All you need to know about Iberian America

Visiting the Homeless Workers Movement in São Paulo, Brazil

Published August 20, 2020 in Brazil , Personal Stories & Opinions - 1 Comment

Upon leaving Buenos Aires, Argentina where I was living for the time period…

I took a flight with some other folks to an area of Brazil called São Paulo.

However, we were not set on spending too much time in the city…

But, instead, we were set on visiting some more rural areas in the surrounding state…

Mostly because, at the time, we were looking into inequality of the the MERCOSUR trading bloc.

For those who don’t know, the MERCOSUR trading bloc is a trading bloc between some of the larger South American countries.

With some smaller economies mixed in also.

Such as Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay.

And if I remember right, Venezuela was making a bid to have a more active role in the trading bloc at that time.

Plus there were other South American countries that were making their case to be more affiliated with the trading bloc like Bolivia at the time.

Either way, it’s a trading bloc from what I understand.

And we were traveling to São Paulo, Brazil…

And other areas of South America as you can read here

To look into the inequality between the different countries and regions of this trading bloc at the time….

Now here is the HQ of MERCOSUR in the capital of Uruguay – Montevideo.

As you can see here below…

Anyway, for the purpose of our trip…

We ended up making a connection beforehand and visiting one of the more important social movements in modern day Latin America.

At least in my opinion..

A social movement called Movimento dos Trabalhadores Sem Teto.

In English, they are called the Homeless Workers Movement.

Otherwise known as the MTST in Brazil and abroad as well among their supporters and academics.

It is a social movement that essentially focuses on….

If I had to summarize it in just a few words….

Urban reform and squatters’ occupations.

You can find out more about this movement here through the very academic source of Wikipedia….

Or you can visit their website here..

Either way, you get the point…

That this movement does work to address the inequality of the area they work in regarding access to a roof over your head for the people that this movement is meant to represent.

And to work in their favor essentially…

Either way, we will go into my limited experience (about a week) with them below for those curious….

Time in São Paulo, Brazil

I remember sitting down in a restaurant for lunch in the city of São Paulo, Brazil…

Unable to understand Portuguese very well…

I simply point at the menu at some random food item to the waiter in hopes that it would actually be good…

Anyway, it happened to be steak and potatoes if I remember right…

So it wasn’t bad.

And the waiter even made it medium rare without having to ask me…

So obviously he knew what makes a good steak…

Either way, I finished the food and ended up walking around the city…

Nearby to some small artisanal shop to buy a wooden bird for my mom since she likes birds and all.

Though I had difficulty buying it as I had no idea how to say bird in Portuguese.

I did my best Spanish since I figured it would make sense if the owner spoke some Spanish since Spanish speaking countries surround Brazil..

But that did not work….

And I ended up doing some improv impression of what a bird looks like by flapping my arms and that somehow worked in getting the lady to understand what type of wooden animal I am looking for…

Managed to buy one before walking to the hotel where we were set to leave pretty soon for to see the Homeless Workers Movement in Brazil.

Thankfully, I showed up on time.

The van was outside the hotel and some of the folks I was traveling with were already inside.

There was one person who was a bit late because she ended up getting lost in this giant city called São Paulo….

Can’t say I blame her given how massive the city is…

Either way, she shows up soon enough and on we were….

Visiting the MTST in Brazil

We ended up taking the van to outside the city to visit some of the communities of the MTST….

As you can see below here with some of the photos of the area we visited.

From what I understood and from my memory at the time…

The MTST basically worked in holding occupations of land that they deemed were not being used productively….

And then try to build spaces on that property once they have the legal and financial support to do so...

And as you can see here…

But before they go into building what you see above...

They would then go into negotiations with the Labor Party of the Brazilian government here to go through the negotiations with the original landlord of the land to gain legal right over it.

From there, they would then begin constructing larger settlements on the land for the people associated with their movement that needed some type of space to live under…

Here’s some more photos of the occupation…

And also some later photos of some of the progress some of the occupations had in terms of building settlements for the people associated with their movement…

Though it didn’t just end with the building of settlements on occupied land…

But also other types of institutions for the communities that they would build…

Such as schools for example....

And also some land for people to gather and hold events amongst each other…

In essence, that is what we saw with our limited time with the MTST movement when we were in Brazil.

Reflection

On one hand, I am not entirely favorable to what I understood of the movement.

In that I have to imagine to myself – “what if I had my own land in this area occupied by folks who wanted to take it to benefit themselves?”

While it is necessary to address inequality and poverty in any area…

These type of measures would, from what I understand, depress any real investment in the area.

After all, who wants to invest somewhere that has this risk of having your property taken from others?

But, on the other hand, I get that government policy in Brazil is not always very efficient in addressing poverty and inequality down here.

So it is definitely an issue that needs addressing to make society improving.

There’s no denying that.

Only that I’m not entirely comfortable with the solution here as it seems more akin to “mob rule” from what I understood as to how certain land is decided to be not sustainable or not to be later occupied.

Granted, again, that was my initial impression upon coming by this movement and what they were doing at the time.

But if that impression is correct, it definitely doesn’t seem like the best way to go about things but it does at least try to tackle the issue of inequality in its own way.

Either way, that was my initial impression based on my notes that I took at the time.

And if you have any of your own opinions or thoughts on this issue…

Let me know below in the comment section below or follow me on Twitter here,

Thanks!

Best regards,

Matt

1 comment

Michiko - February 8, 2021 Reply

Great site to read. Worth the time.

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