The Brazilian Landless Workers Movement (Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra, or MST) is currently one of the largest social movements in Latin America, fighting for sustainable small-scale agriculture production, against large agribusinesses, and for food sovereignty in rural communities. The MST is also part of an international network of peasant movements known as La Via Campesina, which includes 164 organizations in 73 different countries. For more information on La Via Campesina see: <;. In March of 2015, twenty-one MST leaders will arrive in the United States for a year-long exchange with grassroots organizations across the country. Five of these MST leaders will be located in the Los Angeles region for five months of this year-long exchange!
The following is a brief history of the movement, and for those interested in a more detailed history there are resources on the Friends of the MST website: <;. The MST arose in the early 1980s to contest the incredible disparities in land ownership that have existed in Brazil since Portuguese colonialism. The movement did not start as a united movement, but rather, dispersed attempts among landless rural laborers who decided to take the solution to poverty into their own hand and occupy large unproductive land estates. This tactic worked, and after camping out for several years the Brazilian government began giving these landless workers legal rights to farm on this land. As more landless laborers began to both occupy and receive legal land rights in the early 1980s, workers involved in these occupations formed a national movement in 1984. Since the founding of the MST in 1984, the movement has grown to include 1.5 million people, with 350,000 families that now have access to land. Currently, tens of thousands of families are still occupying land across Brazil, waiting for their claim to this land to be officially sanctioned.
From March to December of 2015, twenty-one MST leaders will be in the United States, working with grassroots organizations in five regions of the country. A group of these MST leaders will be in Los Angles region, contributing to and learning about political organizing in the Los Angeles context. Although the MST frequently sends ìbrigadesî of MST leaders to other Global South countries, especially ones with left-leaning governments such as Cuba and Venezuela, or severe economic and political crises like Haiti and Palestine, the movement has never sent this type of brigade to the Global North. The Los Angeles Chapter of the Friends of the MST is helping to facilitate this exchange. For the MST, the primary goals of the exchange are to learn Englishóas a tool to advance their political workóand to connect with grassroots groups to learn about the political and economic context for the U.S. working class. This is also a chance for U.S. organizations to learn about how the MST organizes its movement, and the strategies they have used to sustain their struggle for thirty years.
Currently, the Los Angeles Chapter of the Friends of the MST is in the process of identifying organizations and groups that are interested in either hosting an MST leader for several months, or organizing day-long events and exchanges with movement leaders. If you are part of a group or organization that is interested in meeting with the MST leaders while they are in Los Angeles, please contact Becky Tarlau at or Michal Novick at In addition, we are also looking for affordable housing and free English classes for these MST leaders, between March and July. If you can help find housing, know of rigorous and free English classes for the MST leaders, or you are interested in becoming involved in the MST-U.S. exchange in any capacity, please contact us! The MST leaders will be in Los Angles from March through August 2015, and are excited about connecting with and contributing to grassroots organizations in the region.

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