Sugarcane Labor in Brazil

  • Terry-Ann JonesEmail author
Part of the Mobility & Politics book series (MPP)


The book begins with a cursory discussion of the history of Brazil’s sugarcane industry and some of the past and contemporary challenges, particularly with regard to the use of labor, from slave labor to the current model of recruiting seasonal domestic migrants from less affluent northeastern states. Brazil’s social and economic structures facilitate the stark inequalities among citizens that produce this type of seasonal migration. This chapter examines the social structures that were created during the early, colonial period of sugarcane production, probing the divisions among citizens that have endured to the present time. The chapter also discusses contemporary forces that sustain the dynamics of inequality, such as globalization, and the workers’ resistance to exploitation through efforts such as the landless workers’ movement.


Brazil Sugarcane Slavery Colonialism Latifundia MST 


  1. Amaral, Ernesto Friedrich de Lima. 2013. Brazil: Internal Migration. In The Encyclopedia of Global Human Migration, ed. Immanuel Ness. Hoboken: Blackwell Publishing Ltd.Google Scholar
  2. Anderson, Benedict. 1991. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. London: Verso.Google Scholar
  3. Baptista, Emerson Augusto, Járvis Campos, and José Irineu Rangel Rigotti. 2017. Return Migration in Brazil. Mercator (Fortaleza) 16: 1–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Baptista, Emerson Augusto, Guy J. Abel, and Járvis Campos. 2018. Internal Migration in Brazil Using Circular Visualization. Regional Studies, Regional Science 5 (1): 361–364.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bolling, Christine, and Nydia R. Suarez. 2001. The Brazilian Sugar Industry: Recent Developments. Sugar and Sweetener Situation and Outlook.Google Scholar
  6. Cavalcanti, Edneida Rabêlo, and Solange Fernandes Soares Coutinho. 2005. Desertification in the Northeast of Brazil: The Natural Resources Use and the Land Degradation. Revista Sociedade & Natureza Especial (1): 891–900.Google Scholar
  7. Costa, Amanda Rodrigues Santos, Gleide de Lima Ferreira, Elizabete Buonora de Souza, and Fernando Cartaxo Rolim Neto. 2016. Desertification in Semi-Arid Northeast of Brazil | Desertificação No Nordeste Semi-Árido Do Brasil. Revista Geama 2 (4): 427–445.Google Scholar
  8. Dean, Warren. 1971. Latifundia and Land Policy in Nineteenth-Century Brazil. The Hispanic American Historical Review 51 (4): 606–625.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Felter, Claire. 2019. “U.S. Temporary Foreign Worker Programs,” Council on Foreign Relations. Accessed 12 Aug 2019.
  10. Fernandes, Bernardo Mançano. 2009. The MST and Agrarian Reform in Brazil. Socialism and Democracy 23 (3): 90–99.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Fischlowitz, Estanislau, and Madeline H. Engel. 1969. Internal Migration in Brazil. International Migration Review 3 (3): 36–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Galloway, J.H. 1971. The Last Years of Slavery on the Sugar Plantations of Northeastern Brazil. The Hispanic American Historical Review 51 (4): 586–605.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. García, Francisco Lara. 2012. Regional Shifts in Brazilian Sugarcane Production: Why Sugarcane Migrated South. Unpublished thesis, University of Arizona.Google Scholar
  14. Hoddy, Eric T., and Jonathan E. Ensor. 2018. Brazil’s Landless Movement and Rights ‘from Below.’. Journal of Rural Studies 63 (October): 74–82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Johnson, Frederick I. 1983. Sugar in Brazil: Policy and Production. The Journal of Developing Areas 17 (2): 243–256.Google Scholar
  16. Kaup, Felix. 2015. The Sugarcane Complex in Brazil: The Role of Innovation in a Dynamic Sector on Its Path Towards Sustainability. London: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Mark, Jason. 2001. Brazil’s MST: Taking Back the Land. Multinational Monitor 22 (1/2): 10–12.Google Scholar
  18. Nunberg, Barbara. 1986. Structural Change and State Policy: The Politics of Sugar in Brazil Since 1964. Latin American Research Review 21 (2): 53–92.Google Scholar
  19. Ramos, Pedro. 2001. A Evolução da Agroindústria Canavieira Paulista no Período 1946–1980: Expansionismo agrário e características da estrutura de produção. Informações Econômicas, SP 31 (8): 14–32.Google Scholar
  20. Soccol, Carlos R., Luciana P.S. Vandenberghe, Bill Costa, Adenise Lorenci Woiciechowski, Julio César de Carvalho, Adriane B.P. Medeiros, Antonio Maria Francisco, and Luiz José Bonomi. 2005. Brazilian Biofuel Program: An Overview. Journal of Scientific & Industrial Research 64 (November): 897–904.Google Scholar
  21. Szmrecsányi, Tamás. 1979. O planejamento da agroindústria canavieira do Brasil (1930–1975), Economia & planejamento Série Teses e pesquisas. São Paulo: Editora Hucitec; Universidade Estadual de Campinas.Google Scholar
  22. Valente, Rubia R., and Brian J.L. Berry. 2015. Countering Inequality: Brazil’s Movimento Sem-Terra. Geographical Review 10 (3): 263–282.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Wegenast, Tim. 2010. Cana, Café, Cacau: Agrarian Structure and Educational Inequalities in Brazil. Journal of Iberian and Latin American History 28 (1): 103–137.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Welch, Cliff. 2006. Globalization and the Transformation of Work in Rural Brazil: Agribusiness, Rural Labor Unions, and Peasant Mobilization. International Labor and Working-Class History 70 (Fall): 35–60. Globalization and the Latin-American Workplace.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Wolford, Wendy. 2003a. Families, Fields, And Fighting for Land: The Spatial Dynamics of Contention in Rural Brazil. Mobilization: An International Quarterly 8 (2): 201–215.Google Scholar
  26. ———. 2003b. Producing Community: The MST and Land Reform Settlements in Brazil. Journal of Agrarian Change 3 (4): 500–520.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. ———. 2004. Of Land and Labor: Agrarian Reform on the Sugarcane Plantations of Northeast Brazil. Latin American Perspectives 31 (2): 147–170.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. ———. 2010. This Land Is Ours Now: Social Mobilization and the Meanings of Land in Brazil. Durham: Duke University.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. ———. 2016. State-Society Dynamics in Contemporary Brazilian Land Reform. Latin American Perspectives 43 (2): 77–95. Issue 207.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Sociology and AnthropologyFairfield UniversityFairfieldUSA

Personalised recommendations