Valéria Barbosa de Magalhães has written an insightful ethnography about the individual subjectivities involved in migrant decision-making within the Brazilian communities in Miami and Broward County, Florida. The book explores [End Page 148] the author’s own ethnographic identity (how she came to her topic, how she found her interviews, modifications in her project throughout the process), an overview of different Latino groups in the area, an analysis of the spatial areas where Brazilians live (commenting on neighborhoods and their histories, restaurants, stores, the types of Brazilian products available), and culminates in a commentary on the personal decisions made by migrants as they decide whether to stay or leave.
The book is divided into four sections: An introduction, “O Cenário,” “Os Caminhos da Subjetividade,” and concluding remarks. In the introductory section, Magalhães lays out a theoretical framework based on Maurice Halbswachs’ understanding of subjectivity and collective group memory. She explains that there exists a constructed memory for Brazilians living in Southern Florida that is based on individual experiences shared with fellow nationals to form a group’s identity. She tells us that “as lembranças trazidas nos relatos desvendam o limiar entre a subjetividade e a identidade em relação ao Brasil, aos Estados Unidos e às identidades específicas, como gênero, orientação sexual, posição de status, e assim por diante.” (22) Thus, the final decision to leave Brazil and the amount of time that the immigrant will stay abroad depend on how an individual’s life unfolds. There is always more than one reason to migrate; one reason alone wouldn’t be sufficient to make the decision. Some of the highlights in the introduction are Magalhães’ own subjective experiences as a Brazilian researcher arriving in Miami for the first time (36–37).
Part One of her ethnography is entitled “O Cenário.” Here she sets the scene for her research in Southern Florida by describing a division within the Brazilian community between those living in Miami (who tend to be of a middle to high socio-economic class, are mostly coming straight from Brazil with a large number having escaped the economic inflation in the 1990s, and who are mostly students or professionals) and those Brazilians living in Broward County (who tend to be low to low-middle socio-economic class, are secondary migrants from other parts of the US attracted by friends and relatives in Pompano and Deerfield Beaches, and are mostly working-class). Magalhães highlights through her interviews the importance of the spatial geography of downtown Miami to the collective identity of Brazilians in Southern Florida. Downtown Miami, prior to the 1990s devalorization of the real, was home to many Brazilian-run stores with over 10,000 Brazilian tourists arriving annually for shopping sprees on their way to Disney World (61). Magalhães contrasts this remembered past reality with social spaces in both Miami and Broward County that exist today such as Brazilian groceries, restaurants, beauty salons, newspapers, Brazilian Associations, and churches where Brazilian identity is currently being solidified. One of the highlights of this chapter is her discussion of the importance of Brazilian interaction with other Latino groups in Miami, most notably with the Cubans.
Part Two, “Os Caminhos da Subjetividade,” is a collection of some of her most poignant interviews, illustrating the subjective reasons to migrate, which [End Page 149] she categorizes as the “second chances.” The fact that this book culminates in these interviews, rather than in interviews highlighting more obvious economic decisions (which she confirms are the usual first responses to her question regarding motivations for migration), makes this study unique. There are interviews with, for example, gays and lesbians who left Brazil and stayed in Florida to escape gender discrimination, women who fled abusive relationships, students who came to study and never left, and men and women who saw migration as a temporary adventure but fell in love and stayed.
Magalhães proves to be a remarkable ethnographer. She...