Race and ethnicity in Brazil

Brazilian society is made up of a confluence of people of several different origins, from the original Native Brazilians, with the influence of Portuguese colonists,[1] Black African,[1] and European,[1] Arab, and Japanese immigration. Other significant groups include Koreans, Chinese, Paraguayans, and Bolivians.

Brazil has seen greater racial equality over time. According to a recent review study, "There has been major, albeit uneven, progress in these terms since slavery, which has unfortunately not wholly translated into equality of income: only in 2010 did the black-to-white income ratio eclipse its 1960 level, although it appears to be at an all-time high. Education and migration were important factors in closing the gap, whereas school quality and discrimination may explain its persistence."[2]

Historic background

Main ethnic groups in Brazil. Many are separated based on location.

The Brazilian population was formed by the influx of Portuguese settlers and African slaves, mostly Bantu and West African populations[3] (such as the Yoruba, Ewe, and Fanti-Ashanti), into a territory inhabited by various indigenous tribal populations, mainly Tupi, Guarani and Ge[4] In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, in what is known as Great Immigration,[5] new groups arrived, mainly of Portuguese, Italians, Spanish and German origin, but also from Japanese, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe.[6]

When the Portuguese reached what is now called Brazil in 1500, its native population was probably composed of about 2.5 million Amerindians.[7] Up to 1532, the Portuguese made no real effort to colonise the land, limiting to the establishment of "feitorias" to organise the trade of brazilwood.[8] When it became clear that this policy would result in the land being taken by other European powers – namely the French and the Dutch – the Portuguese Crown decided to effectively occupy the territory by fostering agricultural activities – especially sugarcane crops – in Brazil.[9] This resulted not only in the growth of the population of Portuguese origin, but also in the introduction of African slavery in Brazil.[9]

During the colonial period, the Portuguese prohibited any influx of other Europeans to Brazil.[10] In consequence, the Portuguese and their descendants constituted the overwhelming majority of the White population of colonial Brazil.[11] However, in the Southern Brazilian areas disputed between Portugal and Spain, a genetic study suggests that the predominant genomic ancestry of the Brazilian Gaúchos (inhabitants of the Pampas) may be Spanish, not Portuguese.[12][13] Also a small number of Dutch settlers remained in the Northeast after the Portuguese retook Dutch Brazil[14] and may have contributed to the demographic composition of Northeastern Brazil.[15] Even then and after the country's independence in 1822, immigration to Brazil was mainly Portuguese, though a significant number of German immigrants settled in the Southern region.[6]

European immigration

Combined with the European demographic crisis, this resulted in the immigration of about 5 million people, mostly European peasants, in the last quarter of the 19th century and first half of the 20th. The majority of these immigrants were either Portuguese or Italian (about 1,500,000 each), though significant numbers of Spaniards – which possibly include Portuguese emigrating from Vigo on false passports[16] – (690,000), Germans (250,000), Japanese (170,000), Middle Easterns (100,000, mostly people from what are now Syria and Lebanon arriving on Turkish passports), and Eastern Europeans (mostly Poles and Ukrainians arriving on Russian passports) also immigrated.[6]

There are few reliable statistics on the Brazilian population before the 1872 census, which counted 9,930,478, of which 3,787,289 Whites, 1,954,452 blacks, and 4,188,737 pardos.[17] These figures do not yet reflect the influx of the five million immigrants mentioned above, since up to 1872 only about 270,000 immigrants had arrived in Brazil.[18] According to Judicael Clevelário's calculations, the total population of immigrant origin in 1872 would be of about 240,000 people;[19] consequently, the total White population of non-immigrant origin for that year would be of about 3,540,000 people at least.

Origin 1830–1855 1856–1883 1884–1893 1894–1903 1904–1913 1914–1923 1924–1933 1933–2014
Portuguese 16,737 116,000 170,621 155,542 384,672 201,252 233,650 400,000
Italians 100,000 510,533 537,784 196,521 86,320 70,177
Spaniards 113,116 102,142 224,672 94,779 52,405
Germans 2,008 30,000 22,778 6,698 33,859 29,339 61,723
Japanese 11,868 20,398 110,191
Levantines 96 7,124 45,803 20,400 20,400
Others 66,524 42,820 109,222 51,493 164,586