Badass Woman of the Day: Damiana Cavanha


Image Credit: Survival International

Damiana Cavanha is the indigenous woman who recently lead the Guarani occupation of a sugar cane plantation in the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso do Sul. This is the group’s fourth attempt at occupying what they claim to be their ancestral land and the burying place of many family members who were killed under the wheels of ranch vehicles, by gunmen or pesticides all from surrounding ranchers. Cavanha herself has lost her husband and three of her children to the violence.

According to Survivor International, these Guarani have been living in an encampment on the side of a highway up until recently, when their tents were torched. It was then that they decided to try again to occupy their ancestral lands. In a statement, Cavanha explained:

Faced with the threat of death, the loss of our relatives and so much suffering and pain, we decided for the fourth time to reoccupy our land, Apy Ka’y, on 15 September 2013.

We have decided to fight and die for our land.

They most likely will suffer more violence at the hands of the ranchers, who have now hired a private security firm with a reputation for intimidating occupiers. Already, someone has poisoned the tribe’s water supply.

This case is by no means unique. Indigenous groups throughout Brazil are losing what little land they have to development projects and land hungry ranchers. Occupation is a strategy that has proven effective for other social movements like the Movimento Sem Terra (also known as Brazil’s landless movement) and many indigenous groups are using it as well. In a country so large, land is power, and unused land is concentrated in the hands of few.

The director of Survival International, Stephen Corry said of the occupation:

‘The government’s failure to restore land to the Guarani is shameful and illegal, and has been catastrophic for the Indians. President Rousseff is clearly in thrall to the agricultural lobby, which is immensely powerful and influential, and seems prepared to simply ignore her obligations under the law. In these circumstances, it isn’t surprising that the Guarani are taking matters into their own hands. They desperately need support, or they are likely to be evicted and attacked yet again.

To act now, check out Survival International’s site.


Image Credit: Survival International


96ee0a3b286e0ab66e722794b16d9276_biggerJuliana Britto Schwartz probably dresses up like Frida Kahlo a little too often.

Bay Area, California

Juliana is a digital storyteller for social change. As a writer at Feministing since 2013, her work has focused on women's movements throughout the Americas for environmental justice, immigrant rights, and reproductive justice. In addition to her writing, Juliana is a Senior Campaigner at, where she works to close the gap between the powerful and everyone else by supporting people from across the country to launch, escalate and win their campaigns for justice.

Juliana is a Latina feminist writer and campaigner based in the Bay Area.

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