- Goodbye, Brazil: Émigrés from the Land of Soccer and Samba by Maxine L. Margolis
After two decades of pioneering work on Brazilian immigration to the United States, Maxine L. Margolis has written the first book that provides a global perspective of Brazilian immigrant communities throughout the world—from Paraguay, Europe, and North America to Japan, Australia, and New Zealand. Margolis uses the broad canvas of Brazilian global migration to paint an elegant picture and an intelligent synthesis of various sociocultural, economic, and demographic dimensions of Brazilian immigrant communities abroad. The 12 expertly written chapters of this book are insightful and valuable to scholars and to the general public alike. [End Page 750]
While Brazil has historically been a country of immigration, not emigration, the carnival parades and Brazilian Independence Day celebrations held today in cities such as Tokyo, Toronto, New Orleans, London, and Boston, testify to the more than 3.1 million Brazilians who have left Brazil seeking their future abroad. Margolis asks: “Why do they go? Where do they go? Where do they come from? Why are Brazilians still leaving?” She asks also whether Brazilians will be ‘here today and gone tomorrow’ or stay on as permanent fixtures of a wider diaspora. For answers to these questions, Margolis asserts that we must look first at the cause of original flow and then at the factors that maintain it.
In the 1980s and early 1990s, most immigrants who left Brazil—spurred by the nation’s hyperinflation—were from Minas Gerais, typically from the city of Governador Valadares (famous for its “immigration industry”). However, by 2000, emigration had become a national phenomenon, reflecting a “culture of migrations.” Margolis points out that in the 1990s many professionals left, including dentists, journalists, librarians, teachers and lawyers, driven by a “citizenship of consumption”: immigrants found that they were better rewarded for their work abroad.
Margolis lays out a theoretical framework for understanding transnational migration processes, and what she has termed “yo-yo” migration. She explains how “fragmented interactions” and disunity within Brazilian immigrant communities often arise from the subtleties of Brazilian understandings of social class and place of origin, which are then renegotiated within place of destination. How the immigrants arrive in their destination countries depends on social class, financial resources, education background, and region of origin. This type of disunity among Brazilian immigrants, as she notes, is also prevalent among other Latin American immigrant communities. Nonetheless, Margolis correctly points out how Brazilian identity is distinct from those of other Latin Americans. Brazilians widely reject the “Hispanic” label, and, as she explains, their identities are “situational”—being Brazilian in Brazil is different from being Brazilian in Japan or Ireland. Margolis calls this the “We’re not them” perspective.
And how do the immigrants fare? Margolis’s discussion about remittances is particularly useful in helping to understand the problems that result when returnees go bankrupt. Despite “symbolic investment” producing little or no return, almost one fourth of returnees have problems when they return. Brazilian goods and services stem from the “economy of longing” (economia da saudade).
The global data assembled by Margolis is thorough and brilliantly compiled. Some sections stand out, as her discussions of Gort, Ireland, where about 40 percent of the population are Brazilian immigrants, many of whom found work in the city’s meat-packing plants, and, Spain, where Brazilians are the third fastest growing foreign community. Her discussion about Brazilian immigrant identity in Japan is particularly compelling. This is a gem of a book! Margolis has skillfully woven a colorful fabric here, with global snapshots of the Brazilian diaspora supported by data from other researchers as well as her own. It is easy to see its use in university undergraduate or graduate courses, and [End Page 751] it is both of great interest and accessible to the general public, especially because Margolis writes so clearly and cohesively.