Brazilian immigrants who decide to live abroad form local communities when they move and end up to represent Brazilian culture and identity in the region where they live. Although the Brazilian government does not have accurate data on the number of immigrants living in the United States, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2016 estimates that there are 1.2 million to 1.4 million Brazilians living in the country.
In Georgia, for example, the Brazilian community from Goiás still reproduces the state’s traditions. In Marietta, a city in the metropolitan area of Atlanta, where most Brazilians live, there are several commercial establishments with the name “Goianão”. In the same shopping area you can see: Goianão Padaria (Bakery), Goianão Supermercado (Supermarket) and Goianão Restaurante (Restaurant).
Even a well-known and appreciated food in Brazil, especially during the June festival season – pamonha, is sold in Brazilian restaurants as Brazilian tamal, a food made with corn and very common in Mexico and Central American countries. In Atlanta, the community advertises on social media events with tamal to raise funds for churches and social works.
There are also many evangelical churches and an active Catholic community set up by Brazilians in many American cities as New York, Boston, Houston, Miami, Orlando, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, as well Marietta in Georgia among other cities.
Adapting to a new country
In different social spheres, Brazilians become defenders of their origins and the culture of their country. The American James Thomaz, 45, lives in Marietta next to the church where the party was held and went to the place to eat skewers. “I like how you make the barbecue. I came last year because I saw the party and went back to eat again ”, he said.
The “carioca” (born in Rio de Janeiro) Lucia Moraes Jennings arrived in the United States in 1975 to go to college in Georgia. She says that, at the time, there were few Brazilians in the state. She married an American, but from the beginning she identified herself as a Brazilian and did not abandon her identity.
In 1987, she started working to promote Brazilian culture in Atlanta. “I dressed as Carmen Miranda and went to give lectures at schools. But I tried to take the focus off the stereotype. I didn’t like it and I don’t like it when they associate Brazil only with soccer, carnival and the sensuality of women, said Lucia to Agência Brasil.
In 1996, she decided to shift the focus from culture to the economy. “Brazil started to recover economically and we decided to work on the economic aspect. With this, we created the Brazil-United States Chamber of Commerce in the Southeast ”, explains Lucia, who is an executive at Coca-Cola, company with a base in Atlanta.
This chamber and others as the Brazil-California Chamber of Commerce with based in Los Angeles works with volunteers who bridge the gap between Brazilian and North American companies, identifying potential partnerships, opening up relationship channels and establishing connections.
In Boston, Brazilian journalist and anthropologist Heloísa Galvão, from Ilha Grande (Rio), traveled to the country in 1988 to pursue a master’s degree in Boston and never returned to Brazil. In 1995, she helped to create the group “Mulheres Brasileiras” (Brazilian Women), a non-profit organization that assists the immigrant community and also promotes Brazilian culture.
“Our first objective is to inform. Information generates empowerment. And if you know your rights, you can overcome fear and not be paralyzed, ”says Heloísa, used to dealing with migratory issues that the undocumented community faces. In September, the group promotes a Brazilian Independence Festival that is considered together with the Brazilian Day in New York City and other Brazilian Days celebrations a reference of Brazilian culture in the United States.