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104 c ha p t er four Agrarian Citizenship Alternative Models of Production and Food Sovereignty The mst organizers had secured a run-down brick building, possibly a school gymnasium or auditorium deep in the backwoods of San Pedro, for the event. Hundreds of campesinos were already gathered to hear about the alternative agroecological model mst–Obispo Santiesteban would promote in their new settlement, Pueblos Unidos.1 Hot and sweaty bodies crowded onto several rows of broken wooden benches facing a small stage, where half a dozen mst leaders sat, looking down at the rank-and-file members. Many of the leaders had a ball of coca perfectly balanced inside one cheek, occasionally moving it from side to side in a rhythmic motion. Several organizers offered us a small plastic bag of coca as we set our things down on the cement floor (see Figure 3). Two main issues were on the agenda: What would the campesinos’ soon-to-be-titled community look like, and how would an agroecological area be constructed? As the meeting began, one organizer pidió la palabra (raised his hand), asking to speak to all those assembled: For five years, we have been fighting for Yuquises, since we first occupied the land in September of 2005. We have sacrificed long and hard—there were days without work, there were days during the tomadetierra [land occupation] when our children fell ill and we had no doctors or medical assistance. And now, we are about to receive title to this land from the government. This mst settlement has to change history. We have to begin thinking about the ways in which our economic model will stand against neoliberalism. . . . We have to think about the ideology of mst . . . it’s not just about getting our littlepieceoflandandworkingindependently.Thisisaboutacollective project with benefits for all. We have to think about how we will create a new system of production. agrarian citizenship 105 The speaker, José Salvatierra, suggested that the settlers invent a wholly new economic model in order to meet their structural needs. As the meeting progressed that evening, many mst members discussed their distinct understandings of community. Ponciano Sulca, for instance, stated, “There is no fear, the fear is gone. The Pueblos Unidos that we are going to create is going to be a new form of life; it will be our communal land and territory. No one will be able to take this away from us.” Luis Velásquez, a contract agricultural laborer who had studied agronomic engineering in Tarija, gave up his career to become a part of the movement. He suggested that the productive model had to be consistent with mst proposals for a new agrarian reform: “The Landless Peasant Movement stands against a neoliberal model in which agriculture is seen as a profit-making venture and productive resources are concentrated in the hands of cattle ranchers and large-scale soy producers. Our vision has to be farmer-driven, based on small-scale production, while at the same time being economically viable and ecologically sustainable.” Velásquez paid attention to broader considerations, such as families’ long-term food security, when making production decisions. Settlers expected such an approach to result in figure 3. mst swearing-in ceremony in Tierra Firme, about ten miles from Santa Cruz. Photograph by the author. 106 manufacturing identity and territorializing rights more on-farm production of the food that families required for self-sufficiency . For cash, they would need to rely on local markets, selling as much as possible to consumers in regional towns. Silvestre Saisari used the ayllu as a point of reference for how mst might implement the proposed threads from the discussion to build a new agricultural model that could anticipate an alternative economic structure to large-scale production. “For this reason,” he explained, “we need to talk about collective land distribution, one that is equal and fair, in order to get out of this terrible poverty. We are not looking to distribute land on an individual basis. . . . We must come up with another system; we must own the land and work collectively. This community can be like those of our ancestors. We could have the first ayllu in Santa Cruz. Our ayllu would include collective ownership of land, reciprocal work groups, redistribution of wealth and resources, and small-scale production.” As the community meeting unfolded, a series of unanswered questions emerged. In general, it was unclear how the many points raised by mst organizers...


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