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The teachings of Don Sebastião

The teachings of Don Sebastião

By Fernando Glenza

These are the current teachings of a Brazilian migrant who visited us to lift the veil that covers our minds at a time when we have lost our way to steer our own existence. Citizens adrift at the mercy of the forces of financial capitalism.

From Mexico to Brazil, passing through La Plata and Buenos Aires, a journey through Deep America in an encounter with many teachings.

They are not the teachings of Don Juan, the Yaqui shaman, disclosed by the pen of the Mexican anthropologist Carlos Castaneda. These are the current teachings of a Brazilian migrant who visited us to lift the veil that covers our minds at a time when we have lost our way to steer our own existence. Citizens adrift at the mercy of the forces of financial capitalism.


Sebastião Pinheiro came from Porto Alegre, Brazil, representing the Juquira Candirú Foundation, an interdisciplinary research and action group in agriculture and health.

Don Sebastiao began by telling, to the surprise of those present, how common it was when he toured the peasant communities of Mexico, that he began by apologizing for his language, that he was Brazilian and that he did not know how to speak Spanish very well, apologizing for his River Plate tone , who had learned it in La Plata, at the National University of that city.

These are the voices of Don Sebastiao, "pointing out modern paths to retake the path of the warrior":

We do not realize it, we are unaware of how they have planned and organized it. Sometimes, it is necessary to go to a mountain range in Mexico to speak with indigenous peasants in order to reach through them an understanding of what soy means within the reality of the humid Pampas, the Brazilian Cerrado or the Amazon. If we do not have the ability to decode that, it is very difficult to explain things.

We saw at the Porto Alegre Social Forum, at the beginning of the year, a very strange situation, “sui generis”, we had some groups of environmentalists interested in talking about the sustainability of soy in the Amazon. It is not necessary to tell anyone in the world the problem of the Amazon with its soil, an extremely fragile system. And they said that it was necessary for us to have the competence to bring soy to the Amazon. Why? What for?

30 years ago, we grew soybeans. In the previous reality, we could never make an anticipated criticism, a criticism in real time about its impacts, not only on the economy, on agriculture and on the national reality. So, we had land concentration, rural exodus, incredible environmental impacts throughout Brazil that were socialized with the community and the environment. In that situation, soybeans became the national economy. So we had to question it because space had enclosed us and they were bringing it to the Amazon. So we went there, to the peasant mountains of Latin America, to perceive some things that were impossible to perceive in Porto Alegre, which is very good that they can be said here, to you.

I remember my childhood, it was a very poor family; It is not an exemplary case, it is not my story, it is Latin American history, where in the health post or in the government hospital, the mothers took their babies to check and weigh, and they received a can of powdered milk. And they were instructed not to use breast milk. As a seven-year-old boy who accompanied my aunt, who was carrying her little boy in her arms, I looked at that with fascination. I was astonished to perceive: "we won something." I did not have the "reading", I had reading it 15 or 18 years later at the University, in Rural Sociology, where I perceived that breast milk was replaced by a product.

We are accused of being anti-technology, of being against progress, against the advancement of science, technology and the economy and its growth, but I had not realized that to obtain the powdered milk, I would need to put your hand in your pocket and have money to buy that milk. Because only the first can was free, the others had to be bought in cash. But I was only a seven year old boy.

Later I learned in the field, working in reality, that the problem was not the powdered milk. I relieved the question of the antibodies passed from the mother to the son, which give him health, give him strength, I did not put that aside. But, I looked and saw that that milk was not the problem, the problem for that mother was the quality of the water with which she churned the milk to make the bottle: the child who was going to die of diarrhea, due to water contamination.

Then I began to enter and I managed to understand, not there in the Mexican highlands, where the powdered milk did not arrive, thank God. I began to understand what monoculture means. It is not simply an environmental discourse, it is a more complex discourse, it is an economic, political and social discourse. And to understand what it means, today, when we cannot discuss soybeans, why? Because in Latin America it pays for debt services.

And what does it mean to pay royalties, compensation, for companies that have such a gigantic scale of production that it prevents small companies from competing on equal terms. This is what is at stake. And now, when it comes to taking soybeans to the Amazon, we have persecuted populations, their occupied lands; or underemployed, because they are not bought.

What is the reading that we are going to have in thirty years? Today it is said that we were incompetent with soybeans due to environmental contamination from pesticides, fertilizers, soil erosion, for everything. And in 20 or 30 years, are we going to be incompetent again?

What is our diet? We never ate soy. Today we go to eat it. This is the simple example of a mother's milk that was changed, an agriculture that was changed and a soybean that was transformed, then, into a market product. What changes ?: Citizenship changes for consumption, I lose my citizenship and become an object of the market to consume. This is what happened to my aunt when they said she had to exchange the sacred milk from her breast for a can of powdered milk.


I think, with this example, that it is important to perceive that today the word is not agriculture, agriculture has changed its name, today the correct name is "agrobusiness"; and everyone talks about "agrobusiness". The life of the peasant changed, the clothes changed, the food changed. The truth that changed, changed because we do not know what the "food bioterrorism law" means, few people know the "food safety law". Where the Mexican peasant cannot have a canary, a cat, a dog, a horse in his house, if he has production to export to the United States. A Mexican farmer, for example, will not be able to have any other crop except the one that he is authorized to export to the United States.

Why doesn't this come out every day on television, in the media, in the press? What does it mean to force the peasants to do this? That there are no peasants? What is the opinion of large corporations ?: End the peasant economy in the world. Why ?: Because she does not make merchandise ”. And we are left, no longer fascinated but astonished, if we manage to perceive what this means.

When the World Trade Organization (WTO) determined that with the new international order comes the question of agriculture, it said: "No traditional population can be exposed to international free trade measures." The indigenous will not be able, the blacks of those countries that still have the African strongholds, the “quilombos” in our popular expression, will not be able to be impacted. But what happened in Brazil? The Brazilian blacks of Espiritu Santo had their land taken over by a gigantic pulp company called Aracruz, which is the largest in the world, but it is not Brazilian, it belongs to the English and Norwegian crown.

What does land occupation with eucalyptus mean in agriculture? The only country in the world that has a hydro-geo-biological study on eucalyptus is South Africa, which determines where it can be planted and its impacts, no other has. In Espiritu Santo the blacks lose their land, but the WTO says: “you cannot lose your land”, so Aracruz comes and says: “here is your land back”, and then the black of the quilombos says: “here only we have eucalyptus ”. "No, no, you are going to plant the eucalyptus and we are going to buy the eucalyptus," says Aracruz.

The question is going back to my aunt, who changed her mother's milk for “Nest” milk, did she change the jungle, the Atlantic forest, the forest, the jungle, for a eucalyptus plantation? What did that black African lose ?: He lost his ability to resist, his reason to fight, because now he will have a eucalyptus. "It's not the same, but stick with it, you had nothing." He stopped being the one who fights for citizenship and started to have a consumer capacity.

I think you are understanding, I did not change the subject, I continue in agriculture in the Pampas, I am very close to the humid Pampas. This is the reality of eucalyptus, which occupies gigantic areas to satisfy a market for raw materials. But the worst, to finish the worst comes, it is diabolical, because Aracruz plants the eucalyptus with money from the Kyoto Protocol to avoid climate change, the greenhouse effect. International money from a fund that uses this money to produce cheaper raw materials within a context of competitiveness, expansionism, on a scale of gigantism of the large transnationals. What madness is that?

Nobody can, it is not allowed in the press, in the media, to perceive that the land occupied by the eucalyptus takes away the availability of food for food sovereignty, nobody can perceive that. Why isn't that in the big press, isn't it in the media, isn't it in homes? And, we have no understanding. We, like my aunt and that child that I was when I was seven, could not perceive that.

So, it is necessary to discuss the issue of eucalyptus, its occupation, not only for water, but in a larger context, not only of monoculture, such as soybeans, in a larger context. Why ?: Because now the black man from the quilombo, the indigenous man who is now also forced to plant eucalyptus will have on all the cellulose packages that will travel the world the inscription: “we protect the traditional populations of indigenous and black from Brazil". And black became an item, or better, an icon of the environmental quality market.

I believe that our sanitary sovereignty, our food sovereignty, maternal milk, our intellectual sovereignty, must continue to be like that black man who is not going to receive eucalyptus in his land and says: “I want the same plant as you received it when you I was expelled ”. I think that the indigenous will say the same thing: "no, I don't want that." I want my trees, my animals, my environments and there we will be succeeding in rescuing a citizenship that today is absent in us.


* By Fernando Glenza | From Buenos Aires, Argentina, Posted in APM


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