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Socio-linguistic Analysis of the Settlers

in the Brazilian Amazon

With special reference to the language pair Portuguese - English

Cindy Schlicke

Referent: Universitätsprofessor Dr. Peter A. Schmitt

Korreferent: Dr. Benno Pokorny

November 2006

My sincere thanks go to my supervisor Prof. Dr. Peter A. Schmitt for his guidance
and support throughout my study.

I would like to thank my co-supervisor Dr. Benno Pokorny for providing an opportu-
nity to associate with the research project Forlive. Likewise I am thankful to Dr. Max
Steinbrenner and the project partners of Forlive Brazil for supporting my study du-
ring my field research in Brazil.

I would like to acknowledge the financial support I received from the DAAD. The
DAAD provided a grant for conducting field research in Brazil. I am grateful for this
valueable experience.

Furthermore, I would like to thank Viktoria Lorenz and Heather Carr for proof-rea-
ding the script of my study.

Special words of thanks go to my family and partner for their moral support and en-
List of Figures and Tables...........................................................................................................I
Abbreviations and Acronyms.....................................................................................................II
Motivation and Problem Statement......................................................................................IV
Objectives and Methods........................................................................................................V
Study Overview ...................................................................................................................VI
Preliminary considerations.................................................................................................VII

Part I – Setting...........................................................................................................................1
1 General considerations about peasantry and smallholder farming ........................................2
1.1 Global Context................................................................................................................2
1.2 Brazilian Context.............................................................................................................6
1.3 Amazonian Context ........................................................................................................9
2 Background Information.......................................................................................................12
2.1 Study Area ....................................................................................................................12
2.2 Historical Background of Amazonian Settlement .......................................................14
2.3 Land tenure and titling policies ....................................................................................19
2.4 Main agricultural and environmental policies ...............................................................22
3 Economic, social and ideological orientations of settlers.....................................................25
3.1 Colonization process ....................................................................................................25
3.1.1 Types of colonization ...........................................................................................25
3.1.2 Origin and destination of settlers...........................................................................27
3.2 Landholding system......................................................................................................30
3.2.1 Propriedade vs. posse ...........................................................................................30
3.2.2 Legal recognition ..................................................................................................31
3.2.3 Social aspects ........................................................................................................34
3.3 Land use .......................................................................................................................36
3.3.1 Shifting agriculture ...............................................................................................37
3.3.2 Gathering and collecting........................................................................................37
3.3.3 Agriculture on the várzea .....................................................................................38
3.4 Political concepts...........................................................................................................38
3.4.1 Agricultura Familiar..............................................................................................38
3.4.2 Ribeirinho..............................................................................................................40
3.4.3 Agro-extrativismo..................................................................................................43
3.4.4 Manejo Comunitário Florestal ..............................................................................44

Part II – Linguistic Analysis..................................................................................................46

4 Theoretical Background........................................................................................................47
4.1 Basic guidelines.............................................................................................................47
4.2 Sense Relations..............................................................................................................48
4.3 Componential Analysis.................................................................................................49
4.4 Relation culture and language ......................................................................................51
4.5 Prototypical associations...............................................................................................52
5 Base Analysis........................................................................................................................54
5.1 Caboclo..........................................................................................................................55
5.1.1 Etymology ............................................................................................................55
5.1.2 Caboclo in colloquial use......................................................................................56
5.1.3 Caboclo in academic literature..............................................................................56
5.1.4 Stereotypes ............................................................................................................58
5.1.5 Dictionary Definitions...........................................................................................59
5.1.6 Self-reference.........................................................................................................61
5.1.7 Translation Trends.................................................................................................61
5.2 Colono vs. Assentado ...................................................................................................64
5.2.1 Etymology.............................................................................................................64
5.2.2 Associations and Stereotypes of Colono...............................................................64
5.2.3 Differentiating between colono and assentado .....................................................65
5.2.4 Dictionary Definitions...........................................................................................68
5.2.5 Translation Trends ................................................................................................70
5.3 Posseiro.........................................................................................................................71
5.3.1 Etymology ............................................................................................................71
5.3.2 Poesseiro in legal texts and academic publications...............................................71
5.3.3 Dictionary Definitions ..........................................................................................73
5.3.4 Self-reference.........................................................................................................75
5.3.5 Translation Trends.................................................................................................75
6 Questioning of key informants .............................................................................................77
6.1 Methodological Issues...................................................................................................77
6.2 Interview Situation........................................................................................................78
6.3 Data of Informants and general observations................................................................79
6.4 Organization of the questionnaire.................................................................................80
6.5 Evaluation of findings...................................................................................................81
7 Concluding Comments .........................................................................................................85
8 Glossary of Settler Terms.....................................................................................................87
9 References ............................................................................................................................88
Literature Part I......................................................................................................88
Literature Part II.....................................................................................................92
List of Figures and Tables I

List of Figures and Tables

Figure 1: Federal States of Amazônia Legal.............................................................................13
Table 1: Migration Waves to the Amazon region (Source: Anderson et al. 2002:25)..............28
Table 2: Key Words of Questioning.........................................................................................84
Abbreviations and Acronyms II

Abbreviations and Acronyms

CFM Community Forest Management

(cf. MCF)
CNPT Centro Nacional de Desenvolvimento Sustentado das Populações
(National Center of Traditional People)
CPT Comissão Pastoral da Terra
(Pastoral Land Commission)
CU Conservation Unit
(cf. UC)
DIR Direito (Law)
EMBRAPA Empresa Brasileira de Pesquisa Agropecuária
(Brazilian Agricultural Research Institute)
FAO United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization
FUNBIO Fundo Brasileiro para a Biodiversidade
(Brazilian Biodiversity Fund)
IBAMA Instituto Brasileiro de Recursos Naturais Renováveis e do Meio
(Brazilian Institute for Renewable Natural Resources and the
IBDF Instituto Brasileiro de Desenvolvimento Florestal
(Brazilian Institute for Forestry Development)
IBGE Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística
(Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics)
IBRA Instituto Brasileiro de Reforma Agrária
(Brazilian Institute of Agrarian Reform)
INCRA Instituto Nacional de Colonização e Reforma Agrária
(National Institute for Colonization and Agrarian Reform)
INPA Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazônia
(National Institute for Amazonian Research)
IR Indigenous Reserves
MCR Manual de crédito rural
(Manual of rural credit)
MDA Ministerio do Desenvolvimento Agrário
(Ministry of Agrarian Development)
MEB Movimento de Educação de Base
(Movement for Basic Education)
Abbreviations and Acronyms III

MST Movimento Sem Terra

(Landless Rural Workers' Movement)
NTFP Non-Timber Forest Products
PAE Projetos de Assentamentos Extrativistas
(Agro-extrativist Settlement Projects)
PEC Projeto Especial de Colonização
(Special Colonization Project)
PGC Programa Grande de Carajás
(Carajás Major Program)
PIC Projeto Integrado de Colonização
(Integrated Colonization Project)
PIN Programa de Integração Nacional
(National Integration Program)
POLAMAZONIA Programa de Polos Agropecuários e Agrominerais da Amazônia
(Program of Agricultural and Mineral Poles in the Amazon)
POLONOROESTE Programa Integrado de Desenvolvimento do Noroeste do Brasil
(Northeastern Integration Development Program of Brazil)
PPG7 Pilot Program for the Protection of the Brazilian Rainforest
PRONABIO Programa Nacional da Biodiversidade
(National Biodiversity Program)
PRONAF Programa Nacional de Fortalecimento da Agricultura Familiar
(National Program for Family Agriculture)
RDS Reserva de Desenvolvimento Sustentável
(Reserve of Sustainable Development)
RDSM Reserva de Desenvolvimento Sustentável Mamirauá
(Reserve of Sustainable Development Mamirauá)
RESEX Projetos das Reservas Extravistas
(Extractive Reserve Project)
SL Source Language
SNUC Sistema Nacional de Unidades de Conversação
(National System of Conservation Units)
SUDAM Superintêndencia de Desenvolvimento da Amazônia
(Superintendency for Development of Amazonia)
TL Target Language
UC Unidade de Conservação
(cf. CU)
Introduction IV


Motivation and Problem Statement

This is a study of the terms used for the various settlers in the Brazilian Amazon. The Ama-
zon is home to a rainbow of social categories: numerous groups with different forms of settle-
ment, integration, and occupation. The Amazon is shown to have experienced significant
change in recent years resulting from development efforts undertaken in the region. Live-
lihood, settlement patterns, demography, land use and land tenure, economic activities, and
social stratification have been altered. Elements of this alteration are reflected in the terms
used to name rural Amazonians. In this respect, Brazilian Portuguese offers an amazing abun-
dance of terms to name these rural dwellers.

In the course of increasing international interest and efforts in the Amazon, the focus of atten-
tion is on its rural residents. To find correct equivalents in English for the rural settlers has
been quite a challenging exercise. Since the terms peasant or smallholder mean different
things in different countries, the overall question is whether or not it is satisfactory to employ
the rather general English term smallholder to the various settlers in the Amazon.

So far, defining the various forest dwellers and identifying correct equivalents for English us-
age has caused debate and continues to remain fuzzy. Terms are used interchangeably,
glossing over important differences, and leading to confusion. If researchers and associates of
projects are to take seriously the Amazonian dwellers, then it is important to understand much
better the backgrounds and historical context employed in the Portuguese terms of Amazonian
settlers. To this end, this final thesis approaches the task from a socio-linguistic perspective,
identifying the various rural settlers in the Amazon and examining the terms used to designate
them from a translation-oriented point of view.

I believe this study is of special interest for several reasons. Firstly, precise definitions of the
terms used to describe the Amazon settlers are required to recognize the reality of the settlers
in order to formulate specific development programs. Furthermore, this study poses an inter-
esting approach from a linguistic point of view. Useful insights may be gained by examining
different concepts and definitions of small-scale-farming existing in Brazilian Portuguese and
in English. This socio-linguistic study of the settlers in the Brazilian Amazon intends to con-
tribute to a better communication between the many actors in this field, and give impetus to
further research. This study of social as well as intercultural and translation-oriented elements
Introduction V

of Amazonian settlers is especially dedicated to associates of projects in the Amazon, such as

the research project Forlive1, working closely together with the Amazonian residents. The
overall intention is to facilitate their work and provide a clear communication basis. In group-
ing these perspectives on Amazonia, it is hoped that this study will be of interest to the vari-
ous actors concerned with the Amazon and its people.

Objectives and Methods

This study approaches the topic from an interdisciplinary perspective. It presents an analysis
and interpretation of the numerous terms used for settlers in the Brazilian Amazon. There are
two main objectives. One is to identify homogenous groups within the different groups of set-
tlers in Amazonia with the intention to provide a clear distinction between them. The second
main objective is to analyze the linguistic phenomenon of the many terms used for these set-
tlers under intercultural and translation-oriented aspects both for Brazilian Portuguese and for
English. The complexity of meanings in academic and colloquial use is discussed. A set of
definitions for the settler terms in Portuguese is proposed to serve as a recommendation for a
communication basis.

To do this, this study is carried out by using different methods and scales of analysis. Just as
the terms for Amazonian settlers and its usage have been shaped by the different disciplines of
the actors involved in Amazonian research, the bodies of knowledge that I use to support my
analysis are drawn from a variety of disciplines. This includes works from anthropology, so-
cial science, political economy, natural science, and linguistics. In examining Amazonian
peasantry, I link these approaches together.

In the linguistic analysis, I use the theoretical framework of Lexical Semantics. Using a com-
bination of definition analysis and questioning of informants, lexical meanings and standard
usages of the settler terms are examined. The questioning of informants was carried out dur-
ing a field study of one month duration in Belém, Brazil.

1 Forlive is a project in partnership with smallholders and local organizations in the Bolivian, Brazilian,
Ecuadorian, and Peruvian Amazon. It aims at analyzing promising local forest management initiatives in
order to identify locally viable forest use options and promote them as a basis for sustainable development in
rural areas of the Amazon. (http://www.waldbau.uni-freiburg.de/forlive/Home.html)
Introduction VI

Study Overview
This study is organized into two main parts, followed by a conclusion and glossary of Amazo-
nian settler terms. Due to the distinct but interlinked focuses of the present study, it can be
broadly divided into Part I focusing on social, historical, and political aspects, and Part II
dealing with the linguistic analysis.

Part I is organized into three main sections. First, the major debates that have shaped develop-
ment economics and social science thinking about peasantry and smallholder farming are
presented. The main concepts understood by peasantry in the global and Brazilian context are
reviewed, followed by a presentation of works concerning the peasant society of Amazonia.
The second focus of Part I is on the presentation of the background to the study region, the so-
cial origins of Amazonian settlement, land titling as well as main agricultural and environ-
mental policies. In the third section, emphasis is placed on the economic, social and ideologic-
al orientations of Amazonian settlers. Within this section, the various Amazonian rural dwell-
ers are identified according to their livelihood strategies. This includes concepts such as col-
onization issues, property rights, land use, as well as recent political concepts. Legal aspects
are of special interest since they provide the background for the usage of a term.

Part II focuses on the linguistic analysis, which is divided into three sections. The first section
situates the analysis within the theoretical framework of semantic field research and prototype
semantics. In the second section, a base analysis involves an intralinguistic investigation of
four particular Portuguese terms of Amazonian settlers according to etymological issues, dic-
tionary definitions, and stereotypical concepts. Furthermore, reference is made to the collo-
quial and academic use of the terms. In a subsection translation approaches in English are dis-
cussed. In the third section of the linguistic analysis questioning of informants is to provide
useful insights concerning the usage and meanings of terms in the awareness of speakers.

At the end of the study, Concluding Comments and a Glossary of settler terms are presented.
The glossary resumes all terms which are analyzed throughout this study.
Introduction VII

Preliminary considerations
The title of this study requires some explanation. It identifies a broad area, Amazonia, and a
topic within, its settlers. The actual scope of the study is more modest. When speaking of
Amazonia, then this is to mean Brazilian Amazonia. The terms settler and peasant are applied
for the purpose of this study. Since the study centers an analysis of the various terms for set-
tlers in the Amazon, the ambiguity of meanings and usages are discussed in detail.

Similarly, when referring to Portuguese, the Portuguese spoken in Brazil is meant. Moreover,
the terms of inquiry form part of a characteristic cultural context within Brazil.

For the sake of better readability, the masculine form of a term equally refers to both the mas-
culine and the feminine form.
Part I – Setting 1

Part I – Setting
General considerations about peasantry and smallholder farming

1 General considerations about peasantry and

smallholder farming
In this section, main theoretical approaches on peasantry and smallholder farming are intro-
duced, since these two concepts dominate the present study. Research and debate focused on
these issues are to serve as a platform to better conceptualize the social fields within the in-
ternally differentiated subject of the rural dweller.

This section is organized into three sub-sections so as to bring into sharper focus the specific
developments of the field. Firstly, the global perspective covers the classical sources with
writings that have shaped the field. Focus is placed on the post-World War II literature, which
is divided into two perspectives, a sociological and an economic development approach. The
sociological view concentrates on the term peasant, whereas the economic development per-
spective focuses on smallholders. In the following section, developments in Brazil are of in-
terest, followed by a survey on Amzonian peasantry.

Proposals are discussed according to the various usages of the terms and how the concept of
peasant underwent changes in the past. This section provides an overview of efforts which
were aimed at conceptualizing and reconceptualizing peasantry, and to see what terms domin-
ate the smallholder-discussion today and in which contexts they are used.

1.1 Global Context

Several major theoretical issues concerning peasantry have dominated anthropological discus-
sion of rural dwellers. This can be seen as a response to a growing awareness of the precari-
ousness of the peasant concept. To differentiate and define the various forms of peasants is
important because such definitions serve as a guideline for governments when it comes to the
implementation of policies concerning the rural population.

In the 19th century main referents of peasant were various rural peoples in Europe and the Bri-
tish Isles. The term peasant belonged to the European context only. As the industrial revoluti-
on took hold, the number of peasants in the Western World declined, whereas their numbers
concentrated in the continents of Africa, Asia, and Latin America. In the First World, peasants
had mostly vanished. What remained of the past of traditional peasants was transformed into
tourist attractions throughout Western Europe. In the Second World, peasants were living un-
der a socialist regime that favoured large-state farm production. In contrast to this develop-
ment, the Third World neared the end of colonial rule, and peasants became an overwhelming
General considerations about peasantry and smallholder farming 3

majority in most countries (Bryceson, 2000:13-14).

Against this background, two separate peasant-focused literatures evolved: first, the compara-
tive study of peasantries influenced by anthropology and rural sociology, and second, a more
agrarian policy approach by development economics (Bryceson, 2000:1).

In the 20th century anthropology became concerned with peasants and applied the term to refe-
rents found mainly in the Third World (Kearney 1996:144). In a rapidly changing world the
character and livelihood of massive rural populations of the world’s poorest and most explosi-
ve areas have come to be recognized as one of the most crucial issues of our time (Shanin

Until World War II, the primitive was the prototypical category of social anthropology. A
term used by Europeans to describe members of aboriginal communities in the former colo-
nies. The primitive stands for the colonized other opposed to the modern colonizer (Kearney
1996:30). The end of World War II and its aftermath coincided with the destruction of the for-
mal structure of colonialism. During the Cold War, a new political landscape opened up and
the dozens of new nations that emerged in the Third World in the 1940s and 1950s set the sta-
ge for the entry of the peasant (Kearney 1996:32). Peasants became the prototypical rural in-
habitants of the Third World. Social scientists and anthropologists began to notice and con-
ceptualize fundamental differences between the primitive and the peasant.

There was an explosion of peasant studies in the 1960s and 1970s. The social phenomenon of
peasants was expressed as a conceptual issue and the term was scrutinized by scholars. The
English term peasant evolved into a synonym for terms of peasants worldwide despite their
many differences in agricultural production strategies, ways of life, or poltical background.
The problem of peasant differentiation and the various dimensions of the identity of peasants
became the focus of rural peasant studies. This fact then raised the question whether or not it
would be possible to categorize the many rural actors termed as peasants. Depending on the
orientation of the respective study, the proposed terms ranged from peasant-worker, to pea-
sant-artisan, to post-peasant (cf. Kearney 1996). Fuzzy edges remain since there is no precise
specification of economic activities between the various rural actors.

The question arises, at what point do agrarian producers become peasants? There have to be
some definitional bounderies. An important benchmark for reference is provided by Eric R.
Wolf (1966) and his classic study on peasants. Wolf was first to formulate a working definiti-
on of peasants and to locate peasants in a global historical context. An alternative paradigm to
General considerations about peasantry and smallholder farming

the studies was established that until then were focused on the cultural context of peasant so-
cieties only. The study of Wolf has had considerable impact since he began to criticize the re-
stricted view on peasants who were linked to a specific culture and community. Wolf presents
the defining characteristics that distinguish peasants from other rural types such as primitives
and farmers. Peasants are not farmers, as known in the United States, who primarily run a
business enterprise with the main objective to obtain a profit by selling products on the market
(Wolf 1966:2). The peasant runs a household, not a business in the economic sense. Farmers
produce exchange value whereas peasants primarily produce use value for self-consumption
(Kearney 1996:61). There are also primitive peoples who live in the countryside and raise
crops and livestock. The distinguishing mark of the peasant opposed to primitives is that pea-
sants form part of a larger, compound society (Wolf 1966:2), whereas a primitve band or tribe
does not. Up to this day, peasants are defined by their partial involvement into society, as
stated by Ellis (1988:233): “Peasants are household agricultural producers characterized by
partial engagement in incomplete markets.”

A rather general definition was formulated by Teodor Shanin (1981:3) encompassing charac-
teristics, that are found in one form or another in most definitions. Shanin distinguishes pea-
sants as,

“(...) small agricultural producers, who, with the help of simple equipment and
the labour of their families, produce mostly for their own consumption, direct
or indirect, and for the fulfilment of obligations to holders of political and eco-
nomic power.”
Shanin highlights four interdependent facets of peasantry, namely: farm, agriculture, commu-
nity, and culture. In doing so, Shanin reaffirms the concept of Wolf (1966) and seeks to define
the qualitiative particularity underlying the use of the term peasantry as a valid generalization
and a theoretical concept (Shanin 1981:3).

The currently most cited author on peasantry studies is Michael Kearney (1996). He discusses
comprehensively the peasant concept. Kearney believes that the images the term peasant
brings to mind are anachronisms and do not reflect the ways in which rural people live today.
In his study, Kearney focuses on contemporary peasants, and the fact that referents to the term
peasant have passed from history. Superficial definitions and the old intellectual dualistic per-
ception of oppositions such as rural-urban, modern-traditional, and peasant-nonpeasant are
criticized (Kearney 1996:3). Kearney calls for a postpeasant-theory with its main concern on
internal differences of peasants and not primarily on external differentiation of types of pea-
General considerations about peasantry and smallholder farming 5

sants (Kearney 1996:7). He describes the new globalized postpeasant individual with the neo-
golism polybian. This term is to do justice to the large number of multiple identities for the
category of peasant. Polybian derives from the words poly, many, and bios, mode of life.
This metaphor refers to the complex identities of groups such as migrants, who move back
and forth from peasant to proletarian, migrating across social categorical borders (Kearney
1996:142). Furthermore, Kearney emphasizes the flexibility of the rural migrants who adapt
to different modes of existence as they move in and out of different life spaces.

“To describe a polybian locally and historically he or she might indeed appear
in one context – perhaps at one moment in his or her life – as a peasant, in ano-
ther as a plantation worker, and in others as a petty merchant or an urban slum
dweller.” (Kearney 1996:141)
Kearney’s concept of polybian, however, did not win recognition since it encompasses only
part of the rural population, for not all peasants are migrants at the same time. Regional and
transnational migration does not take place throughout the Third World. Moreover, Kearney
does not consider the question of land access, or even differing economic strategies, whereas
both elements are main characteristics of the peasant definition.

In general, the aforementioned discussions on peasantry do not give consideration to a precise

definition for peasants in a satisfying manner. For this reason, the importance of economic
studies in developing countries was advanced, providing a strong rationale for studies of peas-
antries by development economists in the guise of smallholders (Bryceson 2000:14). Deve-
lopment economics emerged as a specialized subdiscipline of economics following World
War II. The discipline focused on patterns of Third World economic growth. This involves
mathematical data analysis and model-building assumptions (Bryceson 2000:20).

The term peasant generally was avoided, although never explicitly rejected by development
economists. Rather, smallholder was used to denote rural producers operating on their own
account on relatively small farms. The community and family criteria of the peasantry defini-
tion outlined earlier were mostly omitted (Bryceson 2000:20).

Early political economists regarded the peasantry as a multi-faceted social category, including
both a variety of dependent laborers such as sharecroppers or renters and independent small-
holding producers (Bryceson 2000:180). Development economics has sought to modernize
peasant economies through various prescriptive policy measures. Policy aims were expressed
through sustainable development efforts aimed to alleviate poverty and lessen the environ-
mental degradation of smallholder farming. In the 1970s, the principle focus was on Third
General considerations about peasantry and smallholder farming

World national development and transformation of smallholder production on a national sca-

le. Sustainable Development in the 1990s was defensive, attempting to release smallholders
from worsening conditions. It was directed primarily at the household and community rather
than the national level (Bryceson 2000:28).

During the 1990s, peasant theories and development economics concerned with peasants or
smallholders declined. Bryceson (2000:29) argues that the implementation of structural ad-
justment policies and market liberalization worldwide have had a dissolving effect on pea-
sant’s livelihood. Moreover, Bryceson states that peasants are now more elusive than ever be-
fore. Economic, social and political pressures upon peasantries resulted in diversifying pea-
sants into a number of occupations and non-agricultural income opportunities. Their relation-
ship to the soil has changed (Bryceson 2000:30). In this context, peasants became even more
problematic to define. For this reason, Bryceson suggests:

“It is important to analyse the differential impact of globalization processes and

structural adjustment policies on the different types of peasant farmers. In
other words, the kinds of incentives or disincentives created by macro-
structural change will translate into different productive, technical and market
decisions according to the type of farm and the social status of the household.”
(Bryceson 2000:181)
Bryceson once again raises the discussion about setting boundaries to a clear definition of
peasant smallholders. Such a definition is of crucial importance because the results have a
high political stake in the future of the peasantries.

1.2 Brazilian Context

In the course of Brazilian history, many different kinds of peasants become apparent. This
section attempts to provide a brief historical overview of Brazilian peasantries. Focus is on the
question how the different terms of Brazilian peasants were defined historically. A second fo-
cus is on contemporary peasantries and which terms prevail in Portuguese and in English

The emergence of a peasantry in Brazil goes back to Portuguese Settlement. Colonial origins
are deeply rooted in Brazil, with three major characteristics: large estates, export monocul-
tures and slavery. Alongside Brazilian plantation system, a peasant sector constituted of small
owners, tenant farmers, and sharecroppers serving as foodcrops suppliers, commodity produ-
cers and labor force developed early within that system. The colonial socio-economic system
was very complex characterized by patronage, paternalism, and slaveholding. Ever since, a
General considerations about peasantry and smallholder farming 7

fundamental form of social control between landlords and peasants has dominated rural
Brazilian social structure (Forman 1975:23).

Large landowners subdivided their estates into smaller holdings, which they rented to small
colonists (Forman 1975:24). By the eighteenth century, smaller properties called datas de
terra were distributed to colonists. These datas de terra were peasant farms and supplied the
export-oriented agricultural system with food. Throughout history, the Brazilian agrarian sys-
tem was constituted of various labor forces organized in a range of different tenure rights.

In literature, there is some disagreement over whether or not there had been peasants in Brazil
in colonial times. This is due to the fact that definitions and descriptions of peasants were de-
veloped in other times and places (cf. 1.1). Shepard Forman’s work on the Brazilian peasantry
discusses various terms and conceptions of peasants in the course of Brazilian history.In colo-
nial times, peasant farmers were known as lavradores, moradores or foreiros. The term lav-
rador was applied to a small independent sharecropper who lived on a large sugar cane plant-
ation and was obliged to plant cane for the owner without having to pay rent (Forman
1975:25). The morador also resided on the plantation but was not obliged to plant cane. In-
stead, he was given a piece of land on the owner’s property. The morador grew food crops. In
return, the owner of the land received a small sum of a fee and foodcrops from the morador,
which was considered more as a gift than as a payment (Forman 1975:26). Foreiros constitute
another group of the Brazilian peasant population who originally rented marginal lands from
landowners on which they grew subsistence crop. In addition to the low rent they had to pay,
they performed corvee labor during the planting seasons. The importance of this arrangement
grew with the development of the cotton economy. Today there are temporary renting ar-
rangements similar to those of colonial times, in which the landowner receives only a small
annual sum in rent but a significant commitment of labor in the clearing of virgin lands
(Forman 1975:26). In addition to the development of these regular tenure patterns, posseiros2
began to move in from the coastal areas into the hinterland. With the struggle of posseiros for
land, a new capitalist peasant form of ownership was created (Forman 1975:27). In the nine-
teenth century, a system of legal tenure was formed. Large-scale privately owned plantations,
fazendas, became the predominant form of landholding in Brazil and continue to be until
today (Forman 1975:27).

Each term for peasant refers to different land tenure arrangements with the landlords of the

2 Peasant holding a legal right, based on his cultivating work, to a land title (cf. 3.2, 5.3)
General considerations about peasantry and smallholder farming

sugar mill, the senhores de engenho. A history of these land tenure patterns would reveal the
main characteristics of Brazilian peasantries, but such a history remains yet to be written. To
this day, a range of dependency relationships characterize Brazilian society, and pose particu-
lar cultural features for the Brazilian peasantry.

Any broader discussion of the Brazilian peasant defintion requires a clear determination of the
socio-economic and legal aspects of these patron-dependent relationships. Such relationships
seem to be reflected in the Portuguese terms used for Brazilian peasants as the four examples
have shown above. Clarifications of the legal status of peasants and land ownership would be
useful to decide for an equivalent term in English.

Through the years the colonial agricultural system has shifted significantly under the influ-
ence of the international economy and the effects of domestic government policies. This testi-
fies to the fact that the Brazilian peasantry is constituted of very diversified socio-economic
and cultural groups resulting in a highly heterogeneous segment that reflects deep regional
differences and distinct income generation capacities. Brazilian agriculture is characterized by
a historical pattern of land concentration in which the lion share of the land is owned by a rel-
atively small number of large estates, agricultura patronal, that coexist with a much larger
number of small farms, agricultura familiar (World Bank 2001:25).

It can be noted that the term smallholder is applied in English publications concerning devel-
opment economic or environmental issues. In terms of the differentiated usage peasant vs.
smallholder, this global trend holds also true for Brazilian peasantry discussions. While so-
cially based peasantry studies use the term peasant, the term smallholder is applied in the
context of economic concerns. The term smallholder entered Brazilian peasant discussion in
recent years, when the importance and role of smallholder agriculture in the agricultural de-
velopment of Brazil was recognized and gained force. This is reflected in the documents is-
sued by governmental agencies and international institutions such as the World Bank. New
terms are being introduced to name the peasant and express a certain academic course. These
new political concpets concerning peasants will be of interest in the course of the present

It is important to recognize that Amazonia was completely absent from Forman’s study as
well as from most works on Brazilian peasantry. This is mainly due to the fact that the history
of occupation and economic dynamics in Amazonia are quite different from elsewhere (Harris
2000:22). This is evidenced by the study of Forman as well as other discussions on Brazilian
General considerations about peasantry and smallholder farming 9

and Latin American history which completely omit Amazonia. This testifies to the fact that
social circumstances in Amazonia do not fit the models of other trajectories. One significant
reason for this is the fact that Amazonian peasants were left out from national agrarian devel-
opment until the integration programs of the 1970s took place. For example, plantation agri-
culture and a robust export economy did not develop in Amazonia on any significant scale
(Harris 2000:22). Amazonian peasants did not produce food for national markets, as did peas-
ants in the South and Northeast regions of Brazil.

1.3 Amazonian Context

Since the 1970s, there has been an unprecedented growth in the number of social scientific
studies carried out in Amazonia. One reason for this change is the integration policy pursued
by the military regime in Brazil (Nugent 1993).

Anthropological writing about Amazonian populations is mainly restricted to Amerindian so-

cieties. New types of peasantries were created with the construction of the Transamazônica.
Research of these new types emerged in the 1970s with the initiation of the building of the
road. Neo-Amazonian peasantries, however, are still of marginal interest. This is reflected by
the fact that aside from the standard anthropological work of Wagley (1953) on an Amazoni-
an peasant society, there is not much to be found in the Amazonian ethnographic collection.
Wagley´s Amazon Town represents not only the first monography on an Amazonian peas-
antry, namely the caboclo society, it also is the only one specifically focused on an Amazoni-
an peasantry. Further books of relevance are Moran’s (1981) study on the Transamazônica
and Bunker’s (1985) work on extractivism. More recently, accounts of Chico Mendes, the
works of Schmink and Wood (1992), Nugent (1993) and Harris (2000) provide useful in-
sights. Although these few works offer important conceptions of peasantries, they do not give
consideration to a representative account on the multitude of Amazonian peasants that exist
today. None of these studies is specifically focusing on Amazonian peasantry as a whole, nor
do they provide clear terms of reference.

The majority of academic writing on Amazonia concentrate on environmental concerns. Envi-

ronmental claims are important but tend to subordinate sociopolitical matters. In terms of the
way Amazonia receives international attention in the preservation of its ecosystems, peasants
are regarded at best as bystanders and at worst as the main promulgators of Amazonian de-
struction (Nugent 1993:5).
General considerations about peasantry and smallholder farming

Social studies on Amazonian peasantries should not only include studies of contemporary so-
cieties, as Harris (2000) points out, but also an analysis of the ways in which researchers and
other actors historically have defined Amazonians. This poses a problematic task since many
peasantries, especially traditional peasants, have not been subject to regional and national de-
velopment projects.

Three broad types of non-urban Amazonian societies are distinguished by Nugent (2003),
namely aboriginal societies, traditional peasantries and neo-peasantries (1993:8). Despite
great differences, the common crucial feature is their invisibility (Nugent 1993:8). All of them
respresent the failures of previous governmental integration efforts. This study primarily is
concerned with referents of traditional peasantries and new peasantries. Traditional peas-
antries, also termed as historical Amazonian peasantry by Nugent, were constituted through
colonial incorporation of the region. New peasantries on the other hand entered Amazonia
since the 1970s in the course of settlement projects by the federal government of Brazil.

The many terms for Amazonian peasants in Portuguese do not only reflect their individual
and unique lifestyles but also a number of notions and connotations. Their backgrounds are
strongly connected to the history of the Amazon with its booms and busts given the predomi-
nance of certain commodities. Despite the well-known history of Amazonia, very little is
known about the common lives of these people. Official reports and statistics do not reveal
the ways of life and living conditions of rural Amazonians. It is present in oral descriptions
and inscribed on the landscpape, for example deforestation areas caused by logging. The in-
formation gap can also be explained by the fact that Amazonian peasant societies were never
granted full status as integral social forms. Amazonian peasants are viewed as blendings of in-
digenous social formations and remnants of European commercial acitivities. They are people
„in between“, neither belonging to indigenous societies nor do they represent white settler
colonists. Their problematic status is reflected in the Portuguese terms used for Amazonian
rural dwellers.

The term caboclo poses a good example, showing quite well the ambivalence of its usage.
Meanings of caboclo vary. Caboclos appear sometimes as occupants of the floodplain, at oth-
ers as occupants of the forests or even of cities. Scholars often use the term to refer to Amazo-
nian peasants in general. Throughout Brazil, caboclo is widely used for persons living in the
backlands, whereas the term means different things in different regions (Moran 1974:136).
The Southern caboclo who was studied by Willems (1952) is largely “non-Indian”, whereas
General considerations about peasantry and smallholder farming 11

in Amazonia the indigenous element is a defining feature of the term.

The central part of the problem lies in the absence of an explicit discourse of collective identi-
ty among Amazonian peasants. According to Harris, the identity of Amazonian peasants is not
based on ethnic, class, occupational or regional grounds (2000:25). Rather, it is due to

“(...) the contradiction between experience of historical dependence on a global

market and their self-conscious construction of an autonomous sociality, that
is, on the simultaneous embracing of, and resistance to externally imposed
forms of existence.” (Harris 2000:25)
More recently, two main topics have dominated studies on Amazonian peasants. These con-
cern the adaption of peasants to the environment and their accomodation to external economic
demands (Harris 2000:14). After the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in June 1992, sustainable
development projects started to take place in Amazonia. Although the original occupants of
Amazonia are certainly more acknowledged now than they were in the past, they are still not
recognized as vital actors in the plans for development. The majority of projects are realized
primarily in the forestry sector and in the course of development assistence. In fact, the idea
of sustainability dominates current discussion of Amazonian development strategies. In this
case, the aforementioned rural Amazonian dwellers are being generalized under the term
smallholders. This leads to the conclusion that there is a similar trend to that in the global and
Brazilian peasantry study. In English publications on Amazonia, the term peasant is used
mostly in social scientific studies, and the term smallholder when referring to development is-

There is a diversity of peasant societies in Amazonia differing in many ways, such as numer-
ous Amerindian groups, heterogeneous peasant occupations in riverine areas, various migrant
peasants, rubber-tappers, black populations in rural areas, and many more. This shows that it
would be a rather speculative task to bring all these people together and compare them on
equal footing, since they do not even share the same history.

The present study does not pretend to be complete. Rather, it attempts to evade the claim of
representiveness by presenting examples of the most commonly used Portuguese terms for the
various rural dwellers. Furthermore, the study examines the various definitions in the context
of a problematic Amazonian conception, in which each term provides a platform for discus-
Background Information

2 Background Information
Today’s cultural and social situation can only be understood in the context of regional history.
Human beings in general are embedded in a historical context, and their future is shaped by
these particular experiences. The Amazon region constituates a large number of ecosystems
with unique geographical characteristics. The diversity of the physical environment in the
Amazon is reflected by the heterogeneity of its populations that differ in their history, demo-
graphy, social and political organization, and view of nature.

To understand today’s cultural and social reality in the Amazon, this section attempts to take a
comprehensive view of regional history in the Amazon by giving an historical overview of
Amazonian settlement, presenting the most important land tenure aspects, and main agricultu-
ral and environmental policies.

2.1 Study Area

The continental Amazon Region covers a vast area of 7.2 million square kilometers. Most of
it is situated in Brazil and this area amounts to approximately 5,1 million square kilometers.
This corresponds to 60,44 % of Brazil´s national territory and to 28 % of the South American
continent (Diegues 1992:2).To define the Amazon or Amazonia is not easy. There are at least
two concepts used to define the Amazon region of Brazil. In terms of geographical and ecolo-
gical aspects, it is defined simply as the drainage basin meaning the Amazon River with all its
tributaries, or Amazon Valley. Other commonly used definitions include political-economic
criteria, such as that used in Brazil when referring to the North region, região Norte, compris-
ing five federal states: Acre, Amapá, Amazonas, Pará, Rondônia, Roraima, and Tocantis (An-
derson et al. 2002:11). Legal Amazonia, Amazônia Legal (cf. Figure 1), refers to a slightly
bigger area, including Mato Grosso as well as parts of Maranhão and Goiás. Legal Amazonia
was defined for administrative and planning purposes. It covers an area of approximately 5
million square kilometres, or 58 % of the national territory of Brazil (Anderson et al.

Recent tendencies to rely on political-economic rather than hydrographic definitions, show

clearly that any decision regarding Amazonia must deal with social, political, and economic
dimensions (Moran 1993:2). In comparative terms, the area of Amazonia is equivalent to the
continental United States or to both Eastern and Western Europe combined exluding Russia
(Moran 1993:3).
Background Information 13

Figure 1: Federal States of Amazônia Legal (Source: Ministério de Saude)

In general terms, Amazonia is composed of two principal physio-graphical zones: the up-
lands, terra firme, and floodplains, várzea. Terra firme represents 98 % of the region. Its soils
display good physical properties. Although they are uplands relative to the várzea, these lands
are generally referred to as the lowlands of Amazonia. The majority of soils in the várzea are
characterized by medium and high natural fertility and are considered to be of great import-
ance in respect to its agricultural potential (Parker 1981:40). The region, however, is far more
than suggested by the terms terra firme and várzea. It is also seasonal forests, flooded forests,
savannas of various types, or palm forests to name but a few.

Amazonia is first and foremost a water universe. The Amazon Basin contains not only the
world’s largest tropical forest but also its biggest river system and most diverse ecosystems.
The hydrographic basin of Amazonia embraces an area of approximately 7 million square
kilometers, which is slightly larger than Western Europe (Parker 1981:39). The main river
system is 6,500 km long, receiving over 1,000 tributaries and draining about a third of South
America. The combined flow of the system represents between 15 % and 20 % of the world’s
supply of fresh water (Jaenicke 1992:25). Rivers are defined by their distinct qualities distin-
guishing between clear waters, black waters, and muddy waters.

Since the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in June 1992, international concern for the Amazon
region has increased to a great extent. The Amazon has become an area of universal interest,
and even Brazil is finally realizing its importance. After all, Amazonia covers more than half
Background Information

of Brazil’s national territory. The focus of attention is on its residents. Today the Amazon is
home of about twenty million people. In general, the numbers are difficult to define. Most of
Amazonian´s inhabitants live in rural areas (Jaenicke 1992:19). In Amazonia, population
growth accelerated after the 1960s and while the region´s rural population grew more slowly
than the urban population, it increased by 50 % between 1970 and 1980 and by 36 % between
1980 and 1989 (Diegues 1992:7).

2.2 Historical Background of Amazonian Settlement

The Amazon has extensively been inhabited for at least 12,000 years (Moran 1993:3). The
idea to give “men without land a land without men” had been a myth since the land was in-
habited by Indians. The Amazon was essentially isolated from the rest of Brazil for four cen-
turies after its discovery by Europeans in 1499. This isolation was largely due to the lack of
overland transportation and large distances (Goulding et al. 1996:39).

The following brief review of the history of Amazonian settlement concentrates solely on mi-
gration of peasant migrants since the 1850s. To be understood in the modern context, the rural
residents of Amazonia must be seen in a historical perspective. This section focuses on two
main stages of colonization, one taking place between 1850 and 1960, and the other after the

Since 1850, the federal government of Brazil has started to make serious efforts to promote
Amazonian colonization. First settlements were mainly based upon extraction of rubber and
Brazil nuts for exportation. Agricultural areas were restricted to riparian areas along main
rivers and to the Belém - Bragantina region, Eastern Pará. The objective to settle peasants was
to supply Belém with food (cf. Anderson 1999).

Another wave of colonization occurred twenty years later. It came as a consequence of the
drought period in the Northeast region of Brazil and the beginning of the rubber boom in the
Amazon. As rubber production increased, there was a drop in the volume of agricultural pro-
duction leading to severe food shortages in Belém. There were also labor shortages due to the
flight of workers to the rubber fields. The rubber boom era starting in the 1840s was an out-
standing period of prosperity in the Amazon that lasted for almost seventy years (Anderson et
al. 2002:13). The devastating drought of 1877 in Ceará, Northeast Brazil, brought a sudden
rush of population into the Amazon region. The drought migrants from the Northeast in the
nineteenth century provided some of the largest numbers of immigrants coming to Amazonia,
Background Information 15

bringing with them a rich influence on language, food, and economy. The majority headed
upriver to tap rubber while others chose to stay in the urban areas of Bragantina or Belém
(Anderson 1999:119).

The period between 1880 and 1930 was characterized by a lack of policy continuity regarding
colonization. Government efforts did not go beyond setting aside land for colonies and pla-
cing people on them. There was a lack of infrastructure which was required to encourage agri-
cultural development (Moran 1981:69). At the end of the rubber era, interest in the Amazon
declined. Brazil’s coffee boom made Brazil’s Southern region the focus of economic atten-
tion. During the period of 1920 to 1960, the Brazilian economy moved from one based on ag-
riculture to one increasingly based on industry. Migration was directed to other regions of
Brazil (Anderson et al. 2002:13).

The speech “march to the West” held by President Getúlio Vargas in 1940 proved to be of
long-term importance to the Amazon. In that speech, the President pointed to the Amazon and
its natural resources. Subsequently, during the second World War the government mobilized
laborers from the Northeast to tap rubber in the Amazon. During the 1940s, regional improve-
ments were made especially with regard to the health situation in the area (Moran 1981:69).
New federal territories, such as Acre and Roraima, were established. In 1946, federal funds
began to flow into the region and were used for the construction of municipal buildings,
schools, roads, central markets, or small sawmills. During World War II, many Northeastern-
ers came to the Amazon, again hit by a heavy drought. Staying on in small river towns or
along the riverbanks, they carried on a subsistence pattern adopted from the resident river
dwellers, the caboclos. By gathering rubber, the immigrating population learned from an
earlier generation of caboclos about the forest and its resources (Moran 1981:70).

The greatest official attention was focused on settling newcomers, but at the same time local
people were also moving into the colonies (Anderson 1999:119). These people contributed to
the adaptation and assimilation process with their local knowledge. Survival of the isolated
population in the Amazon Valley depended upon the exploitation of a wide range of re-
sources: rubber, Brazil nuts, hunting, fishing, natural oils, andiroba3, and agriculture (Moran

In the 1960s, patterns of settlements began to change due to direct planning efforts by the fed-

3 Carapa guianensis, forest species of mahogany. Wood of andiroba is considered as noble timber and its seed
oil is used for medicine.
Background Information

eral government. Regional development in Amazonia after the 1960s can be distinguished ac-
cording to presidential terms. The institutional framework was maintained throughout, where-
as guidelines and emphases concerning targets and actors tended to shift from administration
to administration (Anderson 2002:16).

Along with the military take-over in 1964, the federal government made serious efforts to de-
velop and occupy the Amazon region and to integrate it into the rest of the country. The re-
gime of Castelo Branco called for an Operation Amazonia, Operação Amazônia. The plan
was based on the creation of “growth poles” which would enjoy cheap credit, and land con-
cessions. The growth poles were to be connected with major highways, along which peasant
migrants were encouraged to settle (Anderson 2002:15). Since access to the Amazon was
severely restricted by the lack of roads, the first step for successful occupation and develop-
ment of the region was the construction of a road network. A highway linking Belém with the
capital city of Brasília was constructed in 1965, providing an overland connection with the
rest of the country. Over two million people migrated along its path within a few years and
developed a stable cattle industry (Moran 1981:71). Axial roads like the Transamazônica, the
Cuiabá - Santarém road, and the Cuiabá - Porto Velho road were constructed in the 1970s. For
the first time in history, economic settlements in the Amazon were freed from a dependence
on rivers. SUDAM, the regional development agency, was created in that era. SUDAM adop-
ted a development strategy of promoting large-scale cattle ranching in Amazonia by providing
tax incentives (Jaenicke1992:28).

Between 1971 and 1974, President Medici generated a plan of national integration (PIN)
which gave priority to road building and the colonization of small farmers. PIN was to be the
most ambitious colonization project in the region up to that time (Browder and Godfrey
1997:73). Small farm colonization got underway in 1971. Over 5,000 families came to separ-
ate colonization projects installed along the Transamazon Highway. It was projected that the
small farm sector would specialize in food crops and serve as a “bread basket” to provide
food for their own use but also for export to the South (Moran 1981:77). The National Insti-
tute of Colonization and Agrarian Reform (INCRA) was created to oversee an orderly agricul-
tural settlement of Amazonia. In the first five years of the program, one hundred thousand
families (more than five hundred thousand people) were to be settled along the three-thou-
sand-kilometer road, stretching from the Brazilian Northeast to the western edge of Amazonia
at the border with Peru (Browder and Godfrey 1997:74). In total, a million families were to be
settled along the Transamazônica. This project represented an attempt, as President Médici
Background Information 17

put it, to settle “people without land in a land without people” (Browder and Godfrey

The administration of General Ernesto Geisel (1974-1979) de-emphasized the settlement of

peasant migrants in the Amazon and encouraged corporate investment in the region (Ander-
son 2002:16). In these years, the body POLAMAZÔNIA was established as the Program for
Agricultural and Agro-mineral Poles of the Amazon. It returned to a policy of favoring regio-
nal development through large-scale enterprises by selecting fifteen priority areas for national
investment in different locations in the Amazon. The objective of the program was to “promo-
te the integral use of agricultural, livestock, forest, mineral and agro-industrial potentialities”
(Jaenicke 1992:32). A range of large-scale integrated development projects were planned.
One is the Carajás Major Program (PGC), which covers 218 municipalities belonging to the
States of Pará, Maranhão and Goiás (today Tocantins), corresponding to 10,6 % of the Brazi-
lian territory. The PGC project became within a short period of time the biggest mining pole
of Brazil. PGC demonstrates well the role of Amazonia as a huge raw material supplier. Ano-
ther consequence of large-scale projects is to prevent landless migrants or unemployed road-
builders from having access to land (Jaenicke 1992:34).

In the 1980s, SUDAM adopted several five-year-plans for Amazonia. The implementation of
these plans was difficult to realize due to a lack of financial resources. Further fragmentation
of regional development policy became apparent. Various new sectors emerged. Another ma-
jor initiative of this phase was the POLONOROESTE Development Program, where the fed-
eral government provided infrastructure for agricultural settlements in the southwestern re-
gion of Amazonia (Anderson 2002:17). Large-scale cattle ranches in Pará expanded and be-
came a lucrative resource in the 1990s.

In the late 1980s, Brazil went into an economic recession and could not afford to subsidize
Amazonia on the same scale as it had previously. Furthermore, due to global environmental
concerns over the Amazon, the Brazilian government began to incorporate ecological consid-
erations into its treatment of the region (Anderson 2002:18). Environmental departments were
established in all major governmental departments. As a consequence of this priority change,
major development projects in the region were downsized, or even abandoned (Anderson
2002:19). Several new plans were initiated to address the environmental damage.

In the course of the Plano Real in 1994, Brazil recovered from economic recession and started
to re-integrate former frontier expansion plans of Amazonia into national development efforts
Background Information

such as Brasil em Ação (1994–1998). Another recent governmental plan is Avança Brasil,
which places emphasis on equality both socially and regionally with the purpose of creating a
more united and homogeneous country (Anderson 2002:33). This implies investments for the
Amazon region which mostly cover infrastructure projects. Avança Brasil concentrates on
road improvements of already existing roads. This could be a sign that the Brazilian govern-
ment wishes to stimulate agricultural intensification on old frontier areas rather than opening
new frontiers for settlement (Anderson 2002:34).

The principal result of the Amazon expansion policy is a dramatic growth in population in-
creasing from 7.3 million people in 1970 to 17.8 million in 1996, and up to 21 million in 2000
(Anderson 2002:48). The share of rural population increased from two million in 1960 to 6,7
million people in 2000 (Hurtienne 2001:260-262). The rural population is mainly concen-
trated in the old frontier areas of northern Pará and Maranhão. While the average growth rate
of the rural population was modest, some municipalities such as Rondônia, the northern part
of Mato Grosso and the southern part of Pará experienced explosive growth (Anderson

As a result, migrants from all areas of Brazil came to the Amazon attracted by government ad-
vertisements. An attractive package of benefits was offered to the farmers, consisting of one
hundred ha of virgin land along a federal highway, complete with boundaries as well as titles
supported by INCRA (Moran 1981:79).

Farm-level studies evaluate settlements of the Amazon in terms of successful and non-suc-
cessful ones. Success strongly depends on the source regions of the settlers. Settlers who ar-
rived to the Maranhão part of Amazonia mainly came from the neighboring very poor North-
east region of Brazil, pushed by extremely poor conditions in the Northeast. They arrived vir-
tually without any economic resources (Anderson 2002:23). Very few of the settlers entering
Maranhão came from the North region itself and thus they were unlikely to be familiar with
the forest environment and agricultural techniques of Amazonia. On the other hand, settlers
coming to Mato Grosso and Rondonia were primarily from the South, South-East, or Center-
West regions of Brazil. They usually arrived with greater initial resources and thus were more
likely to be successful in the long run. Those who arrive with capital tend to get more out of
their land since they are able to buy the necessary inputs such as seed, fertilizer, tools, or
vehicles (Anderson 2002:25).

The historical background described above illustrates the complexity of agricultural develop-
Background Information 19

ment in Amazonia that has mainly been influenced by government policies. To conclude with,
colonization by peasant migrants is concentrated in certain parts of the region, following pat-
terns of organization that vary from place to place. Currently, migration of peasants takes
place from old to new frontiers within the Amazon posing a dangerous threat to the forest.
One of the reasons for this intraregional migration is the speculative demand for land by a
growing, prosperous Amazonian middle class (Almeida 1995:1). More and more small farm-
ers sell their plots and move on to settle temporarily and deforest new frontiers.

2.3 Land tenure and titling policies

Legal Amazonia occupies approximately five million square kilometers, accounting for 59 %
of the Brazilian territory. Still, there is a lack of information on the land tenure situation in the
Amazon. According to data from the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE
2000), 24 % of the Amazonian territory is made up of titled areas, 31 % are legally protected
areas made up of Conservation Units (CU) and indigenous lands. The remainder amounts to
45 % of uninhabited areas and lands under dispute or litigation. Since 1995, the Brazilian
Amazon has been experiencing a huge land settlement. About 210 thousand families have
been settled in the Amazon between 1995 and 2001 (Lima et al. 2003:81). Each family re-
ceives 100 ha of which 20 % can be cleared for agriculture. In Legal Amazonia, a certain
share of all private property is required to be publicly registered as areas of permanent forest
cover preservation. Peasants are obliged to leave 80 % of their land under forest cover as legal
reserve (Anderson et al. 2002:147). To be able to clear this part of the land for agriculture, the
peasant needs a forest management plan which can only be achieved when holding a title. The
process of legalization of land tenure can take a considerable amount of time as well as re-
sources to prepare the necessary documentation as well as obtain government approval (Lima
et al. 2003:83). However, common practice in the Amazon is that peasants sell the forested
part of their properties to other buyers. These in turn will clear half of the forest for pasture
and crops, leaving the remaining 80 % of the land under forest, until a subsequent sale occurs.
In this way, a law designed to protect the forest encourages its destruction (Anderson et al.

Inconsistencies in Brazilian property law are principal causes for violent land disputes. On the
one hand, civil law protects the traditional private property rights of title-holders, while con-
stitutional law on the other hand outlines an aggressive land reform agenda (Anderson et al.
2002:86-89). The uneven distribution of land tenure in Brazilian Amazonia represents a
Background Information

severe limitation on the area allocated for family agriculture because most of the private land
is currently held by large landholders.

The majority of the land in the Legal Amazon region has been in the public domain, either un-
der federal or state governments. Legally, land is incorporated into private properties by
passing it to large private owners through occasional offers of land for sale through sealed
tenders, licitações. Small plots of land called lotes are sold to settlers in settlement areas
sponsored by government. The land is sold under favorable terms with five-year grace periods
and 6 % annual interest (Fearnside 2001:3).

In reality, such opportunities to obtain public land on a legal way have been rare and
nowadays are nonexistent (Fearnside 2001:4). Since colonial times, Brazil has dealt with the
social problem of landlessness. Federal and state-level land distribution agencies, such as IN-
CRA, have traditionally been responsible for bringing together agrarian reform and coloniza-
tion. Rather than tackle the political cost of taking land from wealthy landowners and giving it
to the landless poor, land distribution in Brazil has mostly taken from nature and given to the
rich (Almeida 1995:3).

Before road transport reached areas in the interior of Amazonia in the early 1970s, large tracts
of land were granted as long-term concessions, aforamentos, for harvesting products such as
rubber or Brazil nuts. Land has often been invaded and captured violently by land grabbers,
grileiros. In Amazonia a substantial part of the land is registered in the name of fictitious
people, so called fantasmas. These irregularities are a result of Brazil’s antiquated system of
land-title registration with a multitude of different registry offices, cartórios. Land claims fre-
quently overlap and most land documents do not have geo-referenced information on property
boundaries (Fearnside 2001:6).

As a result of unfair distribution of land, various initiatives by social movements emerged for
settling landless migrants. The MST4 is the largest of these movements at a national scale and
the one that exerts the most political pressure on the federal government. Social movements
establish camps, acampamentos, either on private land or on roadsides in front of properties.
In this way such movements try to put the government under pressure to expropriate these
areas. If the government accedes to these demands, the camps are either transformed into IN-

4 MST refers to the Movimento sem terra, a peasant movement created in 1984. Through a confrontational
policy of occupying lands, peasants are fighting for land reform and de facto achieving it in many local
situations (cf. Huizer 1999 for more information).
Background Information 21

CRA settlements, assentamentos, or the people are offered plots of land in settlements else-
where in the area (Fearnside 2001:6).

Land-tenure issues are most explosive. Since the early 1970s, there have been violent land
conflicts between small farmers and large landholders, between ranchers and posseiros, and
recently conflicts have been arising between posseiros and settled colonos. In the mid 1970s,
posseiros began to migrate into the Amazon, hoping to clear the land and stake their claim be-
fore the completion of the roads. They travelled by foot, came by boat or by plane from their
previous place of residence. With the opening of the roads, migrants entered by bus, car, or
truck (Schmink and Wood 1992:284).

In the 1960s and 1970s, people with the right political connections could acquire titles to huge
estates in the Amazon at very little cost. Those who did not have political connections could
acquire land titles by developing the land, living on it, and cultivating it. Since this required a
great deal of commitment and work, the farm areas claimed by the latter method were gener-
ally relatively small. These two methods of acquiring land led to a large number of small
farms, accounting for about 11 % of the total farm area in the Amazon (Anderson et al.
2002:33). While obtaining titles to vast stretches of land in the Amazon was cheap and in-
volved little risk, the process of demarcating, defending, and developing the land was costly.
Many of the big land-owners therefore left the land in forest, adopting a wait-and-see attitude.
Many of them did not find it worthwhile to fight posseiros on their land. Indeed some land-
owners encouraged a number of migrants to settle on their land to look after it (Anderson et
al. 2002:32-34). By Brazilian law a posseiro can obtain the rights to land that he has been oc-
cupying and cultivating for at least ten years (cf. section 3.2).

Another problematic issue poses the lot turnover. In some cases, peasants abandon their lot.
Then, the lot left behind remains unworked for a period of time but may be occupied by land-
less migrants. If the lot is purchased by a second wave of settlers, it is likely to be consolid-
ated with neighboring lots to form a small ranch. The bank debts, including those from the
National Program for Family Agriculture (PRONAF), are tied to the lots rather than to the
persons who received the loans. This serves as a strong stimulus to abandon lots once the fin-
ancing funds are received (Fearnside 2001:8-9). Land purchases may be used as a means to
secure subsidized credit. In particular, land with a proper legal title or certificate of occupancy
can be used as the collateral asset required to get access to credit (Anderson et al. 2002:75). If
abandoned, it makes it difficult for others to buy abandoned lots, since the purchaser would
Background Information

have to inherit the debts of the former owner. As a result, the banks are left with an inventory
of lots, which are then exposed to subsequent invasions by the floating population (Fearnside

It is important to understand that security of land tenure, or the lack of it, is probably one of
the major factors influencing both ecological and social sustainability of small farming com-
munities in the Amazon region. Land tenure of the smallholding situation seems to be in a
grey zone between common and state land. In most cases, individual land titles do not exist.
In general, land without individual property title is state land. This holds true for the majority
of Amazonia.

2.4 Main agricultural and environmental policies

Agricultural policies have been subject to major changes in Brazil over the years. During the
1970s and part of the 1980s, subsidized credit was the most important instrument for domestic
support. In the mid 1980s, the emphasis on credit diminished. The late 1980s saw a national
economic recession coupled with increasing global environmental concerns over the Amazon.
The Brazilian government began to scale back the scope of its development aims and formally
incorporated ecological considerations into its treatment of the region. For example, the gov-
ernment program Nossa Natureza was implemented in 1988, environmental departments were
established, a Research Center for Tropical Forests created, and a working group appointed to
review environmental zoning in the Amazon (Anderson et al. 2002:18). These institutional
changes were coupled with important revisions of regional policy priorities. Further efforts
were taken to develop a zoning system in the Amazon region distinguishing between preser-
vation areas and areas of economic activities. Ecological zoning laws regulate the use of
privately owned natural resources. Thus, specific areas inside private properties such as rivers,
springs or vegetation on steep hills are considered by law as ecological reserves and areas of
permanent preservation. Furthermore, a certain share of all private property is required to be
publicly registered as areas of permanent forest cover preservation. For Legal Amazonia, this
share increased from 50 % to 80 % in 1996 (Anderson et al. 2002:19).

Due to the process of economic liberalization, the 1990s brought significant impacts on the
state, society and economy of Brazil. The government initiated an agrarian reform program
and increasingly focused its activities on smallholder farming. Institutional efforts were un-
dertaken to address small-scale agriculture. In 1995, the National Program for the Strengthen-
Background Information 23

ing of Family Farming (PRONAF5) was created. It was subordinated to the Ministry of Agri-
culture and Food Supply. PRONAF offers credits at subsidized interest rates to small family
farmers. Furthermore, FNO-Especial6, a financial policy for Amazon regional development,
was launched in 1993. This credit program under the Ministry of Integration, Ministério da
Integração Nacional, addressed small-scale farmers in the region (Medaets et al. 2003:16).

Since the 1930s, the federal, state and municipal governments have had the power to regulate
the use of natural resources on both private and public land by creating Conservation Units
(CU) and Indigenous Reserves (IR). These are integral areas, such as parks, ecological re-
serves, biological reserves, forest reserves, and extractive reserves, where natural resources
are preserved by strict regulations concerning economic activities. The creation of CUs was
slow until a boom in 1989 and 1990. In these two years, 60 new CUs were created which ac-
counts to more than half of all existing CU areas (Anderson et al. 2002:20).

Licensing from IBAMA7, the Brazilian official environmental administration, is another ma-
jor policy instrument for natural resource regulation. Licenses are required for forest clearing
as well as for the economic exploitation of forest areas in private properties (Lima et al.

Due to a lack of governmental administrative capacity for monitoring and enforcing these
policies, the Brazilian government has committed billions of dollars to systems of environ-
mental monitoring since the late 1990s. In 1998, an “environmental crimes”-bill was passed
which empowers IBAMA to levy fines and issue jail sentences for illegal activities in the
Amazon such as deforestation or logging (Lima et al. 2003:45; Anderson et al. 2002:21).

In terms of environmental policies, increasing deforestation in the Amazon region has alerted
both the international community as well as the Brazilian government. The federal govern-
ment has implemented many programs and projects promoting environmental management.
The Pilot Program for the Protection of the Brazilian Rainforest (PPG7), the National Biodi-
versity Program (PRONABIO) and the Brazilian Biodiversity Fund (FUNBIO) are examples
of initiatives carried out to combat deforestation. These in turn had an impact on public poli-
cies associated with forest conservation land use. The G-7 Pilot Program for Preservation of
Brazilian Rainforests is working together with state and municipal governments (Anderson et

5 Programa Nacional de Fortalecimento da Agricultura Familiar

6 Fundo Constitucional de Financiamento do Norte
7 Instituto Brasileiro de Recursos Naturais Renováveis e do Meio Ambiente
Background Information

al. 2002:21).

Many changes are taking place, like the initiative of a policy aimed at establishing a credit
program for family agricultural producers that creates incentives for the adoption of sustaina-
ble agricultural practices. An example for this is the credit program PROAMBIENTE, adop-
ted in 2003 by the Ministry of Environment, Secretaria de Desenvolvimento Sustentável do
Ministério do Meio Ambiente. This program intends to build up environmental services to fi-
nance farmers practicing sustainable agriculture.
Economic, social and ideological orientations of settlers 25

3 Economic, social and ideological orientations of

After having provided general background information, this section takes a closer look at the
economic, social and ideological orientations of settlers in the Amazon. By dividing this sec-
tion into four major parts, it is aimed to identify certain categorizations of settlers within each
area. The categorization attempt concentrates first and foremost on the background concern-
ing the emergence of terms, used to describe these groups. The overall objective is to demon-
strate how complex the usages of the terms are in respect to their meaning.

Prior to this section, a basic definition of social category and social group is given. According
to Lima (1992:11), a social category is an abstraction, a unit of a system of social classifica-
tion designed to portray the differences between people in society. In contrast to a social
group, a social category consists of an artificial aggregation of people. Defining attributes of a
social category can be biological, social, or cultural. A social group on the other hand, con-
sists of an actual or real human aggregation that is defined by interaction (cf. Barth 1969).

3.1 Colonization process

3.1.1 Types of colonization

Literature on colonization differentiates between three colonization types: traditional, spon-
taneous, and directed colonization projects (Musumeci 1988:17). Traditional colonization is
opposed to recent immigration to the Amazon. Spontaneous occupation is characterized by
minimal government involvement in the process of occupation once it is initiated. Directed
colonization is that taking place in the course of settlement projects initiated by the federal
government from the 1970s to date (Moran 1983:298). Within each of these three categories,
various subtypes of colonization can be identified.

Traditional colonization unifies a diverse group of migrants. It includes detribalized Amazoni-

an Indians and their descendants, the offspring of Amazonian-European and Amazonian-
African unions, as well as descendants of early immigrants from other areas of Brazil, Peru,
and other Andean countries. These regional groups are often referred to as caboclos in the
Brazilian Amazon (cf. 5.1). Their counterparts in the Spanish speaking Amazon countries are
called ribereños, campesinos, or mestizos (Padoch 1988:128). Officially, caboclos are not
classified as natives, but neither are they recent immigrants. Frequently, caboclos are con-
fused with colonist settlers or seem to be inexistent at all in a socio-political respect. The
Economic, social and ideological orientations of settlers

problem of these rural people is their invisibility (cf. Nugent 1993). As a consequence, they
are left legally unprotected by Brazilian law. Their experience of the Amazonian environment
is generations or even centuries older than that of the newcomers. In combining indigenous
methods of subsistence and resource use with elements of European culture, this group forms
the regional cultures of the Amazon. It is traditional concerning the resource use of certain
Amazonian environments, particularly the fertile floodplains. Knowledge and use of forest
plants, methods of hunting and fishing, as well as agricultural techniques are based on indi-
genous traditions (Padoch 1988:130). Many caboclos trace their ancestry to immigrants who
entered the Amazon in search of the black gold that was rubber (Padoch 1988:129). Economic
booms attracted new settlers, some earlier and others later than the rubber boom.

Spontaneous colonization of terras devolutas in the Amazon frontier constitutes a special so-
cial experience. The forces that started it, however, may very well be government actions such
as the construction of roads into a pioneer zone (Moran 1983:298). A classic case of spontan-
eous settlement in the Brazilian Amazon is the occupation of the lands along the Belém-
Brasília highway by colonos, colonist settlers (cf. 5.2). This type of colonization is often con-
sidered as the most successful type because of its low cost to the government and the self-se-
lection of colonists (Moran 1983:298). However, once the means of access have been put in
place, spontaneous colonization cannot be controlled or directed.

Directed colonization involves a high degree of government intervention not only in the initial
stages but also throughout the process of occupation. This type of settlement is characterized
by total design based on a high degree of planning including road construction, design of
communities, selection of settlers, and promotion of specific priorities (Moran 1983:300). The
main showcase for such a type of settlement was the Integrated Colonization Project (PIC8) at
Altamira along the Transamazon Highway. PICs were designed to address the recurring prob-
lems that had plagued settlements in tropical areas: lack of year-round roads, lack of credit,
poor health care, unclear titles to land, and isolation of settlers from markets (Moran
1983:300). Migrants settled directly by government projects are either referred to as colonos
or assentados (cf. 5.2). Wood (1983:261) states that “participants in planned communities are
a special group of small farmers”. The claim to land by settlers is relatively secure since they
enjoy a certain degree of protection from direct expropriation. In general, settlers being in dir-
ect colonization projects benefit from greater security of tenure and protection from violent

8 Projeto Integrado de Colonização

Economic, social and ideological orientations of settlers 27

social conflicts than did most spontaneous settlers. Furthermore, tenure security is a key com-
ponent to successful farming (Almeida 1995:37).

A further colonization type, namely semi-directed settlement, has evolved as combination of

both spontaneous and directed colonization. Semi-directed colonization projects imply a less-
er degree of government involvement than directed projects but considerably more than spon-
taneous settlement (Moran 1983:300). The government will be involved in land demarcation,
road building and provision of services but does not get involved in the selection of settler and
in the provision of inputs such as tools or seeds (Moran 1983:300).

European migrants coming to Brazil, such as Germans or Italians, preferred to settle in the
southern part of Brazil due to climatic favorable conditions as well as economic opportunities.
The Amazon region, in contrast, is characterized by a stronger influence from the Portuguese.
In comparison to the Northeast and Southeast, the number of black slaves in Amazonia was
very small in comparison to other regions in Brazil. The colonial economy, which was ori-
ented towards the extraction of forest products, depended mainly on Amerindian labor (Lima

3.1.2 Origin and destination of settlers

People coming to the roadside colonies were mainly from outside the Amazon, and thus they
were carriers of other regional cultures with adaptive systems different from those that were
traditionally applied in the Amazon. To gain a better insight of the origin of migrants, it is im-
portant to consider the various migration waves to the region. Two migration waves can be
distinguished according to source region and destination. In the first migration wave, migrants
from the Northeast headed to the west of Amazonia. In the second migration wave, people
from the South and Southeast of Brazil moved to the East region of Amazonia. (Martins

The first migration wave took place over fifty years ago. Northeasterners were consistently
entering the west region of Amazonia. In contrast, migration from the South to Mato Grosso
and Rondonia occurred only once and lasted about 15 days (Martins 1981:120). Migrants
from Piauí and Ceará settled mostly in Maranhão, then resettled from Maranhão to Goiás and
from Goiás to Mato Grosso. Pará was a general destination for Northeasterners. Since West
Amazonia is characterized by a high imbalance concerning land distribution, life stories of
these settlers are strongly connected to land expulsion and search for new land (Martins
Economic, social and ideological orientations of settlers

1981:121). There is a high number of small tracts of land which opposes to a small number of
big tracts of land.

The second migration wave occurred just recently, in comparison to the first one. Migrants
left the federal states of Rio Grande do Sul, Santa Catarina, Paraná, Minas Gerais, or Espírito
Santo in search of new lands up north, principally in Rondônia, Acre, or Mato Grosso. In the
South and Southeast, land had become insufficient to absorb the ever growing number of
people living on agriculture (Martins 1981:120). The region is characterized by an overall
European immigration, mostly German, Italian, and Polish. Migrants from Rio Grande do Sul
used to sell their lands and buy new territory up north in Mato Grosso since the land price in
the South was higher than that in the North. One could buy a large tract of land in Amazonia
with the same amount of money for a small tract in the South. The state of Paraná, in the
South region of Brazil, is characterized by a concentration of wheat and soy production. Mod-
ern technology substituted a high percentage of manpower. In Minas Gerais and Espírito
Santo, migrants came from former regions of coffee production. Pasture substituted many cof-
fee plantations. Migration from these areas turned principally to official projects in Rondônia.
As a consequence of high rural unemployment, many former rural peasants and workers left
their homes in search of a new life up north. Among the migrants arriving from the South,
there are many who had once come from the Northeast to the South in search of a new life
(Martins 1981:121).

Source region in % of all migrants¹ to the state

South-East, South
Destination state North North-East Others² Total
or Center-West
Acre 73 5 13 9 100
Amapá 70 10 4 16 100
Amazonas 67 11 8 14 100
Goiás/ Tocantis 49 17 24 10 100
Maranhão 7 81 5 6 100
Mato Grosso 5 5 83 7 100
Pará 62 21 8 8 100
Rondônia 38 8 45 9 100
Roraima 38 40 9 13 100

Notes: ¹"Migrants" are defined as Those w ho hve arrived w ithin the previus ten years.
²"Others" include foreigners and migrants w ith unknow n origin.
Table 1: Migration Waves to the Amazon region (Source: Anderson et al. 2002:25)

Since the construction of the major axial roads throughout the Amazon was centrally planned
without much regard for topography, soil quality, or local demand for infrastructure, settle-
Economic, social and ideological orientations of settlers 29

ment dynamics were quite mixed (Anderson 2002:57). Along the highway route INCRA, the
National Institute of Colonization and Agrarian Reform, had established seven colonization
projects covering 2.7 million ha. Settlers were entitled to 100 ha plots of land at little or no
cost. As demand for the plots quickly exceeded supply, many settlers occupied land outside
official projects (Anderson 2002:58). There are many informal settlements above the number
listed by INCRA. Often informal settlements, in which lots are delineated by the individuals
or communities, are set up and then formalized by INCRA (Merry et al. 2004:1). Only about
one percent of the rural population lives in planned colonization projects. The other 99 % are
spontaneous migrants, practicing a variety of shifting cultivation, about which very little is
known (Jaenicke 1992:19).

Landlessness contributed to an immense flow of poor rural people to the so called frontier re-
gions of the cerrado9 at first and then to the Amazonian region. In 1985, the government
launched a modest process of agrarian reform. The program aimed to provide access to land
to some 1,400,000 of 12,000,000 landless people. In fact, only 77,000 received land titles (cf.
Hurtienne 2001).

INCRA is largely responsible for the homesteading of migrants on the Amazon frontier. IN-
CRA-agencies were set up close to major settlements to supervise the occupation of the land.
The agency was charged with choosing the settlers, bringing them to the Amazon, processing
them on arrival, assigning them lots, surveying agricultural areas, and guaranteeing that their
land rights would be protected (Moran 1981:76). Emphasis was placed on the settlement of
landless peasants from the Northeast (75 %) and peasants from the South (25 %). The latter
were to represent role models of successful peasants. These were just theoretical assumptions.
In reality, preference was given to candidates between the ages of 25 and 45 who were mar-
ried and had large families (Moran 1981:77). Since the government intended to settle as many
as one hundred thousand families in the first five years, it undertook the task of flying families
into the Amazon. As a result, many people with little agricultural background and large famil-
ies came, including an unplanned group of 30 % of traditional settlers, known as caboclos,
claiming land along the new highways. To 70 % of the newcomers, the Amazon environment
was unfamiliar (Moran 1988:157).

In a formal settlement contract, INCRA has a set of obligations to the settler. As start-up IN-
CRA provides 1,400 R$, a road, and a house. The cash is available quickly, but the road and

9 Cerrado, meaning closed and inaccessible land, is the vast tropical savanna region of Brazil.
Economic, social and ideological orientations of settlers

house are often delayed. The house value is estimated at 3,100 R$. This money goes directly
to a construction company who must then build a house on the lot. INCRA gives the settler a
temporary title, protocolo, which confirms the process of land titling is underway. The tem-
porary title is sufficient for other government authorities to permit land use as legal deforesta-
tion, or forest management. It is not sufficient for commercial banks to hold as collateral
(Merry et al. 2004:1).

3.2 Landholding system

Ownership is a crucial element defining the status of the peasant. In this respect, tenancy is an
extremely important category of agricultural labor when it comes to determining access to
land resources. For the peasant, land is at the same time home and location of production, thus
his base of subsistence. In view of differentiated colonization processes, it is suggestive to
look at landholding systems in an anthropological way. This also includes the question how
the proper peasant perceives the land he is working.

In Brazil, public land, terras devolutas10, can be acquired either by purchase or by posse.
Looking closely at the Portuguese terms of proprietário and posseiro key words as pro-
priedade and posse become apparent. These two words imply the main concepts of the main
landholding patterns of smallholders in the Amazon. By defining propriedade and posse, use-
ful insights will be gained.

3.2.1 Propriedade vs. posse

By law, propriedade is a tract of land with no specific size or boundaries which is principally
used for cattle breeding (Musumeci 1988:93). As for the size of landholdings by Amazonian
standards, official minimum for the Amazon region is one hundred ha (Schmink and Wood

Propiedade is the legal formalization of posse through a legal title. The posseiro considers
himself as owner of occupied land, dono da terra ocupada. Posse is a legal right based on de
facto possession. Since the pre-independence period in the nineteenth century, both small- and
large-scale producers in Brazil were permitted to establish legal access to land based on ha-
bitual occupation and effective cultivation. In Amazonia, cultivation was broadly defined to
include extraction of forest products. This long tradition of land rights based on posse rather

10 Terras devolutas is a special form of public lands which are whether used by the government, state or
município (Mattos Neto 1988:128).
Economic, social and ideological orientations of settlers 31

than on title, conferred a legal status to posseiros (Schmink and Wood 1992:64).

In Brazil, a peasant who works the land without holding a legal title indicating an ownership
is classified as occupant of land, ocupante da terra, by law, and generally referred to as pos-
seiro. Posseiro should not be confused with other social classes in rural areas as the
agregado, who used to live on the property of a big fazendeiro11 with the right to work a piece
of land for subsistence and who in turn had to work for the fazendeiro. Furthermore, the pos-
seiro should not be confused with the arrendatário or parceiro who pays a rent in cash or
kind to the owner of the land and in return is permitted to work a piece of land. The posseiro
should not be confused with grileiros, landgrabbers, a figure who illegally takes possession of
land by obtaining it through falsification of documents. The grileiro is often described as a
dealer of lands. It is important to recognize that the posseiro is not an invador of properties
which do not belong to him. In general, posseiros are considered to be poor laborers living on
subsistence farming through family agriculture (Martins 1981:104). Since they do not hold a
legal title to the land they are occupying, they are denied credits as well as any agronomic as-
sistence that may increase their living standard.

3.2.2 Legal recognition

In the beginning of the 1930s, peasants from the Northeast of Brazil migrated to the Amazon
and encountered free land, terras livres12, which was neither titled, nor occupied, nor did any
other social group claim its land rights. This migration movement of a large number of famil-
ies took place until the beginning of the 1970s when a privatization process began to legalize
property of these same lands (Musumeci 1988:58). The result was a clash of two oppositional
property systems. On the one hand, there is the judicial definition of property by the federal
government, while on the other hand there is the peasant perception concerning the concept of
land. The agrarian problem of the Amazon frontier is reflected in a discontinuity between the
two forms of land appropriation: posse and propriedade. Both terms are used in a judicial and
political context determining two different logics. While posse is the logic of consumption
and subsistence, propriedade is the logic of market economy (Musumeci 1988:31).

Occupying terras devolutas has a nearly secular tradition in Brazil. In fact, Brazil is a country
of migrants. After the abolition of slavery in Brazil, freed slaves and those who were con-

11 Owner of a large landholding, fazenda.

12 The term terras livres refers to terras devolutas which can be expressed in two ways according to the
perspective of the speaker. The term terras devolutas is the political correct term used to express public land
of frontier areas, whereas terras livres or terras libertas is used by the peasants themselves.
Economic, social and ideological orientations of settlers

sidered as not having “clean blood”, such as the mestiços13, were forced to occupy new territ-
ories since the fazendas were no longer a safe place for them to stay. They became the first
posseiros of Amazonia (Martins 1980:71). To regulate occupation of land, the Land Law of
1850, Lei de Terras, or Lei 601, legalized all existing posses. Lei de Terras forbade the future
use of posse as a means of claiming land. Acquistion of land was only possible through the
means of purchase. Those who wanted to become proprietário of land had to buy it.
However, on the frontier, posse remained the dominant form of settlement. Since land was
abundant, very few settlers contested the claims of posseiros. Although social and historical
conditions have changed ever since, this law is still in force (Martins 1981:104). However,
with the introduction of the Brazilian Constitution in 1934 the requirements which legalize the
occupation of land through posse are established (Miranda 1988:59). Pequenas posses are
protected in the Lei do Usucapião, law on acquisition of landownership. In this law, posse is
protected through legal instruments such as the acquisition of property pro labore permitting
free acquisition of property of terras devolutas up to 100 ha (Musumeci 1988:45). This right
to land acquisition was reaffirmed in the Estatuto da Terra of 1964, Land Statute. Posseiros
have the right to claim public land and the right to a title after one year and a day when ful-
fulling the following clauses: (a) land as permanent residence, (b) land put under cultivation,
(c) occupation of terra devoluta up to an area of 100 ha, (d) direct posse and cultivation
through family labor, (e) not holding a title of any other property. The Statute authorized the
IBRA, Instituto Brasileiro de Reforma Agrária, in 1970 succeeded by INCRA, to process the
legitimization of acquisition of terras devolutas (Mattos Neto 1988:132). In 1976, the legitim-
ation process of posse was revised. A License of Occupation, Licença de Ocupação (LO), is-
sused by INCRA, is required to claim posse with the obligation to fullfill the aforementioned
clauses (Mattos Neto 1988:133). Concerning the average land size of a rural tract in Brazil,
the rural model varies from region to region depending on the land use. While a farmer in São
Paulo cultivates two ha, a farmer in Amazonia may cultivate a property of up to 120 ha (Mat-
tos Neto 1988:134). Legally, the definition of the size of occupied land has been altered vari-
ous times, ranging from ten ha in 1934, 25 ha in 1946 up to hundred ha in 1969 (Miranda

A License of Occupation is a provisional document. In order to acquire a definite title, Título

Definitivo Rural (T.D.), the posseiro is obliged to demonstrate in the course of four years that
he is capable of working his land. Furthermore, posseiros have the right to occupy private

13 Mestiço is a term referring to people of European and Amerindian ancestry.

Economic, social and ideological orientations of settlers 33

land that is not in beneficial use. If not contested, they have the right to a title after five years
(Mattos Neto 1988:136). The implimentation of the legislation process concerning land titles
varies from state to state. In the case of Pará, posses need to be registrated in the municipal
administration body, Intendência Municipal. Having registrated the Title of Posse, Título de
Posse, the posseiro may demarcate his posse after a grace period of five years in order to ap-
ply for a definite title (Mattos Neto 1988:143).

To establish a claim on legal formalization, evidence has to be provided by the posseiro

which in most cases turns out to be of great difficulty. Peasants who claim land have a hard
time documenting their ownership of the plot. Most of them do not have any supporting docu-
ments. Peasants hold on to any piece of official looking paper hoping it would suffice
(Schmink and Wood 1992:320). Again, the category of posseiro cannot be generalized. Vari-
ous circumstances such as origin and arrival of the peasant have to be taken into account. For
example, peasants who have migrated directly from the Northeast to the Amazon, en-
countered land which was neither occupied nor titled (Musumeci 1988:62). In legal terms, a
family is entiteld to settle on unoccupied land provided there is no indication of an owner.
After a year and a day, the family automatically obtains the provisional right of posse to oc-
cupy the land. If the land proves to be terra devoluta, the peasant family can obtain the legal
title to its plot before the rest is sold to a private landowner. On the other hand, if the land
turns out to belong to a private landowner, the right of the peasant family depends on how
long the family has lived on the plot. The old version of the law on acquisition of ownership,
Lei do Usucapião, states that the family could keep its plot even if the land were shown to
have been privatly owned on its arrival, given the fact that the family lived there for at least
ten years without being challenged by anyone claiming to be landowner. In November 1981,
the law was revised and the necessary period of unchallenged occupation reduced to five
years. Landowners would have to pay compensation to the family (Mattos Neto 1988:134). In
practice, landowners have forcibly dispossessed peasants without compensation. To purchase
a plot of terra devoluta, the landowner merely had to put in a request to the local state land
department, which then published a notice in the little-read Diário Oficial. The state did not
bother to investigate whether or not there were peasant families or Indians living on the land
(cf. Branford and Glock 1985).

In the 1960s and 1970s, landowners and landgrabbers moved in on a large scale evicting peas-
ant families, which had been in the region for 15 or 20 years. Most peasant families did not
concern with documenting their occupation and thus did not have any legal evidence. Specu-
Economic, social and ideological orientations of settlers

lators, cattle ranchers, and other interest groups that compete for land in the Amazon, pose a
constant threat to the posseiros (Wood 1983:261).

Agricultural establishments of posseiros in Brazil amount to approximately six million

people. Unlike the land in many of the states in southern Brazil, a large percentage of the land
in Amazonia was appropriated on the basis of provisional titles such as posse (Schmink and
Wood 1992:64). Despite this high number of posseiros, a clear legal recognition by Brazilian
authorities is difficult to obtain. To achieve acceptance of a legal status turns out to be very
strainful for a posseiro. Although posseiros are legally recognized by Brazilian law since
1934, in practice the legal right of posse is being ignored systematically by the state in favor
of big landowners.

The Estatuto da Terra attempts to clarify the Brazilian landholding situation by defining four
types of tracts of land, namely minifúndio, empresa, latifúndio por exploaração, and latifún-
dio por dimensão. While the category minifúndio is clearly defined as undesirable and prob-
lematic (Martins 1980:79), latifúndios and businesses were generally favored by law. The
facts speak for themselves when looking at official data on Amazonian landholdings. In the
1950s, 84,6 % of farms smaller than 100 ha were established compared to only 15,4 % of
farms larger than 100 ha. During the 1960s, 35,3 % of farms smaller than 100 ha were estab-
lished in contrast to 64,7 % of farms larger than 100 ha. In the first five years of the 1970s,
only 0,2 % of farms smaller than 100 ha and 99,8 % of farms larger than 100 ha were estab-
lished inverting completely the Amazonian landholding situation (Martins 1980:81). Despite
the expanse of unoccupied territory in the Amazon, the largest proportion of accessible land is
monopolized by a relatively small number of landholders. Only about 0.1% of the farms are
larger than 10,000 ha, but these include about 30% of the land. Small farms of less than 100
ha occupy about 11% of the land and constitute about 70% of all agricultural establishments
in Legal Amazonia (Hecht 1983:177). Consequently, the number of posseiros is increasing

3.2.3 Social aspects

A concept frequently invoked in the search for land is the notion of the social function of
property expressed in the idea that land belonged to God rather than to the state or to a private
person (Schmink and Wood 1992:181). The posseiro’s vision of the world rests on the as-
sumption that land was to be used to produce and to multiply. Socio-scientific studies show
that posseiros in the Amazon perceive themselves as non-mercantile and non-capitalist con-
Economic, social and ideological orientations of settlers 35

cerning the property of land (Musumeci 1988:30). To peasants and newly arrived migrants it
is reprehensible that an individual could own more land than he could use and thus deprive
another person of his or her source of livelihood (Schmink and Wood 1992:181). In recently
occupied areas, one might hear the phrase used by the settlers: “o fruto da mata não tem
dono”14 (Gutemberg 2001:101). A main characteristic of this form of occupation is the subor-
dination to labor, which is strongly based on family agriculture. In contrast to the propri-
etário, the posseiro regards land not as land itself but as a privilege of labor, thus land be-
comes the mediator to labor. To be proprietário of the land is not of relevance to the posseiro.
Important to him is to be the owner of labor as Martins (1981:131) states:

“Na verdade, o posseiro não valoriza a terra como terra. Ser proprietário da
terra para ele não tem o menor sentido. O que tem sentido para ele, isto sim, é
ser dono do trabalho. Um posseiro, depois que limpa uma área ele passa para
uma área mais adiante (porque a agricultura do posseiro em geral é uma
agricultura itinerante) (...).”15
Hundreds of thousands of families of posseiros are spread out all over Brazil. They are mostly
concentrated in the North region, respectively Legal Amazonia, where they face disappropri-
ation and compulsory expulsion by various groups such as grileiros, fazendeiros, or latifun-
dários. Hence, they fight for their right to stay on “their” land and to be recognized. The so-
cial legal category of posseiros is constituted of a large number of families increasing
throughout Amazonia. For example in Pará, one of the biggest federal states of Brazil, 40 %
of the land is occupied by posseiros. Maranhão is the state with the biggest number of pos-
seiros in Brasil. In fact, there are more posseiros than proprietários constituting the major
part of agricultural establishments in the region (Martins 1981:128).

As a consequence of the unclear land situation in Amazonia, land conflicts are increasing. Un-
til 1974, land conflicts occurred in other regions of Brazil, not in Amazonia. In 1975 and
1976, 60 % of land conflicts in the whole of Brazil took place in Amazonia. Simultaneously,
90 % of all violent deaths resulting from grave conflicts occurred in Amazonia. In comparison
to 1971 and 1972, only 8 % of grave conflicts took place in Amazonia (Martins 1980:87).
Land conflicts are hitting the headlines of Brazilian newspapers and TV reports every single
day with the posseiro as protagonist. The concept of posseiro appears first and foremost in a
negative context inducing an overall negative attitude towards the posseiro in the Amazon. In

14 „The fruit of the forest does not have owners.“

15 In reality, the posseiro does not evaluate land as land. Being owner of land is not important to him. Important
to him is being owner of labor. After a posseiro clears a piece of land, he abandons it and moves on to new
land (because the farming practice of posseiros is shifting cultivation).
Economic, social and ideological orientations of settlers

general, a posseiro is viewed as someone abnormal to the judicial system without having a
clearly defined legal status (Martins 1981:105).

Undoubtedly, the unclear land situation as well as unequal distribution of land have caused
social conflicts and to a great extent are responsible for migration to and within Amazonia.

3.3 Land use

Agriculture varies widely throughout the Amazon in terms of crops, migrant origins, soil
quality, physical and institutional infrastructure, and other characteristics. The Amazon is so
diverse that no single pattern can be generalized. There are several different possible cycles
depending on the remoteness of the plot, the quality of soils, the skills and resources of the
peasant, and many other factors (Anderson 2002:66).

Principally, small-scale farmers are engaged in the raising of subsistence crops as well as in a
permanent search for land with ax and fire (Condurú 1974:233). A family produces manioc
flour, rice, corn, and a few beans for self-consumption as well as a small surplus for sale. An
agricultural family is generally characterized by a low standard of living. To get by between
the harvesting seasons, salaried work is carried out. Local fruits and crops are collected and
jute, malva, is cultivated (Condurú 1974:233). In the past, an Amazonian small-scale farmer
rarely engaged in animal husbandry, not even small animals. With the opening of new high-
ways in the Amazon, a new group of cattlemen has established themselves in the forest repla-
cing it with pasture. These ranchers came from central, northeast and southern regions (Con-
durú 1974:234). For the last 20 years, peasants increasingly have started to keep cattle, al-
though this is not a major enterprise. Smallholder farming is continuing to produce traditional
crops such as cassava, beans, maize. In this respect, access to market is a major factor in de-
termining land use patterns and this access varies greatly from region to region as well as
within regions (Anderson 2002:77).

In order to get a very general sense of the land-use patterns of small-scale farming in the
Amazon, three principal uses are selected: shifting agriculture, exploitation of long-cycle agri-
cultural crops, and agriculture on the várzea. Within these three agricultural systems, the vari-
ous agricultural actors become apparent.
Economic, social and ideological orientations of settlers 37

3.3.1 Shifting agriculture

Upland shifting agriculture or slash-and-burn agriculture is the most important agricultural
land-use system in the Amazon because it is responsible for at least 80% of the total food pro-
duction of the region. A large number of people depend on it. It is practiced throughout the re-
gion by at least 500,000 peasants producing mainly beans, manioc, cassava, rice, corn, malva,
fruit, and cotton (Jaenicke 1992: 267). To develop shifting agriculture, a piece of forest is
burned and annual crops are grown for one to three years until the nutrients from the ashes are
used up or washed away. Then, a fallow period of about ten years is usually required before
the land can be used for crops again (Anderson 2002:77). However, this fallow period is
rarely applied since pasture land is typically two to three times more valuable than uncleared
forest. For the peasant it is more profitable to convert the land to pasture and sell it to a cattle
ranch (Anderson 2002:77). Despite its importance for the economy of the region, traditional
slash-and-burn shifting agriculture is tending to decrease due to an increase in demographic
density and food demands (Jaenicke 1992:268).

3.3.2 Gathering and collecting

Predominant system of agricultural exploitation in the region for many years is the one of
gathering and collecting. This land-use category represents 10 to 20 % of the income of the
regional primary sector. It is an important issue within the context of regional development
(Jaenicke 1992:264). Today, 300.000 families live by gathering and collecting, about half of
them depending on the rubber tree and to a lesser extent on the Brazil nut tree (Condurú
1974:232). These two plants have been the fortune of the past. Gathering of rubber is suppor-
ted by the federal goverment for reasons of national security and protection of the national
boundaries. Rubber is gathered by seringueiros. In certain regions where latex is extracted
from caucho trees, these people are properly designated caucheiros. Unlike rubber, Brazil
nuts are collected during the rainy season when the mature nuts fall to the ground where they
can be collected by the castanheiros. The castanheiro breaks open the hard outer shells of the
ouricos to separate the inner castanha nuts (Schmink and Wood 1992:164). Populations hav-
ing strong extractive traditions are characterized by their heterogeneity of economic activities.
The assai palm, Euterpe oleracea, provides another important source of forest products. The
seeds of the assai palm are used to make a purplish beverage which constitutes the basic ali-
mentation of the local population.
Economic, social and ideological orientations of settlers

3.3.3 Agriculture on the várzea

Agriculture on the várzea (cf. 2.1) is mainly developed along the banks of the Amazon River
and its muddy water tributaries. It differs greatly from other land-use systems. In general,
várzea floodplains have a less heterogeneous vegetation, soils are more fertile, and fallow
periods are shorter. Populations of the várzea live according to an annual flood cycle. Fishing
plays an important role as complementation of the agricultural activity. Another important
product is jute fibre. It is estimated that about 50,000 ribeirinhos (cf. 3.4.2) practice várzea
floodplain agriculture, mainly in the regions of the lower and mid-Amazon River as well as
the states of Pará, and Amazonas (Jaenicke 1992:275). Along the várzea, mainly fruit, jute,
cassava, corn and beans are produced. As in other traditional types of production, very low
levels of technology are involved. In terms of sustainability, agronomical and ecological
levels are higher but socio-economic levels tend to be lower than those of upland shifting ag-
riculture (Jaenicke 1992:275). The most important agricultural activities are the production of
jute, commercial fishing, raising livestock, and the cultivation of fruits and vegetables for sale
to local markets. Livestock raising is now the dominant form of land use on the Amazon
floodplain (Goulding et al. 1996:53).

A clear distinction between the categories cannot be made since local peasants in the Amazon
engage in a mixed resource use, applying a combination of forest product collecting with agri-
cultural and agroforestry activities.

3.4 Political concepts

With an increasing focus on sustainable development and environmental issues in the
Amazon, new terms for naming rural dwellers in the region were shaped. Terms as agricultor
familiar, ribeirinho, agro-extrativista, or comunitário florestal, entered the stage at different
points of recent Amazonian development. Certain political concepts are attached to these
terms, which are used by different schools of thought and environmental scholarships. Signi-
ficances incorporated in these terms will be outlined in this section.

3.4.1 Agricultura Familiar

The first attempts to conceptualize the role of small family holdings in Brazil emerged in the
1980s, when the concept of family farming, agricultura familiar, was introduced. This term
replaced that of small-scale production. Family farming is the most prevalent agricultural or-
ganization of peasants. The concept was gradually incorporated into the political agenda of
Economic, social and ideological orientations of settlers 39

Brazil, largely due to pressure by rural social movements. Agricultura familiar is specified
and defined in various government documents. When it comes to financial issues, rural prop-
erty patterns are an important issue. PRONAF, the National Program for Family Agriculture,
Programa Nacional para Agricultura Familiar, specifically defines the concept of family ag-
riculture in the Manual de crédito rural (MCR) of 1997. According to the definition of the
United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and INCRA (1996), family agricul-
ture is based on three central characteristics:

a) the management of the productive unit and the investments made in it are
carried out by individuals who have blood or marriage ties; b) most of the work
is equally provided by the members of the family; c) the ownership of the
means of production (though not always of the land) belongs to the family and
it is transferred within the family in case of death or retirement of the heads of
the productive unit. (Blum 2001:62).

Furthermore, the document Novo Retrato da Agricultura Familiar – O Brasil Redescoberto,

published in February 2000 by the Brazilian Ministry of Agrarian Development, can be con-
sidered as the most comprehensive effort so far to identify and characterize family farming in
Brazil. The study was carried out between 1996 and 1999 within the framework of the Project
of Technical Cooperation INCRA/FAO. The document indicates that Brazilian peasants are
very heterogeneous in terms of physical environment, socio-economic situation, etc., not only
between regions but also within regions (cf. INCRA / FAO 2000).

A report on rural poverty alleviation in Brazil published in 2001 by the World Bank gives a
detailed profile of peasants in the Northeast and Southeast regions of Brazil, which is extens-
ively discussed by several researchers. One of the main conclusions is that the majority of
poor people in Brazil live in rural areas and a large number of those rural poor are smallhold-
ers (World Bank 2001:8). Classical studies on Brazilian peasantry name four principal charac-
teristics of Brazilian peasants: poverty, isolation, subsistence production, and extreme mobil-
ity (Wanderley 2001:52). Family agriculture is considered as a generic category by Wander-
ley (2001), whereas traditional peasantry agriculture, agricultura camponesa tradicional, and
substistence agriculture constitute social forms of family agriculture (Wanderley 2001:23).

All definitions and descriptions in the aforementioned documents have one element in com-
mon. Family agriculture is always described as being oppositional to capitalist enterprises.
However, these definitions on family agriculture lack a further classification of agricultural
property. Against the background of Agrarian Reform, this element is of crucial relevance.
Economic, social and ideological orientations of settlers

The MCR 1997 distinguishes between: miniprodutor (gross income less than 7,500,000 R$
per year), pequeno produtor (annual gross income between 7,500,000 and 22,000,000 R$),
médio and grande produtor (annual gross income above 22,000,000 R$). FAO and INCRA
(1996) classify agricultural property as either market-based or family properties. Law 4504 of
the Estatuto da Terra of 1964 classifies rural properties in minifúndio, propriedade familiar,
empresa rural, latifúndio por extensão, and latifúndio por exploração (Blum 2001:63-66).
Legal status and size of property are important elements to define a peasant in Brazil. Various
terms as pequeno produtor, minifundiário, pequeno proprietário, pequeno agricultor, or even
agricultor familiar derive from political discussions on peasantries in Brazil, and thus can be
considered political concepts. The authors of the aforementioned documents refer to repres-
entatives of family farms and smallholdings as agricultores familiares, assentados, or
pequenos produtores (cf. Lima 2003).

3.4.2 Ribeirinho
The term ribeirinho is applied to traditional populations living in riverine areas of the
Brazilian Amazon. For the most part, these populations employ Amerindian technologies in
subsistence activities, and are therefore referred to as traditional population.

The category of ribeirinhos goes beyond an identification with the environment, such as the
várzea region. Ribeirinho incorporates a socio-political concept as well. In the 1970s, the loc-
al Catholic Church played an important role in organizing the communities of the várzea in
the Amazon (Schmink and Wood 1992:288). It was in that era that the term emerged. Histor-
ically, traditional populations were excluded from social benefits and development projects
since they were invisible to the federal government. As a result, populations such as the
ribeirinhos were denied basic social services such as health care, sanitation, or education
(Alencar 2005:85-86). The Movement for Basic Education (MEB16), a lay organization asso-
ciated with the Catholic Church, began to encourage rural settlements to organize themselves
into self-administrative communities. The term comunidade originated from the work of the
MEB. The formal organization of communities involves the constitution of a body of politic-
al-administrative posts elected by the community (Lima 1992:19).

In the beginning of the 1980s, a conflict between ribeirinhos of the várzea and professional
fishermen emerged. The object of the conflict were the hundreds of water bodies in the

16 Movimento de Educação de Base

Economic, social and ideological orientations of settlers 41

várzea, called lagos, lakes. Migration into the urban centers of Amazonia in the 1970s, led to
a growing demand for fish. Professional fishermen exploited the lakes on a large scale, de-
priving the ribeirinhos of their livelihood. The aggrevating conflict between ribeirinhos and
professional fishermen encouraged the Pastoral Land Commission, Comissão Pastoral da
Terra (CPT), to organize the várzea population politically to fight for legal conservation of
várzea lakes (Lima 1997:297). The CPT, created in 1975, is committed to fight social in-
justice and environmental destruction, aiming to give a political voice to peasants all over

The relationship of the people to the water, and the type of riverine area they live in, is very
important in determining how they make a living. Taking topographic aspects as a criterium
to classify communities of the várzea, three types can be distinguished: (1) insular
communities, located on the floodplain islands, (2) riverine communities, located in areas
between the soils of the várzea and terra firme, and (3) terra firme communities, located in
areas above the várzea but close to várzea areas. Each type is characterized by distinct
economic strategies and capacities concerning access to natural resources (Alencar 2005:74).
According to local classification, várzea is defined as land being flooded throughout the year,
and terra firme as land located in non-flooded areas at the margin of rivers and igarapés18
(Alencar 2005:75). Unique local identities and livelihoods correspond to every one of these
environments. Those living on várzea land are known as varjeiros or vargeiros. Those living
in rather distant riverine areas of principal rivers are called moradores da terra firme. Both
varjeiros and moradores da terra firme belong to the category of ribeirinhos. Ribeirinhos
cover all residents of the riverine areas of várzea as well as terra firme land.

The floodplain is ever changing in its configuration. Seasonal floodings determine the rhythm
of everyday life and have an effect on agricultural activities, family income, alimentation, and
the migration dynamics (Alencar 2005:76). In this respect, riverine communities are adapting
to their environmental surroundings, whereas the majority of people elsewhere seem to adapt
their environment to their way of living. However, together with the movement of the waters,
there is a movement of crops, animals and the population (Alencar 2005:75). A distinct
characteristic of life on the várzea is this very movement and the mobility of ribeirinhos. In
general, ribeirinhos tend to be very mobile because their history has taught them not to sink
very deep roots (Padoch 1988:139).

17 See www.cptnac.com.br for more information

18 River tributaries
Economic, social and ideological orientations of settlers

Looking closely at the backgrounds of ribeirinhos, it becomes apparent that the majority of
them are former seringueiros or their descendants. Many immigrants and tribal Indians who
had worked in rubber, became caboclos or ribeirinhos. Many who had once worked in rubber,
later participated in a variety of livelihood strategies such as hunting, fishing, or extraction of
forest products. Their knowledge and use of forest plants are based on indigenous traditions
(Padoch 1988:131).

The special circumstances of the várzea environment are reflected in the landownership
concerning this area. Technically, the Brazilian, Peruvian, Colombian, and Bolivian federal
governments own Amazonian rivers and floodplain waters. This includes the forests and
wildlife found in, on, and along them. Generally, ribeirinhos do not hold a legal title to the
land. In fact, the majority of ribeirinhos are posseiros. During the course of the year, the lands
they live on can be both aquatic and terrestrial. Dwellers often claim to “own” a patch of
floodplain for half of the year, when it is mostly dry. When the floods return, the floodplain is
open to all. That is why physical demarcation of land on the floodplain is a challenging task
and even new maps can be misleading. Islands disappear while others are born. The Amazon
floodplain ownership poses special problems due to this seasonal or daily flooding (Goulding
et al. 1996:162-63).

Traditional riverine communities were for the most part unaffected by Operation Amazonia
and later policies focused almost exclusively on the occupation and development of lands
above the floodplains, terra firme. Moreover, the Brazilian national plan called Provárzeas,
launched in 1981 for agricultural development of the floodplain had little impact on
Amazonia. This program was largely directed to the South where both labor and capital were
more plentiful (Goulding et al. 1996:52).

After two decades of focusing on the uplands, policy makers are increasingly looking to the
Amazon floodplain. Located in the western Amazon, the Mamirauá Ecological Reserve, Es-
tação Ecológica Mamirauá, constitutes the biggest national reserve area and the only one in
the Amazon. It was created in March 1990. In 1996, the reserve was transformed into Reserva
de Desenvolvimento Sustentável Mamirauá (RDSM).

International organizations as the World Wildlife Fund or Wildlife Conversation Society are
financing the project. Since 2000, the RDS, Reserva de Desenvolvimento Sustentável, is
incorporated in the SNUC19, National System of Conservation Units; a law that regulates all

19 Sistema Nacional de Unidades de Conversação

Economic, social and ideological orientations of settlers 43

protected areas in Brazil (Neve 2005:116). When referring to the proper residents of the
Mamirauá Reserve RDSM, the term ribeirinho is applied.

3.4.3 Agro-extrativismo
Plant extractivism is a sub-sector of agriculture that has received considerable international
attention. A reason for this is its potential for promoting a sustainable use of tropical forests,
e.g. through the harvesting of non-timber forest products (NTFP) in extractive reserves.
NTFPs would be nuts, rubber, and fruits (Anderson et al. 2002:91).

One might recognize that this type of land use pattern is described previously in this section
under gathering and collecting. In fact, pure extraction has always been present in the
Amazon. In the past, this type of performing agriculture has consistently been equated with
backwardness, owing to the fact that the extractivist system had been adapted from indigen-
ous traditions. From a historical point of view, extractivism is viewed as a transitory inferior
production type (Anderson et al. 2002:91).

Extractivism, however, has received new impetus since the 1980s, backed by those concerned
with the sustainability of production, and the conservation of environment. Thus, Brazil with
its large share of the Amazon is an important case. While timber extraction is recognized by
most as ecologically damaging, the extraction of non-wood forest products is viewed as a so-
cially, economically and ecologically viable alternative to widespread forest conversion (An-
derson et al. 2002:92). Thus, it was sought to create an appropriate institutional framework for
extractivism by promoting the land rights for traditional forest-extracting populations, such as
indigenous groups and seringueiros, rubber tappers.

Conflicts over land and the social struggle of rubber tappers were brought to the forefront of
international attention with the assassination of the rubber tapper leader Chico Mendes in
1988. Chico Mendes and the rubber tappers first developed the idea of preserving forests
through the creation of extractive reserves in 1985. Extractive reserves are rooted in a long
history of rubber tapper resistance and social organization. The implimentation of extractive
reserve areas had been advanced slowly by the government. It was after the assassination of
Chico Mendes in 1988 that worldwide attention focused on the Amazon. Due to pressure of
international organizations and governments, the Brazilian government took action and cre-
ated several large reserves in 1990 (Ehringhaus 2005:143). Extractive reserves were concep-
tualized as hybrid land tenure systems in which non-indigenous populations that utilize forest
Economic, social and ideological orientations of settlers

products in an ecologically sustainable fashion hold use rights to federal government land (Al-
legretti 1990:257).

In the late 1980s, few rubber tappers had personal documents or writing and reading skills.
This changed dramatically in the 1990s, particularily in relatively accessible areas and in
those associated with the unions. Rubber tappers increasingly were integrated into Brazilian
society, through increased access to social services, documentation, and credits (Ehringhaus
2005:309). Through proper documents rubber tappers can claim certain benefits. Recently,
residents extractive reserves are recognized as beneficiaries of Agrarian Reform, which makes
them eligible for INCRA subsidies as well as low interest credit lines (Ehringhaus 2005:310).

In this context, the international concern to protect the Amazon rainforest is high. Thus, ex-
tractive reserves received international financing by the Resex Project within the PPG7 Pilot
Program (Anderson et al. 2002:92). Consequently, there has been ample debate about the po-
tential of extractivism as a tool for integrated conservation and development.

To designate the actors involved in extractivism, academic scholars came to use terms such as
extrativistas, or agro-extrativistas referring to traditional peasants performing non-wood ex-
tractivism in the Amazon.

3.4.4 Manejo Comunitário Florestal

Community-based activities which are geared towards a sustainable use of the forest and its
resources are referred to as Manejo Comunitário Florestal (MCF), Community Forestry or
Community Forest Management (CFM). Community Forestry is traditionally seen from the
perspective of the management of common resources by a small homogeneous group whose
livelihood is intricately linked to that of the forest. The definition of the group itself, however,
is arbitrary and ranges from traditional population to recently settled migrants. The basis is
common property and the collective dominion and management of a forested area (Merry et
al. 2004:12-15).

In the Brazilian Amazon, efforts to develop a socially and environmentally responsible

forestry sector are recent. It was not until the mid 1990s that forest management was intro-
duced in the Amazon. Today, about 300 initiatives of community forestry involving rural
communities take hold (Amaral et al. 2005:13). The ever growing number of initiatives places
an alternative to reduce the accelerated process of environmental degradation caused by fur-
ther expansion and timber predatory exploitation in the region. As a consequence of low
Economic, social and ideological orientations of settlers 45

prices on extractivist products such as castanha20 and latex, communities are forced to engage
in additional activities to get by, e.g. logging (Amaral et al. 2005:13). Many members of the
community practice forestry of some form. Certainly, all peasants participate in the legal de-
forestation of up to three ha per year. Eighty percent of the lot must be left as legal reserve.
Only those communities holding a legal entity are considered to be able to participate in com-
munity forest management projects. Each community lot has a size of approximately 100 ha,
20 % of which can be deforested legally. Given that the settler holds a forest management
plan, he is allowed to harvest timber from the remaining 80 ha of legal reserve.

Community members are heterogeneous. In the case of the Brazilian Amazon, Community
Forestry concerns first and foremost individual communities and groupings of families of a
particular community (Amaral 2005:30). This diversity of rural actors in this field becomes
apparent by looking at different types of organization of Community Forestry. To be legally
recognized and awarded Community Forest Management, a community must incorporate a
legal entity. Common legal forms of such entities are associations, associações locais, sindic-
ates, sindicatos de trabalhadores rurais, or cooperatives, cooperativas. Such associations are
registered formally in a government registry.

The legal status of access to land and forest resources is reflected in the land tenure situation.
Brazilian law prohibits the approval of management plans in unclaimed areas. In Brazil,
338,000 ha of forest is under Community Forest Management and 3,000 families benefit from
it (Amaral et al. 2005:31).

In 2004 alone, the Brazilian government incorporated 161,000 square kilometers of forest
land as Conservation Units, unidades de conservação (UC). There are three major kinds of
Conservation Units in Brazil, namely Reservas Extravistas (RESEX), Reservas de Desenvol-
vimento Sustentável (RDS), and Projetos de Assentamentos Extrativistas (PAE). Although the
implimentation of Conservation Units has reduced land conflicts, it did not promote Com-
munity Forestry efficiently (Amaral et al. 2005:31). Brazilian law does not have a forestry
concession law capable of permitting forest management in Conservation Units, such as in the
case of the National Forests (Amaral et al. 2005:32).

20 Brazil nut
Part II – Linguistic Analysis

Part II – Linguistic Analysis

Theoretical Background 47

4 Theoretical Background
This section provides a number of concepts which serve as a terminological framework for
the linguistic analysis. The purpose of this section is to indicate the range of semantic areas
involved in the study. Providing theoretical background is important and especially dedicated
to those new to the subject. Focus is on presenting preliminary terminological definitions and
distinctions; the various scientific approaches on linguistic theories will not be discussed.

Since words cannot be defined independently of other words and are semantically related to
one another, the most common sense-relations are introduced. Reference is made to compon-
ential analysis, a classical approach to describe the semantic structure of vocabularies of lan-
guages. Furthermore, relations between language and culture as well as the theory of proto-
types are outlined. This section sets the scene for the practical part of the analysis.

4.1 Basic guidelines

The linguistic analysis operates in the framework of contrastive linguistics. The branch of lin-
guistics dealing with words is called lexicology, and that dealing with meaning is called se-
mantics. Since a number of terms and their lexical meanings are here the center of attention,
the view of lexical semantics is adopted. Lexical semantics, the science of word meaning,
takes the word, lexeme21, as a point of departure and investigates the contents (meanings) as-
sociated with it in their multiplicity and their change of meaning (Coseriu, Geckeler 1981:10).
Empirical studies of Madeleine Schneeberger (1964), Ernst Leisi (1973) and Jörg Waldvogel
(1983) in lexical field research are valuable works of reference. Leisi suggests three methods
for analyzing meanings of lexemes: (1) Corpus-Method, (2) Critical comparison of dictionary
definitions, (3) Questioning of Informants. A combination of a definition analysis (2) and
questioning of competent informants (3) appears to be the most appropriate way to investigate
lexical meanings the terms relevant for this study. These two methods constitute the basic
framework in the present linguistic analysis.

A separation of the two methods will be maintained throughout the analysis. Using a defini-
tion analysis determines the most relevant characteristics in respect to meaning and standard
usages of a term. It is to provide useful insights which are gained by comparison of monolin-
gual dictionary definitions of settler terms in Portuguese. The second method adopted con-

21 A lexeme is an abstract unit corresponding to a set of words that are different forms of the same word but have the
same meaning. A lexicon consists of lexemes.
Theoretical Background

tains answers of competent informants. Both parts are to complement one another.

Before exercising a study of meanings, one might ask what meaning is. This basic question
has often been raised and answered in many different ways. A widely accepted theory of se-
mantics identifies meanings with ideas or concepts (Lyons 1981:136). There are various sci-
entific approaches to meaning. Generally, there is little agreement among linguists to determ-
ine the boundaries of semantics.

The present study concentrates on lexical meaning of single terms which is to be interpreted
as the meaning of lexemes. This involves two distinguishable components: sense and denota-
tion. These terms, too, are used differently by linguists and other scholars. In the course of
this study, sense will be used when referring to the relation between lexemes within the lan-
guage. The term denotation will be adopted in the case in which a lexeme is related to a situ-
ation or class of entities in the outside world (Lyons 1981:152). Denotation of an expression
is used independent of utterances. It is part of the meaning, which the expression has in the
language system, independently of its use on particular occasions of utterances (Lyons
1995:79). Clearly, sense and denotation are interdependent, whereas sense is the relationship
between words and things and denotation that between language and the world (Lyons

Throughout the analysis, attention is on the focal meaning of the lexeme rather than its peri-
pheral meanings. This is the case in which a lexeme contains various meanings, as in caboclo
which besides the meaning of peasant also refers among other meanings to an exotic bird, or
traditional folk dance.

4.2 Sense Relations

A way in which to describe semantic relationships is using an hierarchical structuring of
terms. Lexical systems are constituted of lexical items between which sense-relations prevail
(Coseriu and Geckeler 1981:45). Various types of semantic relations between lexemes are
common. Sense-relations of interest for the present study are: hyponomy, synonymy, and op-
positeness of meaning. Each type of relation is described and exemplified briefly below.

(A) Hyponomy is constituted of relations based on class inclusion, in which the hyponym
classifies a subordinated term, and the term hyperonym a superordinated class (Lyons
1995:125). This relation is exemplified by such pairs as poodle and dog, whereas
poodle is a hyponym of dog and animal a hyperonym of dog.
Theoretical Background 49

(B) Synonymy describes a relation of lexemes which are different in form but similar in
denotational meaning and interchangeable in some context. The definition of syn-
onyms raises the question of the distinction between denotational and connotational
meaning. Denotational meaning refers to reference whereas connotational meaning
relates to the notion of context. Words like live, dwell, and reside are denotationally
similar in their meaning, but differ with respect to their stylistic values, i. e., with re-
spect to their connotations (Krzeszowski 1990: 81).

(C) Oppositeness of sense knows three subtypes:

(D) Complementarity corresponds to the logical principle of oppositeness, e.g. single vs.
married, male vs. female (Coseriu and Geckeler 1981:45).

(E) Antonymy forms sense-relations which are characterized by the fact that they are regu-
larly gradable, e.g. big vs. small, good vs. bad (Coseriu and Geckeler 1981:45).

(F) Converseness represents a sense-relation in which the one member implies the other,
e.g. husband vs. wife, buy vs. sell (Coseriu and Geckeler 1981:46).

4.3 Componential Analysis

In many cases, lexical semantics has come to the realization that lexical systems of two differ-
ent languages do not correspond to one another. This in turn leads to overlapping of meanings
resulting in convergencies and divergencies. The English linguist Nida and his school ad-
vanced a method which is not constituted of a mere translation of words but a plotting of se-
mantic components (Kußmaul 1999:49).

Methods such as the definition analysis and questioning of competent informants are situated
in the framework of componential analysis. As the name implies, this involves the analysis of
the sense of a lexeme into its component parts (Lyons 1995:107). It is employed to investigate
the meaning of related words, provided that the relationships between terms are based on cer-
tain shared and contrastive features (Nida 1964:82). For example, father and mother in Eng-
lish share the component of generation older than ego (the person central to the kinship struc-
ture in question), but differ in terms of sex (example taken from Nida 1964:82).

The analysis of lexical meanings leads to the decomposition of the contents into smaller ele-
ments, i.e. into meaning-differentiating features (Coseriu and Geckeler 1981:18). The overall
Theoretical Background

objective is to investigate whether or to what extent, lexemes within a lexical field are inter-

A componential analysis is employed within a certain lexical field. Lexical fields provide
grounds for a way of grouping words. Words sharing a common concept of meaning are said
to constitute lexical fields (Krzeszowski 1990:82). Examples of lexical fields are color or kin-
ship terms. It is possible to identify lexical fields across languages and to demonstrate that the
fields are non-isomorphic (Lyons 1981:155).

In making a componential analysis of any group of related words there are five basic steps
(Nida 1964:83):

(1) Limiting the study to a well-defined set of words which have multidimensional
relationships consisting of shared and contrasting features.

(2) Defining the terms as precisely as possible.

(3) Identifying the distinctive features which define the various contrasts of meaning.

(4) Defining each term by means of the distinctive features.

(5) Making an overall statement of the relationship between the distinctive features.

In principle, a componential analysis provides a systematic and economic means of investiga-

ting sense-relations between lexemes (Lyons 1995:114). Furthermore, it implies the assumpti-
on that the components are universal across languages.

In this respect, the larger cultural context is of relevance in understanding the meaning of any
term, “for words have meanings only in terms of the total cultural setting” (Nida 1964:244).
In order to be able to interpret the meaning of a term, it is important to look at the wider cul-
tural context.

In contrast, the cultural context of the target language is of the same relevance (Nida
1964:245). Looking at certain expressions which already have come into use in the target cul-
ture, may provide useful insights in respect to their widespread usages and adopted meanings.
Theoretical Background 51

4.4 Relation culture and language

A full understanding of the several kinds of meaning comes only with a full understanding of
the culture in which it operates. Both language and culture are interdependent. There are cer-
tain aspects to this interdependence. Languages provide the key to cultures. Moreover, lan-
guages themselves cannot be fully understood without concerning the context of the cultures
in which they are embedded.

One concern of scientific studies in this respect is the question of translatability or intranslat-
ability. It is well known that lexical systems of two languages are non-isomorphic. Word-for-
word translation of terms across languages is mostly impossible because no word corresponds
to a word in the other language. Therefore, some things will be more codable in one language
than they are in another (Lyons 1981:306). This is due to the fact that there are certain things
that cannot be said at all in a particular language, simply because the vocabulary with which
to express them does not exist (Lyons 1981:310). The often cited phenomena of the various
words for snow used in languages of the Eskimo is a good example for this. Eskimos have no
single word for snow as in English but distinguish between many kinds of snow. This gives
proof to the fact that many concepts vary from culture to culture. In fact, little or no relation-
ship between lexemes exists at the level of realia and culture-bound elements (Snell-Hornby
1988:106) which lead to lexical gaps in the target language.

Techniques to overcome lexical gaps can be achieved by borrowing and loan-translation of

lexemes. Scientists of many fields face the problem of intranslatability all the time in relation
to languages and cultures different from their own. Consequently, they come to decide wheth-
er they should borrow a word from the language of the society they are investigating, or use
an already existing word, and adapt it more or less by loan-translation to the purpose of the
society they are dealing with.

Terms associated with social culture, as with the ones for Amazonian peasants, pose numer-
ous problems, not only because the basic systems differ from one another, but also because
the extensions of meaning appropriate to one system rarely work in another (Nida 1964:216).
Therefore, it is impossible to translate Portuguese ribeirinho or caboclo by immediately cor-
responding terms in English. When an equivalent in a modern language would be misleading
or anachronistic, most linguists turn to the two possible solutions:
Theoretical Background

(1) using a relatively equivalent expression in the target language (TL);

(2) borrowing lexemes from the source language (SL) (Nida 1964:217).

The borrowing of lexemes from other languages is a way of extending the language-system it-
self (Lyons 1981:309). To find an equivalent expression in the TL can be achieved by loan-
translation. This technique involves the translation of the constituent parts of a foreign word
or phrase. Loan-translation can be facilitated by the existence of formally related words, even
though the words in question might not have the same meaning in contexts (Lyons 1981:

4.5 Prototypical associations

The fact that words and their meanings differ to a great extent from culture to culture is
strongly connected to fixed associations in the mind of a speaker or language community. The
theory of semantic prototypes is another way of looking at componential analysis. It formal-
izes the prototypical sense of lexemes which they share with other lexemes (Lyons 1995:116).
The prototype theory is gaining ground continually in the field of linguistics. This theory sug-
gests that linguistic categorical thinking is strongly determined by our world of experiences.
Categories have a common focal meaning and consist of fuzzy edges (Kußmaul 1999:50).
Speakers of a language normally operate with so-called prototypes (or stereotypes). Prototype
theory incorporates the view that the structure of the world is essentially as it is perceived and
categorized by the mind. In turn, grammatical and semantic structure of languages is determ-
ined indirectly by the structure of the world in terms of categories as natural kinds (Lyons
1995:98). Linguistic material triggers associations which to some extent are already existing
as certain images in the mind of the speaker. A classic semantic prototypic example is the one
of the category bird. German speakers would agree on the fact that a sparrow or robin are
more typical for this category than a penguin or ostrich would be (example taken from
Kußmaul 1999:50).

How then does prototype theory affect form and content of definitions for words? Since
meanings are concepts, prototypes may have far-reaching consequences for semantic analysis.
One tenet of prototype theory is that concepts, and therefore word meanings, do not have
sharp boundaries (Lehre 1990:369). The definition of a word can be thought of as pertaining
to the most typical and normal cases considered as prototypes (Lehre 1990:371). However,
what are normal and typical cases?
Theoretical Background 53

Furthermore, are the fields waiting to be constructed or are they already created? Some organ-
izations of words seem to be natural (Lehre 1990:374), e.g. animals, plants, vehicles, or fur-
niture. What is linguistically interesting about these groups is that they are expressed mono-
lexically (Lehre 1990:374).

Given the desire for economy in speech, single words are preferred over long phrases which
can apply to more objects and situations (Lehre 1990:380). It is, therefore, useful for words to
have indefinite boundaries considering the fuzziness of concept boundaries. This kind of eco-
nomy is facilitated by prototype theory.

In view of this philosophic and psycholinguistic approach to semantic theory, the practical
part of the linguistic analysis will be taken up in the next section. In the course of the lexical
definition analysis, a number of questions are of interest. One question is to decide whether
something does or does not fall within the scope of a definition. Furthermore, do existing pro-
totypes automatically provide semantic results? If yes, to what extent?

Taking into account that “words are fundamentally symbols for features of the culture” (Nida
1975:68), the practical analysis concentrates not only on a word-to-word relation but also on a
word-to-world relation.
Base Analysis

5 Base Analysis
This section centers on the analysis of the usage of the Portuguese terms caboclo, colono, as-
sentado, and posseiro. The discussion of concepts and definitions found in dictionaries and
Portuguese corpora is to provide useful insights concerning the usage of the terms. The se-
quence of the terms to be analyzed is coincidental and does not reflect any type of categoriza-
tion or hierarchy.

The technique of definition analysis was chosen, due to the fact that dictionaries reveal essen-
tial descriptions of the distribution of words in terms of linguistic and cultural contexts,
though in general, cultural contexts predominate (Nida 1975:117). Considered are solely
monolingual dictionaries for they are written in the same language as the words which are be-
ing described, and moreover are prepared for people who do participate in the culture which is
being described.

Standard dictionaries reflect the meanings and usages of lexical items. Typical dictionary
definitions describe information about what words denote. In any case, the definitions may
contain synonyms, or equivalent phrases. Definitions for any term will contain linguistic ma-
terial. Each piece of the definition is to be called a feature.

One suggestion is that dictionary information is conceptual in nature (Cruse 1990:395). This
gives reason to the assumption that concepts in general have a prototype-periphery structure.

In the course of the previous discussion of the historical, economic and political background
of Amazonian settlers, the four terms of inquiry have shown some ambiguity and inconsist-
ency in their use in Portuguese. Moreover, these four terms are collective terms, referring to a
social group or categroy. Due to this fact, they merit to be investigated and analyzed in more
detail. Each term is discussed separately. First, an etymological discourse provides the back-
ground of the origin of the term and may give a brief insight on change of meaning. Second,
definitions found in monolingual dictionaries are presented and discussed concerning the col-
loquial as well as political concept of the term. Third, translation trends are reviewed looking
generally at translation approaches in English corpora. The subsection translation trends is at
the same time a conlusion, providing a discussion of the definition of the term. This definition
aims to represent the main features of the term.
Base Analysis 55

5.1 Caboclo
The concept caboclo provides the first platform for discussion for it is the most controversial
term in the present linguistic analysis. For this reason, caboclo is discussed more comprehens-

Caboclo is widely applied in Amazonia to denote a social category. It is used by academic

scholars to refer to pequenos produtores rurais in respect to the historical occupation of the
Amazon. In the colloquial discourse, the definition of caboclo turns out to be a complex and
ambiguous task because it is first and foremost associated with a negative stereotype. Due to
its wide usage, the term carries many connotations, including those which are non-Amazoni-

5.1.1 Etymology
Looking at etymological aspects of caboclo reveals its significance as a historical term being
closely linked to Amzonian colonization. There are two different etymologies given for
caboclo. Novo Dicionário Brasileiro (1964) asserts that caboclo derives from the Tupí-Guar-
aní22 caá-boc, which means “that which comes from the woods”. Aurélio B. Ferreira´s Dic-
tionary (1971) suggests another etymology stating that the term comes from the Tupi word
kari´boka meaning “child of the white man”. In Língua geral,23 caboclo means “coming from
the woods” (Grande Enciclopédia da Amazônica 1968). Amerindian culture patterns persist
throughout Brazil but remain especially vivid in the Amazon. Slash-and-burn agriculture and
the major food crops, such as manioc, maize, or beans are of Indian origin. Most of the names
of flora and fauna, as well as place names in modern Brazilian Portuguese derive from Tupí, a
widespread Indian language. In the Amazon valley, with its distinct rainforest environment,
the Indian heritage of Brazil persisted with greater force than elsewhere in the country
(Wagley 1964:32).

Initially, caboclo was used as a synonym for tapuio. Tapuio is a generic term for the detribal-
ized Indian (Lima 1992:61). The term derived from Tupí-Guaraní and was used by Amerindi-
ans as a term of contempt when referring to individuals of other tribal groups (Veríssimo
1970:14). Veríssimo (1970) states that tapuio means the hostile, the enemy, the slave. After

22 widespread Indian language

23 Lingua franca used in colonial times, modified form of the indigenous Tupí language, which the
missionaries had used in teaching their Indian converts. In 1755, Marques de Pombal forbade the teaching of
Língua Geral.
Base Analysis

colonization, the term was used to designate the settled Amerindian and carried the same con-
notations of contempt it had when used among tribal groups (Veríssimo 1970:14).

Another important characteristic concerning caboclo is that the strong influence of the Por-
tuguese was greater in the Amazon than elsewhere in Brazil. For this reason, Amazonian cul-
ture presents a stronger influence of Portuguese and Amerindian traits in comparison to other
Brazilian regional cultures (Lima 1992:2). The mixture of these ethnic groups is reflected in
the racial and cultural definition of the caboclo. Indeed, Portuguese and Amerindian traits
constitute a main feature of caboclo culture.

5.1.2 Caboclo in colloquial use

In general, the caboclo is considered to be the characteristic type of Amazonian rural peas-
antry. This statement is proven by the fact that the caboclo is identified as one of Brazil´s re-
gional types by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics IBGE (cf. IBGE 1975).
Brazil is characterized by a diversity of “rural types of people”, among them the gaúchos
from the South, baianas from Bahia, sertanejos from the Northeast, and the caboclos of
Amazonia. Ethnic origins of the population, history of colonization, and the region´s geo-
graphy give each rural type its distinctiveness (Lima 1992:1). In addition to the feature of rep-
resenting a distinct rural type, the term caboclo also carries a racial component referring to the
intermarriage of white and Amerindian people. In contrast to other racial categories such as
mulato (white and black) or cafuzo (Amerindian and black), caboclo is the only one referring
to a specific region (Lima 1992:2).

In contemporary language use, caboclo widely refers to the urban population of the larger cit-
ies of the Amazon as Belém and Manaus as well as to the population of the interior. In some
Amazonian states as in Roraima, the term caboclo, deformed to caboco, refers to civilized

5.1.3 Caboclo in academic literature

In contrast to conversational speech, there is an academic consensus regarding a theoretical
meaning of the term. There are a number of important publications dealing specifically with
the rural population. Rural inhabitants are referred to as caboclos. Given the ambiguity of the
colloquial concept discussed above, the question arises how does the academic literature, in
particular Anthropology, define caboclo. First and foremost, the term is defined as “tradition-
al Amazonian peasantry”.
Base Analysis 57

Anthropological literature on traditional Amazonian peasants is not extensive. The principle

source of information is provided by Charles Wagley (1964[53]) and Parker (1981) who ad-
opt the term caboclo to refer to the rural people. Moran (1981), Lima (1992), Nugent (1993)
and Harris (2000) follow their use of the term.

The general literature on Amazonia covering topics such as ecology, development, and eco-
nomic history also make reference to caboclos, translating the term as the Amazonian peas-
antry. From an ecological perspective, the adaptive system of caboclo livelihood is presented
as a distinct feature of Amazonian ecology and social history (Moran 1981; Parker 1981;
Goulding 1983; etc.).

Academic researchers recognized the need for distinguishing between the local rural inhabit-
ants and the recently arrived migrants of Amazonia. To this end, caboclo is used to refer in
general to traditional Amazonians. The majority of academic researchers agree on a number
of distinct characteristics when defining caboclo. To summarize the use of the term in aca-
demic literature, the caboclo is theoretically classified as “the peasant of Amazonia” being the
“Portuguese-speaking rural inhabitant of Amerindian, Portuguese, and African descent” Park-
er (1981:6). He appears as “Amazonian backwoodsman” and “cultural representative of
Amazonia” in Moran (1981:96-97). Goulding (1983:90) defines caboclos as “major cultural
group along Amazonian rivers”. In Anderson (1990:65) caboclos are described as
“descendents of Amerindians” and “contemporary residents of the floodplains”. Fearnside
(1990:127) introduces the term with, “caboclo farmers are the poor Portuguese-speaking
residents born and raised in the Amazonian interior”. All contributors claim caboclo as being
the cultural and traditional type of Amazonia.

The principle source of information on caboclos is provided by various studies carried out by
Deborah Lima. Lima (1992:6) argues that the term caboclo must be understood as a general
category for reference in the context of Amazonian society at large. In one of her valuable
studies on caboclos Lima (1992; 1999) presents the following definition pointing out the main
attributes that define the social category of caboclos as being both economic and cultural.

“Caboclos are small scale Amazonian family producers that live from the ex-
ploitation of forest resources. Knowledge of the forest, food habits and housing
patterns constitute the main cultural attributes that distinguish caboclos from
recent migrant producers. Because of their similar economic attributes, though,
both caboclos and migrants can be allocated into the more general social cat-
egory of peasants.” (Lima 1992:11-12; 1999:9)
Base Analysis

Again, the cultural element of caboclos is highlighted. To Lima, relative cultural differences
separate recent migrants from caboclos, for in terms of economic criteria, both occupy the
same economic position in relation to the market, in that they are both small rural producers
(Lima 1992:43). Lima’s definition combines the main characteristics of caboclo, which in
general agree with previous descriptions. One element, however, is missing. It is the racial
element of the caboclo being a descendent of Amerindians and a mixture of Portuguese and

5.1.4 Stereotypes
Most stereotypes associated with caboclo are derogatory. According to common belief, the
usage of the term usually implies low education, laziness, drunkenness, and poor hygiene
habits (Moran 1981:99). The caboclo is thought to be timid because he lives isolated in the
forest (Wagley 1964:141). Furthermore, the caboclo is thought to be tricky and exceedingly
suspicious. A popular local saying is that ‘the suspicious caboclo hangs up his hammock and
then sleeps under it’ (Wagley 1964:141). In the Amazon, the Indian was the slave in colonial
society. In the opinion of the European, the Indian was a nude barbarian and of less prestige
than the more expansive African slave. Today, Indian physical appearances are therefore a
symbol not only of slave ancestry but also of social origin in colonial times lower than that of
the African (Wagley 1964:141).

There is a masculine symbolism of caboclo since it is only used in the masculine form in Por-
tuguese, o caboclo. Gender stereotypes can only be interpreted through the history of coloniz-
ation. Portuguese colonists were mainly men who took Amerindian women for wives and
concubines. The history of male conquest of Amazonia is symbolized in the male stereotype
of the ‘exotic hunter and fisherman who confronts wilderness’ (Lima 1992:27-28). This de-
scription emphasizes another important image of the caboclo in the Amazon. It is his indigen-
ous knowledge of natural resources. The caboclo often appears as a good hunter and fisher-
man (Wagley 1964:140). He has a special sensitivity for the habits of animals and knows in-
stinctively where to hunt, to fish, and to settle.

In view of this, it is no surprise to see little mention of the caboclo population in the coloniza-
tion blueprints. In fact, the caboclo was never considered in the plans, except in brief asides
which pointed out that the way of life of traditional Amazon communities was not modern
(Moran 1981:99).
Base Analysis 59

The very same feature of caboclo as someone using the forest in a sustainable way was per-
ceived quite differently at the end of the 1980s. National and international projects concerned
with sustainable development and environmental issues started to point to the importance of
traditional Amazonian knowledge. In the face of growing national and international pressures
for the conservation of the region, numerous international financing agencies give priority to
projects that present a conservationist overtone. This is an important political shift and it is in
this context that caboclos have an important role to play (Lima 1992:7). Caboclos are at the
center of the political agenda today. Their knowledge of the forest is no longer negatively per-
ceived, but instead positively valued. In fact, they can use their knowledge to their political

5.1.5 Dictionary Definitions

Looking at the dictionary definitions of caboclo, the historical dimension of the term becomes
obvious. Dictionary definitions of caboclo are analyzed on the basis of the three dictionary
entries in Mirador (1977), Aurélio (1999), and Houaiss (2001). Working with dictionaries of
different years gives proof to the fact that terms and their usage are at no time statical.


Mirador (1977:316)

(a) - Inígena brasileiro de cor acobreada.

(b) - Mestiço de branco com índio.
(c) - Caipira, roceiro, sertanejo.
(d) - Tratamento carinhoso para homem.
(e) - Tipo desconfiado ou arguto.

Aurélio (1999:351)

(f) - Mestiço de branco com índio; cariboca, carijó.

(g) - Antiga denominação do indígena.
(h) - De cor acobreada e cabelos lisos; caburé, tapuio.
(i) - caipira.
(j) - Pessoa desconfiada. (PEJ)
Base Analysis

Houaiss (2001:545)

(k) - Selvagem brasileiro que tinha contato com os colonizadores..

(l) - Indivíduo nascido de índia e branco (ou vice-versa), fisicamente caracterizado por ter pele
morena ou acobreada e cabelos negros e lisos.
(m) - Qualquer mestiço de índio; tapuio.
(n) - Indivíduo (esp. habitante do sertão) com ascendência de índio e branco e com físico e os
modos desconfiados, retraídos <caipira, roceiro, matuto>.
synonyms: caipira, mestiço

Images of caboclo dominating in the three dictionary definitions above seem to fit perfectly
with the stereotypical presentations described in section 6.1.4. The latter dictionary entry of
Houaiss (2001) points out the main phases in the history of the evolution of the caboclo popu-
lation corresponding to the dictionary extract order k-l-m-n. In the seventeenth century,
Amerindians were brought to either missionary or secular white settlements and “tamed”
(Lima 1992:58) (k). Subsequently, the “domesticated” Amerindian intermarried with whites,
and by the mid-eighteenth century, had generated a large mixed population (Lima 1992:59)
(l). The mixed population then developed a way of living similar to that of Europeans, but
preserving a characteristic body of Amerindian cultural features (l and m). Lastly, the caboclo
as individual is defined mainly by characteristic criteria such as being untrustworthy and
backward in nature (n).

Ethnic criteria dominate in all three dictionary entries, reflected in a, b, f, g, h, k, l, and m. It is

predominantly referred to caboclo as someone of mixed Amerindian and European ancestry.
Furthermore, the notion of caboclo as backwoodsman is reflected by the terms of caipira,
sertanejo, roceiro in c, i, and n. A backwoodsman is a native of the backwoods, living in re-
mote and often a culturally backward area. This image is comparable to a hillbilly in US-
American terms. A third pejorative connotation completes the description in each entry on
caboclo. He is described as a tricky, suspicious, and untrustworthy person (e, j, n). In the
Mirador entry under (d) there is an additional meaning of the usage of the term as affectionate

Totally absent from each dictionary entry on caboclo is the feature of being a typical Amazo-
nian native. Moreover a notion of his principal economic activitiy, extractivism, is missing as
a whole.
Base Analysis 61

The prevailing prejudices concerning caboclo are clearly reflected in the definitions of all
three dictionary entries presented above.

5.1.6 Self-reference
In general, the term is rejected by those it designates due to the fact that is carries a definite
pejorative and derogatory connotation (Lima 1992:24). Since people generally have a low
opinion of caboclos, no one wants to identify himself as such (Moran 1981:99).

In only a few instances, caboclo is used as a term of self-ascription (Lima 1992:24). In

Wagley´s (1976) research, rural dwellers differentitated themselves by occupation. Generally,
tural farmers designated the rubber tappers by the term caboclo. The rubber tapper on the oth-
er hand, used the term caboclo to refer to the Amerindian (Wagley 1976:104-5). In this way,
the term caboclo is transferred to the next social categoy which stands in an inferior position
to that of the speaker (Lima 1992:25), until it reaches the tribal Amerindian. The rural popula-
tion rejects the label caboclo considering that it refers not to them, but to Amerindians (Lima
1992:24). Wagley (1976:105) states that “the Amazon caboclo (…) exists only in the concept
of the groups of higher status referring to those of lower status”.

Another reason why caboclo is not used as a term of self-reference derives from the fact that it
was never associated with a political movement.

5.1.7 Translation Trends

The confusion about the meaning of the term caboclo may reflect in which way the concept
has changed over time. The term is characterized by a complexity of meanings and stereo-
types, reflecting the history of Portuguese colonization in the Amazon.

There is, however, a consistency to the characterizations of caboclo. A number of common

features can be identified throughout the descriptions and definitions:one indicating low social
status, one indicating racial characteristics, and one referring to a rustic. The parameters used
in the colloquial classification inlcude the features rural, Amerindian descent and uncivilized.
There is no fixed group that can be identified as caboclos (Lima 1992:3). In fact, the term
could be applied to any rural person.

Both the colloquial as well as the academic conceptions of the caboclo consist of outsiders’
constructions of categories of social classification (Lima 1992:6). Since the presented defini-
tions of caboclo are rather loose, further specification is required. It is important to acknow-
Base Analysis

ledge the difference between the colloquial and the academic use. In colloquial use, the
caboclo is stereotyped as an Amazonian dweller who is lazy, indolent, passive, crafty, tricky,
and suspicious. In academic use, caboclo is always defined in contrast to those who are recent
migrants and Amerindian groups.

During the second half of the 20th century, the anthropological use of caboclo provides a term
of reference for the native Amazonian peasantry. Caboclo points to the historical and cultural
specificity and provides a linguistic solution to distinguish traditional rural habitants from re-
cent migrants. The conceptual boundaries of caboclo continue to remain fuzzy and the term
suffers from pejorative connotations carried by the colloquial use. The negative stereotypical
representations contributed to turning the caboclo into an unattractive and unsatisfactory the-
oretical concept. Furthermore, caboclo can be an attribute of racial qualities such as Amerin-
dian physical traits, economic status, or rural residence. Poor town dwellers can be classified
locally as caboclos (Lima 1992:46). This contradicts the theoretical conception of caboclo as
an essentially rural cultural type. To conclude, caboclo is neither a term adopted for self-
ascription, nor can it be associated with a social group. In the academic as well as in the collo-
quial use of the term, it is up to the speaker to define who is and who is not a caboclo.

Due to racial components and pejorative colloquial connotations applied to the term in Por-
tuguese, the use of caboclo as a term of reference has come to be avoided by the majority of
academic researchers. In search of a more neutral term, populações tradicionais, in English
traditional population or traditional people, was introduced. This change has occurred
primarily through the association made between traditional people and conservation. Simul-
taneously, indigenous peoples, formerly despised or hunted down by their neighbors, have be-
come role models to dispossessed people in the Amazon (Carneiro da Cunha and Barbosa
2000:1). The terms traditional population and traditional people recognize various categories
of contemporary native residents in the Amazon, including ribeirinhos (cf. 3.4.2), quilom-
bolas24, seringueiros (cf. 3.3.2), castanheiros (3.3.2), quebradeiras de côco babaçu25, and
many more. They are all extrativistas or agro-extrativistas. These people practice traditional
cultural and economic activities such as extraction of rubber, Brazil nuts, coconuts, etc. Al-

24 Term used to describe refugee slaves. Quilombolas today are the descendants of enslaved Africans and live
of hunting, fishing, planting crops, and harvesting of Brazil nuts. They receive support by the state
government land redistribution program Programa Raízes.
25 Term to describe women working along with children on the extraction of babaçu kernels, which are
domestically processed and consumed, but mostly sold to oil industries. Babaçu palm forests, which cover
twenty million hectares in Northern and Northeastern Brazil, have been home to peasants involved in
agricultural and extractive activities since the 17th century.
Base Analysis 63

legretti (1990:261) points out that rubber tappers themselves realized the need for political re-
cognition of a highly specified economic activity, one that distinguishes them from other rural
laborers such as colonist settlers. Anderson (1990:67) defines traditional populations as
people having adapted to the economic demands of an extractive economy, and having
inherited much of the indigenous knowledge of natural resources.

Although traditional people have taken indigenous people as role models, the category of tra-
ditional people in Brazil does not include indigenous people. This separation rests on a funda-
mental legal distinction in Brazilian legislation, namely, that indigenous land rights are not
predicated on conservation (Carneiro da Cunha and Barbosa 2000:18).

To this day, the expression traditional people is at the initial stage of existence. It is a sparsely
inhabited category but already recognized in administrative life. In 1992, Ibama, the Brazilian
official environmental administration, created O Centro Nacional de Desenvolvimento
Sustentado das Populações Tradicionais (CNPT), the National Center of Traditional People.
Originally, it congregated rubber-tappers and Brazil-nut collectors from the Amazon, which
are termed collectively extrativistas. It has since expanded to cover other people, such as clam
gatherers from southeast Brazil. What all these people have in common is a good environ-
mental record based on low-impact techniques and a stake in retaining or regaining control of
the territory they exploit (Carneiro da Cunha and Barbosa 2000:2). Traditional people is not a
definite group but the category of traditional people is occupied by political subjects that have
created or are struggling to create a public identity (Carneiro da Cunha and Barbosa 2000:17).
They commit themselves to a number of practices in return for other benefits, primarily land
rights (Carneiro da Cunha and Barbosa 2000:18).

In lingustic terms, populações tradicionais in Portuguese and traditional people in English

seem to be an attempt to recognize the various traditional groups inhabitating the Amazon re-
gion. Several general elements speak in favor of the usage of these terms. First, the usage of a
plural form recognizes the feminine as well as the masculine form, thus it is gender neutral.
Second, the term does not connote any negative images. It is neutral and politically correct
avoiding any racial connotations. The term traditional implies rather positive notions, not al-
luding to racial labels such as indigenous, tribal, native, or aboriginal. Furthermore, the fea-
ture traditional is considered as a defining characteristic of caboclo by the majority of afore-
mentioned authors. Third, the term respects the diversity of social groups engaging in tradi-
tional economic activities in the Amazon region.
Base Analysis

Certainly, the term traditional people does not substitute caboclo, because it does not carry
the same regional connotation as does caboclo. The caboclo is mentioned whenever referring
to the typical Amazonian man. The image of this typical Amzonian is essentially rural and
riverine (Lima 1992:27).

5.2 Colono vs. Assentado

In the course of the present study, the question emerged as to whether or not the two terms
colono and assentado are used in the same context to designate the very same subject. It
appears questionable why in English corpora these two concepts are treated as synonyms
while they are not in Portuguese. Furthermore, these two terms seem to express highly
different concepts. Turning now to a linguistic comparison of the usage of colono and
assentado provides some suggestion about how they might differ in meaning.

5.2.1 Etymology
The term colono derives from the Latin word colonus (Houaiss Dictionary 2001), meaning
cultivator, farmer, rural laborer, or habitant of a colony (Oxford Latin Dictionary 1968). At
first sight, this root reminds of the modern European colonial projects evoking an association
in which large numbers of people moved across the ocean entering new territory. In this re-
spect, the term colono generally was used to describe an European settler, migrating to distant
regions such as North America, Australia, or Brazil. All these places were controlled by a
large population of permanent European residents.

In contrast, assentado does not present a similar historical dimension as in the case of colono.
According to the Portuguese etymological dictionary Grande Dicionário Etimológico (1966),
assentar originates from the Latin word sedere. Among to sit and to be seated, sedere means
to be settled or decided on (Oxford Latin Dictionary 1968).

5.2.2 Associations and Stereotypes of Colono

Associations deriving from the etymological background of colono are very traditional. Col-
onist settlers are often referred to as pioneers in a frontier land. The three terms, colonist, pi-
oneer, frontier and their Portuguese equivalents colono, pioneiro, fronteira evoke fixed asso-
ciations in the mind of the speaker. In both languages these terms are strongly connected to
historical backgrounds.
Base Analysis 65

A frontier is a place very different from the remainder of the established economy (Ozório de
Almeida 1995:6). According to Oxford English Dictionary, frontier is a boundary, or diving
line (Oxford English Dictionary 1989). Frontier has often been applied to Amazonia. A fron-
tier always presupposes a „line (or area) between us and them, between cosmos and chaos,
between inside and outside, between here and there, between civilisation and barbarism“
(Nitsch 2001:341). Those living beyond the frontier are regarded as not forming part of soci-
ety, being excluded, far away, out of reach. Pioneer colonists are the first people to enter un-
developed land and the first ones to cultivate it. In fact, colonist migrants entering such territ-
ory are literally starting from scratch.

Dictionary entries for Portuguese and English reveal similar meanings for pioneer. A pioneer
is someone who prepares the way, clears, opens up, or colonizes new territory. Originally, a
pioneer was the foot soldier who marched in advance of an army to dig trenches and prepare
the way (Oxford English Dictionary 1989; Grande Dicionário Etimológico 1966).

The last frontier for decades was Amazonia, thus images of pioneer settlers in a distant region
were applied to migrants coming to Amazonia. However, Amazonian people today have come
to live in a post-frontier society. Amazonia increasingly is being integrated into the national
economy and Brazil´s society. Innumerable national and international initiatives and projects
are taking place. Most importantly, however, the number of people migrating to Amazonia
has not yet come to halt. This gives reason to the assumption that the traditionally used term
colono and its historical connotations no longer do justice to the new developments in the re-

5.2.3 Differentiating between colono and assentado

Discussing the terms colono and assentado, the temporal context is the most important ele-
ment to consider. During the major immigration waves in the 19th, 20th and 21th century, with
the entering of people into Amazonia terms to designate the newcomers emerged. The major-
ity of new settlers entering Amazonia were peasants. These new actors in the field needed to
be named in various government proposals or program descriptions. A distinction between
local Amazonian rural people and newcomers had to be drawn. Furthermore, local Amazoni-
ans came to name the new settlers. Thus, the usage of colono and assentado is strongly con-
nected to the history of Amazonian settlement (cf. 2.2; 3.1).

Peasants entered Amazonia in the course of various colonization projects initiated by the gov-
Base Analysis

ernment. These people were referred to as colonos. Primarily, this term was used to designate
migrants coming from outside the region. In the late19th up to the first half of the 20th century,
large numbers of Northeasterners migrated into the region. This took place mainly in associ-
ation with the economy of rubber. The exact number of migrants is not known. Until 1910,
estimates range from 300,000 to 500,000 (Lima 1992:31). The number of Northeasterners
was large enough to provide a clear distinction between the caboclo and the Northeasterner
populations during the first half of the 20th century. Thus, the native population called the
Northeasterners by colono.

Today, the distinction between the caboclo and the second or third generation of Northeastern
migrants is vague (Lima 1992:32). Due to the fact that the majority of migrants from the
Northeast mostly resided in small riverine communities adopting traditional activities prac-
ticed by caboclos, they were incorporated into the group of caboclos. Those Northeasterners
who did engage in rubber collection in the interior were soon incorporated into the mixed In-
dian-European complex as the caboclo intermarried with the Northeasterner (Parker
1981:125). According to Parker (1981:6), “there are three distinct interior populations: Amer-
indians, Amazon caboclos, and peasant pioneers/migrants”.

The second major immigration wave started in the 1970s in the course of colonization pro-
jects initiated by the government. Peasants mainly came from the Northeast and the South of
Brazil and were diverted to the many colonization sites set up throughout the Amazon. They,
too, were referred to as colonos. Settlers are often associated with certain colonization pro-
jects. One of the biggest colonization projects took place along the Transamazon Highway.
Many migrants who settled along the Transamazônica have come to be called colonos da

The usage of the term colono is reflected in the institutional framework of government pro-
jects. Keywords such as „área de fronteira”, “fronteira agrícula” or “Projetos de Colonização
da Amazônia” were used to name federal institutions, such as Instituto Nacional de Coloni-
zação e Reforma Agrária (Incra), Projeto Especial de Colonização Sobradinho (PEC), or
Projeto Integrado de Colonização (PIC), to name but a few. In the course of formulating pro-
grams and project description concerning settlement policies of peasants in the Amazon terms
such as colonos, colonização and assentamentos were used. Colono was applied to peasants
who were to be settled. To describe the context of the settlement process, colonização was
used. When referring to the settlement sites, the term assentamentos was applied.
Base Analysis 67

In the mid 1990s, in the course of institutional changes in governmental institutions this began
to alter. Former frontier expansion plans of Amazonia were integrated into national develop-
ment efforts. In 1996, the Programa Nacional de Fortalecimento da Agricultura Familiar
(PRONAF) was created. PRONAF is responsible for the allocation of credits to peasants. In
2000, the Ministerio do Desenvolvimento Agrário (MDA) was instituted to substitute the for-
mer Ministério de Política Fundiária e do Desenvolvimento Agrário.

As a result, more than 210 thousand families have been settled by the federal government
since 1995 (Lima et al. 2003:81). In the formulation of public texts and project descriptions
for settlements, there is a tendency to avoid the term colono. ‘Projetos de Colonização’ have
come to be called ‘Planos de assentamentos’. Newcomers no longer are referred to as colonos
but assentados. Credit regulations no longer favor colonos but pequenos agricultores
assentados or famílias assentadas. All this takes place in the framework of Agrarian Reform.
Assentado implies the notion of someone being settled by the government and being supplied
with the necessary documents to the land, thus being taken care of. This stands in contrast to
settlers who arrive on their own, chose their piece of land on their own and struggle on their

Spontaneous settlers, in contrast, never are referred to as assentados but as colonos. A reason
for this might be the way of settling they have chosen. Spontaneous settlers have come the
traditional way.

Furthermore, the term assentado is associated with the political movement MST, Movimento
dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra. Brazil’s Landless Workers Movement is the largest so-
cial movement in Latin America pressing for a long overdue land reform in Brazil. The term
sem terra has become a proper name referring to rural peasants who are organized to struggle
for Agrarian Reform implementations and the transformation of society. These peasants have
achieved their own identity by joining the struggle. In form of an appeasement strategy, the
federal agency INCRA places sem-terras in government settlements. Sem-terras then become
assentados, settlers within the scope of Agrarian Reform efforts.

In summary, differentiated usages of the terms colono and assentado are a result of govern-
ment policies in the Amazon region. A distinction of the various actors in the field is required
in order to be able to name the beneficiaries of governmental programs. In doing so, particular
usages of terms such as colono and assentado are instituted. While colono is used when refer-
ring to settlers who are longer in the region, assentado is applied to settlers who have just re-
Base Analysis

cently entered Amazonia. Furthermore, assentado implies the connotation of being settled by
governmental agencies in the course of Agrarian Reform.

5.2.4 Dictionary Definitions

Colono is defined by the dictionaries Mirador (1977) and Houaiss (2001) as follows.


Mirador (1977:447)

- Indivíduo que faz parte de uma colônia; o que habita uma colônia.

- Indivíduo que se establece em um terreno inculto para desbravá-lo e cultivá-lo.

- O que vive como agricultor ou criador em colônia.

Houaiss (2001:762-63)

- Aquele que habita uma colônia; membro de uma colônia.

- Aquele que emigra para povoar e/ou explorar uma terra estranha.
- Lavrador que trabalha em terra de outrem por salário.


Houaiss (2001:763)

Grupo de pessoas enviadas para povoar uma região no estrangeiro, ou grupo de migrantes
que deixam sua própria terra de origem e vão cultivar, povoar e explorar uma terra es-

Dictionary entries on colono reveal rather neutral descriptions. The dictionary definition
provided by Mirador (1977) incorporates the notion of farmer, thus confirming the etymolo-
gical Latin origin discussed above. Colônia is a key feature in both dictionary entries and de-
scribes a group of people habitating the same settlement. In fact, early settlements established
in the region, for example during the rubber period, were called colônias according to former
role models of colonial times. Later on, in the project descriptions of settlements initiated by
the federal government, assentamento is used to refer to colonist settlements.
Base Analysis 69

In contrast, dictionary entries on assentado are described below:


Mirador (1977)

(no entry)

Houaiss (2001:320)

Diz-se de ou camponês ou trabalhador rural que já tem a posse legal da terra em que

By comparing the definition of assentado with previous and subsequent ones, the concept of
assentado as peasant or rural laborer is not yet integrated in the entry by Mirador (1977). This
gives reason to the assumption that this meaning of assentado was not in existence at the
time. Moreover, it emphasizes the statement that assentado has adopted an additional mean-
ing in the last decade referring to those settlers who have just recently entered the region. Key
concepts such as assentamento and assentar will give useful insights.


Mirador (1977:206)

ação ou efeito de assentar

Houaiss (2001:320)

- núcleo de povoamento <a de colonos>; <núcleo de povoamento constituído por

camponeses ou trabalhadores rurais>
- listagem, especificação de terra devolutas ou desapropriadas, com a finalidade de
nelas se fixarem camponeses sem-terra; <ato ou efeito de se realizar a fixação do
camponês a essas terras>
Base Analysis


Houaiss (2001:320)

- dar posse legal de terra a (camponês ou trabalhador rural que não a possuía)

- estabelecer (-se) em (núcleo de povoamento); <o governo assentou a população de-

sabrigada num novo conjunto habitacional>; <os sem-terra assentaram-se na fazen-
da abandonada>

As shown above, the dictionary entry of assentamento in Mirador (1977) does not consist of
assentamento in the context of a settlement of peasants or rural migrants. In the dictionary
entry of assentamento in Houaiss (2001), however, it is referred to as a settlement of settlers,
colonos, constituted by peasants or rural laborers. Yet another entry on assentamento in Hou-
aiss reflects contemporary political events in the context of Agrarian Reform when describing
the act of placing landless peasants, camponeses sem-terra, in government settlements. The
dictionary entry on assentar by Houaiss (2001) confirms this meaning of assentado. The first
entry refers to an act in which the federal government provides legal rights to settle on land,
posse (cf. 3.2), for the benefit of landless peasants. The second entry in Houaiss gives two ex-
amples of the usage of assentar, again referring to political events in the context of Agrarian

5.2.5 Translation Trends

The most prevalent translations in English referring to both colono and assentado are settler,
migrant settler, and migrant peasant. Other equivalents in this context are colonist farmer,
frontier settler, peasant pioneer, Amazon colonist, colonist newcomer, or pioneer farmer.
Terms involving the features colonist, frontier or pioneer are commonly avoided. A reason for
this might be the association with historical images evoked by these terms. Concerning the
historical background of the English-speaking world, images as those of the English pioneers
or colonists in North America come to mind. Settler and migrant peasant, though, appear to
be more neutral in their connotation, and are used in most cases when referring to colono or
assentado in the Amazon. Generally, authors do not distinguish between colono-settlers and
assentado-settlers, thus ignoring the different conceptual meanings of the terms.

Since colono and assentado imply historical and political notions, it is crucial to treat them
separatly in meaning. Appropriate equivalents in English should offer some kind of distinct
Base Analysis 71

features, which define the differentiated meanings carried by the terms colono and assentado.
A definition on colono should imply the notion of a migrant or settler establishing a residence
on new land and engaging in agriculture. The assentado, in turn can be described as a recently
arrived migrant who is settled by the government in the scope of Agrarian Reform.

5.3 Posseiro
Posseiro poses another controversial and polemic concept. A particular relation to land appro-
priation and a political identiy are fundamental characteristics of the posseiro. The tem, there-
fore, will be analyzed concerning its legal, social and political dimension.

5.3.1 Etymology
Etymologically, posseiro derives from the Latin radical potis or poti expressing the idea of
power. The first syllable pos, however, is linguistically questionable, as stated by Schulz
(cited in Mattos Neto 1988:15). In Latin, the verb possidere contains the terms sedere and
possessio, meaning to settle and possession (Oxford Latin Dictionary 1968).

Originally, the Latin concept of posse goes back to Roman times when Roman law was insti-
tuted. A possessio implicates a de facto relation to a matter. The Roman term possessio refers
first and foremost to the disposition of land matters but also to concessions of land in the Ro-
man Empire. In contemporary Brazilian public law, possessio expresses a de facto relation in
those legal situations in which a private person is eligible for a legal right over public land
which is neither privately owned nor used (Mattos Neto 1988:15).

5.3.2 Poesseiro in legal texts and academic publications

The term posseiro is a historical concept. Its usage has an almost secular tradition in Brazil
and is part of traditional law to this day. Since the existence of posseiros goes back to colonial
times, this concept is incorporated and recognized in the first Constitution of the country
(Miranda 1988:57; cf. section 3.2). Land was occupied and transformed in a production com-
modity by posseiros. The first posseiros were Europeans working the lands. Today, the pos-
seiro is an important element of Brazilian society although neglected by society as a whole
and treated as a precarious figure from a judicial point of view (Gutemberg 2001:103-104).
Base Analysis

In legal texts, the term posseiro is defined in a negative way, always in opposition to other
categories such as não-proprietário, não-arrendatário, não-parceiro, não-trabalhador, or,
não-assalariodo26 (Gutemberg 2001:3). In legal texts, the term ocupante da terra, occupant of
land, is used to refer to a posseiro (Mattos Neto 1988:133). According to Miranda (1988:62),
posseiro as a term appears for the first time in a constitutional paper in 1946. This gives reas-
on to the assumption that at the time the concept of posseiro was a neutral one.

Gutemberg (2001:18) defines a posseiro as “camponês a caminho de seu reconhecimento

social”27 and as “camponês em luta pela afirmação de sua identidade” 28. The posseiro is in
between a sem-terra and a proprietário (Gutemberg 2001:17). The term is incorporated in
Brazilian Agrarian Law and used to distinguish posseiro from proprietário. A proprietário is
someone enjoying a secure land tenure situation because he is holding a legal title to his land.

A prototypic posseiro is a de facto owner of land, whereas his land tenure situation is an in-
secure and precarious one. Mostly negative associations are applied to the term posseiro,
which is characterized by conflicts over land, occupations of public buildings, or demonstra-
tions in the streets. From the outset, posseiros did not enjoy a proper place in society. They
were considered bastardos (Martins 1981:104). Miranda (1988:32) describes two stereotypic-
al posseiros in Brazil referring to native Amazonian caboclos who live mostly in riverine
areas and whose principal economic activity is extractivism. Due to the particular riverine en-
vironment in the Amazon (cf. 3.4.2), the majority of ribeirinhos are posseiros before Brazili-
an Law. The other type of posseiro, described by Miranda (1988:33), is also predominant in
Amazonia. They are rural laborers living on family agriculture. At the same time, these pos-
seiros become actors of resistence struggling for political recognition.

26 These terms can be translated in a very general manner as: not being an owner, nor a tenant, nor a
sharecropper, nor a laborer, nor a wageworker.
27 „peasant on his way to legal recognition“
28 „peasant fighting for an affirmation of his identity“
Base Analysis 73

5.3.3 Dictionary Definitions

The dictionaries Mirador (1977), Aurélio (1999) and Houaiss (2001) give the following defin-
ition on posseiro.


Mirador (1977:1376)
- Que, ou aquele que se encontra na posse clandestina ou ilegítima de certa área de terra par-
ticulares, ou devolutas, com a intenção de dono. (DIR)29

- Que, ou indivíduo que pretente ter a posse legítima de certa extensão de terras, que

Aurélio (1999:1616)

- Que, ou aquele que está na posse legal de imóvel ou imóveis indivisos. (DIR)

- Aquele que posseia.

Houaiss (2001:2270)

- Que, ou aquele que tem a posse legal de algo. (DIR)

- Indivíduo que ocupa terra devoluta ou abandonada e passa a cultivá-la.

All three dictionary entries do not work with synonyms or antonyms when defining posseiro.
Rather they paraphrase the various meanings. A main feature in the definitions is the concept
of posse. Posse as a legal term is defined as:


Mirador (1977:1376)

- Retenção ou fruição de uma coisa ou de um direito.

- Ação ou direito de possuir a título de propriedade. (DIR)

29 Direito
Base Analysis

Houaiss (2001:2270)

- Ato ou efeito de se apossar de alguma coisa; propriedade

- Ação ou direito de possuir a título de propriedade. (DIR)

Each dictionary entry consists of two meanings referring to the concept of posseiro, a positive
and a negative one. On the one hand, posseiro is defined as someone holding a legal title to
land property. On the other hand the figure of posseiro is defined as someone occupying illeg-
ally publicly or privately owned property. In conclusion, there are two opposing concepts ap-
plied to the term: possuir and possear/ apossar. The former term means to possess and the lat-
ter to seize property. Possear is defined as “tomar posse de terras devolutas” (Houaiss
2001:2270) and “ocupar terras devolutas” (Mirador 1977:1376), referring in each entry to ter-
ras devolutas. The grouping of “terra devoluta” and “ocupar” usually evokes negative associ-
ations in the mind of the Portuguese speaker. In the case of possuir, the meaning of posse as a
legal right to holding a land title corresponds very well with the legal definition of posse by
Brazilian law.

Another ambivalence applied to posseiro becomes apparent when contrasting posse ilegítima
vs. posse legítima, as in Mirador (1977:1376). The former meaning stands in opposition to the
definition of posseiro by Brazilian Agrarian Law (cf. 3.2), which does not distinguish
between legitimate and illegitimate posse. Before Agrarian Law, there are two types of posse:
posse legítima and posse agrária (Miranda 1988:76). All quoted dictionary definitions clearly
indicate the judicial grounds to the concept of posseiro and posse, referring to a long tradition
of land rights based on posse as a legal right based on de facto possession.

The negative image provoked by the meaning of posseiro as someone illegally occupying
land is clearly reflecting the stereotype concerning the posseiro as a social category in Brazil
in general and in the Amazon in particular. Of course, concepts and meanings in dictionary
entries are to be interpreted as prototypical conceptions to a certain degree. First and fore-
most, extracts of dictionaries are a mirror of cultural peculiarities and reflect part of the reality
of a particular society.

Remarkably, this overall ambivalence of meanings concerning the term posseiro appears to
reflect very well the ambivalent feelings towards this figure by society.
Base Analysis 75

5.3.4 Self-reference
When referring to themselves, the term posseiro is rarely used. More commonly used are the
terms lavrador, produtor rural, agricultor, rurícola, or homem da terra (Gutemberg
2001:105). For a posseiro being a posseiro contains images of conflicts and fights. Colono or
proprietário are avoided as well, as they do not reflect the same context (Esterci 1987:98).
From an ideological perspective, a posseiro does not have a judicial perception to the land he
works. To the posseiro, owning the land he lives on comes natural to him, as in many cases,
he has lived and worked on the land for a decade or more.

More recently, the term posseiro has come to express an association with the political move-
ment of landless peasants MST. Thus, there are peasants adopting the term posseiro pointing
to this particular political identity.

5.3.5 Translation Trends

In the majority of literature on the Amazon, posseiro is translated as squatter (cf. Browder
and Godfrey 1997; Moran 1981; Schmink and Wood 1992; etc.), applying the highly negative
connotated image to the Amazonian posseiro. There are some cases in which the posseiro is
wrongly translated as tenant farmer or sharecropper. Tenancy and sharecropping are categor-
ies of agricultural labor based on contractual arrangements made by peasants and a landlord
involving rights to land (Forman 1975:49). It is important to note that the concepts of these
two types of rural peasants cannot be applied to the figure of posseiro for they do express
totally different agricultural leaseholding arrangements. A posseiro is not a leaseholder. One
of his main characteristics is being a free person migrating to what he defines as free land.

However, there are constructive translation approaches paraphrasing the Amazonian posseiro,
such as “peasant farmer without legal title to his land/ plot” (Hecht and Cockburn (1989:156).
A description by Wood (1983:261) refers to posseiros as “Peasant migrants informally appro-
priating state property for the production of subsistence crops, plus a small marketable sur-

Translating posseiro into English indeed poses a challenging task since the concept of posse is
largely unknown in the First World. Due to the fact that none of the dictionary entries de-
scribed above work with synonyms to describe posseiro, the best way to find an appropriate
translation in English would be to paraphrase it. Posseiro is both a judicial classification and a
Base Analysis

social category seeking a particular political identity. A fundamental characteristic of a pos-

seiro is his relation to land appropriation and the right to hold a title to it.

In translating the concept of posseiro, the following two main characteristics should be em-
braced: the legal status concerning land right and agriculture as principal economic activity.
Thus, posseiro can be paraphrased as a “peasant holding a legal right to a land title, based on
his cultivating work”.
Questioning of key informants 77

6 Questioning of key informants

The questioning of key informants is applied as a research method, forming an integral part of
the linguistic analysis. After having identified and discussed the various terms of Amazonian
settlers, this section attempts to document the usage of the terms by people working and rese-
arching in the Amazon. The objective is to verify the meaning and usages of these terms as
gained from the prior base analysis (cf. section 5).

In the first part of this section, methodological principles, which provide the theoretical basis
of the applied research method are presented, including a description of the interview situ-
ation. Furthermore, technical issues such as personal data of informants and the organization
of the questionnaire are explained. The section closes with an analysis of the data.

The questioning was carried out during a field study of one month duration in Belém, Brazil.
Due to its status as the principle center for Amazonian research, Belém is the ideal place to
meet researchers of a wide range of study areas who are concerned with Amazonia and its
people. In order to learn best about the usage of the Portuguese peasant terms from native
speakers, the research was conducted exclusively in Portuguese.

6.1 Methodological Issues

The questioning of informants is carried out in the framework of qualitative research inter-
views. Within the field of qualitative interviews, Patton (1990) identifies three different types:
informal conversational interview, interview guide approach, and standardized open-ended in-
terview. All three types vary in the format and structure of questioning. This study applies the
format and technique of standardized open-ended interviews to the questioning. In standardi-
zed open-ended interviews, the interviewer adheres to a strict script. The advantage of this in-
terview type is that responses of the informants are open-ended and not predetermined by a
set of fixed choices. The informant may describe what is important to him using his own
words. Since the main objective is to document the usages and lexical meanings of terms, the
technique of standardized open-ended interviews appears to be the most appropriate. Further-
more, the applied interview technique may be used to gain insight into interesting and unex-
pected ideas of the informants. Qualitative research interviews are, according to Kvale (1996),
"attempts to understand the world from the subjects' point of view, to unfold the meaning of
peoples' experiences, to uncover their lived world prior to scientific explanations."
Questioning of key informants

In the present study, a questionnaire provides the basic structure and framework of the ques-
tioning. According to Patton (1987:121-122), good questions should be open-ended, neutral,
and clear to the interviewee. As identified by Patton (1987), six types of questions can be as-
ked: questions based on behaviour or experience, on opinion or value, on feeling, on knowled-
ge, on sensory experience, and on demographic or background information. It is best to start
with general questions and then proceed to more difficult topics.

6.2 Interview Situation

Before conducting the interviews, pre-tests were carried out in order to test the interview si-
tuation. In pre-tests, interview strategies, such as maintaining control of the course of the con-
versation were trained. Considering the fixed time schedule of the field work and study, pre-
tests were necessary to ensure a successful outcome of the questioning.

By identifying informants the aim was to have a good representativeness of people from diffe-
rent ways of life with different professional background and experience. Initial contact with
the informants was established through the project partners of Forlive. Telephone calls were
conducted and introductory letters written to explain the topic of the study. Furthermore, ass-
urances were given concerning the confidential treatment of the questioning.

The setting of an interview is important since it may have an effect on the responses (cf. Pat-
ton 1987). The questioning took place in the office of the informant. This provided an excel-
lent framework for the questioning since the context of the topic was present already. Prior to
each questioning, the study objective was explained. It was emphasized that the questions
concern merely linguistic meaning and usage. The informants were asked to answer the ques-
tions according to their intuitive sense of language. To underline a statement, informants may
give personal examples or comments. The role of the informant in the questioning is that of a
native speaker of Portuguese and that of an expert on Amazonia. The overall intention is to do
the questioning in a manner of conversation, accepting deviations from the structured guiding
sequence. The overall task is to avoid imposing the researcher’s structures and assumptions as
far as possible.

Since the questions are concerned with semantic meaning and not phonological features, a
written form of documentation was chosen. Notes were taken during the process of questio-
ning. Afterwards, the information was completed in form of memory minutes. The ques-
Questioning of key informants 79

tionnaire then was sent back to the informant who was asked to give his approval on the cor-
rectness of the document. This was also a way to ensure the validity of the data.

6.3 Data of Informants and general observations

The questioning is aimed solely at native speakers of Portuguese. Nine key informants parti-
cipated in the questioning. Each selected key informant is working closely together with peas-
ants in the Amazon. The majority of them are conducting research in their particular study
area in the Amazon. The nine informants respresent a heterogenous group of researchers ac-
cording to their age, profession, and field work. Since all informants deal with the subject of
Amazonian peasants both practically and theoretically, the usage of the terms can be investig-
ated for colloquial and academic use.

The personal data of the nine key informants is collocated in the chart presented below.

Informant Sex Age Profession Institution Field Work

A m 52 forester Embrapa Eastern Amazonia
B m 40 agricultural engineer Cifor30 Porto de Móz
31 32
C f 39 agricultural engineer IESAM , NAEA Pará, BR 163
D f 54 sociologist Reserva Mamirauá Tefé, Amazonas
E f 24 forester/ lawyer Sectam33 Pará
F m 32 agricultural engineer Forlive Porto de Móz
G m 27 forester Forlive, MFC Pará, Acre

H m 40 agricultural engineer Imazon34 whole Amazon region

I f 30 Economist NAEA Acre, Pará

Patton (1987) points out that any face-to-face interview is also an observation. The interview-
er has to be attentive and sensitive to nonverbal messages. Questioning informants brings
about quite different observations and findings than that of theoretical literature work. Com-
munication and interaction skills are involved. During the questioning session, it was interest-
ing to observe the informant while he was responding. In the moment of answering, it seemed

30 Center for Forestry Research (Cifor)

31 Instituto de Estudos Superiores da Amazonia (IESAM)
32 Núcleo de Altos Estudos Amazonicos (NAEA)
33 Secretaria do Estado de Ciência, Tecnologia e Meio Ambiente (Sectam)
34 Instituto do Homem e Meio Ambiente da Amazônia (IMAZON)
Questioning of key informants

as if the informant would have created a scene in his mind to place the term of inquiry in a
particular context. There seems to exist some kind of a fixed image in mind that would be
called up. This observation relates to the theory of prototypes (cf. 4.5); this argues that lin-
guistic categorical thinking is strongly determined by our world of experiences.

6.4 Organization of the questionnaire

The most appropriate method of analysis for any given study depends on the purpose of eva-
luation and the nature of the material (Patton 1987). There are several purposes of applying
the method of questioning. The questionnaire deals with a set of 7 fixed questions related to
the semantic area of Amazonian peasants. Generally, the questioning is not aimed at testing
any pre-determined hypotheses. The main objective is to identify usages of terms, to learn
about associations, and to listen to different points of view. An important aspect is to find out
how researchers categorize peasants. This implies the question whether or not researchers do
distinguish between individual groups of Amazonian peasants. All these concerns are taken
up in the formulation of the questions, as presented below.

1. Qual termo para a figura de pequeno agricultor na Amazônia se usa em geral?

2. No seu olhar, é termo político?

3. Funciona como termo genérico que inclui todos os atores dessa figura?

4. Se distingue entre populações tradicionais e migrantes recentes? Quem faz parte da

categoria população tradicional?

5. Se vê uma diferença entre colono e assentado?

6. O termo caboclo ainda está usado? Funciona como termo genérico para a categoria da
população tradicional?

7. Como é que os pequenos agricultores se auto-identificam?

The questionnaire begins with a very basic question asking which term the informant uses in
general to refer to Amazonian peasants. Formulating this first question raised the concern of
which term to use to designate Amazonian peasants in Portuguese without influencing the in-
formant. Pequeno agricultor was chosen. This term seemed to be the most appropriate due to
the fact that it is neither a historical nor political concept. Instead, it relates to agriculture and
small-scale production in general.
Questioning of key informants 81

Question number 2 and 3 take up the selected term by the informant of the first question,
going into more detail. In question number 2, the informant is asked whether or not the term
is a political concept. Since the selected term was the first term that the informant thought of,
it is assumed to be a central concept. To verify this assumption, question 3 asks whether or
not the selected term can be used as generic term of Amazonian peasants.

Question number 4 approaches the problem of distinguishing between the various peasant
groups. A distinction between traditional people and recent migrants is suggested. The
informant is asked whether or not he separates these groups. Assuming he does, a sub-
question addresses the issue of identifying peasant groups within the category of traditional

In question number 5, the issue of differentiating between colono and assentado is raised. The
informant is asked to explain whether or not there is a difference between these two terms. If
answered yes, the differing elements are to be defined.

Question number 6 centers the use of the term caboclo, asking whether or not the informant
still uses the term, what his associations with the term are, and whether or not caboclo
respresents a generic term for the traditional Amazonian population.

A last question refers to the issue of self-reference of the Amazonian peasant. Question num-
ber 7 refers to the informant’s professional experience. The informant is asked to describe
how the peasants he works with refer to themselves.

This set of seven questions reflect the main concerns which have arisen in the course of the
study. These very same issues of interest are posed to the informants to get to know their
point of view. Moreover, this proposal of questions is an attempt to further unfold the mea-
ning of the terms and to get an idea of their usages in practice.

6.5 Evaluation of findings

By categorizing the statements of the informants, for the sake of a better overview key words
are identified and collocated in a chart. This procedure allows some form of quantitative ana-
lysis, which is useful to identify particular trends in the usage and associations of terms. The
main focus is on the qualitative use of the term. The statements are summarized and evaluated
Questioning of key informants

Question number 1 suggests a quantitative evaluation at first sight. The terms agricultor fami-
liar and pequeno produtor are named by the majority of informants as terms of reference for
Amazonian peasants. Agricultor familiar is recognized as a theoretical term. Pequeno produ-
tor, in contrast, is used in practice. Apart from informant B, all informants confirm that the se-
lected term is subjected to a political concept (question number 2). To test the assumption that
the selected term is a central concept, question number 3 reveals quite differing results. Infor-
mants B, D, G, and H do not confirm that their selected term is a superordinated concept.

Two informants, informant D and H, consider a distinction between native people and mi-
grants in their response, using different terms of reference. Informant D distinguishes between
populações locais and pequeno produtor, whereas informant H uses pequeno produtor flore-
stal and colono. The former term referring to traditional or native people and the latter to pea-
sants engaged in agriculture.

In question 4 all informants agree on distinguishing between traditional people and migrants
in general. In a subquestion to number 4, informants are asked to give examples for traditional
population. Unanimously, all informants associate ribeirinho with this category. Quilombola,
extrativista, caboclo, castanheiro, and seringueiro are also mentioned.

In question number 5, the informants are asked to point out the difference between colono and
assentado. Apart from Informant H, who treats the two terms as synonyms, all informants see
a temporal difference between the two concepts. Colono is viewed as a settler who had arri-
ved a long time ago, whereas the assentado is someone who has migrated just recently to the
region. Colono is related to: colonists and colonization (A), colonies of northeastern Pará (F),
pioneer migrants (G), spontaneous colonization and migrants who came during the rubber
boom (I). Assentado, in contrast, is associated with: the MST and Agrarian Reform (C, E, F),
government settlement programs (D, E, G), the connotation of being landless (B, D), and as
ocupant of a new frontier (G).

Question number 6 asks whether or not caboclo is still used and could be considered as a ge-
neric term for the category of traditional people. Positive answers are given by informant B
and C. Informant C considers caboclo to be the typical caracter of Amazonian peasantry. In-
formant G does not use the term but associates caboclo with socio-cultural studies and An-
thropology. Most informants relate caboclo to the genetic feature of being of mixed Amerin-
dian and white ancestry (A, D, E, F). Six out of nine informants would not use caboclo to de-
signate Amazonian peasants, considering the term to be pejorative (E) and negative (A, D).
Questioning of key informants 83

Question number 7 is asking how the informant observes the issue of self-reference by
Amazonian peasants. Agricultor (A, C, G, I) and lavrador (B, C) are the most frequent
answers. Informant D explains that ribeirinhos identify themselves rather with where they
live as povo da várzea, or moradores da várzea, or vargeiros. Apart from Informant F and G,
none of the terms selected by the informant in question 1 does correspond with the terms
selected as self-reference by the peasant.

To conclude, it becomes apparent that each informant creates his own framework of meanings
in the field of Amazonian peasantry. Each informant expresses particular linguistic
preferences, attempting to use terms in a non-judgemental and objective manner. Informants
seem to be aware of the difficulty in terming Amazonian peasants.

Certainly, general trends become apparent, such as the usage of pequeno produtor and
agricultor familiar. This might relate to the fact that the majority of informants are
agricultural engineers and foresters. However, this group of researchers constitutes the
majority of researchers in Amazonia. In many cases, the answers are conflicting and even
contradict one another. Personal and professional experience of the informants strongly
influence the usage of terms.

Given the size and diversity of the Amazon as a research region, any generalization would be
precarious. The conducted questioning of informants offers an extract of reality, revealing
once again the complexity of the study subject.
Questioning of key informants

Table 2: Key Words of Questioning

Key Words of Questioning

Informant Question 1 Question 2 Question 3 Question 4 Question 5 Question 6 Question 7
agricultor familiar – termo mais Sim, pelo governo Sim Sim. Agro-extrativista, Sim. Não usaria colono - conotação Não - origem genética, mistura de branco agricultor; de vez em quando
A neutro; pequeno agricultor não se quilombola, ribeirinho negativa: colonizadores e colonização; com índio, elementos negativos agricultor familiar
usa mais termo antigo
pequeno agricultor ou pequeno Não; termo político é Não, e.g. Sim. Ribeirinho – origem Sim. Colono está na região muito tempo; Sim - é termo genérico embora o termo lavrador
produtor agricultor familiar ribeirinho não indígena, conhecimento local, assentado chegou mais recente - há 5 ribeirinho estivesse melhor
está estrategia econômica da anos - antes não tinha terra, conotação
floresta; pequeno produtor não é de “sem-terra”, não é da Amazônia.
daqui, tudo organizado, trabalha
com gado
camponês como termo genérico- Sim, de ponto de vista Sim, e.g. Sim. Caboclo e ribeirinho; vs. Sim. Colono mais genérico; assentado Sim - caboclo é o camponês tipico da lavrador ou agricultor
pensamento social social quilombolas, migrantes - não nasceram na mais específico do que colono e político - Amazônia, o caráter principal; termo
C agricultores Amazônia, mudaram para cá ligado ao MST genérico;ribeirinho é caboclo; excepções: o
familiares, ribeirinho-colono
populações locais como termo Sim- ribeirinho é Inclui só Sim. População local, ribeirinho Tefé - colono mora na cidade, roça no Não - criado de fora, é polémico; conotações povo da várzea, moradores da
genérico; também ribeirinho - viva populações - da várzea e do rio da terra campo, arrenda terras; assentado -sem- negativas:inferior, mistura de branco com várzea, vargeiros, ou referem-
D em harmonia com a natureza; locais firme; vs. migrante terra, assentado pelo governo. índio se ao local, à própria
pequeno produtor - se orienta pelo comunidade
mercado comercial
agricultor familiar - mais comum; Sim Sim Sim. Agro-extrativista e Sim. Não usaria colono mais - antigo Sim como categoria social; conotações (sem resposta)
camponês - bem histórico, ligado ribeirinho como camponês; muito tempo que está pejoratívas:preguiça; origem genética:
a movimentos sociais; pequeno na terra; assentado - Reforma Agrária, mistura de branco com índio; o excluido
agricultor programas do governo, migrante recente
- há 3-4 anos, recebe terra do governo,
construe casa na terra nova, faz
agricultura; não são sinónimos.

na faculdade agricultor familiar; no Sim, são. pequeno Sim. Pequenos agricultores vs. dois tipos da imigração- antiga e recente; Não - mistura de índio e imigrante europeia; Transamazônica - pequeno
trabalho de Forlive pequeno produtor:e.g. populações tradicionais - colono sugere das colonias na região não existe caráter de caboclo de verdade; produtor; Porto de Moz -
produtor extrativistas, ribeirinhos, quilombolas; nordeste do Pará. colono é o assentado antigamente para generalizar os grupos ribeirinho
ribeirinhos; depende da produção do antigo; assentado de hoje está ligado ao tradicionais na Amazônia - não dá para
agricultor não produtor MST. generalizar; hoje:tradicional - mistura de
mentalidade tradicional e capitalismo
pequeno produtor e agricultor Sim-agricultor familiar; Não Sim. Ribeirinhos ou assentado é ocupante mais recente de Sim na Antropologia e nos estudos socio- agricultor
familiar; dificuldade em frente pequeno produtor- quilombolas; vs. migrante - da uma nova fronteira, projetos culturais; tradicionalidade e costumes; não
dessas categoria; agricultor trabalha na produção fronteira. governamentais de assentamentos; uso
familiar não representa todos, florestal, usado para colono - migrante pioneiro, não tem
tentativa reconhecer essa classe separar os grande de documento da terra, não tem
social pequenos produtores reconhecimento, é o camponês antigo;
colono e assentado - 2 momentos
differentes da ocupação da Amazônia
Pequeno produtor florestal - mais É-origem de populações Não Sim. Extrativistas ou agro- São sinônimos; diferença se revela pelo Não - noção cultural- dança tradicional extrativista, colono ou
H nativa; colonos - migrantes, é decisiva extrativistas, castanheiros, ou uso de recursos florestais produtor rural
agricultores seringueiros
Agricultor familiar e pequeno Sim, são - pela Lei Sim Sim. Ribeirinhos - costume assentado - termo específico, político; Não agricultores
produtor - no Forlive; antigamente agricultura familiar local, agricultores mais antigos colono - colonização espontânea e os
I camponês - ligado à família como da região migrantes da borracha
agricultor familiar de hoje
Concluding Comments 85

7 Concluding Comments
In summary, there are a variety of concepts and definitions of rural Amazonian residents.
These concepts and definitions differ within the regions of the Amazon and are in some cases
conflicting. The size and diversity of the Amazon is reflected in its local populations which
can be distinguished according to different forms of land use or access to land and water. Pea-
sants in the Amazon have typically evolved along many migratory steps, adopting different li-
velihood strategies. The present study is an attempt to bring together local Amazonian popula-
tions, placing them into an historical, and socio-political context. Certainly, Amazonian reali-
ty is far more complex than could be outlined in this study.

A variety of terms are used to differentiate between various social groups of peasants in the
Amazon, such as between populações tradicionais, traditional people, and colonos, settlers.
The category of populações tradicionais alone is quite diverse, including ribeirinhos,
seringueiros, or extrativistas, to name but a few. Colonos represent a culturally and politically
diverse category throughout the Amazon. Many categories and terms are overlapping due to
intertwining concepts. At times, it becomes difficult to designate an Amazonian peasant by
one single term. As a result, term constructions have emerge, such as caboclo-colono,
agricultores sem terra, agricultores posseiros, or famílias assentadas. This broadening of
possibilities of what to call a peasant in the Amazon has resulted in multiple combinations of

In the course of national and international interventions, terms are introduced to constitute and
classify social and political categories for the rural populations of Amazonia. New categories
are created and already established categories are redefined. Categories and their terms are
increasingly recognized and codified. As in the case of populações tradicionais, the term
occurred primarily through the association made between people and the conservation of
nature. Government programs with agricultural extension packages frequently call their target
group agricultores familiares, family farmers. Similarly, the techno-scientific expression ex-
trativista, extractivist or NTFP-harvester, is used in the context of NTFP projects. In this
process, pequeno produtor or pequeno agricultor are classified and defined according to the
size of their agricultural property. All these terms are part of political discussions and thus
political concepts. Given the complexity of terms analyzed in this study, a Glossary of settler
terms will review all terms discussed and mentioned throughout the analysis. Terms for
Amazonian peasants are listed and a short description is given concerning the origin of the
Concluding Comments

term and principle features of its meaning and usage.

Terms of Amazonian peasants analyzed in this study, are viewed primarily from an outsider’s
perspective, attempting to demonstrate the diversity of terms and their usages. Whether or not
these terms are adopted by peasants to refer to themselves is discussed briefly. Self-identifica-
tion remains an important element and can not be ignored. Barth (1969:13) defines self-
ascription as well as ascription by others as critical features for the definition of an ethnic
group. Identification labels constitute important aspects when it comes to benefits provided by
the government. Identifying with particular terms is crucial for a peasant in the Amazon since
terms carry political values and benefits. For this reason, terms come to be accepted as terms
of self-ascription as they open up windows of opportunities.

Most terms analyzed in the course of this study are creations by outside interventions. As
stated above, these terms define identities and social characteristics. According to Bourdieu
(1990:131), political identities are constructed to serve as representations of the social field.
Words, in this context terms, are powerful instruments to express a political intention. As
stated by Bourdieu (1990:101), the power of language is not to be found in the words them-
selves, it is rather the context in which they are used.
Glossary of Settler Terms 87

8 Glossary of Settler Terms

agricultor familiar theoretical concept defined by PRONAF in the MCR
(cf. 3.4.1)

assentado recently arrived migrant who is settled by the

government in the scope of Agrarian Reform
(cf. 2.2; 3.1; 5.2)

caboclo political status difficult; often referred to as the typical

Amazonian peasant
(cf. 2.2; 3.1.1; 5.1)

castanheiro Brazil nut collector; traditional people

(cf. 3.3.2)

colono migrant or settler establishing a residence on new land

and engaging in agriculture
(cf. 2.2; 3.1; 5.2)

comunitário florestal beneficiary of MCF

(cf. 3.4.4)

extrativista traditional peasants performing non-wood extractivism

agro-extrativista the Amazon
(cf. 3.4.3; 5.1.7)

lavrador often adopted as term of self-ascription by peasants

(cf. 1.2; 6.5)

pequeno produtor defined by MCR 1997, according to size of property and

(cf. 3.4.1; 6.5)

populações tradicionais non-indigenous rural peoples with long histories in

particular ecosystems; recognized by SNUC as legitimate
residents of conservation areas
(cf. 5.1.7; 6.5)

posseiro peasant holding a legal right to a land title, based on his

cultivating work
(cf. 1.2; 3.2; 5.3)

quilombola descendants of enslaved Africans; traditional people who

receive support by the government program Raízes
(cf. 5.1.7; 6.5)

ribeirinho traditional people living in riverine areas

(cf. 3.4.2; 5.1.7)

seringueiro rubber tapper; traditional people

(cf. 2.2; 3.3.2; 3.4.2)
Glossary of Settler Terms

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Appendix 95

Memory Minutes of Questionings

Informatione: A
Sexo: m
Idade: 52
Profissão: Engº Florestal
Institução: Ibama
Região do trabalho do campo: Amazônia Leste

1. Qual termo para a figura de pequeno agricultor na Amazônia se usa em geral?

- Sempre uso agricultor familiar porque acho esse termo sendo o mais neutro. O termo de
pequeno agricultor não se usa mais.

2. No seu olhar, é termo político?

- Sim, é o governo que define esse termo.

3. Funciona como termo genérico que inclui todos os atores dessa figura?

- Sim, inclui todos.

4. Se distingue entre populações traducionais e migrantes recentes? Quem faz parte da

categoria população tradicional?

- Sim, faço a distinção. Agro-extrativista, quilombola ou ribeirinho fazem parte da categoria

da populaçã tradicional.

5. Se vê uma diferenca entre colono e assentado?

- Vejo. Não usaria colono porque tenho a impressão que traz uma conotação negativa. Tem
a ver com colonizadores e colonização. É um termo antigo para mim.

6. O termo caboclo ainda está usado? Funciona como termo genérico para a categoria da
população tradicional?

- Não se usa mais. Tem origem genética. É aquele que seja de mistura de branco com índio.
Traz elementos negativos.

7. Como é que se auto-identificam?

- Como agricultores, de vez em quando se usam o termo agricultor familiar. Já ouvi.


Informante: B
Sexo: m
Idade: 40 anos
Profissão: Engº Agrônomo
Institução: Cifor
Região do trabalho do campo: Atualmente município de Porto de Moz

1. Qual termo para a figura de pequeno agricultor na Amazônia se usa em geral?

-. Sobretudo pequeno agricultor ou pequeno produtor.

2. No seu olhar, é termo político?

- Não necessariamente, um termo político seria agricultor familiar.

3. Funciona como termo genérico que inclui todos os atores dessa figura?

- Não, por exemplo o ribeirinho não está incluido nessa categoria.

4. Se distingue entre populações traducionais e migrantes recentes? Quem faz parte da

categoria população tradicional?

- Sim, faço distinção. O ribeirinho é tradicional, tem origem indígena, conhecimento local,
estrategia econômica é a da floresta enquanto o pequeno produtor não é daqui, é de outra
regiao. Está tudo organizado, trabalha com gado.

5. Se vê uma diferenca entre colono e assentado?

- Vejo. O colono não é uma figura temporal, já faz tempo que está na região. O assentado
está na região mais recente, tipo cinco anos. Antes disso, não tinha terra. Tem essa
conotação de “sem-terra”. Não vem da Amazônia.

6. O termo caboclo ainda está usado? Funciona como termo genérico para a categoria da
população tradicional?

- Está usado, sim. Também pode dizer genérico embora o termo ribeirinho estivesse melhor.

7. Como é que se auto-identificam?

- O próprio ribeirinho não se identifica como tal ou como caboclo porque tem conotação
pejorativo- é alguém que more na beira do rio, não trabalhe, fique preguiçoso. Eles se
identificam como lavradores.
Appendix 97

Informante: C
Sexo: f
Idade: 39
Profissão: Eng. Agrônoma, professora, estudante de doutorado, sócia de uma empresa que
trabalha com consultorias para comunidades amazônicas, consultora para assuntos de
desenvolvimento socioambiental
Instituição: trabalho com participação social (4 projectos) – Instituto de Ensinos
Superiores da Amazônia – IESAM (professora), Núcleo de Altos Estudos da Amazônia –
NAEA na Universidade Federal do Pará – UFPA (aluna de doutorado), Assessoria
Comunitária e Ambiental S/S Ltda. (sócia de uma empresa de assessoria para
Região do trabalho do campo: Território Quilombola de Jambuaçu, município de Moju,
Pará; município de Santa Bárbara, Pará; área de influência da BR-163, nos municípios
de Altamira e Santarém

1. Qual termo para a figura de pequeno agricultor na Amazônia se usa em geral?

- Uso o termo camponês como termo genérico para ficar mais fiel a todos os grupos sociais
na matriz de campesinato amazônico. Faz parte da escola do pensamento social.
2. No seu olhar, é termo político?

- É, de ponto de vista social.

3. Funciona como termo genérico que inclui todos os atores dessa figura?

- Sim, também inclui os quilombolas, agricultores familiares ou caboclos.

4. Se distingue entre populações traducionais e migrantes recentes? Quem faz parte da

categoria população tradicional?

- Sim, faço distinção. O caboclo e ribeirinho são tradicionais. No outro lado tem os
migrantes que não nasceram na Amazônia e mudaram para cá para viver e produzir.

5. Se vê uma diferenca entre colono e assentado?

-Sim, se existe uma diferença. Colono é um termo mais genérico que funciona como uma
guarda-sol sobre os categorias. O assentado é uma categoria específica do colono. É um
termo político que está ligado ao MST.

6. O termo caboclo ainda está usado? Funciona como termo genérico para a categoria da
população tradicional?

-Sim, está. O caboclo é o camponês tipico da Amazônia, quer dizer o caráter principal.
Também funciona como termo genérico. Ribeirinho faz parte também- é caboclo. Existem
certas excepções como no caso do ribeirinho-colono.

7. Como é que se auto-identificam?

- Como lavrador ou agricultor. Como caboclo não porque o termo está ligado ás conotações
negativas como por exemplo preguiça.

Informante: D
Sexo: f
Idade: 54 anos
Profissão: socióloga
Institução: UFPa – Universidade Federal do Pará, Reserva Mamirauá
Região do trabalho do campo: Reserva Mamirauá – Tefé, Amazonas

1. Qual termo para a figura de pequeno agricultor na Amazônia se usa em geral?

- Como eu trabalho com populações da várzea, eu uso o termo populações locais como
termo genérico que transmite numa maneira mais justa a identidade desse povo. Também
uso ribeirinho. É aquele que viva em harmonia com a natureza. No outro lado, tem o
pequeno produtor que se orienta pelo mercado comercial.

2. No seu olhar, é termo político?

- Sim, o do ribeirinho é.

3. Funciona como termo genérico que inclui todos os atores dessa figura?

- Inclui só esses que fazem parte das populações locais.

4. Se distingue entre populações traducionais e migrantes recentes? Quem faz parte da

categoria população tradicional?

- Sim, faço a distinção. Na várzea, onde eu trabalho, tem poucos migrantes de outras regiões
e normalmente não se integraram nas comunidades locais. Em termos da população local
tem o ribeirinho que se distingue entre aquele que mora na várzea e aquele que mora na
beira do rio em áreas de terra firme.

5. Se vê uma diferenca entre colono e assentado?

- Onde eu trabalho não tenho muito contato com colonos ou assentados. Em Tefé, o colono é
aquele que mora na cidade e tem roça no campo para trabalhar. Não conseguiu emprego e
por isso procuram terras na cidade para fazer suas roças Arrendam terras para isso. O
assentado é aquele que sem-terra que foi assentado pelo governo.

6. O termo caboclo ainda está usado? Funciona como termo genérico para a categoria da
população tradicional?

- Esse termo foi criado de fora e por isso é polémico. Eu não usaria. Traz conotações
negativas – descreve alguem que seja inferior, e de mistura de branco com índio.

7. Como é que se auto-identificam?

- Como povo da várzea, moradores da várzea, vargeiros, ou referem-se ao local, à própria

comunidade. Como ribeirinho não- essa categoria foi criada de fora para eles.
Appendix 99

Informatione: E
Sexo: f
Idade: 24
Profissão: advogada, engenheira florestal
Institução: Sectam
Região do trabalho do campo: Pará

1. Qual termo para a figura de pequeno agricultor na Amazônia se usa em geral?

-Sempre uso agricultor familiar porque é o mais comum. Também usámos esse termo na
faculdade. O termo camponês parece bem histórico e está ligado a movimentos sociais. O
termo pequeno agricultor é usado também.

2. No seu olhar, é termo político?

- É.

3. Funciona como termo genérico que inclui todos os atores dessa figura?

- Sim, inclui todos.

4. Se distingue entre populações traducionais e migrantes recentes? Quem faz parte da

categoria população tradicional?

- Sim, vejo uma distinção. Agro-extrativista e ribeirinho fazem parte da categoria da popu-
lação tradicional.

5. Se vê uma diferenca entre colono e assentado?

- Vejo. Não usaria colono mais porque parece muito antigo como no caso de camponês. Faz
muito tempo que estão na terra. No outro lado o termo assentado está ligado à Reforma
Agrária. Assentados fazem parte dos programas do governo. São migrantes que chegaram
recentemente, no máximo três ou quatro anos atrás. Recebem terra do governo que paga por
eles. Construem casas na terra nova e fazem agricultura. Os termos não são sinónimos.

6. O termo caboclo ainda está usado? Funciona como termo genérico para a categoria da
população tradicional?

- Ainda está usado como categoria social mas traz conotações prejoratívas como preguiça.
Tem origem genética. É aquele que seja de mistura de branco com índio. É excluido.

7. Como é que se auto-identificam?

- Não posso dizer isso porque não trabalho no campo com os próprios pequenos

Informante: F
Sexo: m
Idade: 32 anos
Profissão: Engº Agrônomo
Institução: Forlive
Região do trabalho do campo: Transamazonica; Porto de Moz (Oeste Pará)

1. Qual termo para a figura de pequeno agricultor na Amazônia se usa em geral?

- O trabalho influenciou essa decisão. Logo depois da Faculdade sempre usava o termo
agricultor familiar. Depois de começar a trabalhar para Forlive era sobretudo o pequeno

2. No seu olhar, é termo político?

- Sim, os dois são termos políticos.

3. Funciona como termo genérico que inclui todos os atores dessa figura?

- O pequeno produtor inclui várias figuras como extrativistas ou os próprios ribeirinhos. No

caso de agricultor não funciona assim, esse termo já sugere uma forma de agricoltura.

4. Se distingue entre populações traducionais e migrantes recentes? Quem faz parte da

categoria população tradicional?

- Sim, faço distinção entre pequenos agricultores e populações tradicionais. Para mim, os
ribeirinhos ou quilombolos fazem parte da categoria de populações tradicionais. Essa
decisão depende da própria produção do produtor.

5. Se vê uma diferenca entre colono e assentado?

- Tem dois tipos da imigração, uma mais antiga e outra mais recente. O colono sugere das
colonias, quais se tem na região nordeste do Pará. O colono é o assentado antigo. O
assentado de hoje está ligado ao MST.

6. O termo caboclo ainda está usado? Funciona como termo genérico para a categoria da
população tradicional?

-Não uso mais, porque exprime essa mistura de índio e imigrante europeia. Não existe esse
caráter de caboclo de verdade. Antigamente, o termo foi usado para generalizar os grupos
tradicionais na Amazônia. No meu ver, cada grupo tradicional tem uma forma da vida e
produção particular que não dá para generalizar. Hoje em dia, o traço tradicional está
caraterizado pela mistura de mentalidade tradicional e capitalismo.

7. Como é que se auto-identificam?

- Na região de Transamazônica como pequeno produtor e no Porto de Moz como ribeirinho.

Appendix 101

Informante: G
Sexo: m
Idade: 27 anos
Profissão: Engº Florestal
Institução: Forlive, Manejo Comunitário Florestal
Região do trabalho do campo: Pará, Acre

1. Qual termo para a figura de pequeno agricultor na Amazônia se usa em geral?

- Pequeno produtor e agricultor familiar, mas sinto dificuldade em frente dessas categorias.
O agricultor familiar não representa todos. É uma tentativa reconhecer essa categoria ou
classe social dos pescadores, produtores florestais, etc.

2. No seu olhar, é termo político?

- O agricultor familiar é. No outro lado, o pequeno produtor é mais aquele que trabalhe na
produção florestal. Esse termo é usado mais para fazer uma distinção entre grande e
pequenos produtores.

3. Funciona como termo genérico que inclui todos os atores dessa figura?

- Não existe um termo genérico para todos.

4. Se distingue entre populações traducionais e migrantes recentes? Quem faz parte da

categoria população tradicional?

- Sim, faço distinção. Ribeirinhos ou quilombolos fazem parte da categoria de populações

tradicionais enquanto o migrante está ligado à questão da fronteira.

5. Se vê uma diferenca entre colono e assentado?

- O assentado é ocupante mais recente de uma nova fronteira. Tem os projetos

governamentais de assentamentos. O colono, no outro lado, é o migrante pioneiro. È aquele
que não tem documento da terra, não tem reconhecimento. É o camponês antigo. Os termos
colono e assentado sugiram dos dois momentos differentes da ocupação da Amazônia.

6. O termo caboclo ainda está usado? Funciona como termo genérico para a categoria da
população tradicional?

- É utilizado mais na Antropologia e nos estudos socio-culturais. Esse termo tem a ver com
tradicionalidade e costumes. Eu mesmo não usaria.

7. Como é que se auto-identificam?

- Como agricultor.

Informante: H
Sexo: m
Idade: 40 anos
Profissão: Engº Florestal
Institução: Imazon
Região do trabalho do campo: Amazônia total

1. Qual termo para a figura de pequeno agricultor na Amazônia se usa em geral?

- Pequeno produtor florestal e colonos. Pequeno produtor florestal é a figura mais nativa.
Os colonos são os migrantes, agricultores.

2. No seu olhar, é termo político?

- É. A política faz diferença a respeito da origem de populações diferentes.

3. Funciona como termo genérico que inclui todos os atores dessa figura?

- Não existe um termo genérico.

4. Se distingue entre populações traducionais e migrantes recentes? Quem faz parte da

categoria população tradicional?

- Faço, sim. Populações tradicionais são os extrativistas ou agro-extrativistas, castanheiros,

ou seringueiros

5. Se vê uma diferenca entre colono e assentado?

- São sinônimos. A diferença se revela pelo uso de recursos florestais.

6. O termo caboclo ainda está usado? Funciona como termo genérico para a categoria da
população tradicional?

- Não se usa. Esse termo tem uma noção cultural- dança tradicional por exemplo.

7. Como é que se auto-identificam?

- Depende de relação aos recursos florestais. Pode ser extrativista, colono ou produtor
rural. Pequeno produtor não, é designação pejoratíva.
Appendix 103

Informante: I
Sexo: f
Idade: 30 anos
Profissão: Contadora
Institução: NAEA, Forlive
Região do trabalho do campo: Baixo Tocantis, Pará e Acre

1. Qual termo para a figura de pequeno agricultor na Amazônia se usa em geral?

- Agricultor familiar e pequeno produtor. Antes de agricultor familiar, se usou camponês

que sempre estava ligado á família como o agricultor familiar de hoje. Pequeno produtor
uso mais na terminologia de Forlive.

2. No seu olhar, é termo político?

- Os dois termos são termo políticos. Não são termos que nasceram naturalmente. No caso
de agricultor familiar existe uma lei chamado Lei agricultura familiar. Agricultor familiar
foi definido pelo MDA nos anos 90.

3. Funciona como termo genérico que inclui todos os atores dessa figura?

- Pode ser, sim.

4. Se distingue entre populações traducionais e migrantes recentes? Quem faz parte da

categoria população tradicional?

- Sim, faço distinção. Eu trabalho com ribeirinhos que têm costume local. São agricultores
mais antigos da região.

5. Se vê uma diferenca entre colono e assentado?

- O assentado é um termo específico, político. Colono tem a ver com colonização espontânea
e os migrantes que vieram por causa da borracha.

6. O termo caboclo ainda está usado? Funciona como termo genérico para a categoria da
população tradicional?

- Caboclo não se usa. Também não se pode usar para designar a população tradicional.

7. Como é que se auto-identificam?

- Como agricultores.