Quilombo 130 | No Land, No Freedom - Sacopa

Looking at the statue of Christ the Redeemer, Luiz Pinto sits outside his small house as small monkeys steal fruit from a tree in the lush rainforest surrounding his home in one of Rio's most expensive neighborhoods.

Pinto is not a rich man - he is a quilombola, one of 16 million people in Brazil descended from runaway slaves. His small brick house next to the Rodrigo de Freitas lagoon sits on prime Rio real estate.

The neighborhood has been gentrified since the 1960s as affluent people have been seeking homes in the lakeside area popular for its views of one of the city's most iconic sights and proximity to the Atlantic Ocean.

When Brazil abolished slavery 130 years ago this Sunday, at least 4 million slaves had arrived there from Africa to work on sugar plantations and in other sectors of the country's flourishing economy.

Many of those who escaped the harsh working conditions set up homes in settlements across Brazil, known as quilombos.

"We are a true African archipelago here, a heap of black surrounded by white people," said Pinto, 76, pointing to high-rise buildings on the edge of Quilombo Sacopa, where he lives with his 31 relatives.

For quilombolas like Pinto, freedom has been bittersweet.

The Pinto family has fought in the courts for five decades to secure comprehensive land rights for their quilombo, in an area once dominated by sugar mills.

Quilombolas are among the poorest in Brazil and even though the 1988 constitution enshrined their property rights, most of them have no formal documents to prove ownership of their land.

Only 250 quilombo communities out of some 5,000 throughout Brazil have legal titles to their land, according to the Fundacao Cultural Palmares, the government body in charge of recognizing their territory and ancestry.

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