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Population Flows in São Paulo

The Population Studies Center at Unicamp publishes an atlas about 200 years of immigration in São Paulo

Trains took immigrants from the port of Santos to the coffee plantations in the interior of the state (photo from 1920)

From the collection of images at the Migration Observatory in São PauloTrains took immigrants from the port of Santos to the coffee plantations in the interior of the state (photo from 1920)From the collection of images at the Migration Observatory in São Paulo

For over 200 years, the social fabric of São Paulo has been uniquely molded by the arrival of more than five million migrants of various nationalities from different regions of Brazil. The comings and goings of these communities brought about profound changes in the social dynamic and served as powerful economic engines for the state’s industry and agriculture. The state capital was the principal stage for this movement. Its more traditional neighborhoods provide living testimony to the urban development pattern laid out by influxes of Italians, Japanese, Portuguese and—more recently—Bolivians, Koreans, Senegalese and Haitians. The cosmopolitan and entrepreneurial nature of São Paulo is rooted in its immigrant heritage. With a view toward mapping the dynamics of migration from 1794 to 2010, revealing the changes and particularities of the migrants’ travels during the ebbs and flows in the economy of São Paulo State, the Population Studies Center at the University of Campinas (Nepo-Unicamp) published the Atlas temático do Observatório das Migrações em São Paulo (Thematic Atlas of the Migration Observatory in São Paulo) in December 2013.

The initiative was coordinated by Rosana Baeninger, a social scientist at Unicamp who received support from both FAPESP and the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq). The Atlas is the product of a thematic project begun in 2009, which completed its first phase in 2013. The study of migrations in São Paulo involved 16 researchers from the Nepo, the Institute of Economics, the Center for Public Policy Research, the School of Applied Sciences at Unicamp, and four universities: Universidade Estadual Paulista (Unesp), Federal University of São Carlos (UFSCar), Federal University of São Paulo (Unifesp), and Anhembi-Morumbi College, along with the participation of 40 undergraduate students, master’s and doctoral candidates, and post-docs. The atlas includes more than 500 interviews with immigrant families and required collection of census data, records from the port of Santos, demographic studies, and marriage certificates.

The next step in the research will focus on contemporary migrations and will investigate the social, economic, and urban impacts of the new waves of immigrants arriving in São Paulo, such as the Koreans who have settled in the industrial region of Piracicaba and in the fashion jewelry business in Limeira, the Haitians in construction work in Campinas and Franca, and the Bolivians in the apparel factories of São Paulo, Americana, and Indaiatuba. “The Migration Observatory noted that, after 200 years of immigration, São Paulo is still the port of entry for international immigrants into Brazil,” says Baeninger.

Effects on the Economy
The purpose of the Atlas is to recover information about the different phases of migrations into and within the state from 1794 up to the present time and connect the dots between the waves of immigrants and their repercussions on the different phases of the state’s economy. The first historical period covered in the Atlas, from 1794 to 1888, involves the internal migrations of about 500,000 free men and slaves, as well as the arrival of the first European immigrants, brought in to work on the coffee plantations. The absence of population censuses for that period led researchers to search the marriage records and data from parishes in Campinas and São Carlos. This effort showed them that a significant percentage of the slaves from those regions had come from the state’s sugar quadrangle (formed by four cities: Jundiaí, Sorocaba, Piracicaba, and Mogi-Guaçu) and from the south of Minas Gerais, as well as from the provinces of Rio de Janeiro and Bahia. The survey revealed the intense spatial mobility of internal migrations within the state, an aspect of 19th century São Paulo history that had been the subject of little study up to now. “We attempted to fill a gap in the literature and show how the internal and external migrations are closely linked phenomena that continue to have an impact on the social development of São Paulo,” Baeninger explains.

Between 1885 and 1927, around 2.5 million foreign immigrants arrived in São Paulo, attracted by the expansion in coffee-growing and the increased urbanization. The first expansion in coffee was initially concentrated in the regions of Campinas, northwest to Araraquara. Early in the 20th century, coffee plantations expanded to occupy the territory in the western part of the state. Workers newly-embarked at Santos rapidly settled the new agricultural frontiers. It was the period of great European immigration, encouraged by the Brazilian government. The largest community to arrive in São Paulo between 1872 and 1929 were the Italians, followed by the Portuguese, Spanish, Germans, and Japanese.

Patterns of Occupation
Each nationality adopted a different pattern of settlement. While the Portuguese in São Paulo accompanied the expansion of the agricultural frontier to the west, the Japanese dispersed more widely within the state, assembling their families in cities near the port of Iguape, in Vale do Ribeira, and moving into the region between Araçatuba and Presidente Prudente. The treasure trove of maps featured in the Atlas details the dynamics of immigration by all nationalities of immigrants between 1920 and 2010.

After 1927, international immigrants were no longer offered a subsidy and the worldwide economic crisis altered the dynamics of immigration. The industrial elite of the city of São Paulo grew in numbers, and the business community of immigrant origin put down roots in Ribeirão Preto, Franca, São Carlos, and Bauru, establishing prosperous industrial complexes in those regions. The 1970s witnessed an increasing dispersion of migratory flows toward the inland regions of the state, a pattern that continues even now, motivated by a better quality of life and lower cost of living. Because of the modernization of agriculture and the diffusion of industry over broader areas, facilitated by the state’s network of major highways, inland areas have been gradually gaining in demographic, political, and economic importance. “The cities of the interior cities possess endogenous forces, and their development owes a lot to the migratory flows,” says Baeninger. The research shows, for example, how the presence of Lebanese and Japanese spurred the flourishing of commercial zones, while the Italians, Portuguese, and Germans grew crops and drove the development of industry in São Paulo. It is estimated that between 1872 and 1950 more than a million Italians entered São Paulo, followed by a million Portuguese, 600,000 Spaniards, 200,000 Japanese, 200,000 Germans, and 100,000 Lebanese.

Bolivians in São Paulo: the most recent wave of immigrants

From the collection of images at the Migration Observatory in São PauloBolivians in São Paulo: the most recent wave of immigrantsFrom the collection of images at the Migration Observatory in São Paulo

The political strife in Europe in the middle of the 20th century led to major and widespread population movements. That was when São Paulo witnessed the arrival of new nationalities. “Starting in 1930, experts began to focus primarily on the internal immigration of Brazilians from the Northeast who came to work in São Paulo, but our research shows how important was the arrival of a new wave of immigrants who were skilled workers, such as the Greeks, Polish, Russians and Ukrainians, who arrived in this state as a result of very specific political pressures,” the researcher explains. In contrast to earlier periods, post-World War II immigrants were almost entirely urban and served to accelerate the growth of São Paulo’s cities at an unprecedented pace. During the 1950s, there was a high rate of population growth in Metropolitan São Paulo, which grew from 2,653,860 inhabitants in 1950 to 4,739,406 in 1960, when the rural and urban migrations, especially of nordestinos, gave the metropolis the labor force needed to launch its next economic phase.

The arrival of immigrants helped with economic development and demographic expansion, but encountered a disorganized pattern of urban growth that had as its result a greater demand for public services. One of the objectives of the Migration Observatory is to further the knowledge about the state’s immigrations and so aid in implementing more efficient public policies. In contrast with the earlier flows, contemporary immigration is characterized by greater mobility. Immigrants now travel at a greater speed and do not always come here with the intention of settling down permanently, as was the case between 1850 and 1950.

“Migratory turnover reflects the location of surplus international capital. For example, now that the Northeast has become more dynamic, the flow of workers from that region is tending to decline. When we understand the dynamics of global capital flows, we are better able to perceive the demand for labor in the cities of São Paulo State and comprehend the shifting nature of needs for health and education policy,” says Baeninger. In her opinion, São Paulo today has a contingent of “invisible” immigrants, such as Bolivians, Peruvians, Paraguayans, Koreans, Chinese, Senegalese, and Angolans who came to work in the textile industry and the retail sector. It is estimated that there may be more than 500,000 of these people living in the state’s capital city. “Our population is much more diverse than in other eras. This is going to require a differentiated structure of public policies that reflect on the second generation of the immigrant flows, as well as on the internalization of international immigration and the successive comings and goings of the immigrant communities.”

In 2013 the Migration Observatory also completed publication of the remaining volumes of its 12-series study of the migratory dynamics of São Paulo. The collection Por Dentro do Estado de São Paulo (Inside the State of São Paulo) mapped the impact migratory flows had on different regions of the state and is available here.

Migration Observatory in São Paulo (Phases and faces of migration in São Paulo). (No. 2009/06502-2); Grant mechanism Thematic project Coord. Rosana Aparecida Baeninger/Unicamp; Investment R$368,845.20 (FAPESP) / R$37,000.00 (CNPq).