Eine Frau geht an einer Weltkarte, die aus Kinderporträts besteht, am Freitag (18.06.2010) im JuniorMuseum in Köln vorbei.

1.11.2008 | Von:
Sabina Stelzig

Historical development

Brazil is characterised by centuries of immigration from all parts of the world: the systematic settlement of European invaders, in particular the Portuguese, but also Spaniards, the Dutch, the English and the French, began more than three hundred years ago.


Initially, numerous indigenous Indians were enslaved, predominantly to work on the sugar cane plantations. Enslavement, displacement and extermination led to the annihilation of many Indian peoples: of an estimated five to six million indigenous people at the time of the arrival of the first Europeans, only about 600,000 remained by the end of the colonial period. [1] In the 16th century, Portuguese colonialists began to bring slaves from Africa to Brazil. They originated from territories known today as Guinea, Angola, Mozambique, Nigeria and more. In the 17th century the number of displaced Africans already exceeded that of the settled Europeans. [2]

Portugal relinquished its exclusive rights ("Pacto Colonial") to Brazil in 1808, when the Portuguese king, Dom João VI, fled there to escape Napoleon. The country´s harbours were opened to all friendly nations. As a result of a declaration made by João VI, 1818 saw the first official recruitment of European migrants with the aim of colonising Brazil. The slave economy was not in fact ended by Brazil until 1888. By the time the import of slaves was banned in 1850 about five million Africans had been transported to Brazil. European immigrants were now to take over the work of the slaves.

The time of the so-called "big migration" to Brazil began in the second half of the 19th century. The first of three phases of mass immigration (1880 to 1909) lasted until the early years of the 20th century. The immigrants in this phase originated primarily from Europe. The strongest increase was firstly among the Italians with 1,188,883 immigrants (cf. Table 1). However, immigrants also came from Portugal (519,629), Spain (307,591), Germany (49,833), the Middle East (31,061) and, in smaller numbers, from various other countries such as Ukraine, Poland, Russia and Korea. The total number of immigrants in the period after the abolition of slavery was between 50,000 and over 200,000 per year. [3]

In this first phase of mass immigration, European migrants were needed above all as workers in the agricultural sector, for coffee cultivation in Southeast Brazil and later for the spread of industrialisation. The Brazilian upper classes were, moreover, anxious to bring themselves in line culturally, socially and ethnically with Europe through European immigration. [4]

In a second wave of immigration between 1910 and 1929 more than one and a half million migrants entered the country to be employed, once again, in agriculture. The immigrants again originated primarily from Portugal, Italy, Spain, Russia and Germany, many of them looking for a fresh start after the First World War. However, emigration to Brazil has also increased from Syria and Lebanon since the beginning of the 20th century. [5]


See Ribeiro (2002).
See Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística (IGBE) (2008): http://www.ibge.gov.br/home/estatistica/populacao/censohistorico/1550_1870.shtm" />.
See Memorial do Imigrante:"Entrada de imigrantes no Brasil 1870-1953": http://www.memorialdoimigrante.sp.gov.br/historico/index.htm" />.
See Lesser (1999).
For the individual countries grouped in Table A under "Middle East" and "Others" see also: Governo do Estado de SãoPaulo, Memorial do Imigrante: http://www.memorialdoimigrante.sp.gov.br/historico/index.htm.


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