The United States is, of course, is the proverbial melting pot, with the majority of the population hailing from a wide range of nations across the world. One of those nations is Brazil. The purpose of the present sample essay provided by one of the professional writers from Ultius is to explore the topic of Brazilians within the United States. This particular essay will have four main parts:
- The first part will consist of a discussion of the history of Brazilian immigration to the United States.
- The second part will proceed to consider demographic data regarding Brazilians within the United States today.
- The third part of the essay will turn to a reflection on the cultural contributions of Brazilians to the United States.
- The final portion of the essay will reflect on Brazilians’ prospects for the future within the United States.
History of Brazilian immigration
Historically, most Brazilians have tended to stay within Brazil itself. Since the 1980s, though, Brazilians have begun coming to the United States in search of better lives. As Brown University Library has indicated:
Many Brazilians come to the United States knowing that they can earn as much as four times what they earn in Brazil working the same jobs. This opportunity to accrue significant savings is perhaps the single greatest factor in influencing Brazilian immigration to the country. (paragraph 1)
In short, the economic conditions in contemporary Brazil are now such that many Brazilians have a great deal to gain by leaving their homeland and establishing new lives within the United States. Prior to the emergence of these economic conditions, it would seem that most Brazilians were content in their homeland and rarely emigrated to other nations.
Brazilian reverse migration
It would seem, though, that reverse migration is also a common trend among Brazilians within the United States. That is, after spending some good years within the United States, the Brazilians take their new wealth and decide to make the return to their homeland. Bernstein and Dwoskin have reported the following regarding this matter:
That decision—to give up on life in the United States—is being made by more and more Brazilians across the country, according to consular officials, travel agencies swamped by one-way ticket bookings, and community leaders in the neighborhoods that Brazilian immigrants have transformed. (paragraph 4)
There are two main reasons for this trend:
- Brazilian immigrants to the United States often arrive on work visas and then proceed to stay illegally
- The American economy itself experienced a downturn a few years ago, however, job growth is on the rise.
Regarding the first of these points, the main issue would seem to be American immigration policy, which makes it difficult for many immigrants to find a route through which they can become full-fledged citizens of the United States. Of course, this dovetails into the broader issue of immigration reform, which has emerged as a critical issue in the current 2016 electoral race for the presidency of the United States (see Mindock). If there were an easier legal route for Brazilians to opt to stay in the United States, many of them would probably take it; but as it stands, the insecurity of being an illegal immigrant provides many of them with the impetus to eventually return home to Brazil. Regarding the economy of the United States, now, this will probably just be a matter of time: cycles of boom and bust are inherent to the very nature of the capitalist system itself, and recovery from the Great Recession would already seem to be well under way. As this recovery continues, fewer Brazilians may leave for home on the basis of primarily economic considerations.
Current demographic data
There are not all that many Brazilians within the United States at the current time. As Cowen has stated:
The U.S. Census estimates about 250,000 Brazilians living in the United States, which is many fewer than come from El Salvador, namely about two million. Why is there such a difference? The Brazilian number may well be an undercount but unofficial estimates still lie well below those of El Salvador. (paragraph 1)
An undercount is possible due to the fact that many Brazilians within the United States may be here as illegal immigrants who have overstayed their work visas and thus avoid official counts such as the census. Nevertheless, whatever the actual count is, it is clear that the number of Brazilians within the United States is still disproportional small, especially considering the size of Brazil and the numbers posted by other countries within Central and South America.
National pride or simple hedonism?
Given the current political climate in the United States, and the backlash voters has expressed toward immigrants, it is beneficial that Brazilians, in general, tend not to leave their home nation. There are several theories as to why this is the case. One of the more humorous ones, which may nevertheless be quite accurate, has been formulated in the following way by Cowen:
Could it be that Brazil is too much fun to leave? Or too much fun to generate the norms of upward mobility which encourage poorer people to leave for greater ambition? If you leave on the beach in northeastern Brazil, what exactly do you aspire to? (paragraph 2)
Essentially, most migration in the modern world implies the presence of social or economic ambition: people leave their home nations and strike out for new world because they want to substantially improve living conditions for themselves and their families. Cowen is suggesting here that such ambition may possibly not be an inherent part of Brazilian culture itself, and that many Brazilians are thus not motivated to migrate. Although this plays into popular tropes and stereotypes regarding Brazil, there may nevertheless be some truth to this theory.
Affinity for the U.S.
Geromel has presented a different number regarding the total Brazilian population within the United States: 1,388,000. Relative to the total Brazilian emigrant population in the world, this is actually a quite impressive number. As Geromel has written, a recent study on the subject:
“implies that only less than 2% of the total Brazilian population (about 200 million people) is living abroad. Including 1,388,000 in the USA (or about 45% of total Brazilian emigrants)” (paragraph 2).
This latter parenthetical remark contains the important information for present purposes: Brazilians in general do not migrate; but when they do, a large number of them tend to come to the United States. This is keeping with a broader trend of the United States in particular, out of all nations in the world, having been uniquely seen as a land of opportunities that contains possibilities for a better life and presents greater opportunity that can be limited in Brazil due to the struggle for racial equality. There would also seem to be strong Brazilian emigrant communities concentrated in the state of Florida, for obvious geographical reasons.
Brazilian cultural contributions
Like all immigrants that have come to the United States, Brazilians have contributed to the diversity of cuisine within the nation. Within the city of Austin, Texas, for example, there is a Brazilian restaurant called São Paulo’s Restaurante; and here is a description of a classic Brazilian dish called galinhada from the menu:
“Jasmine rice seasoned with saffron, onion, cilantro, tomatoes and mushrooms. (Chicken, shrimp, or vegetarian).”
Interestingly, the flood of different cuisines within the United States, brought by immigrants from all over the world, has made it difficult by now to even identify what one might call the natural or domestic cuisine of the nation; the best one can do is think about traditional African American foods, or foods that are generally described by the label “comfort.” Brazilians have clearly done their own part to contribute to the range of foods available within the United States.
Another quintessentially Brazilian cultural contribution to the United States consists of the martial art known as capoeira. Princeton University has written the following on this subject:
Capoeira is a Brazilian art form which combines fight, dance, rhythm and movement. . . .The details of capoeira’s origins and early history are still a matter of debate among historians, but it is clear that African slaves played a crucial role in the development of the art form. (paragraph 1)
Capoeira has gained some popularity in urban centers, and it is easy to see why: the mixture of dance and martial art is just plain fascinating at a purely aesthetic level, even if one does not know how to use it for actual fighting purposes. Of course, Brazilians’ contribution to American culture is diverse and nuanced, and no one example such as capoeira could really do justice to the full range of that contribution. However, it can still be said that capoeira would seem to capture something about the spirit of Brazil in a kind of emblematic way.
Brazilians and the future
Looking to the future, it would seem safe to say that most Brazilians will continue to remain in Brazil—either because Brazil is just a very inviting place, or because the kind of ambition that drives migration is not a natural part of Brazilian culture, the prospect of hosting the upcoming Olympic Games or for any number of other possible reasons. Likewise, though, it can also be projected that when Brazilians do migrate, they will likely continue primarily coming to the United States, insofar as the United States continues to keep its borders open and remain true to its original commitment as a nation to welcoming migrants seeking better lives for themselves and their families. This, however is unlikely. Moreover, as the economy within the United States continues to recover from the Great Recession, fewer Brazilians can be expected to return to their home nation out of primarily economic considerations; rather, they may be more likely to continue seeking their fortunes for longer times within the United States.
Threats from immigration policy
A major threat to the continued presence of Brazilians within the United States, however, consists of American immigration policy. As it stands, many Brazilians are primarily opting to return home due to the consideration that it is stressful to remain in the United States indefinitely as an illegal immigrant, and it would seem that the United States currently has no real pathways through which these immigrants could become legal. Moreover, given nativist trends that have begun to emerge within the United States (encapsulated, perhaps, by the presidential candidacy of Trump), it may be difficult to achieve more liberal immigration reforms within the timeframe of the near future. If immigration policy remains how it is or becomes even more restrictive and conservative, then it is very likely that more and more Brazilians will opt to eventually leave the United States and take their cultural and material wealth back home with them. In general, this is probably worth preventing, and it should be understood by the American government as one of the key reasons why more liberal immigration is needed to ensure the ongoing diversity and well-being of the nation as a whole.
In summary, the present essay has consisted of a discussion of Brazilians within the United States. The essay has discussed the history of Brazilian migration to the United States, current demographics regarding Brazilians, the cultural contributions of Brazilians, and the future of Brazilians within the nation. A key point that has been made here is that Brazil is actually a nation that fields few emigrants globally, but that many of the few emigrants there are choose to come to the United States. Another point that has been made here, though, is that many Brazilian immigrants within the nation eventually make the decision to return home after having sought their fortunes here. Problems with immigrant status due to Donald Trump’s controversial immigration stance is a key driver of this return, and immigration reform would thus be needed to convince Brazilians to stay here.
Bernstein, Nina, and Elizabeth Dwoskin. “Brazilians Giving Up Their American Dream.” New York Times. 4 Dec. 2007. Web. 30 May 2016. .
Brown University Library. “Brazilians in the U.S.” n.d. Web. 30 May 2016. .
Cowen, Tyler. “Why Do Brazilians Emigrate So Infrequently?” Marginal Revolution. 17 Apr. 2011. Web. 30 May 2016. .
Geromel, Ricardo. “Almost Half of Total Brazilian Emigrants Are Living in the U.S.” Forbes. 25 Jul. 2011. Web. 30 May 2016. .
Mindock, Clark. “Immigration Reform 2016: Bernie Sanders Tells Deported Veteran He’d Like Him to Be in the US.” International Business Times. 24 May 2016. Web. 30 May 2016. veteran-hed-him-be-us-2373625>.
Princeton University. “What is Capoeira?” n.d. Web. 30 May 2016. .
São Paulo’s Restaurante. “Home.” 2016. Web. 30 May 2016. .