Freed Slaves Take on Brazilian Government

Many among the 42 families in the Nova Conquista, or New Conquest, settlement share horror stories of toiling away on fields in Brazil’s Amazon for little or no pay. Enslavement often began with a recruiter paid to lure workers to remote ranches with the promise of a salary.

Sleeping under tarps and in stables, drinking the same dirty water given to animals, and far from their families and out of reach of official inspectors, the people of Nova Conquista found themselves indebted for their food, travel, equipment and accommodations, which is often nothing more than a shack with no electricity or running water.

But it’s no longer the experience of slavery that ties the people of Nova Conquista together. It’s the five-year fight to demand that the Brazilian government compensate them for their lost time. Under Brazilian law, they are entitled to back pay, but the bureaucratic process often drags on and becomes such a financial drain that many workers give up. Not the families of Nova Conquista.

With the help of Catholic Relief Services’ partner Pastoral Land Commission, the Nova Conquista group organized, demanded and received 2,670 acres of land and material to build more than 30 houses in their hometown of Monsenhor Gil in northeastern Brazil.

January 11 is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day.  Join Catholic Relief Services in the fight against slavery and human trafficking, and meet the people who went from slave to successful homeowner.

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