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Story Publication logo July 16, 2021

Expansion of Dictatorship-Era Space Base Threatens to Repeat Quilombola Evictions (Portuguese)


Un cartel en una de las principales avenidas de São Luís, capital del estado de Maranhão, decía: “Maranhão fue al espacio”.

The trauma of forced removals, experienced during the dictatorship by the largest Quilombola...

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territorio quilombola
In order to expand the space base area, the federal government issued, in March 2020, a resolution assigning the Ministry of Regional Development to carry out removals of affected communities. The process was suspended by an injunction decision of the Federal Court. Art by Nay Jinknss.

The story excerpt and photo captions below were translated from Portuguese. Read the original Portuguese story in full at National Geographic Brasil, or view the story in Portuguese on the Rainforest Journalism Fund website here. Our website is available in EnglishSpanishbahasa IndonesiaFrench, and Portuguese.

Editor's note: This report was produced remotely. The images were taken on visits prior to the pandemic.

Her protest was silence. She remained silent as the aeronautical military emptied her house: first she saw how they took the cat, then the dog, the chickens and finally herself. "She was the last one," recalls Sérvulo Borges, the young recruit who held one of the arms of the lady, who could barely walk, so old she was.

A wooden cane helped with her movements. With each step, the farther she went from her home. The elderly chaplain Ildefonso Graciano Rodrigues held her on the other side, helping her to walk.

After 50 meters the lady stopped, made the two men let go of her arms and turned back to her house, crying. For five minutes, without saying a word, she contemplated the landscape where she was probably born, grew up and wished to die. But which she would never see again.

The Alcântara city center, seen from the Jacaré Port. The visible street is the Jacaré Slope, named because in the era of slavery, enslaved people would get off the boats carrying cans of Jacaré Kerosene. Image by Ana Mendes.

The Alcântara city center, in Maranhão. Alcântara is the municipality with the largest number of quilombola communities in Brazil, with more than 3,000 families, or about 22,000 people. Image by Ana Mendes.

The Arenheguaua quilombola community, made up of a population of about 80 families, is 54 kilometers from the center of Alcântara. The community is already certified as quilombola by the Palmares Foundation, but still awaits the process of land titling. The community was one of those that avoided removal by the federal government in the 1980s. Image by Ana Mendes.

A woman processes babassu nuts in the Mamuna community, 35 kilometers from the center of Alcântara. Abundant in traditional territories, babassu and its derivatives can be consumed or become raw material for biocosmetics — and are an important source of income for quilombolas. Image by Ana Mendes.

Militina Garcia Serejo collects oysters in the Mamuna community. Alcântara is part of the so-called Reentrâncias Maranhenses, coastal strips rich in biodiversity and intersected by streams, rivers, and mangroves. Image by Ana Mendes.

An inhabitant of the Mamuna community collects oysters. The community is 35 kilometers from the center of Alcântara and has a population of 71 quilombola families, who still live in their traditional territory. Image by Ana Mendes.

Seu Jovêncio Sodre (Caem), 61, a native of the community of Traquaí, sells fish in the agricultural village of Marudá. Image by Ana Mendes.

A small business in the agricultural village of Marudá. Image by Ana Mendes.

This report was produced with the support of two grants: Beca GK, in partnership with Hivos/Todos Los Hojos en La Amazonia, and the Pulitzer Center's Rainforest Journalism Fund.