Africa And Aboriginal Tuesdays: Brazilians Are Not Hispanic by Alan P. Marcus

The terms "Hispanic" and "Latino" within the USA are conflicting. On the one hand they empower Spanish-speaking communities such as Puerto Ricans, Mexicans and Cubans, but on the other hand, they grossly oversimplify Latin America and "racialize" Latin Americans.

Not all Latin American surnames are "Spanish surnames" nor do they end in "ez", (i.e.; Martinez, Lopez) particularly in Brazil. Here are a few examples of surnames of some of the several Brazilian presidents in the past 40 years, who do not have "Spanish surnames" nor do there surnames end in "ez": Kubitchek, Medici, Geisel, Sarney, Collor. In addition, here are some other examples of surnames of presidents from Spanish-speaking Latin American countries that also do not end in "ez" nor do they have "Spanish surnames": Stroessner, Fujimori, Menem, Pinochet, Fox, Kirschner.

A number of the diverse populations who migrated to Brazil include: Portugal, Italy, Poland, France, Germany, Lebanon, Syria, Japan, Russia, Austria, Turkey all of which are disengaged on several levels; medically, culturally, and ethnically from the "Hispanic-Latino" paradigms.

The Brazilian Immigrant Center (Centro Imigrante Brasileiro), in Allston, Massachusetts, was founded in 1995, and serves as a centralized office for Brazilian worker's rights, as well as a general information guide to new Brazilian immigrants. According to the founder and director of the Center, Fausto Mendes da Rocha, the Brazilian population in Massachusetts is calculated by estimating the number of Brazilians in church membership, attendance and services, Brazilian businesses, the telephone and e-mail inquiries received by the Immigrant Center in Allston, and the number of Brazilian newspapers in Massachusetts.

Rocha estimates that there are approximately 231,000 Brazilians living in Massachusetts in 2003, and approximately 1.2 million Brazilians living in the entire USA. These figures are higher to the unrealistically low US Census 2000 figures of 212,428 Brazilians living in the entire USA, and of 36,669 Brazilians living in Massachusetts. The estimated figures of 784,000 Brazilians living in the entire USA, and 200,000 in Massachusetts, from the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs are likely to represent more realistic figures.

The Brazilian population, according to Rocha, has changed since the 1990's, from a transitory one to a more stable and permanent one. This is because, according to him, during the 1990's, Brazilians were working for a year or two and then returning to Brazil, and now, he has noticed a large increase in the number of Brazilian home-ownerships as well as business-ownerships in the past four years, also indicating that Brazilians are no longer returning to Brazil.

According to an article ("O Eldorado Brilha Menos" - The Eldorado Shines Less), written by Eduardo Salgordo on January 16, 2002, in the Brazilian magazine Veja, there are an estimated 800,000 Brazilians living in the USA and 17,000 Brazilians living in Framingham, MA. These population figures for Framingham, MA, are also in accordance with the estimate figures given by The Brazilian Immigrant Center in Allston, MA.

The US Census does not list Brazilians as part of their breakdown of South Americans of "Hispanic" or "Latino" origin living in Massachusetts.

In 2003, the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has estimated that about 100,000 Brazilians leave Brazil per year, and about one-third of the 2 million Brazilians living abroad are illegal residents (Brazilian Times, Massachusetts, By Paulo Torrens, Aug. 15, 2003).

The studies of anthropologist Maxine Margolis (1998) "An Invisible Minority: Brazilians in New York City" point that in 1996 there was an estimated figure of over 600,000 Brazilians living in the entire USA. The official US Census 1990, estimated that there were 94,087 Brazilians living in the USA. According to Margolis, this figure was severely undercounted and the Brazilian population figures ought to be at least eighty percent higher. This undercount is attributed to several reasons, primarily because of the large unaccountability of undocumented Brazilians, who overstay their tourist visas to continue working in the USA, and fear that revealing any information will result in detection.

Another reason for the undercount, according to Margolis, is the confusion concerning the Census forms, since Brazilians are not Spanish-speaking Latin Americans and hence cannot and do not call themselves "Hispanic", they end up checking other options appears that if Brazilians are not counted, then in effect, they don't exist. For this reason, Margolis has called them the "invisible minority".

Problem of Terminology

The confusing terminology used by the US Census Bureau that give contextual life to a "Hispanic Population", that is, the term semantically migrates from the realm of the "imaginary" to the realm of "reality". Given the confusing semantic context of the interchangeable terms "Spanish", "Hispanic" and "Latino", as seen in US Census 2000, Brazilians mark the "No" box as instructed (i.e., "Mark the No box if not Spanish/Hispanic/Latino").

The US census in 1970 was the first to include a separate question specifically on "Hispanic origin". The term "Latino" appeared on the census form for the first time in 2000. The 1980 and 1990 censuses asked people if they were of "Spanish/Hispanic origin or descent" and then, to choose "Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, or other Spanish/Hispanic". A review of such ethnic categories would indicate the need for addressing a problem in order to establish the accurate count of Brazilian populations living in the USA. The misguided semantic problem, based on misinformation on Brazilian ethnic identities and complexities, is that Spanish language or ancestry, "Hispanic" and "Latino" are interchangeable.

"The terms "Spanish," "Hispanic origin," and "Latino" are used interchangeably. Some respondents identify with all three terms while others may identify with only one of these three specific terms."

Source: US Department of Commerce, US Census Bureau 2000, "Massachusetts: 2000 Summary Population and Housing Characteristics", Page B-8, Issued 2002:

The manifestations of the interchangeable terms "Spanish/Hispanic/Latino" give life to the perpetuation of Latin American inaccuracies, stereotypes, and ascriptions particularly dissimilar to Brazilians.

The exclusion of Brazilians within the "Hispanic" and "Latino" paradigms in the US occurs for several reasons and in various ways. Firstly, Brazilians are not actively integrated or engaged within the US "Hispanic" or "Latino" political process, nor are they part of the significant US Spanish-speaking public discourse. Secondly, from a geo-political perspective, Brazil is further away from the US than countries such as Mexico, Puerto Rico, or Cuba; and in addition, the former three countries have shared a longer historical and political relationship with the US than Brazil. Thirdly, Brazilians are distinctly dissimilar from other Latin Americans within many dimensions (i.e., linguistically, culturally, historically, ethnically).

The Portuguese language spoken in Brazil, Brazilian ethnicity, and Brazilian culture are not interchangeable with "Spanish/Hispanic/Latino". The Jeitinho Brasileiro ("The Brazilian way"), the Jogo Bonito ("The Beautiful Game", a Brazilian reference to Brazilian-style soccer) and Samba (Unique Brazilian Samba music), are not interchangeable with "Spanish/Hispanic/Latino". In addition, the Brazilian raison d'Ítre is devoid of any relationship within the "Hispanic-Latino" paradigms.

In a sense, "Hispanic" and "Latino" have inaccurately "racialized" all Latin Americans, and have thus "latinamericanized" all of Latin America monolithically and homogenously.

The implication is that there is an illusory "Hispanic" or "Latino" "race" or that there is a single imaginary country where "Hispanics" and "Latinos" come from, and of course, neither is true.

Alan P. Marcus (Master's of Science in Geography in progress) is a Brazilian living in the USA. He can be contacted via E-mail at:

Note: This article first appeared at

Tuesday, October 7, 2003