Terra de Direitos works nationally in partnership with quilombola communities fighting to materialize the constitutional right of access to land. Through public interest law, we work with strategic litigation, capacity building and advocacy.
Brazil lived through three and a half centuries of slavery and its more than 500 year history still carries the structural experience of racism as an instrument of oppression against Black people. Historically, the quilombos organized themselves as spaces of resistance and construction of Black freedom and autonomy. One of their fundamental characteristics has been the occupation and use of both urban and rural land as a way of enabling a dignified life for the community, by reproducing its way of life and its own customs.
Over the years the quilombola communities found many ways to enable their access to land. However, for the most part, the lands obtained by the quilombolas were insufficient to ensure a dignified life for the community and, when there was sufficient land, quilombolas were victims of violent processes of dispossession.
One hundred years after the formal and ongoing abolition of slavery, the quilombolas finally won the right to land through the 1988 Federal Constitution. Nevertheless, while data held by the Fundação Cultural Palmares officially indicate the existence of 2,648 quilombos, 28 years after the coming into force of the constitutional right of quilombolas to land, according to the National Institute of Colonization and Agrarian Reform (INCRA) only 30 communities have received the title deeds of their lands. At this sluggish rate of land titling, it would take 970 years to ensure that all the quilombola communities enjoy their territorial rights.
The challenges faced are also directly related to market pressures on quilombola lands. It is not by chance that legal proceedings against quilombola communities’ right to land come from agribusiness, mining and large energy undertakings, as well as violent actions that threaten the life and freedom of many of these communities.
Terra de Direitos’ actions seek to guarantee and broaden the formally recognized rights of the quilombola communities, maximizing their political action and their representative organizations, as well as denouncing the constant human rights violations of which they are victims.