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Movimento Quilombola no Maranhão (MOQUIBOM)

Afrodescendant Quilombola communities in Brazil face a host of threats at the intersection of racism and land grabs. MOQUIBOM continues the legacy of Afro-Brazilians’ resistance to the theft of their lands and labor, organizing to win liberation beyond formal constitutional rights granted on paper.

Over the whole early modern history of Brazil, African slaves rebelled against their enslavement — escaping into the hinterlands and interior to form hundreds of freed-peoples’ communities (Quilombos). The Quilombola movements of today represent a continuation of these hundreds of years of resistance and quest for liberation by Afrodescendant people in Brazil. As a result of the struggle of the Afro-Brazilian movements under the military dictatorship, the country’s 1988 constitution states that residents of Quilombos (Quilombolas) are entitled to a permanent, non-transferable title to the land they occupy.

However, rights guaranteed on paper are not always enshrined in practice. Racism has intersected with corporations’ and politicians’ hunger for profit and investment to drive Quilombolas out of their ancestral homes and territories. The Brazilian state of Maranhão holds one of the highest, and most violent, rates of rural conflict — primarily thanks to agribusiness and industrial “megaprojects” that target Quilombola and Indigenous lands.

In the face of these threats, Movimento Quilombola no Maranhão (MOQUIBOM) organizes as a state-wide articulation of Maranhão’s Afrodescendant Quilombola communities. Since 2006 it has organized in defense of Free Quilombola territory towards a long-term vision of Quilombola self-governance. MOQUIBOM sees the defense of territory as defense of sacred space and the violation of territory as an attack on identity and the community’s very existence.

The movement fights for respect of Quilombola identity and territory, and against state neglect and violence. It resists both illegitimate landholder abuses and all forms of gender violence within and outside their movement. MOQUIBOM is a mixed-gender organization, with the Guerreiras da Resistência do MOQUIBOM (Women Warriors of Resistance of MOQUIBOM) at the core of their organization. They recognize that the fight for respect of Quilombola identity and territory must include a gender justice lens. MOQUIBOM is currently organized in a dozen Quilombola territories and over 60 communities.

MOQUIBOM believes that the defense of territory must be carried out by the communities themselves. They know they cannot wait for the state to protect their constitutional rights. Despite violence and land grabs, Quilombola communities are in resistance to defend and reclaim their territories. And Grassroots International is with them, providing MOQUIBOM material resources for trainings, mobilizations, and exchanges.

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