The human column of over 12,000 people, some 3,000 families, is an impressive
sight as it sets off on its march during a cold night at the beginning of winter
in Paraná. The peasant army advances in almost total silence. All that
can be heard is the panting of lungs accustomed to great effort and the muffled
sound of feet on asphalt.
Judging by the direction in which the human wave is heading, it is not difficult
to guess that its final direction is the Giacometi plantation, one of those
gigantic latifundios so typical of Brazil. Despite these latifundios
being marginally productive, their colossal dimensions nevertheless guarantee
their owners a millionaire’s income. Correctly utilized, the 205,900 acres
of the Giacometi plantation could provide a life with dignity for the 12,000
souls marching at this moment in its direction.
A peasant walks quickly: 13.5 miles have been covered in less than five hours.
When they arrive, day has begun to break. The early hours of morning are shrouded
in heavy fog. Little by little, affected by the humidity of the Iguaçu
River, which flows quite close by, it clears away from the ground.
The human river that flowed along the asphalt through the night, discharging
at the gate of the plantation, stops and backs up like the waters of a weir.
The women and children are quickly sent to the rear of the ‘dam’,
while the men take positions at the front of the imaginary line to prepare for
the possible confrontation with the plantation’s jagunços.
With no reaction from the latifundio’s small army, the men in
the vanguard break the padlock and the gate opens wide. They enter. Behind them,
the human river begins to move. Scythes, hoes and banners are raised in the
unrestrained avalanche of hope in this re-encounter with life - and the repressed
shout of the landless sounds as one voice in the brightness of the new day:
‘AGRARIAN REFORM - THE STRUGGLE OF ALL!’ Paraná, 1996.
Salgado, Sebastião. Terra: Struggle of the Landless. Preface
by José Saramago. Verses by Chico Buarque. Translated by Clifford Landers.
London: Phaidon Press, 1998: 136-37 (photo), 143 (caption). Thanks to Sebastião Salgado for providing free use of his photographs and captions on this web site. For further information about the photographs and captions contact firstname.lastname@example.org