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Meaghan Lanctot

Mr. Gilden

International Relations

22 July 2016

Defining Brasil: The Rich History of Brazilian Migration

With the sixth largest population and one of the fastest-growing economies in the world,

Brazil is poised to be a global dominant force in the near future. However, the emergence of

Brazil as an international powerhouse was in part due to the contribution of migrants to politics,

culture and the economy. Migrants have been an enormous and prominent influence of Brazil

from the arrival of Portuguese colonizers in the 15th century to the transcontinental immigrants

entering the country today.

Brazils recent economic success can be traced back to the late 2000s, as it was one of the

first countries to begin to recover after 2008 Global Financial Crisis. The country began to

strengthen the workforce and economy after the crisis by investing in social programs. These

programs (i.e. Bolsa Family, the Brazilian Science Mobility Program, etc.) lifted tens of millions

of Brazilians out of poverty through educational and health programs. Currently, Brazil is

experiencing both economic growth and stability with a relatively low unemployment rate of

6.4%; however, the unemployment has begun to rise as almost a quarter of the countrys

population still lives in poverty (The World Factbook: Brazil).

Although Brazil is currently experiencing economic stability, its political scene has been

anything but stable. After finally gaining its independence after 300 years of Portuguese rule in

1822, Brazil went through varying forms of government until a military government instated

from 1935-1985. The military peacefully ceded power to the people, and Brazil became a federal
presidential republic (The World Factbook: Brazil). Brazils government has fallen into

controversy in the past year due to the impeachment trial of President Dilma Rousseff. Rousseff

was the CEO of Petrobas, a state-run oil company, during the time when dozens of senior

Brazilian businessmen and politicians were receiving multi-million dollar kickbacks from the

company. Combined with being accused of illegally borrowing money from state banks to reduce

the deficit and pay for social programs that ultimately led to her re-election in 2014, the

impeachment process officially began in late 2015 (McKirdy 2). Her Vice President, Michel

Temer, has been acting as Brazils president due to Brazils impeachment procedural laws (The

World Factbook: Brazil).

As well as political issues, Brazil also has numerous societal problems that will affect the

country in the long run. A shrinking workforce will result in a strong blow to Brazils economy

by 2025. Well-funded public pensions have almost entirely wiped out poverty among the elderly,

yet due to the growing elderly population the number of impoverished elderly Brazilians will

certainly rise. Limited opportunities for economic/social mobility for women, black and mixed

race people, and the indigenous community have contributed to the high crime rate in favelas,

slums in Brazilian cities. Brazil is also the second largest consumer of cocaine in the world, and

is a transit country for cartels sending drugs to Europe (The World Factbook: Brazil).

In the past few decades, Brazil has transitioned to a larger and more powerful role in

international affairs through strong economics, political agreements, and cultural significance.

Brazil hosted the 2014 FIFA World Cup and will host the 2016 Summer Olympics, the first ever

Olympics held in South America (The World Factbook: Brazil). The Brazilian government has

also been very vocal about global issues as it collectively opposed to the war in Iraq and

therefore frayed relationships with the countries that did support it. Nevertheless, there have been
serious international concerns regarding Brazils ability to provide safe facilities for the athletes

competing there as the Zika virus is still rampaging the country (Garrett 3).

Brazil has forged newfound relationships with Russia, India, China and South Africa by

joining the BRICS group, a coalition of emerging economies dedicated to supporting each other.

In fact, Brazils largest trading partner is its fellow BRICS member, China (Hanson 3). Although

it has established newfound alliances, Brazil also had a worsening partnership with the United

States. As well as the two countries disagreement over the Iraq War, the U.S.-Brazil

relationships is strained by the U.S. tariff on Brazilian ethanol. However, the United States may

want to reconsider their stance, as the discovery of new oil fields in Brazil in the past decade has

opened the door to potential international profit as well as forthcoming Brazilian prosperity

(Hanson 2).

The history of Brazil as well as its current position in international affairs has largely

been affected by its immigrant populations. Brazil is primarily a destination country, and its

immigrants have come in three large waves. The first wave of immigrants was in the 16 th century

when Portuguese colonizers and African slaves crossed over to the New World. Portuguese

colonization is why the official language of Brazil is Portuguese and more than 2/3 of the

population is Roman Catholic. The racial demographics of Brazil is also largely due to

Portuguese colonization, as 91% of the population is either white or mulatto (half-white and half-

black or Native American). Portuguese colonizers were primarily single men who forcibly

intermarried with both African and indigenous slaves (The World Factbook: Brazil). An

estimated 6 million African slaves were violently transported to work on sugar cane plantations.

The trans-Atlantic slave trade ended in Brazil in the 1850s, although the internal slave trade
existed for thirty more years after. Slavery was officially abolished in 1888, the last country in

the Western Hemisphere to do so (Amaral 2).

The second wave of immigration was in the late 19 th/early 20th centuries when European

and Asian migrants came seeking economic opportunities and escape from political oppression.

During this time period, 1.9 million immigrants of European and Asian descent came to Brazil.

This massive influx of immigration was due to more restrictive immigration policies of typical

destination countries like the United States, Canada and Argentina. Nevertheless, immigrants

began to experience institutional discrimination beginning in the 1930s when President Getulio

Vargas tried to create a homogenous Brazilian identity. Laws were put in place that forced new

immigrants to learn Portuguese, forbade the teaching of any language class other than

Portuguese, prohibited the formation of immigrant political groups and the publication foreign-

language newspapers/magazines (Amaral 2).

The third wave of immigration has been from the 1980s to present day as undocumented

migrants from neighboring countries have arrived in the country. The majority these workers are

coming from Bolivia and Peru, as most of the Brazilian border is not well secured and therefore

easy for undocumented migrants to enter through them. The Brazilian government has prioritized

the incoming of immigrants who have at least a college degree. However, the immigrants coming

in are usually less skilled and less educated than what the government had planned, so Brazilian

workers organizations are pushing for new legal restrictions against migrants in the hopes of less

competition for jobs (Amaral 8).

Brazil is a country filled with diverse citizens due to its complex and dynamic migration

history. The emergence of Brazil as an international force to be reckoned with reflects the

tribulations of its migrants. As immigrants to Brazil have had to gain the respect of their native
neighbors, Brazil has also struggled to gain the respect of the international communities. From

dealing with political scandals to handling major health crises, Brazil has proved that it has what

it takes to maintain their newfound top position in the world.

Word Count: 1201

Works Cited

Amaral, Ernesto Friedrich, and Wilson Fusco. "Shaping Brazil: The Role of International

Migration." Migration Policy Institute, 01 June 2005. Web. 20 July


Garrett, Laurie, Cludio Henriques, and Sheri Fink. "Zika Virus Update." Council on Foreign

Relations. Council on Foreign Relations, 5 Feb. 2016. Web. 20 July 2016.

Hanson, Stephanie. "Brazil on the International Stage." Council on Foreign Relations. Council

on Foreign Relations, 02 July 2012. Web. 20 July 2016.

McKirdy, Euan. "Impeaching Dilma Rousseff: What's Going On?" CNN. Cable News Network,

12 May 2016. Web. 21 July 2016.

"The World Factbook: Brazil." Central Intelligence Agency. Central Intelligence Agency, 11

July 2016. Web. 20 July 2016.