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Brazil in Lisbon: Historical past

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Despite Brazil being the largest of Portugal’s former colonies, the presence of its people in Lisbon has only been felt recently. During the 1950s and 60s, Brazilians in Portugal were limited to small groups of students, a few migrant adventurers and those Portuguese descendants born in Brazil who decided to return to the motherland.

However, since the 90s, a more regular coming-and-going has been taking place between Brazil and Portugal. This pendulum-like swing of migration is a consequence of their respective political and economic crises and moments of growth. At the beginning of that decade, many Brazilians moved to Lisbon in the wake of the difficult inflationary crisis that was affecting South America’s biggest nation. By 2005, they formed the largest foreign community settled in the Portuguese capital, with more than 30,000 residents. Most of them were young adults, with many working in the call centers belonging to European companies that wanted to expand their business in Brazil or attract Brazilian clients. The community was, until today, mostly concentrated in the municipality of Algès (a suburb located on the mouth of the Tagus river), as well as Benfica and São Domingo, which were home to a large number of restaurants and supermarkets stocked with Brahma beer and Yoki baking mixes. More recently, they have spread closer to Arroios and Anjos.

After 2008, Portugal’s financial crisis resulted in a high unemployment rate, the highest in Europe, bringing the boom of Brazilian immigration to an end. Many decided to leave, lured in part by the (deceptive) economic boom Brazil was experiencing at the time. By 2013, Brazilians in Lisbon numbered at around 10,600, over 10 percent less compared to 2008.

Nowadays, you can catch many different accents from South America’s largest nation while walking through Lisbon’s cobbled streets: an indication that, in 2017, the route has once again reverted. Considering the dire political crises in their country, many Brazilians are adopting Lisbon as their new place of residence, seeing it as a safe city to live, study or look for work and entrepreneurial opportunities. Lisbon’s new global outlook and Brazil’s linguistic proximity suggest they are in the right place at the right time – a more privileged class are attracted not only by the convenience of the golden visa program, but also by the fact that Lisbon is becoming a new showcase for design, fashion and luxury lifestyle in general.

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