Seventh Marcha das Margaridas

The march of hope

We arrived at Brasilia, after a long trip, to join a new Marcha das Margaridas. Expectations were running high and so was the excitement at being able to participate.

Amalia Antúnez

23 | 08 | 2023

Photo: Amalia Antúnez

Every four years, the 50,000-m2 space that is the Exhibition Pavilion at Brasilia’s Parque da Cidade is set up to receive the thousands of women who come to the city from all corners of Brazil and from other parts of the world.

The delegation of the Latin American Women’s Committee of the IUF (Clamu) was made up of seven fellow women unionists, who were joined by the General Secretary of the international labor federation, Sue Longley.

Following the warm greetings that mark each new gathering of this group of women, we headed to the area in the camping grounds where most of the people coming to the march stay.

In the buildings of the Exhibition Pavilion, some participants set up their tents, while others throw mattresses on the floor or hang their hammocks, preparing to spend the night.

Our affiliate CONTAG is in charge of organizing the event and it has done a simply amazing job.

There is a sector where tables and chairs are set out for the meals available to participants during the day, and water stations distributed at several spots, because the weather in Brasilia at this time of year is very dry and it is essential that marchers stay well hydrated to walk the six kilometers to Planalto Central.

Amazement, admiration, discussions

The seventh edition of the Marcha das Margaridas (or March of the Daisies, a large demonstration held every four years in Brazil to demand more rights for rural women and workers in general) is my first. As I tour the facilities, I go from awe to admiration.

There are thousands of women of many different ethnic groups, coming from many places we did not even know existed. They have gathered there under a common cause, but they are also sharing in the joy that this event brings.

On the first day, there are workshops on the main issues of the mobilization, interspersed with cultural and musical shows.

Participatory democracy and popular sovereignty, political engagement of women, living a violence-free life, democratization of land access, environmental defense, and promotion of agroecology are among the many issues discussed by participants.

I arrive at Parque da Cidade with Rose Castro, Viviana Córdoba, Laura Díaz, Silvina Scacheri, Marta Anariba, Jaqueline Leite, and Sue Longley, where we register as guests and begin exploring the different spaces.

Late in the afternoon, the leaders who organize the March arrive for the official launching of the event. Along with government authorities, including the heads of the Culture and Women’s Ministries, is our fellow unionist Mazé Morais, secretary of the women’s division at CONTAG and coordinator of the event.

The several-day bus journey that most participants must make to come to Brasilia—some traveling for as many as seven days—cannot dampen these women’s rejoicing, as they sing, dance, and celebrate being part of the largest mobilization of women workers in all of Latin America and maybe even the world.

On the day of the march itself, participants gather very early and set out in regional segments behind a large truck that serves at the same time as a sort of stage, where leaders stand urging on and guiding the crowd.

The police forms a security cordon surrounding the march until it reaches the area reserved for the event at the Esplanada dos Ministérios, with marchers taking up the entire street.

Among batucadas and memories

We are in the international segment, where we find fellow women unionists from Europe, Africa, and Asia. We march alongside them for a bit, but our Latin blood gets the better of us and we have to join in the revelry of the batucada music, dancing to that samba rhythm typical of the Brazilian Northeast, as we move along forward.

I make my way through several segments to have a photographic record of the immense diversity that unites us, and I feel proud to be a part—even a small part—of this sea of people who make Brasilia flourish for the whole world to see.

Marchers in flip-flops, sneakers, even barefoot, decked out in typical costumes, wearing t-shirts with their union and organization logos, all of them with hats or caps, move forward with the ever-present memory of the struggle of the woman who gives this march its name: Margarida María Aleves, the first female president of a rural workers’ union, who was viciously slaughtered for defending the right to land and decent work in rural areas.

We arrive at the site of the demonstration singing. The sun is starting to burn, and most marchers are excitedly anticipating the arrival of President Lula.

Marta, Rose, Viviana, Sue, Jaqueline, and Laura, who participated in the last edition, held in 2019 under the government of far-right president Jair Bolsonaro, highlight the differences between that march and this one.

“To think that four years ago we were right here calling for Lula’s freedom and today we have him here with us,” a visibly moved Marta recalls.

“The 2019 march took place against a backdrop of permanent tension, with the police verbally attacking us, and everyone afraid of a crackdown. But today it is all joy, excitement, and freedom,” Rose says.

The crowd grows thicker, everyone wants to be near the stage, they all want to hear the government’s answers to the demands raised in the “Margaridas” agenda. But, above all, they want to hear their president speak.

Photo: Amalia Antúnez
Recovering rights

Mazé, her voice hoarse and overcome with emotion, says that with this government they are recovering many of the rights that were taken away from them by the previous one.

There are many speakers, including labor leaders, senators, and ministers, both male and female. Sue is on the stage with the other authorities, where she witnesses the moment and later shares it with us.

“It was thrilling to be up there and hear the people cheering wildly when the president arrived,” she tells us.

Lula da Silva does not disappoint. In his speech, which closes the event, he lists one by one all the social plans that his administration is going to resume, highlighting those that are directly connected with agriculture and rural workers and laborers, the ones that have to do with agrarian reform and delimiting the lands of indigenous peoples.

“I want you all to know that I am not just a president to you; I am one of you and I am here to listen. Do not be afraid of demanding what you believe are your rights,” Lula said as the crowd cheered and waved their hats in the air as a sign of approval and gratitude.

One and all

Exhausted but happy, we headed back with our hearts filled with hope. Along the way, we ran into other Clamu members who had come to the march from various cities. We embraced and felt our spirits soaring.

As we are thinking of all our Clamu sisters who wanted to participate and were unable to, Laura reminds us that “each one of us represents us all.”

How wise her words are. It applies to Clamu and all the women in the world who came before us in the struggles we are still fighting today.

Brave women who did not hesitate to fight for their rights and in doing so fought for everyone’s rights; all the women who fought to be heard and to defend with love and courage the construction of a more just, inclusive, and equal world.

To all the “Margaridas” of the world: respect, admiration, and gratitude.

Photo: Amalia Antúnez