The following section discusses ethnicity, languages, religions, and demography in Brazil. For treatment of the lifestyles and artistic achievements of the Brazilian people. Brazil has long been a melting pot for a wide range of cultures. From colonial times Portuguese Brazilians have favoured assimilation and tolerance for other peoples, and intermarriage was more acceptable in Brazil than in most other European colonies; however, Brazilian society has never been completely free of ethnic strife and exploitation, and some groups have chosen to remain separate from mainstream social life. Brazilians of mainly European descent account for more than half the population, although people of mixed ethnic backgrounds form an increasingly larger segment; roughly two-fifths of the total are (mulatos; people of mixed African and European ancestry) and mestizos (mestiços, or caboclos; people of mixed European and Indian ancestry). A small proportion are of entirely African or Afro-Indian ancestry, and peoples of Asian descent account for an even smaller division of the total. Indians are, by far, the smallest of the major ethnic groups; however, as many as one-third of all Brazilians have some Indian ancestors.
Brazilians of African descent (referred to by outside scholars as Afro-Brazilians) can be further characterized as pardos (of mixed ethnicities) or pretos (entirely African); the latter term is usually used to refer to those with the darkest skin colour. Although skin colour is the main basis of the distinction between pardo and preto, this distinction is often subjective and self-attributed. Many Brazilians of colour consider it more advantageous to identify themselves as pardos and therefore do so. Skin colour and ethnic background influence social interactions in Brazil. Brazilians with darker skin colour account for a disproportionately large number of the country’s poor;
nevertheless, racially motivated violence and intolerance are less common in Brazil than in the United States and some parts of Europe. Blatant discrimination is illegal but pervasive, especially in predominantly white middle- and upper-class areas, and racism often takes subtle forms. Interethnic marriages are rare, partly because there is little social interaction between people of different social classes and geographic regions—two factors that are closely tied to ethnicity in Brazil. The country is not a “racial democracy” as some observers have claimed; however, its social barriers are somewhat flexible and even permeable: members of the light-skinned majority seldom discriminate against Afro-Brazilians who have achieved high levels of education or socioeconomic status. As a consequence, most Afro-Brazilians pursue social advancement through individual rather than collective actions, such as civil rights movements.
People of European ancestry constitute the largest segment of the Brazilian population, owing to a steady influx of Portuguese immigrants as well as some four million other Europeans (mainly Italians) who migrated there in the late 19th and early 20th centuries; their arrivals during that relatively short period were equal to the total population of African slaves brought to Brazil during the previous three centuries.
Until the late 1800s, Lusitanian (i.e., Portuguese) immigrants were practically the only Europeans to enter Brazil. They were found in all classes of society and were anxious to obtain wealth quickly as plantation owners or as merchants. Immigrants of diverse origins joined the Portuguese only following the proclamation of independence in 1822. Italians, the most numerous of the non-Portuguese European groups, settled primarily in São Paulo and northern Rio Grande do Sul states. The Italians were culturally similar to the Portuguese and were easily assimilated.
Less numerous Mediterranean immigrant groups, including those from Spain and Middle Eastern countries such as Syria and Lebanon, mainly arrived during the first quarter of the 20th century. Like the Italians, they adapted rapidly to their new homeland and began to contribute to Brazilian industry, finance, politics, and the arts.
German immigrants in the 19th and early 20th centuries and Japanese shortly before World War I further diversified the ethnic mix; however, those two groups remained culturally distinct for much longer than had earlier immigrants. This occurred largely for two reasons: first, the Germans and Japanese settled mainly in isolated rural areas and, second, they received teachers, textbooks in their native languages, and other assistance from their home governments. However, after World War II they were largely integrated into mainstream society. As a whole, Brazilians of Japanese descent now have a markedly higher level of education than the norm. Other immigrant groups have included Slavic peoples from eastern Europe and small but vital Jewish communities concentrated in major urban centres. Immigration had dwindled by the late 20th century, and less than 1 percent of Brazil’s population was foreign-born. "Brazil" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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