The children take their land
It was ten o’clock at night in Vila Paulistana – a northern suburb of the Brazilian city of Sao Paulo. A crowd was massing in the dark by the church at the foot of the hill and hesitantly fromed itself into a procession. A few torches were lit and slowly the file of 800 or so people started to move.
They called themselves ‘Filhos da Terra’ - the ‘Children of the Land’. Desperate for a place to live they have resolved to invade some unused land at the top of the hill.
Edna Sardoso was at the front of the procession with her parents. 16 years old, she was nervous, like the rest of them. ‘But no, not afraid. Some people were scared but I wasn’t.’
The land belongs to the ‘Santa Casa de Misericordia’ – the ‘Holy House of Mercy’. But according to Edna this is a house which is ‘neither holy nor merciful’. It owns huge tracts of land in Sao Paulo and though supposedly a charitable institution it is not very sympathetic to the calls of the poor.
‘Invading their land might have been illegal,’ she says, ‘ but to me it was exactly the right decision. They had too much land while there were people on the streets with nothing.’
The invasion took place in February 1984. Now almost a year later Edna shows the New Internationalist the community that the Children of the Land have created for themselves.
Sau Paulo: A third of the people in the city live in overcrowded housing that costs so much that they don’t have money left to buy food.
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