Brazilians (Italian: Italobrasiliani, Portuguese:
Ítalo-brasileiros) are Brazilian citizens of full or partial Italian
There are no official numbers about how many
Brazilians have Italian
ancestry, as the national census conducted by
IBGE does not ask the
ancestry of the Brazilian people. In the last census to ask about
ancestry, from 1940, 1,260,931
Brazilians said to be the child of an
Italian father, while 1,069,862 said to be the child of an Italian
Italians were 285,000 and naturalized Brazilians, 40,000.
Italians and their children were just over 3.8% of Brazil's
population in 1940.
A 1999 survey, conducted by the sociologist, former president of the
Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), Simon
Schwartzman, indicated that 10.5% of Brazilian respondents claimed to
have Italian ancestry; hence they would make up around 20 million
descendants in a national population of 200 million. An Italian
source, from 1996, cites the number of 22,753,000 descendants. The
Italy in Brazil, in 2013, reported the number of 31 million
descendants of Italian immigrants in
Brazil (about 15% of the
population), half of them in the state of São Paulo.
1 Italian immigration to Brazil
1.2.1 Italian crisis in late 19th century
1.2.2 Brazilian need of immigrants
1.2.3 Beginning of Italian settlement in Brazil
1.2.4 Prince Umberto's visit in 1924
2.1 1940 Brazilian Census
3 Main Italian settlements in Brazil
3.1 Areas of settlement
3.2 Southern Brazil
3.3 Southeastern Brazil
3.4 Other parts of Brazil
4 Decline of Italian Immigration
7 Characteristics of Italian immigration in Brazil
7.1 Areas of origin
8 Italian influences in Brazil
8.3 St. Vito Festival
8.5 Other Influences
10 See also
12 Further reading
13 External links
Italian immigration to Brazil
Cavalcanti family arrived in
Brazil in 1560. Today is the largest
Brazil by a common ancestor.
According to the Italian government, there are 31 million Brazilians
of Italian descent, All those figures relate to
Brazilians of any
Italian descent, not necessarily linked to
Italian culture in any
significant way. According to García, the number of Brazilians
with actual links to Italian identity and culture would be around 3.5
to 4.5 million people. Scholar Luigi Favero, in a book on Italian
emigration between 1876 and 1976, pinpointed that
present in Brasil since the Renaissance: Genoese sailors and merchants
were between the first to settle in colonial
Brazil since the first
half of the 16th century, and so—because of the many descendants
Italians emigrated there from Columbus times until 1860—the
Brazilians with Italian roots should be increased to 35
Although victims of some prejudice in the first decades and in spite
of the persecution during World War II,
Brazilians of Italian descent
managed to mingle and to incorporate seamlessly into the Brazilian
Many Brazilian politicians, artists, footballers, models and
personalities are or were of Italian descent. Amongst
Italian-Brazilian one finds several State Governors, Congressmen,
mayors and ambassadors. Three Presidents of
Brazil were of Italian
descent (though none of them were directly elected to such a
Pascoal Ranieri Mazzilli
Pascoal Ranieri Mazzilli (Senate president who served as
Itamar Franco (elected vice-President under
Fernando Collor, whom he eventually replaced as the latter was
Emílio Garrastazu Médici
Emílio Garrastazu Médici (third of the series of
generals who presided over
Brazil during the military regime). Médici
was also of Basque descent.
According to the Brazilian Constitution, anyone born in the country is
a Brazilian citizen by birthright. In addition, many who were born in
Italy have become naturalized citizens after settling in Brazil. The
Brazilian government used to prohibit multiple citizenships. However,
this changed in 1994 with a new constitutional amendment. After
the changes in 1994 over half a million Italian-
requested the recognition of their Italian citizenship.
According to the Italian legislation an individual with an Italian
parent is automatically recognized as an Italian citizen, the jus
sanguinis principle being applied. In order to exercise the rights and
obligations of citizenship an individual needs to have all documents
registered in Italy, which normally involves the local consulate or
embassy. Some limitations are applied to this process of recognition
such as the renouncement of the Italian citizenship by the individual
or the parent (if before the child's birth), a second limitation is
that women only transferred citizenship to their children after
1948. After constitutional reform in Italy, Italian citizens
abroad can also elect representatives to the Italian Chamber of
Deputies and the Italian Senate. Italian citizens residing in Brazil
elect representatives together with Argentina,
Uruguay and other
countries in South America. According to Italian senator Edoardo
Pollastri, currently there are over half a million
Brazilians in line
to have their Italian citizenship recognized.
"To the Province of S. Paulo, in Brazil. Immigrants: read these hints
before leaving. S. Paulo, 1886".
Italian crisis in late 19th century
Main article: Italian diaspora
A family of Italian emigrants.
Italy only united as a sovereign national state in 1861. Before that
Italy was politically divided in several kingdoms, ducates and other
small states. This fact influenced deeply the character of the Italian
migrant. "Before 1914, the typical Italian migrant was a man without a
clear national identity but with strong attachments to his town or
village or region of birth, to which half of all migrants
During the 19th century, many
Italians fled the political persecutions
Italy led by the Imperial Austrian government after the failure of
unification movements in 1848 and 1861. Although very small, these
well educated and revolutionary group of emigrants left a deep mark
where they settled. In Brazil, the most famous Italian in this
period was Líbero Badaró. Despite that, the mass Italian immigration
that contributed to shape Brazilian culture after the Portuguese and
the German migration movements started only after Italian unification.
During the last quarter of the 19th century, the newly united Italy
suffered an economic crisis. In the Northern regions, there was
unemployment due to the introduction of new techniques in agriculture,
Italy remained underdeveloped and untouched by
modernization in agrarian structure. Even in the North,
industrialization was still in its initial stages, and illiteracy was
still common in
Italy (though more in the south and islands than in
the north). Thus, poverty and lack of jobs and income stimulated
Northern (and also Southern)
Italians to emigrate. Most Italian
immigrants were very poor rural workers (braccianti).
Brazilian need of immigrants
Italians getting into a ship to Brazil, 1910.
In 1850, under British pressure,
Brazil finally passed a law that
effectively banned transatlantic slave trade. The increased pressure
of the abolitionist movement, on the other hand, made clear that the
days of slavery in
Brazil were coming to an end. Slave trade was in
fact effectively suppressed, but the slave system still endured for
almost four decades. So the discussion about European immigration to
Brazil became a priority for Brazilian landowners.
The latter claimed that such migrants were or would soon become
indispensable for Brazilian agriculture. They would soon win the
argument and mass migration would begin in earnest.
An Agriculture Congress in 1878 in
Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro discussed the lack
of labour and proposed to the government the stimulation of European
immigration to Brazil. Immigrants from Italy, Portugal and Spain were
considered the best ones, because they were white and, mainly,
Catholics. Therefore, the Brazilian government started to attract more
Italian immigrants to the coffee plantations.
A ship with Italian immigrants in the Port of Santos: 1907.Most
migrants came to the State of
São Paulo and its mainport, the entry
gate of Brazil, was Santos. Thus most migrants from
of their final destination in Brazil, entered through the port of
At the end of the 19th century, the Brazilian government was
influenced by eugenics theories. According to some Brazilian scholars,
it was necessary to bring immigrants from Europe to enhance the
Beginning of Italian settlement in Brazil
A 19th-century house built by Italian immigrants in Caxias do Sul, Rio
Grande do Sul.
Vida nova by Pedro Weingärtner, 1893. Acervo municipal de Nova Veneza
The Brazilian government (with or following the Emperor's support) had
created the first colonies of immigrants (colônias de imigrantes) in
the early 19th century. These colonies were established in rural areas
of the country, being settled by European families, mainly German
immigrants that settled in many areas of Southern Brazil.[citation
The first groups of
Italians arrived in 1875, but the boom of Italian
Brazil happened in the late 19th century, between 1880
and 1900, when almost one million
A great number of
Italians was naturalized Brazilian at the end of the
19th century, when the 'Great Naturalization' conceded automatically
citizenship to all the immigrants residing in
Brazil prior to November
15, 1889 "unless they declared a desire to keep their original
nationality within six months."
During the last years of the 19th century, the denouncements of bad
Brazil increased in the press. Reacting to the public
clamor and many proved cases of mistreatments of Italian immigrants,
the government of
Italy issued, in 1902, the Prinetti decree
forbidding subsidized immigration to Brazil. In consequence, the
number of Italian immigrants in
Brazil fell drastically in the
beginning of the 20th century, but the wave of Italian immigration
continued until 1920.[not in citation given]
Over half of the Italian immigrants came from Northern Italian regions
of Veneto, Lombardy,
Tuscany and Emilia-Romagna. About 30% emigrated
from Veneto. On the other hand, during the 20th century, Central
Italians predominated in Brazil, coming from the regions
of Campania, Abruzzo, Molise,
Basilicata and Sicily.
Prince Umberto's visit in 1924
In 1924 Umberto, Prince of
Piedmont (the future King Umberto II of
Italy) came to
Brazil as part of a state visit to various South
American country. This was part of the political plan of the newly
installed Fascist government to link
Italian people living outside of
Italy with their mother country and with the interests of the regime.
The visit was considerably disrupted by the then ongoing Tenente
revolts, making it impossible for the visiting Prince to reach Rio de
Janeiro and São Paulo. Nevertheless, he was hosted at
members of the Italian colony in the city were very happy and proud
about his visit, thus partially achieving the visit's purpose.
1940 Brazilian Census
The Brazilian Census of 1940 asked
Brazilians where their fathers came
from. The Census revealed that at that time there were 3,275,732
Brazilians who were born to an immigrant father. Of those, 1,260,931
Brazilians were born to an Italian father. Italian was the main
reported paternal immigrant origin, followed by Portuguese with
735,929 children, Spanish with 340,479 and German with 159,809
The Census also revealed that the 458,281 foreign mothers of 12 or
more years who lived in
Brazil had 2,852,427 children, of whom
2,657,974 were born alive. The Italian women had more children than
any other female immigrant community in Brazil: 1,069,862 Brazilians
were born to an Italian mother, followed by 524,940 who were born to a
Portuguese mother, 436,305 to a Spanish mother and 171,790 to a
Japanese mother. The 6,809,772 Brazilian-born mothers of 12 or
more years had 38,716,508 children, of whom 35,777,402 were born
Brazilians who were born to a foreign-born father (1940 Census)
Main places of birth of the father
Number of children
Syria- Lebanon- Palestine- Iraq - Middle-Eastern
Women over 12 years old who had offspring in
Brazil and their
by country of birth (1940 Census)
Country of birth of the mother
Number of females over 12 years old
who had children
Number of children
On the other hand, in 1998, the IBGE, within its preparation for the
2000 Census, experimentally introduced a question about "origem"
(ancestry) in its "Pesquisa Mensal de Emprego" (Monthly Employment
Research), in order to test the viability of introducing that variable
in the Census (the
IBGE ended by deciding against the inclusion of
questions about it in the Census). This research interviewed about
90,000 people in six metropolitan regions (São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro,
Porto Alegre, Belo Horizonte, Salvador, and Recife).
The results of this survey stand in contradiction with the claims of
the Italian embassy to Brazil. While the latter point to "Italian
Brazilians" making up to 18% of the Brazilian population, with
absolute figures varying between 28 and 31 million, and figures for
the city of
São Paulo as high as 60% or 6 million, the
actually a figure of 10%, which would correspond, at the time, to a
total population of about 3.5 million people of Italian origin in the
whole set of metropolitan regions it researched, including São Paulo
(and Porto Alegre, another metropolitan region with a high
concentration of oriundi).
Arrival of Italian immigrants to
Brazil by periods (source: IBGE)
Italian population in Brazil
Estimated Italian population (by Giorgio Mortara)
.* Comissariato Generale dell'Emigrazione
The 1920 Census was the first one to show a more specific figure about
the size of the Italian population in
Brazil (558,405). However, since
the 20th century the arrival of new Italian immigrants to
in full decline. The previous censuses of 1890 and 1900 had limited
information (in fact, the 1900 Census never existed). In consequence,
there are no official figures about the size of the Italian population
Brazil during the mass immigration period (1880–1900). There are
estimates available, and the most reliable is the one done by Giorgio
Mortara, even though the figures he found may have underestimated the
real size of the Italian population. On the other hand, Angelo
Trento believes that the Italian estimates are "certainly
exaggerated", and "lacking of any foundation", since they
found the figure of 1,837,887
Brazil as of 1927. Another
evaluation conducted by Bruno Zuculin found the presence of 997,887
Brazil as of 1927. Notice that all these figures only
include people born in Italy, and not their Brazilian born
Brazilians of Italian descent by states or regions as of 2000
Total population (millions)
Rio de Janeiro
Rio Grande do Sul
Total in Brazil
Main Italian settlements in Brazil
Areas of settlement
Italians who immigrated to Brazil, 70% went to the State of
São Paulo. In consequence,
São Paulo has more people with Italian
ancestry than any region of
Italy itself. The rest went mostly to
the states of
Rio Grande do Sul
Rio Grande do Sul and Minas Gerais.
Panoramic view of Ribeirão Preto. By 1902, 52% percent of the city's
population was born in Italy.
Due to the internal migration, many Italians, second and third
generations descendants, moved to other areas. In the early 20th
century, many rural Italian workers from
Rio Grande do Sul
Rio Grande do Sul migrated to
the west of Santa Catarina and then further north to Paraná.
More recently, third and fourth generations have been migrating to
other areas; thus it is possible to find people of Italian descent in
Brazilian regions where the immigrants had never settled, such as in
Cerrado region of Central-West, in the Northeast and in the Amazon
rainforest area, in the extreme North of Brazil.
Farms owned by a foreigner(1920)
Wine production introduced by
Italians in Caxias do Sul.
A typically Venetian community in Southern Brazil.
The main areas of Italian settlement in
Brazil were the Southern and
Southeastern regions, namely the states of São Paulo, Rio Grande do
Sul, Santa Catarina, Paraná,
Espírito Santo and Minas Gerais.
The first colonies to be populated by
Italians were created in the
Rio Grande do Sul
Rio Grande do Sul (Serra Gaúcha). These were Garibaldi
and Bento Gonçalves. These immigrants were predominantly from Veneto,
in northern Italy. After five years, in 1880, the great numbers of
Italian immigrants arriving caused the Brazilian government to create
another Italian colony, Caxias do Sul. After initially settling in the
government-promoted colonies, many of the Italian immigrants spread
into other areas of
Rio Grande do Sul
Rio Grande do Sul seeking better opportunities.
They created many other Italian colonies on their own, mainly in
highlands, because the lowlands were already populated by German
immigrants and native gaúchos. The Italian established many vineyards
in the region. Nowadays, the wine produced in these areas of Italian
colonization in southern
Brazil is much appreciated within the
country, though little is available for export. In 1875, the first
Italian colonies were established in Santa Catarina, which lies
immediately to the north of Rio Grande do Sul. The colonies gave rise
to towns such as Criciúma, and later also spread further north, to
In the colonies of southern Brazil, Italian immigrants at first
confined themselves within themselves, where they could speak their
native Italian dialects and keep their culture and traditions. With
time, however, they would become thoroughly integrated economically
and culturally into the larger society. In any case, Italian
immigration to southern
Brazil was very important to the economic
development, as well to the culture of the region.
Imagine you travel eight thousand nautic miles, across the
Mediterranean and the Atlantic and suddenly find yourself in Italy.
That's São Paulo. It seems paradoxical, but it is a reality, because
São Paulo is an Italian city.
Pietro Belli, Italian journalist in São Paulo(1925).
Coffee plantation in the State of Minas Gerais, employed Italians.
Italian immigrants in the Hospedaria dos Imigrantes, in São Paulo.
A part of the immigrants settled in the colonies in Southern Brazil.
However, the majority of them settled in
Southeastern Brazil (mainly
in the State of São Paulo). In the beginning, the government was
responsible for bringing the immigrants (in most cases, paying for
their transportation by ship), but later the farmers were responsible
for making contracts with immigrants or specialized companies in
recruiting Italian workers. Many posters were spread in Italy, with
pictures of Brazil, selling the idea that everybody could become rich
there by working with coffee, which was called by the Italian
immigrants the green gold. Most coffee plantations were in the States
São Paulo and Minas Gerais, and in a smaller proportion also in
the States of
Espírito Santo and Rio de Janeiro.
Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro was
declining in the 19th century as a farming producer and
São Paulo had
already taken the lead as a coffee producer/exporter around the start
of the 20th century, as well as big producer of sugar and other
important crops. Thus, migrants were naturally more attracted to the
São Paulo and the southern states.
Italians used to migrate to
Brazil in families. The colono, as
rural immigrants were called, had to sign a contract with the farmer
and was obliged to work in the coffee plantation during a minimum
period of time. However, the situation was not easy. Many Brazilian
farmers were used to command slaves and treated the immigrants as
While, in Southern Brazil, the Italian immigrants were living in
relatively well developed colonies, in
Southeastern Brazil they were
living in semi-slavery conditions in the coffee plantations. Many
rebellions against Brazilian farmers occurred and the public
denouncements caused great commotion in Italy, forcing the Italian
government to issue the Prinetti decree that established barriers to
immigration to Brazil.
Italian-Brazilian farmers in 1918.
São Paulo City
Percentage of the City
In 1901, 90% of industrial workers and 80% of construction workers at
São Paulo city were Italians.
In the new neighborhoods follow up to infinite
Italians houses, with
balustrades, mantels, decorations in stucco and colorful simbolic
figurines. Lonis-Albert Gaffrée, a French priest in São Paulo
(1911). Photo of Mooca.
Percentage of the City
Percentage of the City
São Carlos and
Ribeirão Preto were two of the main coffee plantation
centers. Located both, respectively, in the North-Central and
Northeastern regions of
São Paulo state, a zone known by its hot
temperature and a fertile soil in which some of the richest coffee
farms were in, it attracted most of the immigrants arriving in São
Paulo, including the Italians, between 1901 and 1940.
Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro City
Other parts of Brazil
Although the majority of
Brazilians of Italian descent live in the
South and Southeast part of the country, in recent decades
(1960s-present), people from southern Brazil, mainly of Italian
descent, have played a vital role in settling and
developing the vast "cerrado" grasslands of Central-West, North and
the west part of Northeastern Brazil.
These areas, once economically neglected, are fast becoming one of the
world's most important agricultural regions. The cerrado (Portuguese
for thick and dense, meaning thick grassland) is a vast area of
savanna-like grasslands in Brazil. In the State of Mato Grosso do Sul,
Italian descendants are 5% of the population.
Decline of Italian Immigration
Italians on Brazilian coffee plantation.
In 1902, the Italian immigration to
Brazil started to decline. From
1903 to 1920, only 306,652
Italians immigrated to Brazil, compared to
Argentina and 3,581,322 to the United States. This was
mainly due to the Prinetti Decree in Italy, that banned the subsidized
Brazil (the Brazilian Government or landowners could
not pay the passage of the immigrants anymore).
Prinetti Decree was created because of the commotion in the Italian
press due to the penury faced by most
Italians in Brazil. The
immigrants who went to
Southern Brazil became small landowners and,
despite the problems faced by them (dense forest, epidemics of yellow
fever, lack of consumer market) the easy access to lands increased
their opportunities. However, only a minority of the
taken to Southern Brazil. Most of the country's economy was based on
coffee plantations, and
Brazil was already the main coffee exporter in
the world (since the 1850s). As a consequence of the end of slavery
and that most former slaves left the plantations, there was a labour
shortage on coffee plantations. Moreover, “natural
inequality of human beings”, “hierarchy of races”, Social
Positivism and other theories were used to explain that the
European workers were superior to the native workers. In consequence,
passages were offered to Europeans (the so-called "subsidized
immigration"), mostly to Italians, so that they could come to Brazil
and work on the plantations.
Italian students in a rural school of São Paulo.
Those immigrants were employed in enormous latifundia (large-scale
farms), formerly employing slaves. In Brazil, there were no labour
laws (the first concrete labour laws only appeared in the 1930s, under
Getúlio Vargas's government) and, therefore, workers had almost no
legal protection. Contracts signed by the immigrants could easily be
violated by the Brazilian landowners. Accustomed to dealing with
African slaves, the remnants of slavery influenced on how Brazilian
landowners dealt with Italian workers: immigrants were often
monitored, with extensive hours of work. In some cases, they were
obliged to buy the products they needed from the landowner. Moreover,
the coffee farms were located in rather isolated regions. If the
immigrants became sick, they would take hours to reach the nearest
hospital. The structure of labor used on farms included the labor of
Italian women and children. Keeping their
Italian culture was also
made more difficult: the Catholic churches and Italian cultural
centers were far from the farms. The immigrants who did not accept the
standards imposed by the landowner were replaced by other immigrants.
This forced them to accept the impositions of the landowner or they
would have to leave his lands. Even though
Italians were considered to
be "superior" to blacks by Brazilian landowners, the situation faced
Brazil was so similar to that of the slaves that
farmers called them escravos brancos (white slaves in Portuguese).
The destitution faced by
Italians and other immigrants in Brazil
caused great commotion in the Italian press, which culminated in the
Prinetti Decree in 1902. Many immigrants left
Brazil after their
experience on São Paulo's coffee farms. Between 1882 and 1914, 1.5
million immigrants of different nationalities came to São Paulo,
while 695,000 left the state, or 45% of the total. The high numbers of
Italians asking the Italian Consulate a passage to leave
Brazil was so
significant that in 1907 most of the Italian funds for repatriation
were used in Brazil. It is estimated that, between 1890 and 1904,
223,031 (14,869 annually)
Italians left Brazil, mainly after failed
experiences on coffee farms. The majority of the
Italians who left the
country were unable to add the money they wanted. Most of these people
returned to Italy, while others re-migrated to Argentina,
to the United States. The output of immigrants concerned Brazilian
landowners, who constantly complained about the lack of workers.
Spanish immigrants began arriving in greater numbers, but soon Spain
also started to create barriers for further immigration of Spaniards
to coffee farms in Brazil. The continuing problem of lack of labor in
the farms was, then, temporarily resolved with the arrival of Japanese
immigrants, from 1908.
Italian immigrants arriving in
São Paulo (c. 1890).
Despite the high numbers of immigrants leaving the country, the
majority of the
Italians remained in Brazil. Most of the immigrants
only remained one year working on coffee farms and then they left the
plantations. A small number of them earned enough money to buy their
own lands, and became farmers themselves. However, the majority
migrated to Brazilian urban centers. Many
Italians worked in factories
(in 1901, 81% of the São Paulo's factory workers were Italians). In
Rio de Janeiro, a considerable number of the factory workers was also
composed of Italians. In São Paulo, those workers established
themselves in the center of the city, living in cortiços (degraded
multifamily row houses). Those agglomerations of
Italians in urban
centers gave birth to typically Italian neighborhoods, such as Mooca,
which is until today linked to its Italian past. Other
traders, mostly itinerant traders, selling their products in different
regions. A common presence on the streets of
São Paulo were the
Italian boys working as newspaper-boys, as an Italian traveler
observed: "In the crowd, we can see many Italian boys, shabby and
barefoot, selling the newspapers from the city and from Rio de
Janeiro, bothering the passersby with their offerings and their
shouting of street roguish".
Despite the poverty and even semi-slavery conditions faced by many
Italians in Brazil, over time most of this population achieved some
personal success and changed their low class economic situation. Even
though most of the first generation of immigrants still lived in
poverty, the children of Italians, born in Brazil, often changed their
social status as they diversified their field of work, leaving the
poor conditions of their parents and not rarely becoming part of the
With the exception of some isolated cases of violence between
Brazilians and Italians, especially between 1892 and 1896, the
integration of immigrants in
Brazil happened quick and peacefully. For
Italians in São Paulo, scholars suggest that this process of
assimilation occurred in up to two generations. There is research that
suggests that even first-generation immigrants, born in Italy, soon
became assimilated in the new country. Even in Southern Brazil, where
most of the
Italians were living in isolated rural communities,
without much contact with Brazilians, and where they kept the Italian
patriarchal family structure (and therefore the father chose the wive
or husband for their children, giving preference to the Italians) the
assimilation process was also quick.
According to the 1940 Census in Rio Grande do Sul, 393,934 people
reported to speak German as their first language (11.86% of the
state's population). In comparison, 295,995 reported to speak Italian,
mostly dialects (8.91% of the state's population). Even though the
Italian immigration was larger and more recent than the German one,
the Italian group tended to be more easily assimilated. In the 1950
Census, the number of people in
Rio Grande do Sul
Rio Grande do Sul who reported to
speak Italian dropped to 190,376. In São Paulo, where a larger number
Italians settled, in the 1940 census 28,910 Italian born people
reported to speak Italian at home (only 13.6% of the state's Italian
population). In comparison, 49.1% of the immigrants of other
nationalities reported to keep speaking their native languages at home
(with the exception of the Portuguese, of course). Then, the
prohibition of speaking Italian, German and Japanese during World War
II was not so great to the Italian community as it was to the other
A major measure of the government occurred in 1889, when the Brazilian
citizenship was granted to all immigrants, although this act had
little influence on their identity or assimilation process. The
Italian newspapers in
Brazil and also the Italian government, in turn,
were uncomfortable with the assimilation of
Italians in the country.
This occurred mostly after the Great
Naturalization period. The
Italian institutions encouraged the entry of
Italians in Brazilian
politics, although the presence of immigrants was, initially, small.
The Italian dialects came to dominate the streets of
São Paulo and in
some Southern localities. Over time, these languages based on Italian
dialects tended to disappear and nowadays their presence is small.
In the beginning, specially in rural Southern Brazil,
to marry only other Italians. On the other hand,
Italians in São
Paulo and, mainly, those living in urban centers tended to marry
Brazilians. Over time and with the decrease of more
immigrants arriving, even in
Southern Brazil they started to integrate
themselves with Brazilians. About the
Italians in Santa Catarina, the
Italian Consul asserted:
The marriage between an Italian man and a Brazilian woman, between an
Italian woman and a Brazilian man is very common, and it would be even
more frequent if the majority of the
Italians were not living
segregated on the countryside.
There is little information about this trend, but it was noticed a
large process of integration since World War I: between 1917 and 1923,
in Rio Grande do Sul: weddings between an Italian man and a Brazilian
woman (997, 66.1%); Italian woman and Brazilian man (135, 9%) and
Italian man and Italian woman (375, 24.9%).
These marriages between
Brazilians were extremely
common, mostly in the low classes, and were largely
accepted for both people. However, some more closed
members of the Italian community saw this integration process as
German Brazilian population was also treated by some
Italians as repulsive, even though many Germans and
together in many areas of Southern Brazil. The Brazilian Indians were
often treated as wild people, and cases of conflicts between Italians
and Indians for the occupation of lands in
Southern Brazil were not
Brazilians of Italian descent with President Lula during Festa da Uva,
in Rio Grande do Sul.
Italians have been divided into two groups in Brazil.
Southern Brazil lived in rural colonies, in contact mostly
with other people of Italian descent.
Italians living in Southeast
Brazil on the other hand, the most populated region of the country,
integrated into Brazilian society quite quickly.
After some years working in coffee plantations, some immigrants earned
enough money to buy their own land and become farmers themselves.
Others left the rural areas and moved to urban centres, mainly São
São Carlos and Ribeirão Preto. A small minority
became very rich in the process and attracted more Italian immigrants.
In the early 20th century,
São Paulo became known as the City of the
Italians, because 31% of its inhabitants were of
Italian nationality in 1900. The city of
São Paulo had the second
highest population of people with Italian ancestry in the world at
this time, second only to Rome.[full citation needed] In Campinas,
street signs in Italian were common, a large commercial and
services sector owned by Italian
Brazilians developed, and more than
60% of the population had Italian surnames. Today, nearly 30% of
the population of
Belo Horizonte remains of Italian
ancestry.[dubious – discuss]
Italian immigrants were very important to the development of many of
the big cities in Brazil, such as São Paulo, Porto Alegre, Curitiba
and Belo Horizonte. Bad conditions in rural areas made thousands of
Italians move to these big cities. Most of them became laborers and
participated actively in the industrialization of
Brazil in the early
20th century. Others became investors, bankers and industrialists,
such as Count Matarazzo, whose family became the richest
industrialists in São Paulo, with a holding of more than 200
industries and businesses. In Rio Grande do Sul, 42% of industrial
Italians and their descendants were also quick to organize themselves
and establish mutual aid societies (such as the Circolo Italiano),
hospitals, schools (such as the Istituto Colégio Dante Alighieri, in
São Paulo), labor unions, newspapers as Il Piccolo from Mooca and
Fanfulla (for the whole city to São Paulo), magazines, radio stations
and association football teams such as: Clube Atlético Votorantim,
the old Sport Club Savóia from Sorocaba,
Clube Atlético Juventus
Clube Atlético Juventus of
Brazilians from Mooca (old worker quarter from city of São
Paulo) and the great clubs (which had the same name) Palestra Italia,
later renamed to:
Sociedade Esportiva Palmeiras
Sociedade Esportiva Palmeiras in
São Paulo and
Cruzeiro Esporte Clube
Cruzeiro Esporte Clube in Belo Horizonte.
Palmeiras supporters in Estádio Palestra Itália. The club was
Italians immigrants in
São Paulo in 1914 as Società
Sportiva Palestra Italia.
Owned by Italians
Owners of 204 largest industries in
São Paulo (1962)
Son of an immigrant
Brazilian(more than 3 generations)
Grandson of an immigrant
Syrians and Lebanese
Industries owned by an Italian
Rio Grande do Sul
Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro (city + state)
Characteristics of Italian immigration in Brazil
Saudades de Nápoles (1895) (Missing Naples). Painting by Bertha Worms
(Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo, São Paulo).
Italian immigration to
Total : 1,243,633
Areas of origin
A greatest number of the Italian immigrants to
Brazil came from
Northern Italy; however, they were not distributed homogeneously among
the extensive Brazilian regions. In the state of São Paulo, the
Italian community was more diverse including a large number of people
from the South and from the center of Italy. Even today, 42% of
Brazil came from the Northern regions, 36% from
central regions and only 22% from the south of Italy.
Brazil is the
only American country with a large Italian community where the
Southern Italian immigrants are minority.
In the first decades, the vast majority of the immigrants came from
the North. Since
Southern Brazil received most of the early settlers,
the vast majority of the immigrants in this region came from the
extreme North of Italy, mainly from
Veneto and particularly from the
provinces of Vicenza (32%), Belluno (30%) and Treviso (24%). In
Rio Grande do Sul, many came from Cremona, Mantua, from parts of
Brescia, and also from Bergamo, in the region of Lombardy, close to
Veneto. The regions of
Trentino and of
Friuli-Venezia Giulia also sent
many immigrants to the South of Brazil. Of the immigrants in Rio
Grande do Sul, 54% came from the Veneto, 33% from Lombardy, 7% from
Trentino, 4.5% from
Friuli-Venezia Giulia and only 1.5% from other
parts of Italy.
Starting in the early 20th century, the agrarian crisis also started
to affect Southern
Italy and many of them immigrated to Brazil. The
Southerners went mostly to the state of São Paulo, since it was in
need of workers to embrace the coffee plantations. Among the Italian
immigrants in São Paulo, most came from Calabria,
Pictures of Caxias do Sul. The City was established by Italian
immigrants, mostly farmers from the Veneto.
Italian Immigration to Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay
Italian regional origin of Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay
Main group of
Italians immigrants living in
São Paulo state(1936)
Main groups of
Italians in some neighborhoods in São Paulo
Campania and Apulia
Italian influences in Brazil
The Italian is more heard in
São Paulo than in Turin, Milan or
Naples, because while between us the dialects are spoken, in São
Paulo all dialects merge under the Venetianss and Toscans' influx, who
are the majority, and the natives adopted the Italian as an official
Gina Lombroso, Italian traveler in São Paulo(1908).
Italian people in Serra Gaúcha.
Brazilians with Italian ancestry speak Portuguese as
their native language. During the Second World War, the public use of
Italian, German and Japanese was forbidden.
The Italian dialects have influenced the Portuguese spoken in some
areas of Brazil. The Italian Language was so spread
São Paulo that the Portuguese traveller, Sousa Pinto, said that he
could not speak with cart drivers in Portuguese because they all spoke
Italians dialects and gesticulating as Neapolitans.
Currently, the Italian influence on Portuguese spoken in
São Paulo is
not as great as in the past, although the accent of the city's
inhabitants still has some traces of the Italian accents common in the
beginning of the 20th century, like the intonation and also such
expressions as Belo, Ma vá!, Orra meu! and Tá entendendo?. Other
characteristic is the difficulty to speak Portuguese in plural, saying
plural words as they were singulars. The lexical influence of
Italian on Brazilian Portuguese, however, has remained quite small.
A similar phenomenon occurred in the countryside of Rio Grande do
Sul, but encompassing almost exclusively those of
Italian origin. On the other hand, there exists a different
phenomenon; Talian, a language which emerged mostly in the
northeastern part of the state (Serra Gaúcha). Talian is a variant of
the Venetian language, with influences from other Italian dialects and
Portuguese. In southern Brazilian rural areas marked by
bilingualism, even among the monolingual Portuguese-speaking
population, the Italian-influenced accent is fairly typical.
The Italian influence in
Brazil reached also the music, not only with
traditional Italian songs but also with the merging with other
Brazilians music styles. One of the main results of the fusion is the
Samba Paulista, a Samba with strong
The Samba Paulista was created by Adoniran Barbosa(born João
Rubinato), son of
Italians immigrants. His songs translated the life
of the Italian neighborhoods in São Paulo, merging the São Paulo's
dialect with Samba, what latter celebrate him as the People's
One of the main example is the Samba Italiano, a song that has
Brazilian rhythm and theme, but (mostly) Italian lyrics. Below, the
lyrics of this song, with the parts in (mangled) Portuguese in bold
and the parts in Italian in normal font:
The Church of Our Lady of Achiropita in Bixiga. The Feast in honor to
the Lady happens in August since 1926.
Original in São Paulo's pidgin
Gioconda, piccina mia,
Vai brincar ali no mare í no fundo,
Mas attenzione co os tubarone, ouviste
Capito, meu San Benedito?
Fa tempo che piove qua, Gigi,
E io, sempre io,
Sotto la tua finestra
E voi senza mi sentire
Ridere, ridere, ridere
Di questo infelice qui
Ti ricordi, Gioconda,
Di quella sera in Guarujá
Quando il mare ti portava via
E mi chiamasti
La tua Gioconda ha paura di quest'onda
Free translation to English
Gioconda, my little
Go frolicking there, deep into the sea
But pay attention to the sharks, do you hear
Understood, my Saint Benedict?
It rains, it rains
It has rained for a long time here, Gigi
And I, always I
Under your window
And you, without hearing me
Laughing, laughing and laughing
Of this unhappy one here
Do you remember, Gioconda
That afternoon in Guarujá
When the sea took you away
And you called for me:
Your Gioconda is afraid of this wave
St. Vito Festival
The Sanctuary of
Our Lady of Caravaggio
Our Lady of Caravaggio located in Farroupilha. The
city was founded by Italian immigrants as Nova Milano(New Milan).
There are other five Sanctuary spread in Brazil.
The St. Vito
Festival is one of the most important Italian festivals
São Paulo and celebrates Saint Vito, a Christian martyr who was
killed in June 303 AD, the patron saint of Polignano a Mare, a city in
Apulia region of southern Italy. Italian immigrants from Apulia
moved in great numbers to the
Brás neighborhood of
São Paulo at the
end of the 19th century, bringing with them a devotion to Saint Vito.
Festival is also a time when the Italian community in São Paulo
gathers to party and eat traditional food. Other important Italian
São Paulo are Our Lady of Casaluce, also in
May), Our Lady of Achiropita, in Bela Vista (August), and St. Gennaro,
in Mooca (September).
Just like Polignano a Mare, eventually
Brás had a church devoted to
St. Vito. An association was formed and hosted the first festival in
June 1919. As
São Paulo grew, so did the Italian community and St.
Vito Festival. Today, about 6 million of São Paulo's 10,886,518
Italians and descendants (known as
"oriundi"), according to statistics provided by Conscre, a São Paulo
state council for foreign communities. An estimated 140,000 people
were expected to attend the festival in 2008.
Catupiry, a Brazilian cheese developed by the Italian immigrant Mario
Silvestrini in 1911.
Italians brought new recipes and types of food to
Brazil but also
helped in the development of Brazil's cuisine.
Aside from the typical Italian cuisine like pizza, pasta, risotto,
panettone, milanesa, polenta, calzone, ossobuco and others, Italians
helped to create new dishes that today are typically Brazilians.
Galeto(from the Italian Galletto, little rooster), Frango com Polenta
(Chicken with fried Polenta),Bife à parmegiana(a steak prepared with
Catupiry cheese, new types of sausage like
Linguiça Calabresa and Linguiça Toscana (literally Calabrian and
Tuscan Sausage), Chocotone (Panettone with chocolate chips) and
many others recipes were created or influenced by the Italian
The Italian-Brazilian Benvenutti family, in 1928.
Use of ciao ("tchau" in Brazilian-Portuguese) as a 'goodbye'
salutation (all of Brazil),
Wine production (in the South),
A few loan words (italianisms), such as bisogno, entrevero, esquifoso
(schifoso, disgusting), imbróglio, male-male, manjar (mangiare),
noccia, noja, nonna, nonnino, pivete, and others.
Early introduction of more advanced low-scale farming techniques
São Paulo and all Southern Brazil).
Italian international schools in Brazil:
Scuola Italiana Eugenio Montale - São Paulo
Istituto Italo-Brasiliano Biculturale Fondazione Torino - Belo
Demography of Brazil
White Latin Americans
List of Portuguese words of Italian origin
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