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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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Emerging culture by media type -> Poems 46 resources (Edited by Else R P Vieira. Translation © Bernard McGuirk.)

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Zé Pinto


300 years of Zumbi

Here in Latin America
Invasion by boat began
Came scripted from Europe
As genocide plan
In the name of civilisation they land
With the sword in one fist
And a cross in the other hand.

Here they found life
Here they sowed death
Here they found flowers
Here they sowed fire
Here they found gold
Here they sowed theft.

In baptisms of blood
Here they sowed belief
Swooped as birds of prey
In praise of a Clement God
So much blood was spilled
In the stocks of death
To gain cheap labour
Indian and black enslaved
Hunted like beasts
Children from their parents snatched
If the black had no soul
The black was not with human matched
And if he had no soul
Then he was mere merchandise
But it was disillusion's lament
That the black man learned to sing;
T'was in the slave quarters' penumbra
That the black man learned to samba;
T'was in negritude's light
That the black man learned to fight.

In this great continent
There are but three tales
One from before the invaders came
The second five centuries more of invasion
And resistance, of Indian, Black and the people.

The third is the one we are still constructing
To destroy the root of all evil.

The black cry of ZUMBI
Comes from Palmares
To break the storm
In new eras
Three hundred years on
Still the echo is one
Freedom, freedom, freedom!


November 2002

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Compiled by Else R P Vieira. Translation © Thomas Burns.

Palmares, Quilombo of
'For many revolutionaries ... the First Free Republic of Latin America. At the end of the 16th century, around 1590, there was a revolt of the black slaves of a large sugar-mill in Pernambuco. Armed with clubs and scythes, they overcame the owners and overseers and headed for the forest … Around 1650, about 20 thousand inhabitants were living in the Quilombo [runaway slave village], collectively organized for work and defense. The most important leader of the Quilombo was Zumbi, born in 1655 in one of its villages, who, while a young man, was captured by soldiers of the governor of Pernambuco, given to the priest of Porto Calvo and baptized with the name of Francisco. In 1670, Zumbi escaped from the parish house and returned to the Quilombo of Palmares, where he became a great leader for his culture, courage, and organizational and command ability. About forty expeditions were undertaken against Palmares. Its destruction took place with a huge expedition in 1694, causing Zumbi’s death on November 20, 1695' (Calendário Histórico dos Trabalhadores. São Paulo: MST, Setor de Educação. 3a. edição, 1999, p. 38). See ZUMBI OF PALMARES. 

Zumbi of Palmares
'Zumbi, leader of the black slave resistance in the seventeenth century, when many quilombos were organized all over the country. Zumbi was in command of the Palmares quilombo in Alagoas. He was killed by troops of the Portuguese Crown in 1695' (Fernandes, Bernardo Mançano e Stedile, João Pedro. Brava gente: a trajetória do MST e a luta pela terra no Brasil. São Paulo: Editora Fundação Perseu Abramo, 1999 p. 63, n. 33). See PALMARES, QUILOMBO. 

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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