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Margarita Duran holds a banner for the Centro do Migrante at the March of Margaridas.

“Margarita, in August we’re going to Brasilia for the Marcha das Margaridas (Daisies March), want to come?” asked Sister Malgarete, the organizer of the Centro do Migrante, where I do ministry. Hearing this name for the first time, I wondered, “What is the Marcha das Margaridas all about?”

I learned that Margarida Maria Alves was a Brazilian women’s rural rights activist, who was assassinated on August 12, 1983, by farmers who feared her influence over the region’s poor rural workers, especially her fight for women’s rights within the region. Among other things, she fought for a fair wage for rural working women and access to education. But Margarida’s voice has continued through the Marcha das Margaridas, which is held in Brazil’s capital, Brasilia, and many other Brazilian cities on August 13-14 every four years.

I responded to Sister Malgarete a few days later, “The values and mission of this movement are captivating and relate to my own. As an opportunity to grow culturally, spiritually and socially, I want to take part.”

Sister Malgarete (on the right of Margarita), Sister Lucilene(left of Margarita), Sister Nadir (far left), Sister Fatima (sitting on right), and Sister Aparecida (sitting on left), all Missionary Servants of the Holy Spirit

This year marked the 6th march, gathering men and women from the countryside, the forests, and water-based communities. For the first time, the event was joined by participants of the first Indigenous Women’s March, which took place one day prior to the March.

On Tuesday, August 13, roughly 30,000 people joined for the opening ceremony of the March. The theme was “Margaridas fighting for a Brazil with People’s Sovereignty, Democracy, Justice, Equality, and Non-Violence.” The women chanted and danced with an incredible energy that shook the walls and ceiling of the park pavilion.

One of the details that struck me was the sleeping arrangements for all the people who could not afford otherwise. The Pavilion, aside from the stage spaces, was filled with mattresses, sleeping bags, blankets etc. where the participants were sleeping during the March. Most of these men and women came from countryside and/or poor communities and traveled for days just to be present in such an important cause. Fortunately, the city of Brasilia opens the space during every march and not only provides a roof, but food and water.

Wednesday, August 14 – the March began with the rise of the warm sun. The sisters and I ran to the starting point of the March only to find that it had already taken off. It did not phase us that there were over 100,000 people present, yet we caught up to the very front. Simply amazing was the power and strength of the union among all the participants we walked by.

Along the way I met women from various Brazilian states as well as from Venezuela, Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, Argentina, Ecuador, etc. I was in awe by the vision, originality and finesse the women marched with. It was one of the most powerful experiences I’ve had thus far: walking, chanting, and dancing as one voice crying out for justice with such wonderful people from all corners of the world.

The March came to its end Wednesday afternoon after arriving at the congressional ministry terrace. Simply put, I was one proud and inspired Margarida. For that reason, the purple bracelet we were given upon entry to the pavilion, stayed on my wrist for the following week after arriving back in Sao Paulo.

Concluding the March, I stumbled upon the words of Martin Luther King Jr. which have stuck with me ever since, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

Margarita Duran Margarita Duran
Margarita Duran teaches art, P.E., English and catechism to children from immigrant, refugee and low-income families on the margins of São Paulo. She also works in prison ministry.