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(en) Brazil, Anarchist touring, Unwanted sketch-bags in NorthEast Brazil

From "Ben McMullan" <petariosis@hotmail.com>
Date Wed, 24 Jan 2001 16:05:30 -0500 (EST)


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Persoas non Gratas no Northeast Brazil
Written by Buzzard and Rooster
For those of you who are our friends, sorry this isnít a personal letter. 
For all publications, feel free to print this. Edit it as you will, but if 
you change any of the concepts or facts presented, please take our names off 
of it.

Our last ride on our way into Manaus was an all day ride on top of a load of 
coconuts in a big flatbed truck.  We spent the day holding on as best we 
could and watching the scenery. Much of the road ran through villages of mud 
and stick houses, peppered with clumps of plastic and tar paper structures 
(usually near vegetable stands). Most of the day we spent crossing an arid 
savannah. There were fires everywhere. Sometimes they seemed agricultural, 
but a lot were trash fires seemingly out of control. Near civilization there 
were always lots of piles of burnt trash dotting the side of the road.  A 
lot of the area we travelled through had once been jungle, but now there 
were cattle grazing nearly everywhere.  Now and again we would see the 
remains of 150-200ft tall trees. Until night fell, we didnít see any live 
trees over 10-15 feet tall. As it got dark, we crossed into a reservation 
and the scenery quickly changed to jungle.  There were signs everywhere 
telling us not to stop since this was indian territory. The state of Rorima 
has the largest indigenous population in Brazil, but the lands set aside for 
them are being encroached upon by gold prospecters and cattle farmers, and 
there are occasional skirmishes. I was told about villages resisting , and 
of the local police using that as an excuse to send in death squads, but my 
lack of understanding of the language at that point in the journey left me 
without concrete instances to relate.
We arrived in Manaus in pretty bad shape. The ride on top of the coconut 
truck took us across the equator and through hours of scorching heat. By the 
time we got there we both had sunstroke and to top it off, Buzzard had 
contracted dysentery and Rooster was afraid he might have malaria (he 
didnít). We spent our first two nights there in a cheap hotel so Buzzard 
could sleep and shit blood in peace. The hitch all the way down from Caracas 
had left us both so thin that some guy on the street tried to get Buzzard to 
do some modeling.
Manaus was a suprisingly large, even cosmopolitan city. The first 
outstanding thing we saw upon arrival was two police officers firing their 
revolvers down a busy street. We couldnít pick out who they were firing at.  
Since we didnít have any contacts there, our main priority was catching a 
ride down the Amazon to Belem. Dumpy had told Rooster about how heíd been 
able to hitch a ride down on a truck barge so we headed down to the cargo 
docks (they call that part of town the ceasa) on the edge of town to try our 
luck. We spent the next five nights there in what was more or less a hobo 
camp next to some bars and fish stands.
One nice thing about society in all of Brazil was that we were never 
bothered about sleeping outside, night or day. We felt pretty free to make 
cooking fires on the side of the road, and no one really looked at us twice. 
While the police and military often kill folks that are squatting land in a 
more permanent fashion, it seems that if it is obvious that your encampment 
is temporary, the state will allow you the things you need to survive. Also, 
police on patrol were much less common outside of urban areas. The seemed to 
confine themselves mostly to the police checkpoint stations along the 
highway.
We never managed to hitch a ride but we had a hell of a good time. We lived, 
ate, drank and passed out with a Colombian hippie, a quiet old man, and a 
couple of alcoholic itinerant laborers, good folk all around. The same as 
youíd expect in any hobo camp worth its salt. Everybody there was at least 
nominally trying to get a ride. During the whole time we were there only the 
old man managed to catch out.  We tried several unsuccesful approaches, even 
forging a permission slip from the bosses of the company.
Somehow or other we fell into the good graces of the ceasa underworld: two 
Guyanese street hustlers named Christofer and Raymond. Two badder men have 
rarely graced the streets of the U.S. (possibly barring George and Jonathan 
Jackson). They told harrowing stories about their fights to escape the 
police in Guyana and of weeks of jungle traveling to reach safety in Brazil, 
then their trials of being penniless on the streets of some of the major 
cities of Brazil. They made sure we were well supplied with weed, alcohol 
and bread the whole time we were there. When things seemed hopeless they 
even gave us motivational speeches and inspirational kicks in the ass. They 
were even kind enough to keep away the more asshole elements of the 
underworld.
Finally we gave up on getting a free ride and returned to the city with the 
Colombian guy. We negociated down to Ĺ price with a shipís captain and set 
off down the Amazon to Belem. With the exception of a few glimpses of pink 
freshwater dolphins, we were dissapointed not to see very much ďAmazonian 
wildlifeĒ. The most interaction we had with anything off of the boat was the 
times that a few 10 year olds would paddle their canoes up to the boat, grab 
on to the side with a hook and climb up to sell palm hearts, fruit or juice. 
Lots of the folks that lived in the woods by the river would paddle on out 
to recieve gifts of cookie packages, clothes, flipflops and other sundry 
items thrown from the boat.
Belem is dying; decaying at least where it isnít actively rotting.  It is 
the poorest city we stayed in. Rooster got mugged and Buzzard got his 
leatherman, knife, skateboard and shoes stolen. Minimum wage in Brazil is 
150 reals per month. A real is worth 50-55 cents in the U.S. That means 
working full time you can earn as little as 75 bucks a month. Busses in 
Belem cost 70 centavos, but a lot of the bus drivers will let you ride free 
if you ask.  Most of the punks earned near minimum wage.  As we travelled 
further South, the economic situation of the punks and their families got 
better, reflecting the situation of the general populace.
	A 1 kg. bag of rice costs about 1 real and food throughout Northeast Brazil 
was generally rice, beans, and soy protein granules as a meat substitute.  
Though the land is incredibly fertile, the price of fruits and vegetables 
limits folks mostly to what is growing in their yard.  Most punks end up 
eating a lot of coconut meat.  On every block in the center of every city 
there are a few people selling green coconuts for people to drink. They 
drink them and then toss the shells into the street.  Hanging out in the 
street without much money leaves breaking them open and eating the meat as 
one of the only options for food. Most streets there are also lined with 
mango trees, so windfall mangoes supplement the street diet 6 months a year.
The first place we stayed was occupied in the late 80ís and serves as a 
meeting space for Resistencia Popular Amazonica (the Amazonian Popular 
Resistance), a theatre group, a storefront for an womenís artisan 
collective, has a small library, and is a living space for 4 men. 
Unfortunately, we had multiple problems there. Many people passed through, 
making it an unsafe place to leave possesions. We lost a lot of stuff. The 
people from the occupation also didnít get along with the local 
anarcho-punks. We recieved constant dirty looks from folks using the space 
for our dress and looks. I think both groups were to blame for the bad blood 
between them. After a fairly unhappy week at the occupation, we moved in 
with one of the local anarcho-punks.
The anarcho-punk community in Belem is comprised of about 20 folks. They 
were the only discernable group of punks in the city. Most came from 
lower-class backgrounds, a few were visibly underfed. A little while ago, 
the group house they were working to maintain broke up due to lack of funds, 
and most returned to live with their parents.  The group was only about ľ 
female and racially more diverse than most groups you could find in the 
states.  Considering the limited resources they had to work with, the punks 
accomplished a lot as a community.  While we were there they did  
significant propaganda and graffitti against the electoral campaign.  Voting 
is  obligatory in Brazil so the anarchists urge people to turn in votes of 
no confidence.  The punks also ran anarchist study groups, a womenís 
collective, put on shows now and then, and participated in various protest 
movements. Belem is something of a backwater in Brazil and the punks there 
donít get many visitors. It was heartwarming how psyched they were to have 
us there. The immediate acceptance and unity reaffirmed for us the value and 
validity of punk culture as an international movement.
Hitching through Brazil has been slow as hell. There are small towns every 
40 or so miles and we spent 4 days getting rides only as far as the next 
little town a few times a day. There is little traffic, most of it isnít 
going very far, and robbery is very common, so folks are pretty scared to 
pick anyone up. On the other hand, we were able to stay pretty well fed by 
eating what truckers left on their plates, and from food people would give 
us, often unsolicited. We were full, but tired of walking when we got to 
Teresina.
Teresina has the 2nd largest land occupation in Latin America, Irma Dulce, 
where more than 5000 families live. There are a few anarchopunks living 
there now, and a bunch were involved in the takeover, 3 years back. The 
closest approximation to land occupations that weíve had in the recent  
history of the U.S. would probably be the Hoovervilles of the Great 
Depression. Millions of folks have been displaced by plantations, 
speculation, and agribusiness and have been forced to migrate to the big 
cities over the course of the past century.  The land occupation is an 
aspect of non-industrial countries that is hard to imagine in the U.S. The 
government often makes moves to evict land squatters, but there is so much 
landlessness and homelessness that jailing folk isnít an option, and the 
government isnít quite willing to kill everyone involved.  Often landlords 
will hire gunmen to shoot up the place, and police will do the same in 
plainclothes. I gather that at least 20 MST (Movimiento dos Trabalhadores 
Rurais sem Terra, the movement of the landless rural workers)  people have 
died like that this year. Weíll explain what we picked up about the MST 
later. Usually in Brazil if the squatters refuse to leave, the local 
government will eventually decide to pay off the land owner and therby 
legalize the occupation, (this also seems to de-politicize a lot of 
squatters, and even leads to opportunists selling their individual plots to 
businesses).
In Irma Dulce there was electricity (I gather that it was a hard struggle to 
get it), but little water, and only for two hours a day, on the border of a 
commercial district. The house we stayed at had a pipe in the back yard and 
folks would come at 5am and 5pm to fill up their barrels and bottles. Cold 
water was a big deal. Not everybody had refrigerators and when walking from 
one place to the next we were forever stopping for a cup of cold water at 
the houses of friends on the way. It got up to over 100degrees every day and 
there were few plants, but there was a huge community garden, ľ miles on a 
side, with wells dug. Outside of strictly punk communities we felt more 
accepted by the folks in the land occupation than anywhere else weíve been 
so far in S.America.
After a few  days in Teresina, the local punks decided that we were going to 
form a band and play two upcoming shows.  We formed an Oi! band called Tom 
Joad w/songs about hitchhiking,  drinking too much in frustration over not 
understanding enough Portugese, and a couple  of covers. We practiced and 
played with 2 different local drummers. The first show we played was a 
festival commemorating Childrens Day. We played for about 500 people. It was 
ridiculous. The crowd went wild when we tuned up. We played 5 or 6 songs and 
blew and spun some fire, and had a good rowdy time. We woke up the next 
afternoon and saw ourselves on t.v. ... we were rock stars(all cause we were 
foreign).  Through some buddies in Teresina we were able to score some free 
bus tickets on to Fortaleza.
In Fortaleza we had the address of a punk named Pastel.  When we made it to 
his neighborhood, somebody hanging out in a bar recognised us as punks and 
brought us on to his house. If everything was right in the world, it would 
be an intentional punk community, but right now there are only 3 adults 
there. They make snacks and sell them to food vendors.  We cooked with them 
most nights and mornings. It was hard work, but they were really psyched to 
be working independently. Unfortunately they donít make as much as they 
could working for someone else.
We hooked up with a Zapatista support committe in Fortaleza, and they 
brought us out to a land occupation a little ways outside the city. There 
were about 30 families living there. They had organized the initial 
occupation under a libretarian union and moved in together, immediately 
clearing land and starting to build structures. Police came to evict them, 
and got chased off. The second time the police came to evict, their car 
exploded, they had to walk out, and after that they stopped coming. 
Unfortunately the local government has found a good way to cause seperation 
inside the group. They bought the land for the squatters, but only gave the 
titles for plots of land to certain families. A lot of the squatters 
recognised this division as legitimate, because it gave them title to land, 
and accepted the restrictions placed on them.  One of the key restrictions 
is that only other family members can come and live on the land parcel with 
you.  This served to de-politicize a lot of the folks, and caused a lot of 
division in what used to be the union.
While we were there, the independent land squatters had a lot to say about 
the MST. The MST is a big olíorganization based around land squatting. I 
donít know how many dozens or hundreds of occupations around Brazil are 
operated by the MST, but there are a lot.  I belive that in itís inception 
the organization was less heirarchical, but in the late 70ís there was a 
break, and the part that continued to grow embraced a heirarchical 
structure. The MST has helped thousands of people that were fucked all 
across Brazil to secure land.  As far as I can tell (I never stayed in an 
MST occupation) there is a local MST government in place in each occupation. 
They do charge taxes of those who occupy land with them.  To me they seem to 
almost be a political party, but they still claim to be revolutionary.  The 
current leadership is Stalinist. The police and military generally kill at 
least a handfull of MST folks each year, but itís hard to tell if the rate 
of repression is the same in the independent occupations because news about 
independent land squats isnít as well publicized.  The MST is always in the 
news, nearly every day. The folks carry machetes and hoes and pichforks to  
the protests, and it seems like they really wreck shit when they manage to 
take the streets in a city.  Weíve got a video here of a rally along a 
highway in the country, and they really get their asses kicked by the 
police. Lots of people get wounded.
The MST gets a lot of their funds from international sources.  At times we 
heard stories of international observers afraid to release any negative 
findings about the MST while still in Brazil for fear of reprisals.  In some 
ways it seems that they function like a criminal mob.
A little over a year ago there was a big meeting of Latin American 
libertarian movements in Belem.  Representatives from the Zapatistas were 
coming, the leadership of the MST planned to show, as well as folks from  
other collectives and organizations all over.  Before the gathering, 
representatives from the Zapatistas, and the leadership of the MST met. 
Eventually the leader of the MST stormed out of the room and declared 
himself enemy number one of the Zapatistas.
Some Anarcho-punks are willing to work with the MST, some arenít.  I think 
the people that make up the bulk of the organization are good folks.  Iíve 
liked every one Iíve met, but they are led by a Stalinist.  Moreover theyíre 
working toward a change of government, not its abolition. There are plenty 
of independent land occupations all over Brazil. I gather that the majority 
of them are independent because they donít want anyone making their 
decisions for them, not the government, not the MST.
The next city we stayed in was Joaů PessoŠ.  We stayed with Renato Amaya, 
one of the oldest and most well known anarko-punx in North-East Brazil.  He 
played in the well known noise core band Discarga Violenta (Violent 
Discharge, strangely enough it seems at least half of the anarko-punk bands 
in Brazil are Noise Core) and does lots of political and punk rock 
organizing there in the North-East.  Joao Pessoa has a small, but tight-knit 
group of about eight anarko-punx.  They have a space in a large cultural 
center downtown that was squatted 10 or 15 years ago.  Their little space 
consists of a music practice room and a tiny library.  Since then the 
building has been more or less legalized and is used by a plethora of 
groups:  the black movement, a capoiera school, different artists 
collectives, a theater group, some music groups, the anarchists, and 
probably a few more.  While we were there they organized a talk on squatting 
in Europe and the States for us to give.  Info on the talk was widely 
disseminated and about 30 different people from various walks of life came 
to hear and participate.
We hitched to Salvador do Bahia with a buddy from Joao Pessoa. On the way we 
finally discovered the most effective and fun way to hitch in Brazil.  We 
had spent too damn many days on the side of the road with our thumbs out, 
often going only 140 km a day. Finally we just sat down at a trucker bar, 
took our hats off so folks could see our mohawks, started drinking and tried 
to act interesting.  It was obvious that we were foreigners, and as the 
truckers drank, they got interested in talking to us. We eventually secured 
a ride all the way down to Bahia (when they sobered up, they made us 
shower).
Salvador is culturally way different from the rest of Brazil.  African 
culture is better preserved there than perhaps anywhere else outside of 
Africa. Food, dance, religion, and even language have strong African 
influences there. Candomble and other animist religions are much more widely 
practiced than Catholocism.  The city is at least 90% black, and itís a 
really popular place for tourists to go, so being white and speaking with 
accents we were usually treated like tourists in the street.
There are a lot of anarchists there, and a lot of younger folks getting into 
anarchist thought and organizing.  There is an anarchist cultural 
space/luncheon called the Quilombo there.  In the past Quilombos were secret 
communities and resistence organizing centers for runaway slaves. The 
Anarcho-punks involve themselves somewhat in the organizing there, but often 
distance themselves because the meetings are usually dominated by one voice, 
a situation most of the folks involved seem comfortable with.  The folks 
from the Quilombo are working to create a synthesis of anarchisim 
incorporating aspects of Brazilian cultural resistance.  They have a 
capoiera school, a womens group, their own anarko-quilomboist group, and 
serve vegan lunch.
>From Bahia we finally admitted how tired we had gotten of hitching, and 
caught our first real bus ride of the trip all the way down to Sao Paulo.  
But thatís another story...
Brazil has one of the oldest and largest punk scenes on the planet. It has 
heavily influenced scenes in Europe and all over other parts of the world, 
while continuing to be almost unknown in the States.  Letís rectify this gap 
in our culture.


Belem Anarko-Punx         Matheusís (one o the punx) email:
Caixa Postal 1331            corrosivo@loja.net
Belem-Para
CEP 66017-970
Brazil

Grupo de Estudos e Atividades Anarquistas      email:
c/o  Carlos Eduardo                                     manifestoindigesto
Q 11, C 13, Sector C                                    @zipmail.com.br
Mocambinho 1, Teresina/ PI
CEP 64010-190
Brazil

Alexandre Pastel (Fortaleza Punx)    email:  colectivoruptura@hotmail.
Rua Cacilda Beck 732                                 com.br
Barrio Joao XXIII
Fortaleza, CE
CEP 60525-570
Brazil

Maxwell (Juana/Inacio)       email:  ligatra@baydenet.com.br
Rua Prof. Teodorico 121
Montese
Fortaleza, CE                      (Contact for the Zapatista Committee
CEP 60 421-010                    and the independent land squat)
Brazil

Centro de Cultura Social  (Joao Pessoa Anarko Punx)
Caixa Postal 255
Joao Pessoa /PB               email:  rentomaia@starmedia.com
CEP 58001-970
Brazil

Movimento Anarko Punk da Bahia    email:  MAP_ba@hotmail.com
Caixa Postal 185
Salvador/ BA
CEP 40001-970

Or for more info feel free to contact us at Crustyrooster77@hotmail.com
or petariosis@hotmail.com



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