March 3, 2010

Looking for Deportees in Goias, Brazil

In Jamaica, Guatemala, and the Dominican Republic, I focused my research exclusively on the capital cities. In Brazil, however, it seems like that might not be the best option. The capital of Brazil – Brasilia – is not a major destination for deportees.

For this reason, I chose to do research in Goias - the Brazilian state with the highest number of deportees. However, I don’t yet know from which part of Goias deportees come. It seems as if they do not necessarily come from Goiania, the state capital. To find out from where in Goias deportees hail, I plan to speak with a few government officials who might have access to that information.

There are three government officials I need to locate and speak with. The first is a state-level official in Goias who is responsible for Goianos abroad. I am meeting with him this afternoon. The next is the ICE attach̩ for the US embassy in Brazil. The final person is either in Foreign Relations or in Immigration Рin the Brazilian federal government. These people should be able to provide me with an idea of where deportees come from.

There has been relatively little research on migration from Goias to the US. However, I have been able to locate a couple of academic studies and have made contact with the authors of those. Speaking with academics is also useful for setting up my site selection.

One big question I have had is why there is so much emigration from Goias. When people think of emigration from Brazil, most think of Minas Gerais. Minas Gerais is the state that sends the most emigrants abroad. The connections between Minas Gerais and the US go back very far, and stem from the mining of mica in Minas Gerais by Americans in the early twentieth century. With Goias, however, there has been much less research and therefore we don’t have a well-developed understanding of emigration from Goias.

I recently read an article by Alan Marcus, a geographer at Towson State University. He argues that there was also mica mining in Goias, and that that led to emigration from Goias. Marcus also mentions Protestantism. Apparently, Goias is the state in Brazil with the highest amount of Protestantism. My colleague Izabel suggested that the high prevalence of the “Protestant Ethic” in Goias may be part of the explanation for emigration from Goias.

Another study, by Brazilian anthropologist, Gustavo Lins Ribeiro, points to the initial migration of a few Goianos to San Francisco as the root of Goianan emigration to the US. He found that a few people from Goiania went to the US and found work in pizzerias. Those initial migrants eventually set up their own pizzerias in San Francisco and used their networks in Brazil to bring Brazilian workers to San Francisco. From those few initial pioneers, San Francisco now has a relatively high number of Goianan immigrants.

Thus, pizza, mica, and Protestantism seem to be behind the emigration of Goianos to the US. The question remains, however, from which part of Goias these migrants come, and to which part of Goias most deportees go.

Brazil is among the top five countries that receive deportees from the US. However, I am not yet sure whether or not those deportees are primarily people found at the Mexican border, or if they are people who have lived for years in the US. It appears there have been a couple of governmental studies of deportees, and I plan to gain access to those to see if they can shed light on the characteristics of deportees.

Once I have a better idea of the demographic profile of deportees in Goias, it will be easier to select a site and to select potential participants for my study.


  1. Interesting, Tanya! By Protestantism do you mean its new form in Brazil, Pentecostalism. Traditional Brazilian Protestants, since the Dutch, are perhaps better educated than Catholics in that region, especially if they are of the Calvinist tradition. Could the explanation also be Goias is relatively close to Bahia and Minas Gerais in terms of proximity and their is a "hook-up" industry there?

  2. Randal: Great questions and comments! I mostly mean Pentecostalism, although Baptism also seems to be around. I will check into that.

    Goias is a neighboring state to Minas Gerais, and many people here are internal migrants from Minas Gerais. So, that likely plays a role. In addition, Goias is similar to Minas in terms of the mining, although on a lesser scale. This information should come out more both with bibliographic research and the interviews as I learn how and why people emigrated in the first place.

    Thanks for the dialogue - it is useful as I think about setting up the project.

  3. Hi Tanya -- I am not sure of the Goias-US connection specifically. However, I did work on Brazilian immigration to Ireland, and much of the connection there can be traced back to a specific linkage between an Irish person and a Brazilian person who began a meatpacking direct labor recruitment program. When the Brazilian meatpacking industry went down in 1999, this Irish company stepped in and began recruitment of skilled meatpacking workers. Today there are towns in Ireland close to 35-40% Brazilian, centered around this industry. I would not be surprised if you find some Brazilians who have been "voluntarily returned" from Ireland since the global recession there too. I think a lot of them came from Vila Fabril near Anapolis.

    If you need more connections to Brazilian emigration scholars too, I know a few from Brazil I can hook you up with.

  4. Helen:
    This matches up very well with the story I have been getting - that emigration started with relatively small links. One person opening a pizzeria, another going as a student, another getting a job in Atlanta. It seemed kind of hard to believe, but your story confirms that emigration really can happen from a very small start. If you have anything published or in-progress about Goias-Ireland, I'd love to see it!

    As for scholars, definitely if you know any in Goias or Brasilia or anyone who has worked on deportees or Goias in particular. Obrigada!