Cultural Researchon Brazil
Brazil is a very diverse country in terms of her ethnic composition.The country comprises of people from different ethnic groups such asthe native Brazilians or the Amerindians, the Portuguese, theAfricans and recently, the country has played host to Europeans,Japanese, Koreans, Chinese and Arab. This racial diversity is alsoseen in the ethnic basis of the country. Each of these immigrantscarried with them various belief systems and practices and followingmany years of intermarriages and interactions it has now becomedifficult for the country to create a national ethnic identity.However, while there is no confusion in the Brazil`s racialcomposition, there is a disagreement on its ethnicity not only withinthe country but also outside the country. Ethnicity entails theaspect of culture and language, and this will be the basis of thispaper.
As one of the world’s most diverse country in terms of the numberindividuals from different nationalities it host, Brazil’s cultureis influenced by each of these groups. However, the level ofinfluence depends on the time an ethnic group has stayed in thecountry. According toAmanda Kearney in the article, Ethnicity in wounded spaces:Instrumentalism and the making of Africa in Brazil,imperial and colonial process has thwarted the efforts to remainethically the same of the Brazilian (42). For instance, as a resultof the many years of Portuguese colonization, Brazil culture heavilyborrows from this group, and this includes religion and language. Before the Portuguese arrival in the country in 1500, the individualswho are identified as native Brazilians or the Amerindians were themajority. However, they were easily outnumbered by the immigrantssuch that the Brazilian culture is mainly foreign. For instance,almost all Brazilians speak Portuguese while the rests who consistof the Amerindians and the recently migrated group such as Chineseand Japanese, speak their native languages. Additionally,approximately 2/3 of the Brazilians identify with Roman Catholicalthough with the recent migration of Europeans such as Italians andKoreans the country is experiencing an increase in the number ofpeople who identify themselves with Protestantism and who use otherlanguages for various functions such as Worship. For instance,according to Jeff Lesserin his book NegotiatingNational Identity: Immigrants, Minorities, and the Struggle forEthnicity inBrazil,besides being committed Protestants Korean- Brazilianuse both Portuguese and Korean in community-building exercise andfaith orientation (185). However, the Brazilian culture is not devoidof the African and Amerindian cultures, particularly when it comes tocuisine. On this note, the country’s cuisine differs from oneregion to another as manifested by the level of interaction betweenthe natives and the immigrants.
Language is one of the aspects of ethnicity and in Brazil, it hasexperienced rapid changes, and it is a source of confusion on whatconstitutes a Brazilian. Initially, the Portuguese migrated to Brazilfor trade and agricultural purposes and ended up establishing hugeplantations. This called for human resources and this gave the slavetrade a boost as Africans were brought into the country in largenumbers to work in the plantations. During this time, the Portuguesecomprised the majority inhabitants as the colonial Portuguese forbadeother nationals from migrating into the country. It is not until thecountry got its independence that people from other countries startedto migrate in large numbers. Particularly, the last part of the 19thcentury and the first half of the 20 century was marked by theEuropean immigration. The groups include people who identifiedthemselves as Germans, Japanese, Middle Eastern and EasternEuropeans. However at the time, the large indigenous, African andPortuguese present in Brazil had already destroyed the country’snational identity (Lesser, 19). In early 20th century, alarge number of the Japanese and the Arabs immigrated into thecountry. For this reason, the Southern part initially inhabited bythe Amerindian people mostly the Kaingangs, Guarani and Pampeano isnow home to people who identify themselves as Africans, Indians andPortuguese. However, Portuguese still have the largest share as apartfrom the fact that they migrated in large numbers during the colonialBrazil, their intermarriages with the natives resulted in people whoidentify themselves as having a Portugal heritage. The north part ofBrazil is where a large part of the Amerindians live. Here, theAmerindian’s culture dominates as the region hardly had anyencounter with non-Indians before the 20th century. Theinteraction between the native and the immigrants resulted in whatLesser calls ambiguities in the definition of what constitutes aBrazilian. This is because almost every immigrant can pull and pushwith the term Brazilian for their advantage (Lesser, 2). TheAmerindian culture still dominates the Northern Brazil and due tointermarriages with the rubbers from the Northeastern, this regionalso has a group of people who identify themselves with beingnon-Indians. These individuals identify with ethnic groups such asItalians, the Africans, Germans, or the Portuguese, among others.
Thus, at the perception level, the Brazilians tend to answer thequestion of their ethnicity depending on what they think is theiroriginal country. As demonstrated above, a large number of those whoinhabit the country identify themselves with their country of originssuch as Portuguese, Germans, Italians, among others nationalities. Tosome extent, some tend to answer the question of their ethnicitydepending on the region from which they or their ancestors migratedfrom such as Arabs, Asians, and Europeans. However, there is a trendamong the different ethnic groups to identify themselves with theirshared values and challenges, besides common ancestry. Kearneysays, “the construction of the Afro-Braziliansinvolves the ability to connect with the African ancestors in thelight of the documented disadvantages that comes with thiscollective” (50). The Amerindians are also following the same trendwith the number of people who identify themselves as being NativeBrazilians increasing according to the census. Besides, a large partof the Amerindians still speak their native language neglectingPortuguese as a national language. Apart from the creation of anational identity, this move is inspired by the desire to benefitfrom the government incentives. Also, the increased diversity in thecountry has necessitated the need to acquire other languages such asEnglish, which is slowly reducing the generalization of ethnicity inthe country as Hispanic. Thus, one can argue that there is a changeon the basis from which ethnic identities are created in Brazil.
In conclusion, Brazil is an ethnic-diverse country hostingindividuals from almost every part of the world. With this diversitycome influences on how the people identify themselves particularly interms of one’s ethnicity with most Brazilians identifyingthemselves with the country their ancestor’s migrated from. Forinstance, some identify themselves as being Portuguese, Italians,Arabs, African, among other ethnicities. Others identify themselvesas Hispanics or Latinos although they are not happy with thisclassification, but what they mean is that they hail from aSpanish-speaking region. However, there is a change in the definitionof ethnic groups with most of them fighting for uniqueness even ifthis is not possible in line with several decades of intermarriagesand interactions.
Kearney,Amanda. "Ethnicity in wounded spaces: Instrumentalism and themaking of Africa in Brazil." nineteensixty nine: an ethnic studies journal 1.1(2012).
Lesser,Jeff. NegotiatingNational Identity: Immigrants, Minorities, and the Struggle forEthnicity in Brazil.Duke University Press, 1999.