Peasant Autonomy
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Story 49

Bahia, North-east Brazil – 1910

'Now it is my turn'

for bigger picture click on this photo

(Photo: Ariane Azevedo)

Bahia, North-east Brazil.

“Now it is my turn; now it is my turn,” keeps running through the head of Tonio. The cease-fire was in effect until full moon, but now it is the full moon. Any moment, the murderer could come to shoot him. Two months ago, his older brother was killed by the oldest son of the family who owns the neighbouring land. A month later, Tonio killed the murderer. He hadn't wanted to do it, but his father had shouted to him: “Think of our family's honour! Do you want your brother and your uncles to have died for nothing?”

“How long are these killings going to continue?” Tonio asks himself. A long time ago, the other family seized a big piece of their land. They took it back. Then, the other family grabbed the land again. At that time, it must have begun.
The oldest brother of his father killed the oldest son of the other family. In retaliation, the second-to-last son came to kill Tonio's uncle, the murderer. And so one after the other, from one generation to the next, eye for an eye.
Now it is my turn, but I am only just twenty years old. What do I know of life? Hard work at our sugar cane farm in the burning sun. And every time, the threat of murder and revenge, of mourning and burial.

for bigger picture click on this photo

(Photo: A. Duarte)

Bahia, North-east Brazil.

How will this end? Soon I will be shot dead. And my younger brother? He is still too young. In a few years, when he is old enough, he will avenge me. And then? This makes no sense. This has to stop. I should run away now, while it is still possible. My father would find it terrible when I would flee. Then, the family's honour would be lost. As he said bitterly a few days ago: “Look around you: there is almost nothing left. Only our family's honour. We have to save it. Keep this in mind!” But this is meaningless.


In the movie Behind the Sun (2001), the Brazilian film-maker Walter Salles tells the story of blood-feud. At the same time you get a beautiful image of the life on a sugar cane farm in a remote area.

Go to:
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'Do you think that money grows on trees in my garden?' - South-east Nigeria – around 1910 (1), story 50.
= the Table of contents, story 49.