How to Enjoy Healthy, Tasty, and Cold Fruit Juice All Year Round


It is summer and it is hot. I am at my hosts’ yard with Fernanda,[1] their seven year old daughter. She is excited by my presence and surprised that I do not know which tree produces which fruit or what their names are. No fruit is however in season at the moment in Espírito Santo, Brazil– except for a few coconuts remaining on the trees. The language spoken is Portuguese. I am a beginner, but can make myself understood to almost everyone and can also understand almost everything said. Fernanda shows me the various trees and explains to me in full detail what tree bears what and in what season. I am also surprised by her knowledge and her interest in this kind of information. I tell this to her, and she laughs proudly.[2]

Fernanda and me, we arrive back home and I am quickly offered a delicious cold mango juice by her mother. On a previous day I was offered acerola[3] juice in the morning and pineapple juice in the afternoon. My hosts want me to try everything they produce. Given the fact that the daily fare at the settlement is quite monotonous (chicken, rice, and beans), I am pleased with these refreshing (if not “fresh”) juices, and think about what good fruit must do for people’s health. I drink all of my juice – such a good feeling! – and ask for more.  In principle, quantity is not a problem here: the settlement where I am has existed for 15 years, and the trees are now big enough to produce enough fruit for the whole year. It is one of the richest and most vibrant settlements of the Landless Rural Worker’s Movement in Brazil (“Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra” or “MST[4]). Quality is not a question either – I have never tasted such good juice in Europe or in the big Brazilian cities. But how can these juices be available if no fruits are in season? The Guarani Indians or the Quilombola people I visited some days ago could never have offered me such good juice, I think while drinking.

When I departed on my research trip to settlements of the Landless Movement two weeks ago, I was worried – and even warned many times – that I was going to visit occupied lands and poor people who lived under extremely difficult conditions. This is not at all what I experience now. I realize that correct information about the Landless Movement does not spread to people outside the movement. My hosts have everything they need to have fresh cold juice throughout the year – and this is quite a lot: one needs fruit trees; one needs irrigation technologies and electricity for the pumps. Then one needs a freezer to freeze the fresh fruit pieces (the freezer is big, expensive, and must usually be transferred from far away, even imported from the USA). One needs a blender, too, to make a juice out of water and frozen fruit pieces. For the freezer and the blender one needs electricity as well.

How self-evident can (not) having regular access to fruit be? As already noted, a lot of technology, transportation, and money are needed for fruit to be available. And it is not necessarily easier to transport freezers or pumps to the Brazilian countryside than it is to transport Brazilian fruits or iced juice to Europe or the USA. Land workers who work in agribusiness in Brazil and produce eucalyptus, paper, and coffee for the whole world do not at all have regular access to fruit. The same is the case for the homeless inhabitants of big cities or for people living in favelas and poor neighborhoods – not only in Brazil, but also in the USA and elsewhere. Such people may be paid enough to eat rice and beans, and sometimes they might have their own chickens or are able to buy cheap meat – but fruit? It might also be that people escape the capitalist mode of production in the way Guarani Indians do: they can eat forest animals, birds, or fish; they can eat a few wild fruits during the appropriate season; they might even be given rice and beans by the state. Still, they cannot enjoy a cold fruit juice every day or eat ‘fresh’ fruit all year.

It seems that the landless workers – former inhabitants of favelas or low-paid workers at large-scale agribusiness plantations – have managed to obtain and now enjoy all these goods. Continuous occupations, displacements, encampments, settlements, resettlements, and a series of demonstrations and violent confrontations with police marked the transitions from individuals to imagined communities, from imagined communities to collectivities, and from collectivities to place-based communities, as Hannah Wittman writes (Wittman, 2005).

In the special issue of the Landless Workers’ own newspaper commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Landless Movement, one can read a heroic historical narrative. To mention only a few major events: 19 Landless Workers were gunned down dead and another 69 wounded by police while they were blocking a state road in Pará on April 17, 1996 (Eldorado dos Carajás massacre). Another 13,000 Landless Workers marched from Goiânia to Brasilia (more than 200 kilometers) in 2005 (Jornal dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra, 2009). The above-described quality of life can be seen as a result of those events. It is interesting that this quality of life seems self-evident as seen from the perspective of the now growing children who did not experience this whole history. For food and freedom to be given to marginalized urban and rural populations, strong confrontations body-to-body with policemen and face-to-face with politicians needed to take place (Dimenstein, 1996; Ondetti, 2006).[5]

Now, after 25 years, the government is friendlier to the movement, and processes of negotiation have been established so that new settlements and encampments are allowed and at least a minimum of quality of life is ensured in the existing ones.[6] New land is occupied and more and more people are living better and better – enjoying fresh fruits throughout the year, as described above. One could say that the Landless Workers’ Movement has already reached much more than one could ever have imagined given the colonial and capitalist history of Brazil and of Latin America in general (cf. Branford & Rocha, 2002).

The Landless Workers’ Movement is considered the major counter-hegemonic movement of Brazil and is one of the most important radical social movements of Latin America, with an estimated 1.5 million landless members of all possible ages and ethnic-racial groups organized all over Brazil (Karriem, 2009). What, however, has not yet happened although it was the main aim of the Landless Movement from the very beginning is the Brazilian agrarian reform (Heredia, 2008; Tavares, 2009; Wolford, 2004).

When we move from the inside to the outside of the home, I realize once more that the outside walls are painted red. I say that I like the color, and Ernesto tells me that his wife Maria chose it. Maria is a teacher at the local school for landless children, and the color red, as Ernesto explains, symbolizes communism – the state political economy will reach after socialism. I am skeptical about this part of Marxist theory, but feel impressed about how these uneducated people can articulate such a radical counter-ideology as if it were self-evident for everybody (cf. Karriem, 2009).

Red is also the color of the T-shirt Maria is wearing, a T-shirt with the flag of the landless rural workers. I ask myself if she normally wears it– or if it is just because I am there. Another day, Maria explains to her class at the settlement’s school that the red color (also the main color of the Landless Rural Workers’ Movement’s official flag) symbolizes not only communism but also the blood of the landless workers who died during fighting in the first years of land occupations and demonstrations. I also find the rest of the house’s decorative elements very interesting: black and white posters with photos of these fights, printed by the central offices of the Landless Movement and presented in wooden frames, decorate the interior walls in the same way landscapes or printed paintings would decorate a middle-class living room.

[1] All names in this article have been anonymized in order to protect the people involved from unwanted publicity. This is also the reason the names of the settlements in which my ethnographic fieldwork took place are not revealed. It is obvious, however, that anonymity cannot be ensured for the film or photographic material. All people being filmed or photographed were informed about my research purposes and agreed to participate. I also got ethical clearance for the participation of children in my research through their parents and school teachers. Participation in my research was optional and anybody could quit at any time. My deep interest in and solidarity with the Landless Movement quickly created an atmosphere of trust between me and the people involved in my research.

[2] According to Risso et al., such a scene is part of what can be called childhood in and of the countryside (Risso et al., 2006).

[3] Acerola is otherwise called West Indian cherry or wild crapemyrtle.

[4] Even if the Landless Worker’s Movement was conceived from the very beginning as a single, centrally organized movement, one can find huge differences between the various Landless Worker’s settlements and encampments all over Brazil. They each have their own local history, population mix, geographical characteristics, and even differ in their ideological preferences, their relations to state representatives and institutions, and their association with the central Landless Worker’s leadership. This article restricts itself to the study of the Landless Movement in Espírito Santo. Research materials from other regions were also collected for purposes of general comparison during my fieldwork. For general information in English about the Landless Worker’s Movement, its history, and its political and educational aspirations, see (Kane, 2000). In Portuguese one can find an overview of the history of colonization and economic development in Espírito Santo until 1975: Gomes, 2005, from 1976 until 1995/6, including details about the area’s main agribusiness of Aracruz and statistic data, here: Casali & Pizetta, 2005. Situated in this context, an overview of the Landless Workers’ occupations in Espírito Santo, with a detailed presentation of their spatial and various quantitative dimensions, is provided here: Pizetta & Souza, 2005a. Pizetta & Souza (2005b) also offer a detailed presentation of the history of the Landless Worker’s Movement in Espírito Santo in its different phases: the first steps from 1983-1985; the constitution of the movement at Espírito Santo, 1985-1988; further conflicts and repression,1989-1991; new fights, 1992-1994; the establishment and expansion of the movement, 1995-2002; and the Landless Movement under the Lula government from 2003- 2005. The study presented here takes place in 2010 and explores developments that follow the history presented by Pizetta & Souza.

[5] For detailed tables of the crimes and violence against the Landless Workers in the region of Espírito Santo, see Pizetta & Souza (2005b, pp. 99, 110).

[6] For example, the local government of Espírito Santo funded construction materials that the Landless Workers used to build houses and artificial lakes in the settlements. It also financed a new school building and some infrastructure. The government also often provides rice and other products to the encampments where people have not yet started to cultivate their own products. Nowadays, in Espírito Santo the state is responsible for removing the collected rubbish from the settlements/ encampments and processing it. Public hospitals are responsible for sending an ambulance to settlements/encampments in case of emergency. Free public transportation is organized for the students who visit schools outside the settlements/encampments. However, there are a lot of differences among the different states, and the situation is more difficult in the Brazilian North-East where there is also a tendency towards drought (cf. Sigaud, 2008). Local governments there have fewer resources to support the inhabitants of the settlements in their first steps. The level of support also varies according to the level of corruption of the local governments.