Brazuca, brazi, brasiguaio, dekassegui – who are the Brazilian expats?

Brazilian Day Festival in New York, 2010. Photo by José Oquendo/ Flickr

A little over 3 million Brazilians live out of the country, according to the Ministry of Foreign Relations. It is less than 1% of the country’s population, a minimal percentage, specially if compared with the 13% Uruguayans that live abroad. And the real number of Brazilian expatriates could be even smaller. The latest official statistics were published in 2008, before the world crisis that led to the return of several immigrants that couldn’t find work  in the US, Japan and Europe. On the other hand, it is also true that it is hard to have solid estimates, due to the high percentage of illegal immigration. The Ministry calculates that 1.65 million Brazilian immigrants lack working papers and other documents that would legalize their stay in foreign countries.

Most of the Brazilian expats live in the US (1.24 million), followed by Paraguay (487k) and Japan (310k). Who are these immigrants and how do they live?

Here, a brief round up, organized according to Brazilian immigrants local nicknames (which, as we will see, can be used derogatorily, in some circumstances):


Name used in several countries, especially in the US. Some estimate that only 20% of the Brazilians that immigrated to the United States have a Green Card. Some American cities have such a heavy percentage of Brazilian immigrants that you might even forget that you are in the Northern Hemisphere.  Brazilians in Pompano Beach, Florida describe a daily routine where English is hardly spoke. In another city of the Southern state, Loch Lomond, almost 16% of the population was born in Brazil. Check this list of 101 American cities with most residents born in Brazil.

The European countries are also an important destination for brazucas. According to the Ministry of Foreign Relations, 766 thousand Brazilians live in Europe – most of them in Great Britain, Portugal and Italy. Since 9/11, the region seems to have taken the United States place as the most desirable destination for Brazilian immigrants. According to a story published two years ago by Radio France Internationale, in Europe, the typical Brazilian immigrant is a young middle class person from the states of São Paulo, Rio, Goiás, Paraná and Minas Gerais. He/she wants to find well paid unskilled labor to be able to save money to become an entrepreneur in Brazil. They have been facing increasing restrictions in Spanish, Irish, French, British and Portuguese airports and a growing number of Brazilian travelers have been deported.


More than 350,000 Brazilian farmers got established in Paraguay since the seventies, most of them in properties close to the border, in the regions of Canindeyú and Alto Paraná. The great majority descend from German, Polish and Italian immigrants established in Brazil in the late 19th or the early 20th century. The name brasiguaio is definitely not embraced by this community, because it is considered pejorative. In a very interesting interview, anthropologist Marcia Anita Sprandel says that, in Brazil, brasiguais are seen as a group that suffers prejudice, is responsible for the progress of that region, but has no support from local government, while in Paraguay these immigrants are seen as villains and imperialists, responsible for the expulsion of the native farmers. “It is not that simple”, she says, to G1 website. “The situation of Brazilians [in Paraguay] varies, in different regions, and they have a normal relationship of citizens with their governors”.


A name used to refer to the 254,000 Brazilians that immigrated to Japan since the eighties, most of them descendants of Japanese immigrants – although the word dekassegui might also be used to refer to any other foreign worker in Japan. Before the global crisis they used to send home, to their families, between 1.5 and 2 billion dollars every year, but it is quite probable that the world crisis reduced these sums considerably. The World Migration Report 2010 (produced by the International Organization for Migration) estimates that 40% of the Brazilian dekassegui are unemployed – and some of them have accepted a compensation by the Japanese government to return to their country of origin.


You most likely never heard of this group. According to the Urban Dictionary (a collective creation whose sources aren’t above suspicion), these are Brazilian surfers that took over the North Shore of Hawaii. Brazi doesn’t seem to be a loving nickname. Apparently, you can even see stickers on local cars saying “Go Home, Brazi”. I checked with a Hawaiian friend that said that he never heard such thing, but then it might be adopted only by a fraction of the local surfing community.

Do you belong to one of these groups? I am a brazuca, myself, and described my expatriate experience in other websites (in Porutugese): the post Imigração não é bolinho, on Página 22, and an interview on Entrevistando Expatriados.