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  Immigration to Brazil

Immigration to Brazil began when the country opened its ports to "friendly nations" (1808), and gathered momentum in the wake of the Declaration of Independence (1822). This, of course, does not include the Portuguese, who colonized the country (discovered in 1500). Besides focusing on voluntary settlement by immigrants, one should also recall that millions of Negroes were forced to cross the Atlantic in chains from the XVIth to the XIXth centuries to serve as slave labour in Brazil.

Brazil's emperors sought to attract European immigrants to the south of the country by offering them plots of land that they were entitled to work as smallholders. German immigrants were the first to come. They were followed in 1870 by Italians. Between them, these two groups came to comprise the majority of the population in the southern states of Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul.

The main influx of immigrants, though, began in earnest in the mid-1880s and it took a very different shape. São Paulo State became the focal point for immigration. This was coupled with a change in the basic purpose of Brazil's immigration policy.

The aim was no longer to attract families to set up smallholdings but instead to hire hands to tend the coffee plantations, which were in their heyday. The decision to take on immigrant labourers en masse stemmed from the urgent need to replace Negro slaves following the demise of the slave trade and the abolition of slavery (1888).

The decision to resort to immigrant labour coincided with a wave of mass overseas emigration that swept across Europe from the mid-XIXth century to the outbreak of the First World War. This wave of emigration was set in motion by socio-economic transformations under way in several European countries. It was further facilitated by the spread of steam shipping and the consequent drop in the cost of sea passages. The arrival of the first large groups of immigrants triggered a chain reaction, settlers in the new land persuading relatives and friends to follow suit. This significantly swelled the tide of immigrants.

In the Americas, the United States, Argentina and Brazil (in descending order) were the countries that received most immigrants. In Brazil's case, statistics show that 4.5 million people emigrated to the country between 1882 and 1934. Of this total, 2.3 million disembarked as third-class passengers at the port of Santos in São Paulo State. These figures do not include those travelling in the first and second classes. It should, however, be noted that in some years a large number of immigrants made the journey back to Europe. When crisis struck the coffee industry in São Paulo (1903-1904), for instance, net immigration turned negative.

A distinguishing feature of immigration in São Paulo until 1927 was the fact that it was often subsidized, especially in the early stages. This contrasted sharply with the form of immigration in the United States and, to a certain extent, in Argentina. The subsidy consisted of a free sea passage for a family group and free transportation to the plantations. This was a sure way of attracting poor immigrants to a country whose climate and sanitary conditions were hardly alluring.

From the 1930s onwards, the flood of immigrants began to subside. Nationalist policies in several European countries - the predicament in Italy following Mussolini's rise to power was a case in point - hampered emigration to Latin America. In Brazil, the burgeoning demand for labour to boost industrial development was increasingly satisfied by means of internal migration. Workers from the Northeast and from Minas Gerais State abandoned their hometowns, drawn by the promise of the São Paulo "El-Dorado". Throughout the 1930s, the only immigrants that continued to arrive in droves were the Japanese, who came to till small farms in São Paulo.

In recent years immigration has become more diversified. Other ethnic groups have joined the early-comers, particularly from neighbouring countries such as Argentina, Uruguay, Chile and Bolivia. They have crossed the border for either professional or political reasons. Koreans have also made their mark in the city of São Paulo, where they have engaged in textiles and the restaurant business.

Following the hardships of the early years - no different from those facing most settlers in other countries - the immigrants were gradually integrated into Brazilian society. The majority managed to move up the social ladder, bringing changes not only in the socio-economic tissue but also to the cultural landscape of the Centre-South of the country. In the South, they became associated with the cultivation of wheat, wine-growing and industrial activities; in São Paulo they galvanized the development of trade and industry.

The immigrants also made their mark on the cultural landscape in these regions, instilling the work ethic, introducing a new cuisine and bringing to the Portuguese language new words and a peculiar, novel accent.

The immigrants hailing from Europe, the Middle East and Asia (Portuguese, Italians, Spaniards, Germans, Jews, Syrians and Lebanese, Japanese) all made a major contribution to the ethnic make-up of the Brazilian people, especially in the Centre-South and South of the country. Added to the mix of Indians and Negroes, Brazil has inherited a diversified ethnic stock with values and outlooks that vary from one segment to another within the confines of a single, shared nationality.


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Duty-free Allowances
- USD500 (or equivalent in other currency) worth of goods bought duty-free in Brazil
- 400 cigarettes or 25 cigars
- 250g of tobacco
- 2 litres of alcoholic beverages
- Books and periodicals

Prohibited Goods
- Meat (fresh, dried, canned or otherwise) or meat products
- Diary products (ie milk, eggs, cheese etc)
- Fresh fruit and vegetables
- Plants or parts of plants (ie flowers, seeds, bulbs, stakers, mushrooms, soil etc)
- Animal feedstuffs
- Apicultural products (ie honey, wax etc) or live insects and snails
- Vaccines, viruses, germ cultures, human or animal tissues (ie semen and embroyos) and biological products or materials used in veterinary medicine
- Agricultural defensives (ie pesticides, herbicides etc)
- Birds

Special Notes
- Customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation or export of items such as firearms, antiquities, tropical plants, medication and business equipment.