Marielle's seeds blossom in the struggle for land in MST encampments

5 years after the murder of the councilwoman in Rio de Janeiro, her legacy of struggle inspires landless camps in the fight for Agrarian Reform

Encampment Marielle, in Alagoas. Photo: Gabriel Diniz

The history of struggle and resistance built by the trajectory of bravery and responsibility for popular causes makes Marielle Franco eternal. In the countryside, her steps continue to vibrate with the same force that inspires male and female fighters in the four corners of the country: since her physical departure, Marielle has been honored with Landless Encampments that reaffirm the struggle for land at the center of the issues facing Brazil today.

“Marielle Vive,” in addition to a symbolic affirmation of the permanence of her struggles today, also materializes the organization of hundreds of workers who, under the black canvas, position the peasant resistance in the MST encampments.

This is how the approximately 120 families in Alagoas, in the city of Atalaia, in the state's Zona da Mata, recognize themselves in the territory that breathes struggle against the monoculture of sugarcane in the region: the Marielle Franco Encampment.

Area that remains in dispute, marked by threats of eviction and intimidation actions by the Municipal Public Power that, in 2021, even left the community for days without water supply, goes against the interests of the powerful in the region, becoming a reference organization, in the production of healthy food and in popular solidarity, with dozens of tons of food donated to the outskirts of the municipality and in Maceió, in the state capital.

Encampment member Lidiane Ferreira, who has been camping at the Atalaia encampment since 2020, comments on the changes in her life since moving to the black tarp: “going to the encampment has changed my life a lot, in many ways. I don't know how I would be today if I weren't in the MST.”

“It is an honor to live in a community that bears the name of a warrior and black woman, remembering every day that Marielle is still alive in our struggle,” reinforced Lidiane.

In Maranhão, the Marielle Franco encampment has its flag raised in the city of Itinga, located 620 km from São Luís, there are about

Lidiane Ferreira Photo: Mykesio Max

150 families that live in the encampment that completes 5 years in June 2023, standing out in the production of healthy food for supply of local fairs in the region.

With a variety of vegetables, fruits and vegetables in the families' productive backyards, the encampment is also consolidated in the production of cassava, pumpkin, beans and rice. Only rice, the encampment reached 150 tons of production in just one year.

Encampment Marielle in Maranhão. Photo: MST in MA

The resistance and persistence of families from Maranhão camped in the area also mark the fight against the use of pesticides. In 2022, encampment members denounced the spraying of poison by Viena Siderúrgica, which maintains eucalyptus plantations in the region. At the time, the families also denounced a series of threats and intimidation coming from the company to workers. Remember the case through the report of Brasil de Fato.

In the southeast of the country, around 450 families are organized in the Marielle Vive encampment, in the municipality of Valinhos, the result of an occupation in 2018, shortly after the murder of Marielle Franco, in the capital of Rio de Janeiro.

The area of more than 130 hectares, before the Sem Terra occupation, was marked by environmental degradation and the non-fulfillment of its social function, today it is a reference for the production of food without poison, in addition to a space that reaffirms the right to education, culture and leisure for workers.

“The councilwoman murdered on March 14, Marielle Franco, symbolizes black women and single mothers throughout Brazil, and within our territory it is no different. We have many black women here, single mothers, heads of families,” explains Cintia Zaparoli, from the MST Communication Collective in the Campinas Region.

Marielle Vive Encampment, in São Paulo. Photo: MST in SP

According to Cintia, the process of resistance in the encampment is marked by a series of reintegrations, threats, but also many achievements. “We have gone through five repossessions in these years, but we have had many victories so far: in social assistance and collective health, in early childhood education, for example. At the beginning of the encampment we didn't have access to any of that.”

With regard to the struggle for territory, Zaparoli highlights the unfolding of the agenda with the municipality. According to Cintia, who is also part of the MST leadership in the region, the encampment that was initially inserted as an irregular nucleus in the discussion of the city's Master Plan, is today defended by specialists and environmentalists due to the importance of the place in environmental preservation, especially in the area of Serra dos Cocais, where the encampment is located.

Whether in the fields of beans, corn, rice and cassava, or in the Youth and Adult Education (EJA) classes, in the culture, sport and leisure spaces, Marielle's life remains permanent between shacks, meetings and collective organization in the encampment.

Throughout the country the territories organized by the MST in honor of Marielle reaffirm the commitment of the landless people to keep their memory alive and their reference to the popular organization, endorsed by the struggle for land, a flag that mobilizes thousands of men and women who, like Marielle, dedicated their lives in building a fairer society for everyone.

Women and the struggle for land

For Margarida da Silva, from the National Directorate of the MST, the struggle for land has become increasingly present as an alternative for families to live with dignity throughout the country. “The conquest of land concretely symbolizes the possibility of food on the table, housing and work. These are real needs of countless families in the country and the struggle for land presents itself as a real possibility for these conquests, guaranteeing the production of healthy food and ending hunger,” she comments.

According to the leader, these needs are even more present in women's lives. “When we look at the reality of women today, especially in urban and rural peripheries, living conditions are even more precarious: mostly single mothers, living in work situations that do not guarantee their survival and that of their children, all of this has directly impacted the lives of women in Brazil.”

“In this scenario, it is essential that the strengthening of the struggle for land has an eye on the current situation of the working class in our country, with a special eye on women,” she highlighted.

When referring to Marielle's legacy, Margarida reinforces that, even with reference to struggle and organization in urban peripheries, especially in Rio de Janeiro, Marielle's story has become an engine for the militancy of many female fighters in the countryside as well.

“Marielle's symbology is present in our daily lives. Whether in our Women's Day, in the processes of organizing production in our territories or in the struggle for land, many of our companions carry Marielle's mystique as well as that of so many other Brazilian fighters, strengthening our identity and our possibilities for struggle.”

5 years of impunity

Photo: reproduction

The murder of the then councilor for the Socialism and Freedom Party (PSOL), Marielle Franco, along with her driver, Anderson Gomes, five years ago, in the city of Rio de Janeiro, marked the country and the world. Both were brutally murdered in an ambush when they were in their car, leaving a mandate agenda in the center of the capital of Rio de Janeiro.

Since then, March 14 has been marked by a series of initiatives that demand justice for the case that remains unpunished.

Elected with more than 46,000 votes, Marielle was a sociologist and, at the time, the only black woman among parliamentarians. A black woman from the periphery, she came from Favela da Maré and her trajectory was marked by the defense of the rights of women, the black population and the peripheries. Her performance as councilwoman fulfilled a broad agenda of confronting the militias in Rio de Janeiro, a fact that is related to her murder.

March 14, 2023

By Gustavo Marinho | From the MST Page | Edited by Fernanda Alcântara | Original URL: