- Brazil and Canada: Economic, Political, and Migratory Ties, 1820s to 1970s by Rosana Barbosa
Although the United States is the most well-known political, economic, and migratory North American tie to Brazil, Canada and Brazil have grown closer as economic partners and travel destinations. Yet, the historical literature on the relations between the two countries is limited and often overshadowed by the presence of the United States as a common denominator. Rosana Barbosa’s book fills a void in our understanding of the Brazil–Canada relationship by assessing what is already known and by complementing it with analyses of the migratory links between the two countries. Barbosa provides a thorough historical synthesis of the relationship during the explored period, with a particular focus on the relevance of political and economic dependency on shaping the Brazilian–Canadian connection.
Barbosa demonstrates that although diplomatic relations between Brazil and Canada were distant compared to other players in the region, entrepreneurship brought their economies closer. Through the use of interviews and archival research, complemented whenever necessary with sources from the secondary literature, Barbosa also shows how business and industry links continued in Brazil during the military dictatorship, even though there were internal disagreements in the Canadian government on how best to approach the regime. In exploring the ins and outs of this relationship during the dictatorship, Barbosa points to the significance of religious missionaries from Canada in Brazil at the time.
The second part of the book is more exploratory since, as Barbosa points out, it is aimed more at raising questions rather than providing answers, given how few inquiries have been made into the migratory ties between the two countries. This point is supported by the shadow cast by the United States–this time as an important migrant destination–in the exchanges between Brazil and Canada. Here, an overview of the history of the United States, and more detailed information about Canada and its own colonial process, would have helped the reader. The book presents an important narrative on the historical background of Brazil both as a colony and as a market-driven, yet economically dependent, young republic. A brief discussion of European migratory patterns to North America would have helped the reader as well in understanding how the Brazilian government had come to see both Canada and the United States as potential sources of white European immigrants, while also competing with them as a destination. [End Page 328] Despite this, the suggestions made by Barbosa are of the utmost importance since they show how the Brazilian search for immigrants was inevitably tied to racist whitening strategies and Social Darwinism.
The exploration of the direct migratory ties between Canada and Brazil, including the establishment of state colonies, some of which failed, is the book’s most original contribution and most notable strength. Barbosa confidently explores the process of colony establishment in the Brazilian state of Pará, which, although comprised of immigrants from Canada, included a majority of French nationals. This process, as well as the recruitment of Canadians as agricultural workers for coffee plantations in Brazil, points to a string of failures in attracting Canadians to work and settle in the South American country. The author explains these events in the book through the inclusion of a brief analysis of the state of the economy in both countries. This is helpful since it establishes the connection between Brazil’s need for agricultural workers and the willingness of some Canadians to leave Canada without knowing what to expect in Brazil. It is also through the economic and political context that Barbosa notes how limited Brazilian emigration into Canada was during the twentieth century, despite a few spikes, such as during the military dictatorship.
The migratory analysis of the book offers important background for those wishing to explore the more recent waves of immigration from Brazil to Canada, especially given the still present weight of the United States as a destination and as a political and economic factor for both countries. Barbosa mentions the role of academic...