DMC & Incoming Tour Operator to Brazil and all of South America BIT 25 Years


This human melting pot includes millions of people whose ancestors came from distant countries such as Japan, Syria and Germany and who still maintain some old-country traditions.


The first group of German immigrants arrived in Brazil shortly after the country became independent, as part of a settlement programme devised by the Brazilian Government to develop agriculture and ensure settlement in the southern tip of the country. The first German community in Brazil was founded at São Leopoldo in Rio Grande do Sul State in 1824. It was established on public property in the Sinos River valley. Previous attempts to establish colonies of German immigrants in the Northeast region had failed. The year 1824 thus marks the beginning of the influx of immigrants hailing from several German states. Over a period of little more than 100 years, roughly 250,000 German immigrants arrived in Brazil. There was a steady trickle of them entering the country every year. German immigration peaked in the 1920s at the height of the social and economic crisis in the Weimar Republic. Throughout the main immigration period (1824 to 1937), German immigrants were constantly involved as pioneers in rolling back the agricultural frontier - a role shared with other European immigrants, especially Italians - which led to the formation of a class of peasant smallholders. The Germans and their descendants helped to occupy public lands in the three southernmost states of Brazil by founding a wealth of small farming communities concentrated in the valleys of the rivers Sinos, Jacuí, Taquari, Caí and Itajaí, in the northwest of Santa Catarina State, in the northern plateau of Rio Grande do Sul stretching to the River Uruguay and the Paraná plateau. The best-known settlements are those that have developed economically through a process of industrialization (e.g. Blumenau, Joinville and Brusque in Santa Catarina, São Leopoldo, Novo Hamburgo and Ijuí in Rio Grande do Sul). Groups of German immigrants also settled and founded communities in the States of Espírito Santo, Rio de Janeiro, Minas Gerais and São Paulo, none of which made much headway. On the other hand, some immigrants - principally in the aftermath of the First World War - moved to big cities in the region such as Porto Alegre, Curitiba and São Paulo.The concentration of German immigrants in the southern region coupled with the fact that they maintained their language and cultural traditions, besides establishing a Germanized press, schooling system and a clutch of associations, paved the way for the emergence of a Teuto-Brazilian ethnic identity. The immigrants and their offspring thus generated a sense of belonging, first and foremost, to an ethnic group characterized by its German origin. This attitude led to a long series of conflicts with the rest of Brazilian society culminating in the nationalization campaign sponsored by Getúlio Vargas' Estado Novo régime (1937-1945) to speed up the process of assimilation. The ideals underpinning the German community's sense of ethnic identity, though toned down somewhat, did not entirely fade after World War II. Indeed, it is still perceptible in the areas predominantly settled by Germans in Brazil.


Italians began to emigrate to Brazil in significant numbers in the 1870s. They were driven out by socio-economic transformations being implemented in the north of the country which severely affected landowning. Until the turn of the century the bulk of Italian immigrants were from the northern region of the peninsula. From then on immigrants from the Centre-South and South of the country predominated. A peculiar feature of mass Italian immigration is that it began shortly after the unification of Italy (1871) so these settlers' sense of national identity was largely forged once they had arrived in Brazil.Italian immigrants were mainly attracted to the States of São Paulo, Rio Grande do Sul and Minas Gerais. Between 1884 and 1972, nearly 70% of them entered Brazil through São Paulo State. Settlement of these immigrants varied considerably. Immigration from the south of Italy was virtually unsubsidized. The newcomers set up as smallholders or pur chased urban establishments. In São Paulo they were initially hired to work on the coffee plantations through a subsidized immigration scheme. In other towns in the state, they were hired in a number of different activities, especially in the building industry and in textile factories. The Italians had a strong influence on the cuisine in the regions where they settled. They also provided the dynamo for industrialization in the States of Rio Grande do Sul and São Paulo. Most of the great industrial dynasties in São Paulo - the Matarazzos, the Crespis - were comprised by the so-called "Italian counts", whose prominence was only surpassed with the passage of time.


A significant number of Jews began to arrive in Brazil in the mid-1920s. They were initially a late addition to the mass influx of European immigrants. Jewish immigration gained particular relevance in the 1930s with the onset of Nazi persecution in Europe. Between 1936 and 1942, more than 14,000 Jews disembarked in Brazil. Small as this figure may seem, it should be recalled that they accounted for 12.1% of all immigrants arriving in the period. Most of them entered the country through the ports of Rio de Janeiro and Santos (São Paulo State). The first groups consisted mainly of Jews from Central Europe (dubbed the "Russians") but they were soon followed by German Jews after the rise of Nazism. The Jews settled in big cities, initially in immigrant (or "ethnic") districts such as Bom Retiro in São Paulo. The first generation were mostly shopkeepers. Their offspring branched out into other activities, gaining prominence in industry, in the liberal professions and so on.
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The first group of Japanese immigrants arrived in Brazil in 1908 through a subsidized immigration scheme. Initially there was local opposition to them but when the Italian government slapped restrictions on subsidized emigration to Brazil, they came to be seen as a viable alternative. Japanese immigration has been concentrated in the State of São Paulo: 92.5% of those arriving between 1909 and 1972. The influx of Japanese immigrants grew in importance after 1930 compensating for the sharp drop in the number of Italian and Spanish immigrants. Indeed, no less than 30% of the immigrants disembarking between 1932 and 1935 were Japanese. The Japanese were first hired as hands on the coffee plantations but subsequently set up as smallholders and market gardeners. Of all the immigrant groups in Brazil, the Japanese engaged for the longest period in rural activities, being renowned for the diversity of the fruit and vegetables they cultivate. In recent years there has been substantial migration by their descendants to urban centres where they have been highly successful in the services sector.


Since it was they who "discovered" Brazil, the Portuguese began settling their South American colony from the earliest times, i.e. from 1500 onwards. Even if one considers the post-Independence period (1822 onwards), the Portuguese have always been the most numerous immigrant population in the country. They came to Brazil partly owing to economic straits in Portugal and partly because they were attracted by the linguistic affinity. It should, however, be said that in the 1877-1972 period, the number of Italian immigrants was virtually on a par with the influx of Portuguese, both accounting for roughly 31% of all arrivals. They engaged in a variety of activities in both rural and urban zones and, unlike other immigrant populations, settled throughout Brazil's territory. The largest community of Portuguese immigrants and their descendants is to be found in Rio de Janeiro. In the past, they predominated in the retail food market as well as controlling Brazil's main newspapers. During the period spanning Brazil's Independence to the end of last century, the Portuguese were the butt of discriminatory jibes from the local population, particularly in Rio de Janeiro. The criticism stemmed from resentment against the colonizers and was exacerbated by the high profile of the Portuguese community in Rio, which was then the capital of the country. As they controlled the food market, they were a ready scapegoat on whom to pour blame for the population's tribulations whenever retail prices rose.


The Spaniards who emigrated to Brazil were prompted by upheavals in Spain. They were lured by the prospect of employment which, for good or for worse, was on offer. Many croppers and smallholders left Galicia; others, mostly peasant labourers, hailed from Andaluzia. In the early years, from the 1880s onwards, Spanish immigrants were mainly sent to work on the coffee plantations in the State of São Paulo. Compared with other immigrants, they tended to bring the entire family, including numerous children. They soon became the third largest immigrant group in Brazil, outstripped by only the Portuguese and Italians. Between 1880 and 1972 they accounted for approximately 14% of all the immigrant groups arriving in Brazil. They were more concentrated in São Paulo than any other group. The 1920 census, for instance, showed that 78% of Spanish nationals had settled in that State. Although the vast majority of the Spanish immigrants initially established themselves in rural areas, where they set up on small or medium-sized farms, they also made their presence felt in urban areas. At the outset, the Spaniards were mostly scrap-metal merchants or else employed in restaurants. They then gradually diversified their activities.


Syrians and Lebaneses

Syrian and Lebanese immigrants began to arrive in Brazil at the end of last century, fleeing economic straits in their countries of origin. The majority settled in São Paulo State but a good number also settled in the north of the country, in the States of Pará, Amazonas and the Territory of Acre, as it then was, where immigrants were something of a rarity. In both cases, the Syrians and Lebanese established themselves as traders. In the Amazon region they played an important role in the rubber trade at the height of the Brazilian rubber boom (1890-1910). In São Paulo, and to a lesser extent in Rio de Janeiro, the Syrians and Lebanese engaged in commerce, mainly as travelling salesmen, hawking their wares on the streets of major towns and cities, besides also visiting farms and small provincial towns. They eventually opened commercial establishments and set up in industry, steadily climbing the rungs of the social ladder. Their descendants have expanded the scope of their activities, making considerable headway in the medical profession and in politics.