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White Brazilian
Brasileiro Branco
Total population
White People
92,000,000 White Brazilians
48.4% of Brazil's populationn[1]
Regions with significant populations
   Entire country; highest numbers found in southern and southeastern Brazil

small minorities speak Talian and assorted dialects originating in Germany, mainly Riograndenser Hunsrueckisch[citation needed]


Roman Catholic 74.66% · Protestant 15.16% · Non-religious 6.09% · Kardecist 1.87% · Other Christians (includes Jehovah Witnesses, Brazilian Catholics, Mormons, and Orthodox) 1.19%.[2]

Related ethnic groups

Other Brazilians, Portuguese, Italians, Germans, Spaniards, Ukrainians, Poles, Lithuanians, Lebanese,
White Americans, White Latin Americans, Black Brazilians, Pardos

White Brazilians make up 48.4% of Brazil's population, or around 92 million people, according to the IBGE's 2008 PNAD (National Research by Sample of Dwellings)[3]. Whites are present in the entire territory of Brazil, although the main concentrations are found in the South and Southeastern parts of the country.


Conception of White

Races are social constructs[4] Therefore, what is understood as "race" in one particular society is not the same that is understood as such in another society. The Brazilian social construct of "White race" is particularly very different from the concept of "White race" in other countries[5].

Social class influences the racial classifications in Brazil. Some authors say that in Brazil, "money whitens"[6]. Brazilians from the wealthier classes with darker phenotypes tend to classify themselves and be classified by others in lighter categories. Other facts also influence the classifications, such as dressing and social status. Given this ambiguity and fluidity, there are people who claim that the few racial categories offered by the IBGE are not enough. When Brazilians are free to choose a category for their own race, from 135 to 500 different race-color terms are brought. The most common is "Moreno", a category that refers to a wide spectrum of phenotypes. "Moreno" means both a color and the absence of color [7]. It means "brown", "dark-skinned", "dark-haired", "tawny", "suntanned".[8]

The degree of miscigenation in Brazil is very high; Brazil was not colonised only by families of Portuguese settlers, but rather by mostly Portuguese individual male adventurers. Those tended to reproduce with Amerindian and African females [9][10]. This made possible a myth of “racial democracy”, which tends to obscure the existence of racial prejudice and discrimination in Brazil. However social prejudice connected to certain details in the physical appearance of individual is widespread. Those details are related to the concept of "cor". Cor, which is Portuguese for "colour" denotes the Brazilian rough equivalent of the English term race, but is based on a complex phenotypic evaluation that takes into account skin pigmentation, hair type, nose shape, and lip shape. This concept, unlike the English notion of "race", captures the continuous aspects of phenotypes. Thus, it seems there is no racial descent rule operational in Brazil; it is even possible for two siblings to belong to completely diverse "racial" categories[11]. Thence, a White Brazilian is a person who "looks White" and is socially accepted as "White", regardless of ancestry.[citation needed]

Genes responsible for the features associated with "cor" are a smallish part of human genome. The miscegenation of people of different races in a country like Brazil can therefore result in a population with very different features, varying from those whose features are quite close to African to those whose features are much closer to European. This happens through the association of the processes of miscigenation and "assortative mating": suppose the first generation offspring of European fathers and African mothers. Their genome will be 50% European and 50% African, but the distribution of these genes between those that affect the relevant features (skin colour, hair type, lip shape, nose shape) is randomic. Those whose features could be considered closer to the "White" prototype would tend then to procreate with other "whiter" 50-50 mixed individuals, while those whose features would be considered more evidently non-White would conversely tend to procreate among themselves. In the long term, this could produce a White and a Black group with surprisingly similar proportions of European and African ancestry[12].

Therefore, ancestry is quite irrelevant for racial classifications in Brazil. A genetic resource conducted by UFMG on self-identified White Brazilians found that 2.5% of them had African Y chromosomes. 33% had Amerindian Mitochondrial DNA and 28% African Mitochondrial DNA. This finding reflected centuries of miscegenation and assortative mating, in which successive waves of Portuguese male colonists mated Brazilian women who were the product of miscigenation between their Brazilian mothers, ultimately descended from African or Amerindian females, and the previous wave of Portuguese colonists.[citation needed]. A survey in Rio de Janeiro also concluded that “racial-purity” is not important for a person to be classified as White in Brazil. The survey asked respondents if they had any ancestors who were European, African or Amerindian. As much as 52% of the Whites from Rio reported they have some non-European ancestry: 38% reported to have some Black African ancestry and 29% reported Amerindian ancestry (15% of them reported to have both). Only 48% of the Whites from Rio did not report any non-White ancestry. So, in Brazil, to have African or Amerindian ancestry and identify as White is not inconsistent, neither is it a problem for them to admit to having non-White ancestors[13].

Self-reported ancestry of Whites from Rio de Janeiro (2000 survey)[13]
European only 48%
European and African 25%
European, African and Amerindian 15%
European and Amerindian 14%

The conception of Whiteness in Brazil is based on the skin color of a person, which contrasts with the conception of race and ancestry, as used in the United States. According to the 1991 Census, 55% of the children whose mother was White and father was Brown were classified as Whites. Another 6% of children born to both Brown parents were classified as Whites and 2% of children born to a Black-Black couple were also identified as Whites. This analysis shows that the ancestry of a person is quite insignificant to racially classify people in Brazil. [13]

An important factor about Whiteness in Brazil is the racial stigma of being Amerindian or Black, which is undesirable and avoided for a large part of the population. Scientific racism largely influenced race relations in Brazil since the late 19th century.[13] The predominant non-White, mostly Afro-Brazilian population was seen as a problem for Brazil in the eyes of the predominantly White elite of the country. In contrast to the United States or South Africa that tried to avoid miscigenation, even through law, in Brazil miscigenation was always legal. What was expected was that miscigenation would eventually turn all Brazilians into Whites. Racial purity was also avoided by the Brazilian wealthier classes, because many members of the 19th century Brazilian elite would be classified as Mulatto by North American or European standards of race.[13]

As a result of that desire of whitening its own population, the Brazilian ruling classes encouraged the arrival of massive European immigration to the country. In the 1890s 1.2 million European immigrants were added to the country's 5 million White population. Today the Brazilian areas with larger proportions of Whites tend to have been destinations of massive European immigration between 1880 and 1930.[13]

Even though expectations of the Brazilian elite to whiten its own population through European immigration came to an end in the 1930s, the whitening ideology still influences racial relations in Brazil today. In general the population still expects that Afro-Brazilians must biologically whiten themselves by marriage with lighter skinned people, or culturally through the assimilation of the traditions of the dominant White population[13]. This leads mixed-race people to be perceived as Whites[13], and this is more evident when a non-White person becomes wealthier and is incorporated in the ruling classes. In the past, and still today, people of mixed-race ancestry who became wealthier were treated as Whites, even though in some cases their African ancestry was remembered when opponents wanted to offend them, as happened with many Mulatto politicians[13]. This way, the light Mulatto is often seen as White in Brazil, especially when the person becomes part of the elite. For example, the greatest Brazilian writer, Machado de Assis, was a Mulatto. However, once he gained fame and prestige, people started to accept him as a White man, and on his death certificate he was classified as a “White man”.[14] Better educated and wealthier Brazilians usually see themselves as Whites (a strict association between wealth and "whiteness").[13] A study[13] showed that when mixed-race Brazilians get wealthier they start to be perceived as Whites by others, who usually avoid associating a wealthy person with a non-White racial category. But only mixed-race people can “become White” when they get richer, while typically Black people will always be perceived as Blacks, no matter how rich they get[13]. It showed that less educated Black Brazilians avoid being associated as Black (usually choosing the word “Moreno” - literally "tanned", "brunette", "brown", "dark-skinned".[15] - to classify themselves). Better educated Black Brazilians, however, are more than eight times more likely as persons of a low level of education to identify themselves as Blacks, while better educated mixed-race people usually jump to the White category.[13].

The conception of White also varies from region to region. In the predominantly non-White North and Northeastern regions there may be some ambiguity on racial classifications, considering the long period of racial miscegenation in them. They contrast with the predominantly White South, where the White population did not mix so much with the non-White one. A study[13] found that people from the predominantly Afro-Brazilian state of Bahia have some difficulty in discerning who is a White person. On the other hand, in the predominantly White state of São Paulo people more easily define who is a White person.[13]

The integration of races in Brazil did not build a racial democracy, where racism would not exist because all Brazilians saw themselves as equal because of their common multiracial heritage. Even though this theory was dominant in Brazil for decades, and still followed by some today, most scholars now think that miscegenation in Brazil did not create an egalitarian society, but a society divided into gradations of skin color, where the lighter skinned ones are mostly found on the top of it, and the darker skinned ones are mostly found on the bottom.[16]


Brazil received more European settlers during its colonial era than any other country in the Americas. Between 1500 and 1760, about 700,000 Portuguese settled in Brazil[17][18], compared to 530,000 European settlers in the United States[citation needed].

Practically all European coming to Brazil before 1818 were Portuguese. Among those, there were some Portuguese Jews[citation needed]. Available data seems to point that most Portuguese settlers in Brazil came from northern Portugal, especially from Minho (in 1801, 45% of the Portuguese established in São Paulo were "minhotos", 20% from the Azores Islands, 16% from Lisbon and 19% from other parts[19]). Another significant portion came from the Portuguese Atlantic Islands, Azores and Madeira.

An important feature of the Portuguese colonization was the overwhelming predominance of males. This disproportion was a problem during much of the colonial period. The Portuguese Crown even sent orphaned women for marriage with the settlers[citation needed], but a large part of the settlers were involved in relationships with indigenous women and with their African slaves. It is remarkable that most Portuguese settlers arrived in Brazil in the 18th century: 600,000 in a period of only 60 years. The exploitation of gold and diamonds in the region of Minas Gerais has been a crucial factor in the arrival of this contingent of colonists[17].

Non-Portuguese presence in colonial Brazil

Before the nineteenth century, the French invaded twice, establishing brief and minor settlements (Rio de Janeiro, 1555–60; Maranhão, 1612–15);[20] In 1630, the Dutch made the most significant attempt to seize Brazil from Portuguese control. At the time, Portugal was in a dynastic union with Spain, and the Dutch hostility against Spain was transferred to Portugal. The Dutch were able to control most of the Brazilian Northeast - then the most dynamic part of Brazil - for about a quarter century, but were unable to change the ethnic makeup of the colonizing population, which remained overwhelmingly Portuguese by origin and culture.[21] Sephardic Jews of Portuguese origin moved from Amsterdam to New Holland;[21] but in 1654, when the Portuguese regained control of Brazil, most of them were expelled, as well as most of the Dutch settlers.[22]

Aside these military attempts, a very small number of non-Portuguese people appear to have managed to enter Brazil from European countries other than Portugal[23].

However, in the Southern Brazilian areas disputed between Portugal and Spain, Spanish colonists largely contributed for the ethnic formation of the local population, denominated Gaúchos. A genetic research conducted by FAPESP (Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo) on Gaúchos from Bagé and Alegrete, in Rio Grande do Sul, Southern Brazil, revealed that they are mostly descended from Spanish ancestors, and less from Portuguese, with 52% of them having Amerindian MtDNA (similar to that found in people who live in the area of the Amazon rainforest, and significantly higher than the national average - 33% - among Brazilian Whites) and 11% African MtDNA.[24] Another study also concluded that for the formation of the Gaúcho there was a predominance of Iberians, particularly Spaniards.[25] The genetic finding matches with the explanation of sociologist Darcy Ribeiro about the ethnic formation of the Brazilian Gaúchos: they are mostly the result of the miscegenation of Spanish and Portuguese males with Amerindian females.[26]

Another genetic study found possible relics of the 17th-century Dutch invasion in Northeastern Brazil.[27]


It was only in 1818 that the Portuguese rulers abandoned the principle of restricting settling in Brazil to Portuguese nationals. In that year over two thousand Swiss migrants from the Canton of Fribourg arrived to settle in an inhospitable area near Rio de Janeiro that would later be renamed Nova Friburgo.[28].

The arrival of German immigrants had great importance for the demographics of Southern Brazil. They founded rural communities that later became prosperous cities, as was the case of São Leopoldo, Joinville and Blumenau.[29]

The end of the slave trade (1850) and the abolition of slavery (1888) prompted the Brazilian State to promote European immigration to Brazil. The production of coffee, the main product of Brazil at the time, began to suffer a shortage of workers. From 1876, Italian immigrants began to enter Brazil in huge numbers. From 1884 to 1933, 1.4 million Italians immigrated to Brazil,[30] 70% of whom settled in São Paulo.

The period of the Great Immigration, between 1876 and 1930, brought to the country more than 5 million Europeans. Most were Italians or Portuguese, followed by Spaniards, Germans, Poles[31], and Ukrainians. It is notable that most of these immigrants settled in Southern and Southeastern Brazil.

Brazilian Population, by Race, from 1872 to 1991 (Census Data)[32]
Ethnic group White Black Brown Yellow (Asian) Undeclared Total
1872 3,787,289 1,954,452 4,188,737 - - 9,930,478
1890 6,302,198 2,097,426 5,934,291 - - 14,333,915
1940 26,171,778 6,035,869 8,744,365 242,320 41,983 41,236,315
1950 32,027,661 5,692,657 13,786,742 329,082 108,255 51,944,397
1960 42,838,639 6,116,848 20,706,431 482,848 46,604 70,191,370
1980 64,540,467 7,046,906 46,233,531 672,251 517,897 119,011,052
1991 75,704,927 7,335,136 62,316,064 630,656 534,878 146,521,661

The Impact of Immigration

Brazilian demographers have long discussed the demographic impact of the wave of emigration in the late XIX and early XX centuries. According to Judicael Clevelário[33], most studies about the impact of immigration have followed Giorgio Mortara's conclusions in the 40's and 50's. Mortara[34] concluded that only about 15% of the demographic growth of Brazil, from 1840 and 1940 was due to immigration, and that the population of immigrant origin was of 16% of the total population of Brazil.

However, according to Clevelário, Mortara failed to properly take into account the full endogenous growth of the population of immigrant origin[35], due to the predominantly rural settlement of the immigrants (rural regions tend to have higher natality rates than cities). Clevelário, then, besides extending the calculations up to 1980, remade them, reaching somewhat different conclusions.

One of the problems of calculating the impact of immigration in Brazilian demography is that the return rates of immigrants are unknown. Clevelário, thence, supposed four different hypothesis concerning the return rates. The first, that he deems unrealistic high, is that 50% of the immigrants to Brazil returned to their countries of origin. The second is based on the work of Arthur Neiva, who supposes the return rate for Brazil was higher than that of USA (30%) but lower than that of Argentina (47%). The third hypothesis is taken from Mortara, who postulates a rate of 20% for the XIX century, 35% for the first two decades of the XX century, and 25% for 1920 on. Although Mortara himself considered this hypothesis underestimated, Clevelário thinks it is closest to reality. The last hypothesis, also admittedly unrealistic is that of a 0% rate of return, which is known to be false[36].

Clevelário's conclusions are as following: considering hypothesis 1 (unrealisticly low), the Population of Immigrant Origin in 1980 would be of 14,730,710 people, or 12.38% of the total population. Considering hypothesis 2 (based on Neiva), it would be of 17,609,052 people, or 14.60% of the total population. Considering hypothesis 3 (based on Mortara, and considered most realistic), it would be of 22,088,829 people, or 18.56% of the total population. Considering hypothesis 4 (no return at all), the Population of Immigrant origin would be of 29,348,423 people, or 24.66% of the total population[37]

Clevelário believes the most probable number to be close to 18%, higher than Mortara's previous estimate of 1947[38].

According to the Census of 1872, Black and "Brown" people made up the majority (58%) of Brazil's population. The White population grew faster than the non-White population due to the subsidized immigration of Europeans in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. As of 1890, the African-descended population was reduced to 47% and the Amerindian to 9%.[39] During this period, most immigrants came from Italy (58.49%) followed by Portugal with 20%.[40]

The disproportionally fast growth of the White population, due to mass immigration, lasted up to 1940, when its proportion in the Brazilian population peaked at 63.5%[41]. During the 1900-1940 period, Italian immigration was greatly reduced, due to the Prinetti decree, forbidding subsidized emigration to Brazil (1902), then to the Italian war effort of 1915-1918. Thence, for the period of 1904-1940, Portuguese immigration became the main drive of immigration to Brazil, with 36.52% of the arrivals, compared to 14.99% of Italians[40].

According to a genetic study, the European immigration to Brazil in the 19th and 20th centuries left a "strong imprint" in the genetics of the Brazilian population, leading to the "whitening" of Brazil. The massive European immigration promoted by the Brazilian government after 1872 that brought nearly 6 million Europeans in order to "whiten" the country's population had an important effect, and it manifests in a predominant (over 70%) of European ancestry in White Brazilian, as well as a large European admixture (37.1%) in Black Brazilians. The scholars divided the formation of the Brazilian population in three periods: the first when the country was inhabited only by Amerindians, who contributed for the early formation of the population; the second was during the large influx of slaves from Africa until 1850 and the third was during the large influx of European immigrants in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.[42] In fact, until the mid-19th century, White people never exceeded 30% of the population in Brazil, while Amerindians, Blacks and Mulattoes always predominated.[43]

Another study has pointed out that the European ancestry is dominant throughout Brazil at 80%, which means that even in the states not hit by the most recent waves of immigration, even there European ancestry dominates in the population as a whole. "A new portrayal of each ethnicity contribution to the DNA of Brazilians, obtained with samples from the five regions of the country, has indicated that, on average, European ancestors are responsible for nearly 80% of the genetic heritage of the population. The variation between the regions is small, with the possible exception of the South, where the European contribution reaches nearly 90%. The results, published by the scientific magazine 'American Journal of Human Biology' by a team of the Catholic University of Brasília, show that, in Brazil, physical indicators such as skin colour, colour of the eyes and colour of the hair have little to do with the genetic ancestry of each person, which has been shown in previous studies". [44]


White Brazilians are descended either from colonial settlers, who came from Portugal from 1500 to 1822, and/or from the diverse groups of immigrants who arrived after independence. The latter had a greater impact in the demography of the Southern states and of São Paulo.

Different from the colonists who settled in North America, who brought their entire families, the Portuguese colonization was almost exclusively composed of men, with a limited presence of women. This lack of women worried the Jesuits, who asked the Portuguese King to send any kind of Portuguese women to Brazil, even prostitutes if necessary[citation needed]. Most of the first Portuguese settlers procreated with native Amerindians or African slave women. Over time, the number of Portuguese women immigrating to Brazil grew, but the gender imbalance was never significantly reduced. This male predominance prevailed throughout the colonial period. Historically, the male Portuguese settler preferred to marry a Portuguese born female. But, since their number in Brazil was very small, the second option was to marry a white Brazilian, born to Portuguese parents. The third option was a white Brazilian female of distant Portuguese origin. The scarce presence of white women, either Portuguese or Brazilian, caused the high degree of miscegenation in colonial Brazil (and recent genetic studies found a high degree of Amerindian and African ancestries in white Brazilians, that confirms this early integration).

Even though the immigration of non-Portuguese was allowed from 1818 on, the Portuguese predominance continued way up to the 1870 years. A consistent flux of German immigrants started to arrive to Southern Brazil, briefly interrupted by the War of Tatters, but the amount of Portuguese immigrants was much bigger during this period.

The census of 1872 counted 3,787,289 Whites in Brazil. Given the history described above, practically all these Whites were of Portuguese ancestry.[citation needed] Despite the largest arrivals of European immigrants, particularly between 1880 and 1930, the nowadays white Brazilian population is still mainly descended from whites of colonial extraction.[45]

Latin American oligarchies, which remained predominantly of European origin, believed - in syntony with the racialist theories then widespread in Europe - that the large numbers of Blacks and mixed Amerindians that made up the majority of the population were a handicap to the development of their countries. As a result, countries such as Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil started to encourage the arrival of European immigrants, in order to make the White population grow and to dilute the African and Amerindian blood in their population. Argentina even had an article in its Constitution prohibiting any attempt to prevent the entry of European immigrants in the country. In the case of Brazil, the immigrants started arriving in huge numbers during the 1880s. From 1886 to 1900, almost 1.4 million Europeans arrived, of whom over 900,000 were Italians. During this period of 14 years, Brazil received more Europeans than during the over 300 years of colonization.

According to Darcy Ribeiro before 1850 no more than 500,000 Europeans settled in Brazil[46] IBGE estimated that the number was close to 700,000 Portuguese.[47]. The mass European immigration to Brazil only started in the second half of the 19th century, from 1850 to 1970 some 5 million Europeans arrived, because of three main reasons:

  • to "whiten" Brazil, since the Amerindian and African elements predominated in the population, a fact that was considered a problem by the local elite, that considered these races inferior. Bringing European immigrants was seen as a way to "improve" the racial composition of the local population;
  • to populate inhospitable areas of Brazil, mostly the Southern provinces;
  • to replace African manpower, since the Atlantic slave trade was effectively suppressed in 1850 and coffee plantations were spreading in the region of São Paulo.

These immigrants had a larger and more visible impact in the state of São Paulo, along with the three southern states of Rio Grande do Sul, Santa Catarina and Paraná. In the southern states there were entire regions (such as the Serra Gaúcha and Vale do Jacuí) populated by German and Italian-speaking inhabitants. The immigrants remained closed in ethnic communities for decades. The Portuguese language only started to be used by these communities many decades after their arrival, as a result of their contact with Brazilians and with immigrants from other countries, but also because of the forced assimilation during the Getúlio Vargas's government, mostly inside the German community. In contrast to the early Portuguese colonists, these immigrants arrived with their entire families in Brazil, with large numbers of women and children. As a result, the areas where they were concentrated, most remarkably the central parts of Southern Brazil, became predominantly white.

In São Paulo, paulistas of Italian descent outnumbered those of earlier extraction. In this region, Italians, Portuguese, Spaniards and Arabs were easily integrated, since they had a close contact with the large local Brazilian population. At first working on coffee farms, later they moved to cities and participated in the process of industrialization of Brazil.

Regions of settlement

The first economic activity the Portuguese crown devised in Brazil - the collection of Brazilwood - was not conducive to an actual occupation of the territory.[citation needed] The establishment of a few "feitorias" that conducted the trade was not enough to populate Brazil.[citation needed] The growing competition from other colonial powers - especially France - led the Portuguese into finding other economic activities that could serve as a base for a permanent and solid integration of Brazil into Portuguese domains. The first such activity to attain success was the cultivation of sugarcane - and the associated extraction of sugar, since sugarcane could not be transported overseas without deteriorating.[citation needed] This activity was also complementary with the slave trade that the Portuguese were starting, at that moment, from their African colonies of Angola and Mozambique. Sugarcane proved very well adapted to the climate of the Northeastern litoral, so the first stable and prosperous Portuguese settlements - and consequently, the first stable and prosperous centers of White population in Brazil - where located in that region.[citation needed]

The economy of sugarcane culture being centered in exporting to Portugal, other economic activities appeared to fulfill the necessities of the region. Remarkably, husbandry spread into the arid hinterland, where it remained the most important economic activity for centuries.[citation needed]

The region around São Vicente, in modern São Paulo state, remained less developed, with a weaker integration to the colonial economy. This probably prompted the inhabitants to explore the hinterland. In theory looking for gold and gems, in practice they engaged in expeditions with the objective of capturing and enslaving Amerindians. These slaves were used in the incipient agriculture around São Paulo, which, to the end of the XVI century became specialised in wheat, as a commercial crop that could be sold in other parts of Brazil [48].

Around 1700, the paulistas found gold in the region that is now Minas Gerais.[citation needed] Together with the growing competition of Caribbean sugar, this made the center of the Brazilian economy move to the Southwest. The administrative center of the colony was moved from Salvador to Rio de Janeiro. The discovery of mineral wealth caused the influx of Portuguese settlers to redirect from the Northeast to the mining region, and the number of Portuguese leaving for Brazil to increase greatly; also there was a change in the social profile of those coming to Brazil. Agriculture needed substantial investments, but gold mining required much more courage and less initial capital, and the proportion of poor Portuguese among the newcomers increased considerably.[citation needed]

The Southern region was also first settled by the paulistas.[citation needed] Arriving there in search of the Amerindians in the Jesuit reductions, they subsequently raided the region in search of the cattle gone astray with the destruction of the Missões, first for the leather, then organising a commercial circuit that moved cattle on feet to the mining region (ciclo do gado a pé). As a result, the Portuguese domain extended firmly to the south, threatening the control of the Northern bank of the Plata by the Spanish.[citation needed]


Most European immigrants in the XIX and XX centuries entered Brazil for São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro or for the Southern region. São Paulo received most of the Italians and Spaniards in the late 19th and early 20th centuries; Rio de Janeiro received most of the Portuguese immigrants. However, the impact of the European immigration was larger in Southern Brazil. This region received a smaller number of immigrants, mainly Italians and Germans, but since it had a smaller population, the impact of their arrival was greater to its demography. Pernambuco was also an important place to the arrival of Portuguese immigrants.[citation needed]


Portuguese kids waiting for a ship to leave for Brazil (early 20th century).

After independence in 1822, about 1.6 million Portuguese immigrants arrived in Brazil, most of them in the late 19th and early 20th centuries[49]. Most of these immigrants settled in Rio de Janeiro.


About 720,000 Spaniards came to Brazil, starting in the late 19th century[50]. Most of them were attracted to work in the coffee plantations in the State of São Paulo.


Italians going to Brazil by ship (1910).

About 1,600,000 Italians arrived in Brazil, starting in 1875[51]. First they settled as small land owners in rural communities across Southern Brazil. In the late 19th century, the Brazilian State offered land to immigrants, in conditions that made it possible to buy them[52]. Later, their destination were mostly the coffee plantations in the Southeast, especially São Paulo, where they worked for the local landowners, either for a wage or under a contract that allowed them to use a portion of land for subsistency, in exchange for labour in the plantation[53].

Italians made up the main group of immigrants to Brazil in the late 19th century[40].


About 280,000 Germans immigrated to Brazil, starting from 1824[54]. Most of them established themselves in rural communities across Southern Brazil.


Poles came in significant numbers to Brazil after 1870. Most of them settled in the State of Paraná, working as small farmers. From 1872 to 1919, 110,243 "Russian" citizens entered Brazil. In fact, the vast majority of them were Poles, since, up to 1917, Poland was under Russian rule and ethnic Poles immigrated with Russian passports.[55]

Polish house in Paraná.


More than 20,000 Ukrainians came to Brazil between 1895 and 1897, settling mostly in Parana (state) and working as small farmers.[56]

Brazilians of Ukrainian descent celebrating Easter in Curitiba.


Besides the Europeans, many White Brazilians descend from Caucasoid Arabs, mostly Syrians and Lebanese people. About 100,000 Arabs, mainly Syrians and Lebanese, came to Brazil between 1884 and 1939[57].


Brazilian Jews are concentrated in three cities: Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, and Porto Alegre[58].


      – States with high or strong White proportion.       – States with high or strong Pardo proportion.

By Brazilian states

The Brazilian states with the highest percentages of Whites are the three located in the South of the country: Santa Catarina, Rio Grande do Sul and Paraná. These states, along with São Paulo, received an important influx of European immigrants in the period of the Great Immigration (1876-1914).

The Brazilian states with the lowest percentages of Whites are located in the North, where there is a strong Amerindian influence to the population's racial composition, and in the Northeast, where African influence is more important[59].

Source: IBGE 2000 [60]

By cities and towns

In a list of the 144 Brazilian towns with the highest percentages of White people, all the cities were located in two states: Rio Grande do Sul or Santa Catarina. All these towns are settled predominantly by Brazilians of German and Italian descent and are very small. It is important to note that, in the late 19th century, many German and Italian immigrants created small communities across Southern Brazil. These communities were settled, in many cases, exclusivily by European immigrants and their descendants.[citation needed][61] The Brazilian towns with the largest percentages of Whites are:[62]

  • 1) Montauri (Rio Grande do Sul): 100% White (1,615 inhabitants)
  • 2) Leoberto Leal (Santa Catarina): 99.82% (3,348 inhabitants)
  • 3) Pedras Grandes (Santa Catarina): 99.81% (4,849 inhabitants)
  • 4) Capitão (Rio Grande do Sul): 99.77% (2,751 inhabitants)
  • 5) Santa Tereza (Rio Grande do Sul): 99.69% (1,604 inhabitants)
  • 6) Cunhataí (Santa Catarina): 99.67% (1,740 inhabitants)
  • 7) São Martinho (Santa Catarina): 99.64% (3,221 inhabitants)
  • 8) Guabiju (Rio Grande do Sul): 99.62% (1,775 inhabitants)

The Brazilian towns with the lowest percentages of Whites are located in Northern and Northeastern Brazil, and are also small. Some of the towns are Amerindian reservations, others are Quilombos (rural areas settled by descendants of escaped African slaves).[62]


Arrival of colonial settlers, slaves, and immigrants to Brazil, by origin, periods from 1500 to 1933[citation needed][63]
Origin 1500-1700 1701-1760 1761-1829 1830-1855 1856-1883 1884-1893 1894-1903 1904-1913 1914-1923 1924-1933
Africa 510,000 958,000 1,720,000 618,000 - - - - - -
Portugal 100,000 600,000 26,000 16,737 116,000 170,621 155,542 384,672 201,252 233,650
Italy - - - - 100,000 510,533 537,784 196,521 86,320 70,177
Spain - - - - - 113,116 102,142 224,672 94,779 52,405
Germany - - 5,003 2,008 30,000 22,778 6,698 33,859 29,339 61,723
Japan - - - - - - - 11,868 20,398 110,191
Syria and Lebanon - - - - - 96 7,124 45,803 20,400 20,400
Others - - - - - 66,524 42,820 109,222 51,493 164,586

Genetic researches

The genes can reveal from what part of the world the oldest ancestors of the paternal and maternal line of a person came from. The mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is present in all human beings and passed down through the maternal line, i.e. the mother of the mother of the mother etc. The Y chromosome is present only in males and passed down through the paternal line, i.e., the father of father of father etc. The mitochondrial DNA and Y chromosome suffer only minor mutations through centuries, thus can be used to establish the paternal line in males (because only males have the Y chromosome) and the maternal line in both males and females.

According to a genetic study about Brazilians (based upon about 200 samples), on the paternal side, 98% of the White Brazilian Y Chromosome comes from a European male ancestor, only 2% from an African ancestor and there is a complete absence of Amerindian contributions. On the maternal side, 39% have European Mitochondrial DNA, 33% Amerindian and 28% African female ancestry. This, considering the facts that the slave trade was effectively suppressed in 1850, and that the Amerindian population had been reduced to small numbers even earlier, shows that at least 61% of White Brazilians had at least one ancestor living in Brazil before the beginning of the Great Immigration. This analysis, however, only shows a small fraction of a person's ancestry (the Y Chromosome comes from a single male ancestor and the mtDNA from a single female ancestor, while the contributions of the many other ancestors is not specified).[64].

According to another genetic research (based upon about 200 samples again) over 75% of caucasians from North, Northeast and Southeast Brazil would have over 10% Sub-Saharan African genes, and that this would also be the case with Southern Brazil for 49% of the caucasian population. According to this study, in all United States 11% of Caucasians have over 10% African genes. Some researchers have found that the average European American type has approximately 10% to 12% non-White genetic material.[65]

Another genetic research suggested that the White Brazilian population is not genetically homogenous, as its genomic ancestry varies in different regions. Samples of White males from Rio Grande do Sul have showed significant differences between Whites of different localities of state. In a sample from the town of Veranópolis, heavily settled by people of Italian descent, the results from the maternal and paternal sides showed almost complete European ancestry. On the other hand, a sample of Whites from several other regions of Rio Grande do Sul showed significant fractions of Native American (36%) and African (16%) mtDNA haplogroups[66].

Another study carried out in one thousand individuals from Porto Alegre city, Southern Brazil, and 760 from Natal city, Northeastern Brazil, found differences between Whites of these two parts of Brazil. Whites of Porto Alegre had only 8% of African alleles. On the other hand, the Whites of Natal had 58% White, 25% Black, and 17% Amerindian admixture . This study found that persons identified as White or Pardo in Natal have similar ancestries, a dominant European ancestry, while persons identified as White in Porto Alegre have an overwhelming majority of European ancestry.[67]

According to another study (see table), those who identified as Whites in Rio de Janeiro turned out to have 86.4% - and self identified pardos 68.1% - European ancestry on average. Blacks were found out to have on average 41.8% European ancestry.[68]

Genomic ancestry of non-related individuals in Rio de Janeiro
Cor Number of individuals Amerindian African European
White 107 6.7% 6.9% 86.4%
"parda" 119 8.3% 23.6% 68.1%
Black 109 7.3% 50.9% 41.8%

One more study carried out on whites of Northeastern Brazilian origin living in São Paulo found 70% European, 18% African and 12% Amerindian admixture.[69]

Another study (covering all regions of Brazil in a sample of 200 people of different colors, Whites, Pardos and Blacks) found out that the average Brazilian would be about 80% European in all regions except in the South where they would be, on average, about 90% European (regardless of census classification)[70]

See also


  1. ^ Brazil: resident population, by colour ou race, 2008 PNAD
  2. ^ Brazil: resident White population, by religion, Census 2000
  3. ^ Brazil: resident population, by colour ou race, 2008 PNAD
  4. ^ Guido Bolaffi, Dictionary of Race, Ethnicity and Culture (London: Sage, 2003; ISBN 0761969004), s.v. "Race", p.244. Here at Google Books (accessed 12 December 2009).
  5. ^ Michael Hanchard, editor's "Introduction" to Racial Politics in Contemporary Brazil (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1999; ISBN 0-8223-2272-2). Here at Google Books; accessed 17 December 2009.
  6. ^ The concept and measurement of race and their relationship to public health: a review focused on Brazil and the United States
  7. ^ The concept and measurement of race and their relationship to public health: a review focused on Brazil and the United States
  8. ^ Portuguese-English translation for moreno
  9. ^ Ronald M. Glassman, William H. Swatos, and Barbara J. Denison, Social Problems in Global Perspective (Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 2004; ISBN 0761829334). Here at Google Books (accessed 13 December 2009).
  10. ^ Denise R. Carvalho-Silva et al., "The Phylogeography of Brazilian Y-Chromosome Lineages", American Journal of Human Genetics 68 (2001): 281–286. Accessed 13 December 2009.
  11. ^ Parra et alli, Color and genomic ancestry in Brazilians. Second paragraph.
  12. ^ Parra et Alli, Color and genomic ancestry in Brazilians. Discussion, ninth paragraph.
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Edward Eric Telles (2004). "Racial Classification". Race in Another America: the significance of skin color in Brazil. Princeton University Press. pp. 81–84. ISBN 0691118663. 
  14. ^ As duas cores de Machado de Assis
  15. ^ Portuguese-English translation for moreno
  16. ^ Miscigenação não leva à democracia racial, diz sociólogo
  17. ^ a b Renato Pinto Venâncio, "Presença portuguesa: de colonizadores a imigrantes", chap. 3 of Brasil: 500 anos de povoamento (IBGE). Relevant extract available here
  18. ^
  19. ^ Florentino, Manolo, and Machado, Cacilda. Ensaio sobre a imigração portuguesa e os padrões de miscigenação no Brasil (séculos XIX e XX) - 2002 - Portugueses (PDF file)
  20. ^ Paul Louis Jacques Gaffarel, Histoire du Bresil français au seizième siècle (Paris: Maison Neuve, 1878).
  21. ^ a b Johannes Menne Postma, The Dutch in the Atlantic slave trade, 1600-1815 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990; ISBN 0521365856), pp. 18-20 (here at Google Books).
  22. ^ Beth Capelache de Carvalho, "Histórias e lendas de santos: os imigrantes: A colônia judaica (1)", A Tribuna de Santos, 27 June 1982 (reproduced here; accessed 25 May 2009).
  23. ^ Flávia de Ávila, Entrada de Trabalhadores Estrangeiros no Brasil: Evolução Legislativa e Políticas Subjacentes nos Séculos XIX e XX. PhD thesis. Florianópolis: Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina, 2003. pp 31-32. (Available here [1.21MB PDF file].) Ávila cites Manuel Diégues Júnior, Imigração, urbanização e industrialização: Estudo sobre alguns aspectos da contribuição cultural do imigrante no Brasil (Brasília: MEC, 1964), p. 18.
  24. ^ O DNA dos Pampas
  25. ^ [1] To evaluate the extension of Gaucho genetic diversity of the Gauchos, and retrieve part of their history, a study with 547 individuals, of which 278 were Native Americans (Guarani and Kaingang) and 269 admixed from the state of Rio Grande do Sul, was carried out.
  26. ^ RIBEIRO, Darcy. O Povo Brasileiro, Companhia de Bolso, fourth reprint, 2008 (2008).
  27. ^ The Phylogeography of Brazilian Y-Chromosome Lineages
  28. ^ "A Colônia Suíça de Nova Friburgo", Secretaria Municipal de Educação Prefeitura da Cidade do Rio de Janeiro
  29. ^ imigracao II
  30. ^ Imigração no Brasil
  31. ^ Especiais - Agência Brasil
  32. ^
  33. ^
  34. ^ Mortara, Giorgio. O aumento da população do Brasil entre 1872 e 1940.
  35. ^ p.52
  36. ^ p.57
  37. ^ Table 5, p.59; Table 6, p.60.
  38. ^ Abstract, p. 71.
  39. ^ IBGE 2008 Cor ou Raça
  40. ^ a b c Entrada de estrangeiros no Brasil
  41. ^ IBGE 2008 Cor ou Raça
  42. ^ DNA tests probe the genomic ancestry of Brazilians
  43. ^ ILARI, Rodolgo, BASSO, Renato. O Português da Gente. Editora Contexto (2006)
  44. ^
  45. ^ O povo brasileiro 3
  46. ^ Darcy Ribeiro. O Povo Brasileiro, edition 07, 1997 (1997).
  47. ^
  48. ^ John Manuel Monteiro, Negros da Terra
  49. ^ [2]Maria Stella Ferreira Levy. O Papel da Migração Internacional na Evolução da População Brasileira. Table 1, p. 73
  50. ^ [3]Maria Stella Ferreira Levy. O Papel da Migração Internacional na Evolução da População Brasileira. Table 1, p. 73
  51. ^ [ Maria Stella Ferreira Levy. O Papel da Migração Internacional na Evolução da População Brasileira. Table 1, p. 73]
  52. ^
  53. ^
  54. ^ [4]Maria Stella Ferreira Levy. O Papel da Migração Internacional na Evolução da População Brasileira. Table 1, p. 73, and Table 2, p. 74
  55. ^ Uma história oculta: a imigração dos países da Europa do Centro-Leste para o Brasil [5]
  56. ^ Paraná State Government page
  57. ^ Jeffrey Lesser. Negotiating national identity: immigrants, minorities, and the struggle for ethnicity in Brazil. Table 3, p. 49. Notice that "Turks" actually refers to Arabs arriving in Brazil under Ottoman passports.
  58. ^ IBGE, Census 2000. População residente por cor ou raça e religião. Race=White, Religion=Judaism. Data for Brazil, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, and Porto Alegre.
  59. ^ PNAD
  60. ^ Sistema IBGE de Recuperação Automática - SIDRA
  61. ^ Azevedo, Thales de (1961), "Italian Colonization in Southern Brazil", Anthropological Quarterly 34 (2): 60–68, 
  62. ^ a b Sistema IBGE de Recuperação Automática - SIDRA
  63. ^ Source: Brazilian Institute for Geography and Statistics ([6])
  64. ^ Os Genes de Cabral
  65. ^ DNAPrint Genomics Website
  66. ^ Heterogeneity of the Genome Ancestry of Individuals Classified as White in the State of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil
  67. ^ Helena, M.; Franco, L. P.; Weimer, Tania A.; Salzano, F. M. (1981), "Blood polymorphisms and racial admixture in two Brazilian populations", American Journal of Physical Anthropology 58 (2): 127–132, doi:10.1002/ajpa.1330580204 
  68. ^ [7]
  69. ^ Color and genomic ancestry in Brazilians
  70. ^ DNA de brasileiro é 80% europeu, indica estudo.
  • RIBEIRO, Darcy. O Povo Brasileiro . Ed. Companhia de Bolso.

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