Geraldo de Matos Barbosa and Maria Elena each had a dream when they joined the Landless Workers Movement (MST) 13 years ago. The couple has been part of the movement in Maranhão, Brazil including six years living in a dusty encampment, enduing six violent evictions before finally securing title to the land.
The process of shifting from an encampment (without buildings, electricity and sometimes even water) to a settlement helped make both their dreams come true. Grasssroots International’s support for land rights in Brazil, including with the MST, provides much-needed solidarity and funding for the movement, and for the apsirations of the courageous individuals putting themselves on the front lines of the struggle.
Maria Elena dreamed of a house, a piece of land and water to produce their food. I witnessed the achievement of her dream, and the happiness it brought her, when I sat at her home and ate the food she grew and cooked with a lot of love!
Geraldo’s dream was to be a carpenter. As we walked around the settlement, he proudly showed me his workshop where he made all the home’s furniture. Now his workshop and carpentry skill also provide income for the family.
He said, “We in the movement have a lot of tasks and challenges, but we need to have the courage and character to transform the society. I transformed my life and will continue working to transform the lives of all peasants in Brazil.”
Geraldo sees himself as living proof for the power of the movement to transform the outlook and lives of peasants. “I had no idea about the meaning of politics and how politics impacted our lives,” he told me. “Now I know that there is not such a thing of a poor country. Poverty is fabricated by the system.”
He said before he got involved in the movement for land rights, he was “just a peasant in the field,” but now he is part of the movement working towards real social changes. “The movement taught us where to go, waking with our own legs.”
Together with Maria Elena, Geraldo is using those legs to march for justice, so other landless workers can achieve their dreams, too.