Are Brazilians patriotic

Country Profiles Migration: Data - History - Politics

Frederik Schulze

Dr. Frederik Schulze is a research assistant at the chair for non-European history at the Westphalian Wilhelms University in Münster. His main research interests include the history of migration in Brazil, colonialism as well as global and knowledge history with a focus on Latin America.

Brazil is a country that is heavily influenced by immigration. The eventful history of migration is still reflected today in the population and cultural diversity. In recent times, emigration has dominated.

People with face masks against the corona virus on a busy street in Salvador, July 22nd, 2020. The checkered history of migration in Brazil is still reflected today in the population and cultural diversity. (& copy picture-alliance / dpa, Manuela Cavadas)

Migration history

Brazil is heavily influenced by immigration. But in the last few decades the largest and most populous country in South America has developed into a country of emigration. Nevertheless, it has remained the goal of transnational migration. [1] Descendants of people from all over the world live in Brazil: after Portuguese seafarers first entered the country in 1500 and took possession of it for the Portuguese crown, they built up a colonial empire in the following three centuries in which Portuguese, indigenous and African slaves lived. The latter were forcibly abducted to work on plantations.

By the time slavery was abolished in 1888, nearly four million people had been brought to Brazil from Africa (see Table 1). [2] While they were mainly used in the sugar industry in the northeast during the colonial period, from the end of the 18th century the southeast of the country became the main destination for forced migration, as coffee plantations were established there. As a result, many slaves were sold within Brazil. Those displaced to Brazil had largely alienated themselves from their cultures of origin in the course of this forced migration, even if they were able to preserve individual aspects of everyday culture such as music or food and a syncretistic religion - in which the influences of various forms of belief were combined. Resistance in the form of rioting and flight was also widespread. The quilombos, settlements of fled slaves, which still exist today, bear witness to this. After independence from Portugal in 1822, Brazil opened up to European immigration. By the outbreak of World War II, around 4.5 million migrants came to the country, mainly from Portugal, Spain and Italian and German-speaking areas. Most of them were farmers who opened up sparsely populated areas in the south and south-east of Brazil. Above all in Rio Grande do Sul, Santa Catarina, Paraná, São Paulo and Espírito Santo they operated subsistence farming or managed coffee plantations. These agricultural activities were a major contributor to the destruction of the Atlantic rainforest (Mata Atlântica). There was also urban immigration, which initially consisted of elites such as merchants, intellectuals and migrant workers with a high social status, but increasingly also included craftsmen, servants and workers. From the end of the 19th century, they contributed to the incipient industrialization and urbanization, for which the immigrant city of São Paulo is an example.

Brazil presented itself as an alternative to immigration to the USA and offered land and assistance for the migrants. [3] The elites promised themselves new free workers who should replace the slaves in the future, since slavery was abolished in Brazil in 1888. They also hoped for a territorial stabilization of the country, especially on the southern borders, where there were repeated conflicts with neighboring countries such as Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay in the 19th century. Last but not least, the elites, who themselves were of Portuguese origin, pursued a racist civilization project and wanted to "whiten" their country with European immigration (embranqueamento). The state of São Paulo in particular liked to present itself as a refuge for European civilization and distinguished itself from the more African and indigenous north-east of the country. [4] With the proclamation of the republic in 1889, all immigrants received Brazilian citizenship.

The immigrants came to Brazil primarily for economic reasons, as there was strong population growth in Europe and supply and labor market bottlenecks. Some were also political refugees, including the so-called 1848s who migrated due to the failed German revolution. At the beginning of the 20th century there were further waves of immigration, which now also came from Japan and the so-called Levant, the countries on the eastern Mediterranean. Due to the economic crisis in the Weimar Republic, a particularly large number of Germans came to Brazil in the 1920s. From the 1930s onwards, Jewish refugees from all over Central and Eastern Europe followed, seeking protection from increasing persecution and ultimately the Holocaust. [5]

Migration conflicts

Above all Germans, but also other groups who settled as farmers in homogeneous groups, sometimes had little contact with the state in the 19th century and maintained German-speaking schools and churches, also with the support of the German state and nationalist interest groups. Foreign-language associations and, as in the case of the Germans, political references to their old homeland, for example in the form of imperial birthday parties, irritated the Brazilian elites. [6] From 1900 politicians and intellectuals began to criticize the lack of assimilation of some migrant groups. Individual commentators even conjured up the "German danger" according to which German migrants could declare themselves independent and endanger the integrity of the state. [7] In reality, however, many immigrants integrated themselves into Brazilian society and did not pose a general threat. [8] When Brazil joined the "Entente" - the military alliance around France, England and Russia - during the First World War in 1917, there were riots against migrants from the Central Powers (German Empire, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire ). German-speaking institutions were temporarily closed.

In the 1930s, the state again took vehement action against the preservation of migrant cultures. Under President Getúlio Vargas, who ruled authoritarian since 1930, the state tried to strengthen Brazilian nationalism and demanded the assimilation of the immigrants. [9] An immigration authority worked on the basis of the then emerging sociology of migration, as it was developed in the USA, a quota system for desirable immigration, prevented homogeneous settlements and tried to nationalize migrants, for example by imparting patriotic content in schools. [10] In the run-up to World War II, Vargas' assimilation program intensified. The foreign organization of the NSDAP, which was also active in Brazil, was banned. [11] When war broke out, German nationals were arrested, foreign-language institutions were closed and the German language was banned in public.

As a result of the nationalization policy and a national narrative that proclaimed ethnic and cultural mixture as the core of Brazilian identity, cultural references by immigrants initially faded into the background after the Second World War. Little was said about immigration, and immigrant interest groups had little political or social influence. It was not until the 1980s that migration issues became apparent again at the local level, in cultural life and also in research, as a new interest in migration contexts arose. Regions with a German, Italian and Japanese immigration history began to use such references for tourism purposes as well. The Oktoberfest in Blumenau is one such example of invented tradition. In the context of such an identity politics and a multicultural diversification of Brazil, Afro-Brazilian groups have also made themselves felt, demanded an upgrading of African cultures and complained about racism.

Brazil as an immigration country since 1945

Immigration fell sharply after 1945, even though Brazil concluded immigration agreements with countries such as Italy and Spain and also accepted political refugees. German National Socialists also managed to go into hiding in Brazil. From the 1950s, however, internal migration from the countryside to the cities and from the northeast to the southeast, especially to São Paulo, became more important. [12] The migrants were looking for work and often found themselves in the poor settlements (favelas) of the big cities again. This social stratification had an effect on identity narratives that constructed a contrast between the south and southeast, which was dominated by migrants, and the north-east, which was marked by colonial migration.

Nowadays, Brazil is primarily a destination for South American migration. [13] This is primarily due to economic reasons. Measured against a total population of almost 210 million people, the number of 1.27 million immigrants in the years 2010–2018 is rather low. During the period mentioned, larger groups were formed by people from Bolivia (124,169), the USA (78,984), Argentina (65,793) and Colombia (60,158). [14] Since the number of many migrants is not documented, these numbers are not very reliable. Since 2002 there has been an agreement on the free movement of persons between the countries of Mercosur and Bolivia and Chile, which facilitates legal migration between these countries and gives their citizens the right to equal treatment in the host country. Peru and Ecuador as well as Colombia have since acceded to the agreement. Some African migrants have also immigrated to Brazil in recent years. A new migration law has been in force since 2017. Among other things, it enables entry with a temporary visa and defines not only obligations but also rights of immigrants. The law replaced the so-called Aliens Statute (Estatuto do Estrangeiro) from 1980, which had been in force until then, which still considered migration under the aspect of "national security".

In 2010–2018, refugees from Haiti (107,079) and Venezuela (48,611) also came. [15] While the stay of travelers from Haiti was made easier under the government of Dilma Rousseff from 2012, Venezuelans are currently dependent on crossing the border illegally. They are also exposed to violent reactions from the local population in some places.

Brazil as a country of emigration

While Brazil has barely been perceived as a country of immigration in the past few decades, its importance as a country of emigration has grown: in 2010-2019 alone, there were 2.66 million more outbound trips than immigrants. [16] The first small wave of emigration began in 1964 when opponents of the military dictatorship (1964–1985) went into political exile, including many intellectuals and artists. In the 1980s and increasingly in the 1990s, in view of a major economic crisis with high inflation, an economically motivated emigration of poorer sections of the population to the USA and Europe began. In the 2000s, members of the middle class also increasingly emigrated, with the USA taking a back seat as a destination because of the economic crisis there and the restrictive immigration rate. In addition, many people migrated back in the 2000s as Brazil experienced an economic boom.

Exact numbers of Brazilian nationals abroad are not available, as a large number of them migrate undocumented. In 2015, the Brazilian Foreign Ministry estimated that 3,083,255 Brazilians lived abroad. The ten most important receiving countries were the USA (1.41 million), Paraguay (332,042), Japan (170,229), Great Britain (120,000), Portugal (116,271), Spain (86,691), Germany (85,272), Switzerland (81,000) , Italy (72,000) and France (70,000). [17] The main destinations for Brazilian migration in the US are New York, Boston and Florida. Even if there is no pronounced community formation, there is an identity formation, especially in contrast to other Latin American migrant groups. [18] Europe is particularly interesting for people who have a European family history and therefore often still have the right to European citizenship. Due to its linguistic proximity, Portugal is the main target country, which was made easier by a bilateral agreement (2002). However, living together is not always free of conflicts, as immigrants from Brazil are often perceived as different in Portugal. The situation is similar for those returning from Brazil of Japanese origin who are not recognized as Japanese in Japan. [19] This creates a complex picture of Brazilian emigration that includes experiences of discrimination and positive reception, work and monetary payments to family members in Brazil (remittances), Students and wealthy people as well as cultural influences in the host country, for which capoeira or waxing studios are exemplary. [20] Brazil remains a country whose past and present are closely linked to migration experiences.