Our History


Building Histories of Resistance

The Centro de Estudos do Trabalho e de Assessoria ao Trabalhador – CETRA, Organização da Sociedade Civil (OSC) has its history told through the people who built it. Officially created in December 30, 1981, in Ceará State, had as foundation the work that was already being developed since 1978, when the lawyer Antonio Pinheiro Freitas, known as Mr. Pinheiro, was invited by the Priest Moacir Cordeiro Leite, vicar in Aratuba, CE at the time, to provide legal assistance to rural workers that were organizing themselves towards the fight for land tenure. The work there involved legal and social assistance which included political training process with this social segment, through courses, meetings, study groups and basic publications and adopted, in this process, as it still does, a participatory methodology. From Aratuba, this action embraced the Baturité Massif and its surrounding. Considering the ecclesial closeness with the Central Backwoods, this actions reached Quixadá and Quixeramobim communities that saw themselves in the project and were participating on the CEBs in Aratuba.



In Quixadá happened the first public lawsuit, in 1978, creating a greater visibility to the path of legal assistance supporting the fight for the land in Ceará, which originated CETRA. The Monte Castelo farm was the stage in that county for the conflict between farmers, the landlord and the armed police, which, after all, took several public lawsuits to Quixadá’s judicial district. The lawsuit took about four years, in 1982 the land was expropriated due to social interest by the Instituto Nacional de Colonização e Reforma Agrária – INCRA, after the death of a gunslinger introduced on the farm by the landlord to threaten and even kill the farm workers, who use to live in that land, if he thought it necessary. Actually, this was, above all, a way to threat and inhibit the organization process of the farm dwellers.



From the Central Backwoods this legal assistance took course towards the Ibiapaba mountain range, setting up in Tianguá, Viçosa, Ibiapina, headed to Camocim, in the coastal communities of Guriú, Mangue Seco and Quebra Braço, which originated the Guriú subisidence.



It was the military dictatorship time and the civilian society was organizing itself towards the redemocratization of the country, towards freedom, and towards justice in the field and in the city. The social, student, worker-union, catholic movements and CEBs, were facing repression, but they were getting stronger inside, and, against the injustice and arbitrary acts forced by the military regime, the organized struggles emerged facing repression and the power of the owners (of the land and means of labour). From the mountain range to the backwoods and to the coast. It was in this path that in 1982 CETRA settled in Itapipoca due to the invitation of the diocesan bishop at the time, Dom Paulo Ponte, to advise the pastoral and community movements through the diocese. At that place there was already a strong mobilization of rural workers in several communities towards the fight to conquer the land, highlighting the coastal communities of this region like Sabiaguaba in Amontada, Várzea do Mundaú in Trairi and Maceió in Itapipoca. The area comprehended in Maceió lands encompassed twelve communities and there was a strong articulation among this lands dwellers that became a reference due to the social and politic organization. When the land was expropriated by INCRA, it was given the name of Assentamento Maceió. That’s where the first councilman rural worker in Ceará in the 1980’s was elected.


At the same time, the team was acting along the union movement offering legal assistance to urban workers of different categories. In the middle of 1982, CETRA started to work to help the organization of rural women workers, where rural female leaderships being highlighted in state and national level arose. An articulation of rural female workers in Northeast level originated the Movimento da Mulher Trabalhadora Rural do Nordeste/MMTR-Ne, with CETRA’s collaboration in the process.


In 1994, CETRA goes through a process of transition from legal assistance to rural technical assistance along the families in the land conquered, starting to act primarily at Itapipoca’s region and resetting the action strategy, now focused on increasing life quality of families in the space they conquered, in other words, their subsidence in the land they came from


The beginning of years 2000 marked a new phase, when the institution got associated to the Articulação do Semirárido Brasileiro – ASA – and the issue about the coexistence with the semi-arid became part of the schedule. They understood that even with the climate limitations of the region, this wasn’t the real problem causing bad life conditions to the population. In the same period the entity schedules its way back to the Central Backwoods, through the celebration of a convention to accomplish actions of the Projeto Dom Helder Câmara/PDHC. Since then, the discussions and reflections about the reality of northeastern backwoods became deeper and the concept of an inhospitable semi-arid was being deconstructed, on the contrary, they claim to be possible, to live well and with life quality in Brazilian semi-arid. Therefore, projects and actions were developed to the implantation of social technology to rainwater harvesting and to build a new vision of agriculture in an agroecological perspective, rescuing the traditional practices, and, with a greater comprehension about the environmental reality, it was created a new form of relationship between the people and the climate we live in.


Pointing in another direction, we are referring to the actions related to socioeconomic solidarity. From its principles, CETRA encouraged rural credit cooperatives, agroecological and  solidarity fairs and the adoption of the Fundo Rotativo Solidário/FRS, taking always in consideration the equality of gender and generations, even about the productive work that generates income and financial autonomy for rural women and youth. The entity works with family farmers, adults and young.

The entity is one of the founders of the Associação Brasileira de Organizações NãoGovernamentais (ABONG) and it’s associated to the Movimento Nacional de Direitos Humanos, besides articulating with the Rede ATER Nordeste and the Movimento de Mulheres Trabalhadoras Rurais do Nordeste.

It performs partnerships with organizations to develop its strategic actions, like the Rede ATER Nordeste, the ASA Brasil and other local organizations.


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