[08/16/06] The Right to Land: MST inaugurates settlement in Cajamar, São Paulo

[08/16/06] The Right to Land: MST inaugurates settlement in Cajamar, São Paulo

By: Ana Maria Straube

Over the past four years, 40 families of the Landless Workers’ Movement (MST) have fought and struggled for the expropriation of 120 hectares of land in the region of Cajamar, state of São Paulo. The land, which belonged to the Basic Sanitation Company for São Paulo (SABESP), was originally destined to become a landfill. After several attempts to negotiate with the appropriate authorities, the MST decided to occupy the area, declaring it a settlement of agrarian reform.

And after four years of struggle, on the 12 of August, 2006, the land was finally transformed into the Sister Alberta Communal Land Settlement. The division of the land into family-sized lots has already begun. Each family will receive 1.5 hectares of land, 0.5 hectares on which they will construct their homes and establish home gardens and 1.0 hectares which will be cultivated collectively. The remaining land (area not divided up for use by individual families) will be set aside as environmental reserve and will be reforested by the families themselves. The planting of fruit and vegetable crops, as well as meat and dairy production, will all be done using organic and agroecological methods. While they await their legal titles, currently being prepared by the MST, State officials, and members of the judiciary, the MST families have begun the collective production of foods for their own consumption. To do so, and to conserve water resources, the families have prepared a ‘Mandala’ or ‘Circulo’ (Mandala/Ciculo = Circular Garden).


To celebrate their victory, the families held a party which began with the planting of tree saplings in the communal lands now owned by the settlement. The families then gathered under the humble tents they had called home for the past four years and shared food which came from other agrarian reform settlements. The theatre group, Calango e Arlequins, performed for the families, as did other cultural performers, poets, and musicians of latin, samba-rock, and hip-hop genres.

In the afternoon, a spiritual gathering was held in the presence of Dom Tomás Balduíno [of the Pastoral Land Commission (CPT)], Pastor Heidi [of the Lutheran Church], Dom Dom Simão [Archbishop of São Paulo], José Maria [Bishop of São Paulo’s Braganca], Father Paulo Suez [of the National Indigenous Missionary Commission (CIMI)], and representatives of other religious groups. Homage was given to Sister Alberta [of the CPT], Italian nun whose name was given to the settlement, who blessed all those who struggle for land. Immediately following this event was a gathering of political figures close to the MST.

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