Internal Migrations in Brazil
In parallel to the great migratory currents to Brazil , due to economic polarization, there were also internal migrations stimulated for the same reasons, from regions with availability of labor to those with economic heating. The migratory movements were also responsible for the occupation of large tracts of Brazil.
The first significant flow occurred in the 16th century, when cattle breeders from the northeastern coast headed for the Sertão, located in the interior of the region and with a semiarid climate. From there, several breeding areas emerged along the São Francisco River, the defining axis of the population at the time, and which was, therefore, known as the “ river of corrals ”. It later became an important link between the Northeast and the Southeast, receiving the name of “ river of national unity ”.
According to Harvardshoes, the creative activity had the strategy of supplying food to the Zona da Mata, an area where the production of sugar cane, the product responsible for the introduction of monoculture in Brazil, was established. The use of salt as a preservative, placed in meat in blankets, gave rise to an important regional food, dried meat or jabá, generally of inferior quality. The best quality meat, lightly salted and exposed to the sun to dehydrate, is called carne-de-sol.
In the 17th and 18th centuries, people from the Northeast and São Paulo were attracted to the mining regions, located in the current states of Minas Gerais, Bahia, Goiás and Mato Grosso. The “Generals” not only attracted the Portuguese population, but also stimulated the migration process of populations already settled in other parts of Brazil.
Due to the need for the production of food and pack animals for the gold region, the center-south of Brazil started to have significant importance. Many parallel economic activities boosted. the settlement and development of adjacent territories, influenced by the wealth so desired since the beginning of colonization. It is not wrong to say that many people who entered the “gold rush” were less successful than those who produced food and other necessities for the mining center.
With the fall in gold production in the 19th century, there was a shift in the interest of immigration to the states of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, regions where the coffee culture was growing, which began to polarize the economic interests of large landowners.
From then onwards, the so-called great migratory axes began in Brazil .
Gray : Northeastern migration towards the Southeast – industrial expansion and civil construction.
Azul : Migration from the Center-South towards the Center-West and Amazon – agriculture and cattle raising.
Verde : Migration of the Midwest population towards the Amazon – agriculture and livestock and mining.
Orange : Northeastern migration towards the Amazon – rubber, livestock and mining cycle.
Purple : Northeastern migration towards the Center-West – construction of Brasília.
Large demographic contingents, in successive waves, left the Northeast towards the Amazon:
- at the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century, especially those from Ceará migrated – to work in rubber extraction;
- during World War II and, more recently, after the opening of the Transamazônica highway, which facilitated the displacement of northeastern populations to Maranhão, southern Pará and Tocantins. These populations were attracted by pioneering agricultural fronts and by mining.
In addition to the economic stimulus, motivated by rubber prices on the foreign market, Northeasterners moved to the Amazon under pressure from crises in their “region, aggravated by very long historical droughts and by the local land ownership system.
The interest of Brazilian governments has always been to create poles of population fixation in the Amazon, with the policy of “people to defend”, not always accompanied by the necessary infrastructure for new populations.
Generally, such attempts were doomed to failure, . such as the recent construction of the Transamazônica highway, where settlers were practically abandoned in agrovillages without any assistance.
In the first half of the 20th century, through the São Francisco River and the Rio-Bahia highway, what would be the largest population contingents began to pass to the south, sometimes reaching more than 200 thousand annual migrants, who became known as “paus-de- macaw”, due to the precariousness of the trucks where they were transported.
First, they went to the west of São Paulo, to work in the coffee and cotton crops. After World War II, industrial development attracted waves of migrants to the region’s large cities. This increased the movement of migrants from the Northeast to the Southeast, especially to São Paulo.
A constant flow of migrants from the Northeast – mainly from Bahia – and from the north of Minas Gerais to São Paulo was established. It is a phenomenon of internal migration characterized by migratory currents that originate in underdeveloped regions, marked by poverty and aggravated by semiarid – people who come in search of work, food, water, health, school, that is, better living conditions.
The strong northeastern presence in São Paulo is the human and social reflection of the great regional inequalities in Brazil. But it is a relatively recent social fact – it only began to gain importance in the 1950s.
In typical newsreels of that time, the city of São Paulo was presented as the “locomotive of the country” – a land of work and progress. Many Brazilians, mainly from historically impoverished regions, migrated packed with this motto. It is true that work was not lacking, but the city did not have the infrastructure to receive these high contingents of labor.
In the 1960s, northeasterners continued to arrive in São Paulo. In the 70s, they became the main workforce in civil construction. They were largely responsible for building the subway.
From the 1980s onwards, migration from the Northeast decreased significantly. The myth of São Paulo (“the fastest growing city in the world”) no longer held up. In addition, the slowdown in the Brazilian economy affected the important civil construction sector, which has always required heavy investments and for which there has always been a strong absorption of this labor force.
The physiognomy of the geographical space of the capital city of São Paulo changed with the strong migration of the last decades, expanding to the peripheries in rapid and disorderly growth. São Paulo seems to have become one of the cities where poverty grows the most in the world.
Alongside the new and immense suburbs, internal migration has also changed the population profile of many traditional neighborhoods. And the typical case of Brás. Throughout the 60s, the population of Italian descent, better situated socially, moved to more valued regions. Brás still retains, mainly in architecture, vestiges of its past as an immigrant working-class neighborhood. But the new residents, mostly northeastern migrants and clandestine foreigners, stay as they can, in houses converted into tenements.
Anonymously dispersed throughout the city’s outskirts, Northeasterners created their own meeting and social centers. There has never been a typically northeastern neighborhood in São Paulo, but its cultural presence is everywhere. Praça da Sé, for example, is transformed every day into a kind of “informal consulate of the Northeast in São Paulo”. It is a way for individuals to symbolically situate themselves in urban space and to keep their own cultural identity alive.
Migration Rio Grande do Sul-Midwest/Amazon/Northeast
The arrival of new contingents, demographic growth and the excessive division of property by inheritance in the former settlement areas led many immigrants and their descendants to seek other lands further west.
Between 1940 and 1960, these growing populations (more than 10,000 families a year) exceeded state limits in search of land for planting, occupying the west of Santa Catarina and Paraná. As a result of this long and continuous expansion process, in the 1960s there was practically no more land available for occupation in southern Brazil.
From the 1970s onwards, the South Region registered a drop in the rate of population growth, resulting from two demographic factors: the decrease in the rate of vegetative growth and the change in the direction of internal migrations. Many inhabitants of the region left in search of better opportunities, migrating to Paraguay (they are the “brasiguaios”), to Mato Grosso do Sul and, more recently, to Rondônia, Bahia and even Maranhão. The saga of the families who arrive and camp in canvas tents at the edge of the forest is a story of the fatigue and suffering of the journey, but also of determination, struggle and trust in honest and decent work – very common in rural areas.
Brasília attracted populations and favored occupation in the Midwest. In the construction of this planned city, Northeasterners were leaving their mark. They were the “candangos”, “planting” the country’s new capital.
Then, with the modernization of agriculture in the Southern Region, starting in the 70s, part of the population expelled from the countryside went to the Center-West and North, advancing the agricultural frontier.
The growth of work and business opportunities make the Midwest the country’s new economic expansion front, the result of successful ventures in the agricultural sector, such as planting grain and raising cattle.
According to the last survey, from 1999, more than 54% of the people who lived in the Center-West were not born in the municipalities where they were living at the time, and more than 1/3 was not originally from any of the states in the region.