruz, Brazil, Resistance

Heidi Bachram and Tamra Gilbertson have produced a great video about a Quilombola land action in Espirito Santo province, in July. There’s also a podcast featuring Marcelo Calazan. As Marcelo says “OK, let’s go to the march!”

Here’s a transcript of the video:


On July 29th 2006, Quilombola communities in the region Sapê do Norte in Espirito Santo, Brazil began the process of reclaiming 10,000 hectares of lands from Norwegian paper and pulp multinational Aracruz Cellulose.Aracruz Cellulose was installed during the military dictatorship and planted eucalyptus plantations on Quilombola lands. Eucalyptus is a destructive tree and makes the land dry and infertile. After seven years the trees are cut down to make paper products for export.

Over 500 people came together on this day to reclaim the sacred Quilombola cemetery where their ancestors are buried.

He who has a lot of land and food denies to help his brothers, who are so poor and skinny. . . Look how sad where is his fortune? Our rights are coming, our rights are coming. If our rights don’t come Brasil loses as well. Our rights are coming, our rights are coming. If our rights don’t come Brasil loses as well.

Domingos Firminiandos Santos, community leader: “We are here in a slave’s cemetery. Black people worked, died and were buried here. Its preservation is very relevant to us because we have to think about the future generations. Our children and grandchildren, all those children will know that there used to be a slaves’ graveyard right on this spot. But it gets covered in eucalyptus trees as it is right now and they never get to know about it. History will be erased. So, now we are going to start cleaning our cemetery, OK?”

Elda Maria Dos Santos, community leader: “I am feeling a lot of emotion a lot of happiness. All that was ours in the past will come back to us. The land that was here before where we could walk and have fun like our grandparents did. I am very happy.”

“Make it eternal. Make this moment last for ever.”

Antonio de Oliveira, local activist: “Resistance here got stronger because we have been living with the problem too long. We have been feeling it in our skin. We have seen our brothers being pushed to the outskirts dying in the streets of the big cities. It hurts our hearts. We have reached the conclusion that we don’t have to leave and try a life in the big city. No, we have to reclaim our own space right here.”

After the eucalyptus has been cleared from the cemetery the community perform a ritual over the bodies of their ancestors.
Antonio de Oliveira, local activist: “The peasants want to live here. We want to live on our own soil because we’re generally fed to the wolves over there. That’s the capitalist system.”

Elda Maria Dos Santos, community leader: “Black people were brought to this land to work as slaves for the rich people, for the barons. . . . Here we have worked making manoic flour and right here they have made this cemetery. This is what is important to us, to our culture, to the reconstruction of our lives.”

Two days after the land action, Aracruz Cellulose appealed for police presence to protect what they call their private land and began collecting the wood. A week later, the company accused the Quilombola communities of stealing their wood. Conflicts have erupted but the Quilombola communities are still struggling to reclaim their land.

To support this struggle, see the ‘Support’ page on the website: www.desertoverde.org.


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