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Letter from the editor | 61

Light on the history of the losers

We know that winners write history. We also know that these versions, not uncommonly, outgrow the facts. Although these two well-known clichés are true, there is a third giving some encouragement to those that struggle to reestablish real history: no lie lasts forever. The true history of the empire known until recently as the Indústrias Reunidas Francesco Matarazzo – The United Industries Francesco Matarazzo  (IRFM) is still to be told. A fragment not very flattering has begun to emerge from the Sugarcane Women project: Memoirs, coordinated by the sociologist Maria Aparecida de Moraes Silva. The study sheds light on the daily life of the sugarcane cutters on the Amália farm, owned by the IRFM for six decades, and shows how perverse labor relations were for rural workers, for most of this time. Maria Aparecida tells a little of the story of the losers.

We have to say that the relationship established by the Matarazzos with their rural workers was far from being an exception in Brazil. It was broadly reproduced throughout the country. The Rural Workers’ Statute, making the rights of workers in the country the same as those of urban workers, only came up in 1963. Before this, there were no laws granting holidays, the 13th wage (in Brazil, workers get an extra salary in the end of the year), registered employment, or medical insurance for agricultural workers. It may have been immoral but it was not illegal.

Life for women was even harder than for men. Before setting out to cut cane, they had to prepare breakfast. When they returned home, there were always the children, the dinner, and the house to take care of. It was always difficult to get a job off the plantation. And, in old age, they invariable had to take care of a sick, and not uncommonly, an alcoholic husband too. The sociologist Maria Aparecida studied the universe of agricultural workers closely. She spent her childhood on her family farm in Altinópolis, and took part in the harvest the coffee crop. She was always interested in the ways in which agricultural labor was exploited. Pesquisa FAPESP’s special reporter, Marcos Pivetta, was assigned to write about the sociologist’s fine study. The article begins on page 62.

January and February seem to be becoming auspicious months for Brazilian science. Last year, at the same time, the completion of the mapping the Xylella fastidiosa bacterium was announced. Now, in 2001, the crop of good news was still better. At an event held on January 4, the Palácio dos Bandeirantes announced the complete sequencing of the bacterium that causes citric canker in oranges, the Xanthomonas citri, and the mapping of more than 80,000 sugarcane genes. The landmark of a million sequences of expressed genes in tumors, done by the Human Genome Cancer Project, was also announced. This is double the initial target. Total coverage of the event begins on page 14.

But that was not all. FAPESP’s directors launched, at the same event, the Sectoral Consortia for Technological Innovation (ConSITec), in order to expand interaction between the research community in the State of São Paulo and the business sector (page 16). They also announced the integration of the high-speed, academic, electronic network in São Paulo, Advanced ANSP, to the  worldwide Internet 2 network (page 17). Now, we have to work to ensure that this fine tradition continues.