The Purple Gold War: Quilombolas [Afro-brazilian traditional communities] suffer with the militia hired by local farmer in the Amazon Forest
Alfredo Batista Cunha traces the map with his fingers to show the land claimed by the remaining quilombo community of Gurupá, on Marajó Island, a region in Pará of more than 10,000 hectares disputed by black quilombolas and white farmers. The title of the territory, already won by the quilombolas in court, involves the dispute over the açaí fruit, known as “purple gold” in Pará.
To show one of the consequences of this land dispute, Alfredo takes me on a trip of more than half an hour by tail, the name given to small boats with outboard motor, to a camp on the banks of the Arari river. There the açaí catcher Gilberto Amador, a shy man, with an almost inaudible voice, shows a scar on his hip, where the bullet fired on September 29, 2016 by the administrator of the São Joaquim Agropecuary Ltda farm.
Gil, as Gilberto is known, says that about 30 security guards from the farm arrived in boats, shooting pistols and shotguns from two barrels. “They said, 'Kill that son of a bitch'. They told me to lie on the floor,” he added, still shyly. The same version appears in his testimony in the police report, in an investigation that has not yet been concluded.
Gil is one of the victims of a dispute of more than half a century with the São Joaquim farm. To the same conflict, the community attributes the murder of two quilombolas, one paralyzed in a wheelchair, in addition to countless fines for theft of açaí in lands that the farmer says is his - contrary to what the Justice decided. And despite having won the demarcation title in all spheres, the Gurupá community continues to be threatened by São Joaquim, say those interviewed by the report.
Its owners, the late Liberato Magno de Castro and his heirs, call themselves owners of almost half of the titled area, including all the açaí groves bordering the Arari River. Public reports have already pointed out, however, that the area was taken over by Liberato.
From the titling process of the National Institute of Colonization and Agrarian Reform (Incra), the quilombolas are still waiting for the disintrusion, that is, the expulsion of non-quilombolas from that territory. The slowness in the process led the Attorney General's Office (AGU) to enter, on September 26, with a repossession action to cancel the title deed and cancel the São Joaquim farm's real estate records.
For the Federal Public Ministry (MPF), this is one of the most serious conflicts involving quilombolas in the entire state of Pará. The history of the community, located on the banks of the river that names it [Gurupá], goes back to the flight of enslaved people in the middle 19th century on a farm on the opposite bank of the Arari River, where the Gurupá empties. Over the decades, the community, founded by three families (of the one of them Batista, Alfredo's ancestry) became a community of 47 families, whose subsistence was always taken from the Amazon rainforest, removing açaí for consumption. In the early 1970s, the arrival of farmer Liberato in the region changed everything, explains Alfredo.
A renowned lawyer and rancher in Marajó, Liberato also had ascendants who participated in the slavery period, such as his great-grandmother, Baroness Maria Leopoldina Lobato de Miranda. Historicism aside, the almost 900 quilombolas of Gurupá remember, by experience or by reports, when the farmer arrived saying that those lands torn by water belonged to him, and his employees set fire to his family's homes. At the time, the families were expelled to the banks of the Gurupá River and, since then, the farm has explored the resources available in the rest of the region. “My aunt Joana, when she arrived from the fields, saw her house all on fire and her things under the trees”, says Alfredo.
If families used to live scattered over several streams filled with açaí, today dozens of small houses line the curves of Gurupá, the only place released by the farmer to explore açaí. The conflict over the “ownership” of the fruit has intensified in the last decade with the price increase, whose pulp, the main source of income for the quilombola community, is exported from Pará to the whole world. In 2018, Pará exported 2,300 tons of purple gold, the route of which reaches almost all continents, according to the Federation of Industries of the State (Fiepa).
Read the full report on the website of Agência Pública