Destination: The Americas

German immigration to Brazil
periods from 1824 to 1969

When Germanic immigrants first arrived in Brazil starting at the beginning of the 1800's they did not identify themselves so much as a unified German-Brazilian group. However, as time went on this common regional identity did emerge for many different geo-socio-political reasons. Germans immigrated mainly from Germany, but also from Switzerland, Austria, and Russia. Some of them came from Spanish-speaking Latin American countries.

From 1824 to 1969, around 250.000 Germans emigrated to Brazil, being the fourth largest immigrant community to settle in the country, after the Portuguese, Italians and Spaniards. The majority of them arrived between the I and the II World War. The number 250,000 may be a serious undercount, for there to be 10 million people of German or partial German descent would require at least twice this number of immigrants in the time period given above. It is a known fact that many immigrants were not counted. Often the spouses of immigrants were not listed as having entered the country.

German settlement in Brazil

During the 19th century, German immigrants in Brazil settled mostly in rural areas, named colony (colônia in Portuguese). These colonies had been created by the Brazilian government, and the lands were distributed between the immigrants. They had to construct their own houses and cultivate the land. The immigration started in 1824, when the first group of Germans arrived in Brazil to São Leopoldo, in the State of Rio Grande do Sul, southern Brazil, after 4 months traveling. They were in total 39 people, being 33 Lutherans and 6 Catholics.

Germans came to Brazil to work as farmers because there were many lands without workers. The Brazilian government had promised large lands to attract the immigrants, where they could settle with their families and colonize the region. In fact, these lands were in the middle of big forests and the first Germans had been abandoned by the Brazilian Government. The first years were not easy. Many Germans died of tropical disease, others left the colony to find better life conditions. In fact, the German colony of São Leopoldo was a disaster. Nevertheless, in the next years other 8.000 Germans arrived to São Leopoldo, and then the colony started to develop, and the immigrants established the town of Novo Hamburgo (New Hamburg). From São Leopoldo and Novo Hamburgo the German immigrants spread into others areas of Rio Grande do Sul, mainly close to spring of rivers. All the region of Vale dos Sinos has been populated by Germans. During the 1830's and part of 1840's German immigration to Brazil was interrupted due to conflicts in the country (War of the Farrapos).

The immigration restarted after 1845 with the creation of new colonies. The most important ones were Blumenau, in 1850, and Joinville in 1851, both in Santa Catarina state and attracted thousands German immigrants to the region. Some of the mass influx was due to Revolutions of 1848 in the German states. Nowadays these areas of German Colonization are among the wealthiest ones of Brazil, with the lowest levels of unemployment and illiteracy found in the country, and still remain a strong influence from the German culture.

Urban Germans in Brazil

Not all Germans who settled in Brazil became farmers. In the early 20th century, very few rural areas of Southern Brazil were desert. Most of them had been settled by German, Italian and Polish immigrants during the 19th century. With this situation, most Germans who immigrated to Brazil during the 20th century settled in big towns, although many of them also settled in the old rural German colonies. The German immigration to Brazil had its largest numbers during the 1920s, after World War I. These Germans were mostly middle-class laborers from urban areas of Germany, different from the poor agriculturists that settled in the colonies of Brazil during the 19th century.

During the 1920s and 1930s, Brazil also attracted a significant number of German Jews, who settled mostly in São Paulo.

Germans participated actively in the industrialization and development of big cities in Brazil, such as Curitiba and Porto Alegre.

After World War II, the nationalist Brazilian President Getúlio Vargas had forbidden the use of German language in Brazil, and the German immigration became very low.


Most German-Brazilians speak only Portuguese nowadays. This is mainly due to the prohibition of German teaching in schools and the publication of German newspapers (together with Italian and Japanese) during World War II, when Brazil broke off relations with Germany (and also with the other Axis Powers Italy and Japan of Axis Powers). However, German is still spoken by over 600,000 Brazilians, as first or second language.

Riograndenser Hunsrückisch is the Brazilian variety of the Hunsrückisch dialect (a European German dialect) that best represents, at least in terms of total numbers, the German speaking regional culture of southern Brazil. Notably, other German dialects became part of the southern Brazilian cultural/regionalist landscape. For example Plautdietsch/Pommersch (or Pomeranian) and Swabian (or Schwäbisch) amongst many others.

German as a regionalism in the south of Brazil is mostly a spoken, family and community language today. People tend to avoid speaking it in public and with persons outside of their closest social circles.


Most of the German-Brazilians are Roman Catholics or Lutherans (Evangelical Lutheran Church of Brazil and the Evangelical Church of Lutheran Confession of Brazil) ,but with significant Jewish, Mennonite and Adventist German communities. Germans were the first people to establish a Protestant church in Brazil.

World War II and assimilation

When Germans first arrived to Southern Brazil in 1824, they found a country with a climate, vegetation and culture very different from those of Germany. Southern Brazil was a land of gauchos, cattle herders who used, and still live, in the Pampas region of Southern Cone. In the next decades, however, waves of Germanic immigrants arrived, to the point that in many areas of Southern Brazil the vast majority of the inhabitants were Germans and even after 3 or 4 generations born in Brazil, these people used to consider themselves as Germans.

In 1910, 20% of Rio Grande do Sul's population only could speak German and a higher number was bilingual, speaking both German and Portuguese. In 1940, there were 1 million people of German origin living in Brazil, in a national population of 40 million souls. During the II World War, in 1942, Brazilian ships were attacked by Germans and, influenced by the USA's government, Brazil declared war against Germany. Afraid that the German community of Brazil could rebel against the Brazilian government, the President Getúlio Vargas initiated a strict program of forced cultural assimilation - Nationalism - that worked quite efficiently, if not initially. He forbade any manifestation of the German culture in Brazil. German schools were closed, houses with German architecture were destroyed and the use of the German language in Brazil was also forbidden.

Since then, the southern Brazilian German regional language/culture is in full decline. Some decry it as a tragic loss for the country while others feel very strongly that this means national progress.

Most German-Brazilians just started to get married out of the German community after the 1940's. Some of them mixed with other Europeans, such as Portuguese, Italians and Poles. A few also have mixed with Afro-Brazilians (the most famous being until today the soccer player Arthur Friedenreich) and Brazilian native Indians.

The German influence in Brazil

Germans are regarded as good industrialists in Brazil, manufacturing shoes, leather goods, furniture, textiles, charcoal, mechanical devices, etc, as well as good farmers. Many Brazilian towns were built under German architecture.

Many aspects of Brazil's culture was influenced by Germans. Today Brazil hosts an Oktoberfest in Blumenau, Santa Catarina, which is second only to Munich, Germany in size. Beer itself is said to be brought by German immigrants.

They spread out the Protestant faith (especially Lutheranism) and were the first people to cultivate wheat and to raise swine in Brazil. The regions heavily settled by Germans in Brazil still retain a strong Germanic influence.

There are no trustworthy sources as of the exact number of German-Brazilians in existence today. However, most estimates indicate that around 10 million Brazilians have German ancestry [1]. The largest concentrations of people of Germanic origin in Brazil are found in the states of Santa Catarina (35% Germanic) and Rio Grande do Sul (30% Germanic).

During the 1960's, many of the settlers returned to Germany or Austria. Forty-two families left in 1963 alone. As of 1992, only about 5% of the original houses still remained, the rest having been replaced by more permanent structures. About 2,000 of the settlers and their descendants still make their homes here, continuing to speak the Donauschwäbische dialect.

Note: Deutschbrasilianer sometimes also is spelled 'Daitschbrasilaner', 'Deitschbralianer', 'Taitschbrasilianer', 'Taitschbrasiliooner' or 'Taitschbrasilioona', etc...

©2006 by Wikipedia. Licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.

    Nationality & Decade

Nationality 1824-47: Germans  8.176
Nationality 1848-72: Germans 19.523
Nationality 1872-79: Germans 14.325
Nationality 1880-89: Germans 18.901
Nationality 1890-99: Germans 17.084
Nationality 1900-09: Germans 13.848
Nationality 1910-19: Germans 25.902
Nationality 1920-29: Germans 75.801
Nationality 1930-39: Germans 27.497
Nationality 1940-49: Germans  6.807

Source: Brazilian Institute for Geography and Statistics (IBGE)

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DVHH < Destination: The Americas < Canada < Brazil < German immigration to Brazil periods from 1824 to 1969

Last updated: Wednesday December 17, 2008

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