Friday, September 2, 2011

Off The Beaten Track: The End of the Brazilian Diaspora

Our guest blogger this week is one of our favorite authors, Leighton Gage, who lives in, and writes about, Brazil. The New York Times aptly calls his crime novels “top-notch,” “entirely absorbing,” and “irresistible." His latest, A Vine in the Blood, will be launched in the United States in December.

For about 400 years, Brazil wasn’t a country you came from; it was a country you went to.

People came from everywhere.

And if they didn’t find wealth, they found an inexplicable something, an emotional link that bound them to the land.

Few who went could ever bring themselves to leave.

But then, in the 1970s, Brazil’s economy tanked.

It wasn’t quite as bad as what happened in the Weimar Republic.

Where the currency became entirely valueless.

Or as bad as what happened in the United States during the Great Depression.

Where people lined up for free bread.

Few starved.

But, at a given point, inflation surpassed 80% a month.

Think about that. Eighty percent a month.

Businesses failed. So did banks. Unemployment soared. Millions were left without a livelihood.
And many sought sustenance outside the country.
Thus began the Great Brazilian Diaspora.

For the first time in her history, Brazil began losing her citizens.

The Italian government gives a passport to anyone who can prove they had at least one Italian grandparent. Brazil accepts dual nationality, so Brazilians besieged Italian consulates, pocketed their new EEC documents, and went off to invade Europe.

Those who had Japanese parents, or grandparents, flocked to Japan.

More than a million entered the United States, most of them illegally.

But all of them, without exception, kept at least one eye focused on what was going on in Brazil.

Full assimilation into their new societies was the farthest thing from their minds.

And during all the years, all of their exiles, their sights remained set on “going home.”

To that end, they made sure their kids retained a fluency in Portuguese.

They called friends and family “at home” at least once a week.

They installed satellite receivers, so they could watch Brazilian networks on television.

When Brazil played their host country in sports, they rooted for the Brazilian teams.

When they went on holiday, they went to Brazil.

And they worked, and waited, for the wheel to come full circle.

Now it has.

In 2010, Brazil’s economic growth surpassed that of South Korea, Japan, Germany, and the United States.

The country enjoyed the fourth-highest GDP expansion in the world after China and India. Oil has been discovered off the coast, and it now appears that Brazil will be independent in terms of petroleum. Exports are booming. Agricultural production is at an all-time high. The aircraft industry, the automobile industry, the aerospace industry, and the computer industry are all booking record profits. Inflation is low, the currency strong. Foreign investment is pouring in. The banks are solid. Employment too is at an all-time high.

One-way bookings from the United States have doubled since last year.

And a number of international moving companies have been established to handle the massive amount of business.

For Brazilians, the diaspora is over.

And now, at last, they’re going home.


  1. Your posts are always as entertaining as they are informative. Thanks for a great post, Leighton!

  2. Leighton, I LOVED this post. So beautifully written and so interesting how things can change in one's lifetime.

  3. Great post, Leighton. Thanks for sharing it with us. I find it heartening to see a country move from bust to prosperity, even if it took a very long time. How long have you lived in Brazil? Were you able to see all these changes first hand?

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