This is the story of the settlement named ‘13 de mayo’ in the area of Itapua, Paraguay and a group of peasant families – about 70 people in total – trying to maintain their identity and their unique relationship with the land they cultivate within the framework of the booming soy monoculture. The village inhabitants have been evicted 17 times from the same village, and each time it has been reconstructed. These lands are in the hands of the former dictator Stroessner’s doctor. He was given the land as a present for his loyalty, denying at the same time the right of families that have been living there for centuries.
Every time the Civil Guard or the police appear, the peasants hide in the forest with their children and a few of their belongings they are able to grab. Once they are in the jungle, they use sign language to communicate in order to alert the rest of the community. The houses and everything inside are burnt. After one or two days in hiding, they go back to their lands and start to rebuild their dwellings from the ashes. This has been happening since 2003.
In between evictions, the peasants plant for their own subsistence trying to maintain the traditional forms of planting, with the help of a ‘hand to hand’ commerce. However, the steamrolling advance of soy seems unstoppable. In Paraguay there are 2.600.000 hectares of soy – twice as much as in 2001 – and in the last year 3.8 million tons have been produced despite the drought. Moreover, 300.000 peasants are now landless, their proportions constantly increasing since 2001. There are direct links between the rise of soy culture and the eviction of many peasant settlements.
(SUB Cooperativa de Fotógrafos | Paraguay: An ocean of soybean, PRIVATE 55, pages 10-13)