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Movimento Sem Terra (MST)

Zulma Amador

Subject Social History » Labor History
Sociology » Social Movements

Place South America » Brazil

Period 1000 - 1999 » 1900-1999

Key-Topics labor movements, property rights, reform movements, rural

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405197953.2009.01048.x


The agrarian question in Brazil became a social and political problem in the middle of the twentieth century. Two important factors helped to make this question visible: the revitalization of the Peasant Leagues (Ligas Camponesas) in the northeast in the 1950s, and several conflicts between the indigenous people and the tenant farmers in the Amazon region in the 1960s. These events marked contemporary Brazilian history. They disrupted four centuries of the peasantry's oppression and silence. First, the historical make-up of the country and the distribution of land had become an urgent national issue on the social and political agenda. Second, the movements forced the state to recognize and deal with these social and agrarian demands. In the colonial period, the Portuguese crown divided the country into 12 capitanias , state land given to relatives or loyal families. These families divided thousands of hectares of land among other families of the same type, and so on. This was the foundation of the social and economic organization based on the system of land possession that characterized the colonial and post-colonial periods of Brazilian history. The sugar cane plantation owners ( senhores de engenho ) and the military elite, called coronéis , became the new economic elite. The possession of large extensions of land ( latifundio ) became the basis for social and economic organization. ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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