Ethnic Composition of Brazil

One of the most characteristic features of the ethnic composition of the Brazilian population is the enormous variety of types, resulting from an intense miscegenation that began along with our history – since the white (Portuguese) colonizers settled here, they approached the indigenous people ( natives) and brought black (African) slaves.

The mixture of these three basic ethnic groups, which was relatively rapid, resulted in mestizos such as the caboclo (son of parents of the indigenous and white ethnicities), the mulatto (son of parents of the black and white ethnicities) and cafuzo (son of parents of the indigenous and black ethnicities). With the continuation of miscegenation, the innumerable types that make up our population today originated.

One fact is unquestionable: the population is becoming increasingly miscegenated, reducing the most visible differences between the three original ethnic groups.

a) The Indian

Precise surveys were never carried out on the number of indigenous people in Brazil, not least because many native groups remained isolated from civilization. However, it is estimated that, in the 16th century, there were between 4 and 5 million Indians, who, over the course of four centuries of approximation with the white, were reduced to approximately 520 thousand.

Due to continuous extinction processes – struggles, diseases, hunger – and acculturation, by which the indigenous people lose their cultural and linguistic references, assimilating those of the white man, this number tends to decrease even more.

The small number of remnants confirms what was observed historically: the tendency towards integration did not prevail, but the extinction of the Indians, both due to their lack of immunity to diseases brought by whites (flu, measles, malaria, etc.), as well as by conflicts linked to attempts to subdue them and take possession of their land – even today, when they are officially demarcated.

With the expansion of agricultural borders and the recent discovery of ores in areas of the North and Midwest regions, invasions of indigenous reserves by groups of squatters and miners have become common, with serious confrontations. And even the government violates them by building highways and hydroelectric dams at their limits.

The National Foundation of the Indian (FUNAI) has the function of applying the legislation contained in the Statute of the Indian, which talks about guaranteeing the customs of the indigenous people and providing them with an education aimed at their integration. For many, however, maintaining customs and integration are antagonistic concepts, since integrating means destroying language, habits and beliefs.

b) The Negro

According to Cellphoneexplorer, about 11 million blacks lived in Brazil, most concentrated in the Northeast and Southeast regions, where slave labor was important in the colonial period, used especially in the production of sugar cane, in mining and coffee growing.

Blacks brought in from Africa (about 4 million) tend to be divided into two large groups: the Bantu (from Angola, Congo, Mozambique) and the Sudanese (from West Africa, mainly from the Gulf of Guinea).

After the abolition of slavery (1888), when farmers and industrialists began to prefer white immigrant labor, blacks found it difficult to enter the labor market. Thus, despite having made a decisive contribution to the Brazilian economy, they remained in a position of economic and social inferiority that today translates into a dramatic situation: according to the last census, in relation to what a white worker receives, the black worker receives, in average, 56%, and black women, only 25%.

These disparities emphatically demonstrate that prejudice is still an impediment to the social rise of this ethnic group in the country – with redoubled losses in the case of the black female population.

c) White

In 2010, according to the census, whites constituted 45.53% of the Brazilian population, predominantly in the populations of the South and Southeast regions.

The first representatives of this ethnic group, basically of European origin, arrived in Brazil during the colonial period (Portuguese in greater numbers, but also Spaniards, Dutch and French). And in the so-called immigration period, particularly in the phase that extended from 1850 to 1934, hundreds of thousands of whites, mostly from Italy, Portugal and Spain, came to add themselves to the ethnic composition of the Brazilian people, in waves that were very significant for the economy, culture and political changes that occurred in the country.

Ethnic Composition of Brazil

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