It seems that not only Brazilians are enjoying the boom the country is having in recent years, but foreigners too. The number of foreign workers in Brazil has gone up by 57 per cent since last year, and for the first time in 20 years there are more foreigners in Brazil than Brazilians outside the country.
The country has always received immigrants from a wide range of countries, from Japan to Lebanon. It’s even hard to define how a typical Brazilian looks, with such a mixed population – perhaps this is the reason our passports are the most forged in the world. But in the past two decades emigration was more common than immigration; it was a time where Brazilians were looking for a better life in different parts of the world, especially in Europe and the US.
The rise in the number of foreign workers is good news. Brazil has always dealt well with new intakes of immigrants and of course it will boost our economy further. Our immigration policies are usually very liberal; the current government has conceded amnesty to illegal immigrants, especially from other Latin American countries. Hopefully this policy will remain but there are already discussions about the number of visas granted to Haitians who want to move to the country. Brazil had a strong presence in Haiti immediately after the earthquake and is now seen by many Haitians as a desirable place to settle.
It makes me happy that a “Haitian neighbourhood” has already formed in São Paulo. Things happen fast and around the streets of Baixada do Glicério you can even hear a creole mass in the local church. I’m sure they will add vibrancy to a city that already celebrates being one of the most diverse in the world.
The three main groups of immigrants are still the Portuguese, Japanese and Italians – countries historically linked to Brazil. But new immigrants from other countries are starting to come too (some of them illegally). Bolivians, for example, are now the fourth largest group.
Like many of my other fellow Brazilians who decided to leave, I can only say that the feeling of saudades (longing) is always there. And if you do decide to pack your bags and go to live in this vibrant country, be aware that you might not want to leave again. If you do, the saudades will come and get you.