Wednesday, May 27, 2015
The Italians of Sao Paulo - Part 1
When Americans think of Brazil, they think "Latin America, the tropics, palm trees, big sandy beaches, vast jungles, the Amazon, and people with dark skin." Probably one of the very last things that an American would think of is "Italians"..?? Even the massive city of Sao Paulo, with a metro population of about 20 million, is hardly known. The vast majority of Italian-Americans would be stumped with the fact that there are 5 to 7 million "Italian-Brazilians" in the Sao Paulo metro.
The city of Sao Paulo is in the southern part of Brazil, just outside of the tropical zone, so the weather is something like Miami. When Italian immigrants--northern and southern--began arriving in the area over a century ago, it was much like the rest of the country.. in abject poverty. Likely more led by "northern" industriousness and self-determination, the city grew and grew to the point of where it it today... as big as New York City. It was a city of immigrants and their descendants, Italians, Germans, French, Spanish, Japanese, Jews, Greeks, Russians, and Lebanese/Syrian Christians.
Brazil welcomed those long-ago immigrants who they knew would help develop the underdeveloped province through farming. Quite frankly, these immigrants--many of whom were from the Veneto and Campania--were much more forward-thinking and harder working than the local impoverished population. They saw the land itself as their opportunity, and the farming, business, and working classes began to prosper. They weren't the common "immigrants" who move into an already formed society; but they reformed it. They were the civilization creators, from the skyscrapers to the farms. If these immigrants never arrived, the place would resemble Santo Domingo today.
The early immigrant experience which eventually led to the establishment of the great city, often began as practically indentured servants to feudalistic Brazilian land and factory owners. Far from the general perception of most, I've seen old photographs where blondish Lombard types were working the land and factories for darkish Brazilian landlords and mercantile class; before rising to the top of the society.
Sao Paoulo (city)
Sao Paulo (state)
Demographics of Sao Paulo