Slave labor needs to be punished by cutting the evil in the bud – 09/03/2023 – Tom Farias

The history of slave labor in the wineries of the city of Bento Gonçalves, in Rio Grande do Sul, involving companies Aurora, Salton and Cooperativa Garibaldi, is still in my throat. First, because they are recurrent racist stories almost daily in newspaper, radio and TV news; second, because the excuses of the companies remain in the tattered pattern, within the logic of victimization of the executioner, the slave owner, the overseer, always taking the body away – the same thing happens when you blame the woman who is raped because of the clothes you wear at the crime scene.

Bento Gonçalves, an important city in the Serra Gaúcha, nationally known as the Brazilian capital of wine, should now gain a new label: the capital of slavery, almost 135 years after the so-called abolition of slavery in the country.

By irony of fate, in 1870, it was called Colonia Dona Isabel, in honor of Princess Isabel. It is a region notorious for its European colonization, which brought Italians, Russians, Spaniards, French, Poles to Brazil – in the wake of the Brazilian imperial government, which, in addition to the country’s racial whitening project, drastically changed the demography of this region, which a few years ago also officially adopted a second language, “Talian”, a dialect from northern Italy, also spoken in the interior of Santa Catarina, Paraná, Espírito Santo and São Paulo.

There is no doubt of the importance of the south of the country in the field of viticulture, that is, all the science that involves the cultivation of grapes and the production of wines. The economy thanks you. What cannot be accepted is the practice of slave labor, highly demeaning and violent to Brazilian workers.

In the past, due to the immigration of European people, especially Italians, this industry only prospered because of the qualified treatment given and offered to this workforce. Everything that doesn’t occur now.

The “strangeness” of companies in the face of fait accompli sounds embarrassing. What types of contracts are these signed with your suppliers, where the payer and the receiver have no control over how your products and services are made or offered? Or are you only thinking about the profit from this barbaric and inhuman process? And what’s worse: the outsourced companies are now to blame, as if there were no financial and business co-management program.

The genius Machado de Assis (1839-1908), in the book “Relíquias da Casa Velha”, from 1906, published the story “Pai Contra Mãe”. The story is one of the most current in our literature and the vintage bequeathed by the black writer from Rio de Janeiro.

In the opening passage, he says: “Slavery took crafts and devices with it, as would have happened to other social institutions. I won’t mention some devices except because they were linked to a certain craft. One of them was the iron around the neck, another the iron at the foot; there was also the tinplate mask.”

It is quite likely that these workers were “beaten up” by means of these “trades and devices”, which slavery took but which were repatriated in the Serra Gaúcha, no longer under the Emperor’s eyes, but under the eyes of the constituted authorities.

This is not the time for daydreams. Companies need to nip the problem in the bud – after almost a hundred years operating in the region – and feel firsthand how much these workers felt in their own flesh, in that modern pillory called “order of service” and in these new slave quarters, commonly known as accommodation.

Another important thing: what happened in Serra Gaúcha is not an isolated case, nor is it thoughtless. Let’s get the vision. Right here in this Folha I have already described some of these cases, with different brands: from cases of “people who are from families” to luxury brands of clothes and shoes.

And about the presumed financial impacts on industry and local tourism, now the focus of businessmen and politicians, know that

what matters most are human lives. And black. Times are different. Here’s the tip.

One note: I fully support the opinion of Djamila Ribeiro, a columnist for this Folha, against the attacks on journalist Maju Coutinho, in the coverage of Rio Carnival. Maju is a competent, serious professional, committed to bringing the best to Brazilian TV viewers.

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