Food Voices: The Interviews
Ana Maria Felix Pinto, Farmer
Ana Maria Felix Pinto is a farmer from Maceió in the state of Ceara in Brazil. Her land settlement was obtained through the efforts of the Brazilian Landless Movement.
I have always lived on this land – since I was born in 1959. I was born in a neighboring community, but my parents lived here because the bosses decided where we were suppose to live. When my parents married, my father was a fisherman and a farmer. He used the boss’s materials and the boss decided where everyone would live. It is a long story. It starts in the 1970’s and goes until now. The settlement started in 1985. The struggle goes much farther back to the 70’s when houses were being burnt because they were not following the instructions of the bosses. Ten or 12 communities came together to struggle for this settlement. There is a whole system of communities within this one settlement.
For us who were born and raised here, our stories are all very similar. We always understood we were the legitimate owners of the land and when we started to feel threatened of losing our land, the people came together to fight for their land. There were people who were brave and refused to pay the landowner for rent. There were a couple people who led the resistance and others followed.
In the beginning, we had the Workers’ Circle. After that we created a union. The Workers’ Circle was a worker’s organization. Some people started to fight and said no to paying, but others had fear. Fear of the repression because houses were burned by the landowners. We had people arrested, but after that we started these basic Christian communities. In the ‘70’s and the 80’s there was a church movement called Theology of Liberation. They came to the communities and gave orientations and they also discussed the rights of the people who lived here. When they saw people organizing and the church movement, they sold the land to a businessman. Many people thought it was a lost cause, because of this businessman. Nobody wanted to leave the land, so we fought a lot and we decided to join hands and now we are still here.
We thought we overcame the land problem, then in came Julio The Pirate – another business man, and he started to pull families apart because he came with false promises of jobs. We had a lot of difficulties and we are still overcoming them. It is very hard. Part of this land that people thought was free is now being argued in the courts. It is a constant struggle. Julio The Private wants to turn this land into resorts and sell it to people abroad. I hope we can keep the land. This is our hope. We won’t give up the fight. It is easier for us to keep the land then him to take it. Believe me, he is not going to get this land. He will leave.
Many things keep me fighting. There is nothing that can make me leave. I don’t believe there is anything for me outside of this community. All my children and grandchildren live here. Some work with farming, some work in construction, some fish, some in the seaweed farming project.
Food sovereignty is what sustains us. It is what keeps us on the land, fighting for the land, looking at the generations – at our grandparents who lived here and our grandchildren who live here. The struggle always continues. There is no end to it. Every time we think it is going to be over, it comes back again. It is from generation to generation. My father fought, I fought and my children are going to keep fighting for the land, and our grandchildren will continue. What makes me successful is keeping the land, having education, health, to have our values respected. It is to fight for our values and to do good work.