population of Mendoza is rural, and 80 percent of that third has no land.” To survive, landless inhabitants of Jocolí work from Monday to Saturday, eight to 12 hours a day on far-off farms.
Encounter with dignity
Jacqueline works four hours a day in the nursery and receives a day’s wages. At times they buy boxes of tomatoes designated for family consumption, but there are other working arrangements that allow workers to take part of what they produce. Each base group is self-managed. Members choose which area they want to work in. They elect delegates to an assembly that take place every three months, and participate in biweekly regional meetings. The UST is part of Vía Campesina, and takes its inspiration from some of the principles of the MST (Landless People’s Movement) of Brazil.
“In 2002 an unprecedented encounter between campesino groups and academic agronomists occurred over the problematization of land and water,” says Manuel. In the School of Agronomy, members of the “Martin Fierro” student group developed relationships with campesinos. When they finished their studies, several agronomists decided to go live as campesinos in Lavalle. Year after year they were joined by lawyers, social workers and more agronomists. The union of both sides made possible the birth of the UST.
Facundo, 31 and Lena, 34, left the city and have been living in Jocolí for 10 years. They’ve formed families, had children, worked the land, and dedicated a lot of time to the UST. “I grew up in the country, so I don’t miss the city,” declares Facundo. “In addition to the opportunity to build a campesino organization, we had the opportunity to get beyond the whole notion of individualism through a collective economy.”
Agronomists committed to campesinos can no longer work in private firms. They have been expelled from institutions and decided to share their income from whatever jobs they may find to continue working full-time on the struggle for land. Says Facundo: “We work the land, we produce eggs, chicken, some goats, but that’s not enough. That’s why we’re created a communitarian economy among ourselves.”
“In these 10 years I learned to value the ties between people from the other side. There are many false necessities–wasting water, consumption. The relationships of solidarity and cooperation that in the city are restricted to the family circle, are more common here,” Lena explains. “The
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