European Influences in Brazil

Brazil is a wonderfully culturally rich country, where influences from all over the world meet and combine to create a unique culture found only in Brazil. The long-lasting influence of Europeans, first with the colonization by the Portuguese, who gave the country its current language, then with various waves of European immigration, can be seen throughout the country, in the architecture or traditions of Brazilian people.

The main nationalities of emigrants that can be found in Brazil are Portuguese, Italian, Spanish and German, closely followed by Japanese who massively emigrated in the beginning of the 20th century.

German emigration, although only 4th in terms of numbers, behind other European nationalities, has left some important marks on the Brazilian culture and landscape, particularly in the South. Emigration started as early as 1824, long before other Europeans started coming, and German Brazilian showed particularly high birth rates, which explains their influence. Although they only represent a small minority in the whole country, their influence in the southern Brazil has been quite important, mostly because they have retained their language and customs, more than any other immigrant group.

The German settlements cover large areas in the states of Parana, Santa Catarina, and Rio Grande do Sul, and are generally located in isolated areas which allowed settlers to organize themselves independently from the Brazilian authorities, building their own houses, churches and schools. Odd typical German architecture of the 19th century can be observed throughout these regions.

Italian immigration was also relatively common in the 19th century and has left many marks on the Brazilian landscapes and culture. It is believed that Brazilian of Italian descent are the 4th most populous group of Brazilians from foreign origin, and they are a prominent group, well represented in the Brazilian public life: politics, arts, and sports sector are all filled with Brazilian Italians. The first group of Italians arrived to Brazil in 1875, followed by a peak in emigration in the late 19th century when almost 1 million Italians came to settle. Italian settlements are mostly found in southern and southeastern Brazil, where many established vineyards, or worked in coffee plantations.

Of course the dominant European influence in Brazil, which dominated the entire country, is that of Portugal, which claimed the land as its colony in 1500, and started colonization in 1534. Portuguese assimilated some of the native communities while they annihilated others, progressively imposing their language and culture in most places. Portuguese descent forms the largest group of the Brazilian population, followed by Brazilians of African descent and native Amerindians.

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