“Stevia,” by Helena Zelic

Marta Baião, 2019

Capire | 18 Aug 2021

“Stevia,” by Helena Zelic

Poem voices criticism against Coca-Cola’s land expropriation and production model.

By Helena Zelic

“Stevia” is a poem written as a tribute to the resistance of the Haitian Women’s Solidarity network [Solidarite Fanm Ayisyèn – SOFA] against the expropriation of their lands, where they grow organic crops and promote grassroots education. The inspiration for the poem came from an article produced by Capire. The territory where the Organic Farm School “Délicia Jean” is organized has been claimed by Andy Apaid Jr., a Haitian tycoon known for leading a coalition that, in 2004, staged a coup in collaboration with the United States. The occupation organized by Apaid was brutal against SOFA activists. They destroyed the fences that project participants had put up to delimited a territory of equality and production free of toxic chemicals and exploitation. Their goal grabbing their lands was to produce stevia to make sweeteners for Coca-Cola.

“Stevia” is a previously unpublished poem by Helena Zelic, a World March of Women militant from Brazil, a communication activist and worker, a poet, and the author of books including A libertação de Laura (“Laura’s Liberation,” 2021) and Durante um terremoto (“During an Earthquake,” 2018).

With this poem, I wanted to lay out that the racist and patriarchal capitalist means of production tries to conceal itself, but it’s always uncovered when there is struggle. The way we produce and what we produce—that’s a battleground, and when that’s uncovered, it renders us horrified and outraged, it sparks our sense of resistance and so many feelings. So I wanted to lay out that poetry can be a place to address, through words, this horridness, this outrage.


i’ve never been to a coca-cola factory
through the front or the back door
i’ve never seen the flow
of water through industrial tubes
its shiny bubbles, certain fumes

how many people does it take
to make enough for a bottle
to fill it move it around?
one to empty it out

i’ve never been to a coca-cola factory
we don’t know where it is
what else it can do

i’ve always been and i am in brazil

i’ve never set foot in haiti
where women are forced out of land
because stevia is in high demand
in the factories of coca-cola
in some blind, rough node
within the south of the world

Translated from Portuguese by Aline Scátola

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