National Geographic : 2002 Aug
A rosary sways with every pothole as a bus transportsBahian cane cutters to a plantationnear Cachoeira. Using his own horsepower,Derival Santos Silva leaves hisfamily (right)and heads outfor his job runningcattle andgrowing coconuts. Silva works for an absentee landlord,a common situationin Bahia. In colonial times huge tracts of land were granted to a few owners, a pattern that endures: In Brazil today 5 percent of the populationowns 80 percent of the property.Land reform has become an intractableissue inflamed by deadly show downs between squattersand landowners.Among the flash points are the backcountry com munities calledquilombos, founded by slaves who jumped ship in All Saints Bay orfled mines and plantations.In 1988 the government recognized the rights of quilombo residents to own land they and their ancestors had worked for centuries.But theirhope of claiming that land is stymied by a lack of documentation-longago Brazil destroyed most official slave records.