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Convenient Liaisons: Brazilian Immigration/Emigration and the Spatial-relationships of Religious Networks

Des liaisons opportunes : migrations Brésil-USA et contacts de réseaux religieux
Alan P. Marcus
p. 85-97

Résumés

À la fin des années 1980 plus d'un million de Brésiliens ont quitté le Brésil sans retour. Aujourd'hui, plus de 3,1 millions de Brésiliens vivent à l'étranger, et environ 1,3 millions de Brésiliens vivent aux États-Unis. Les Immigrés brésiliens ne fuient pas une famine extrême ou des difficultés économiques énormes; ce ne sont pas des réfugiés politiques qui demandent l'asile, ou fuyant une guerre civile. De quelles façons les immigrés brésiliens ont-ils réinterprétés les pratiques religieuses des États-Unis, et comment sont-ils en train de façonner de nouvelles identités transnationales? Quelles sont les perceptions du public à propos des pratiques religieuses et les relations entre les immigrés brésiliens concernant les nouveaux paysages religieux et culturels des États-Unis? En utilisant plusieurs méthodes, et un point de vue théorique transnational, ce document traite de ces questions importantes intrinsèquement liées à l'espace, au lieu, aux études migratoires. La relation des personnes enquêtées aux pratiques religieuses donnent un aperçu et des informations importantes sur leurs idéalisations, leurs attentes et les conflits entre les immigrés brésiliens aux États-Unis et ceux rapatriés au Brésil. Nous avons effectué des recherches de terrain dans quatre lieux de deux communautés d'accueil: à (1) Framingham, Massachusetts (une destination ancienne), et, à (2) Marietta, Géorgie, (une destination plus récente) aux États-Unis, ainsi qu’ à (3) Governador Valadares, dans l'état du Minas Gerais et à (4) piracanjuba, dans l'État de Goiás - deux communautés brésiliennes de départ vers les Etats-Unis. La fréquentation des réseaux religieux, la mondialisation des marchés de consommation, les valeurs des États-Unis, les images diffusées par les rapatriés ainsi que les possibilités d'enrichissement, contribuent à idéaliser l’émigration et à la rendre plus séduisante. Le Brésil abrite le plus grand nombre de catholiques dans le monde, avec 74 pour cent de la population totale qui s’auto-identifie comme catholique. Toutefois, contrairement à l'Europe, où la plupart des catholiques sont devenus laïcs, le Brésil a l'un des taux les plus élevés de conversion vers des religions protestantes, surtout pentecôtistes, trois pentecôtistes sur quatre sont d'anciens catholiques. Les espaces religieux contribuent ainsi à la création des réseaux utilisés pour faciliter l'émigration de communautés d'origine (en particulier, les evangélicos) dans lesquelles le pasteur joue un rôle clé, à différents niveaux, en ce qui concerne les « ressources » des migrants, dans le processus de migration.

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Texte intégral

Introduction

1While historically, Brazil has been a country of immigration not emigration, today carnival parades and Brazilian “Independence Day” celebrations in cities such as Tokyo, Toronto, New Orleans, London or Boston, are all part of the same phenomenon of over 3.1 million Brazilians who have left Brazil seeking their future abroad [Margolis 2013]. In the 1980s and early 1990s most immigrants who left Brazil – spurred by Brazil’s hyperinflation – were mostly from Minas Gerais, typically from the Governador Valadares [Margolis 1994; Sales 1999; Siqueira 2007, 2008]. However, by 2000, emigration was a national phenomenon in Brazil, reflecting the “culture of migrations.” Stephen Castles and Mark J. Miller have stated: “migration ranks as one of the most important factors in global change” (2003: 4). In this vein, the recent influx of immigrants to the United States over the past four decades, for example, has transformed ethnic and global landscapes significantly as geographers have observed [Berry and Henderson, 2003; Frazier and Tettey-Fio, 2006; Kaplan and Li, 2006; Airress and Miyares 2007]. In what ways have Brazilian immigrants (re)interpreted religious practices in the United States, and how are they shaping new transnational identities? How are public perceptions on religious practices and inter-relationships among Brazilian immigrants impacting religious and cultural landscapes? By using multiple methods, and a transnational theoretical perspective, this paper addresses these important questions inherently tied to topics related to space, place, and immigration studies. Respondents’ inter-relationships with religious practices provide important glimpses and insights into their idealizations, expectations and conflicts among and between Brazilian immigrants in the United States and returnees in Brazil.

  • 1 Patricia Fortuny Loret de Mola et al. (2009) make an important claim that Brazilians have more soci (...)

2Unlike most Spanish-speaking Latin American immigrants to the United States [Portes and Rumbaut 1990], and unlike most Mexican immigrants who are generally rural laborers with low educational levels [Portes and Hoffman 2003, 71], Brazilian immigrants are not fleeing abject starvation or glaring economic troubles; nor are they political refugees seeking asylum, or fleeing a civil war [Margolis 1994].1

3My evaluation here has used my own primary data using multiple methods (see Methods section below), and theoretical perspectives based on previous research on Brazilian immigration to the United States [Margolis 1994, 1995, 1998; Sales 1998; Goza 1999; Marrow 2003, 2004, 2007; Martes 2000; Almeida 2003; Beserra 2003; Siqueira 2007, 2008]. Sueli Siqueira has asserted before (2007) that Brazilian immigrants are living in two worlds at the same time. That is; they are involved in a sort of in-betwixt and in-between context of identity within transnational movements [Marcus 2009]. Furthermore, after two decades of pioneering work on Brazilian immigration to the United States, Maxine L. Margolis has now also provided a global perspective of Brazilian immigrant communities throughout the world – from Paraguay, Europe, and North America to Japan, and also, Australia and New Zealand [Margolis 2013]. Margolis points out how in the 1990s many professionals left, including dentists, journalists, librarians, teachers and lawyers, stemming from “citizenship of consumption”: immigrants found that they were better rewarded for their work abroad, and she has called it, “yo-yo migration” to better understand Brazilian transnational movements (1994, 1998).

In the case of Brazilian immigrants and religion, scholars have observed the salience between religious inter-relationships and migration processes. For example, Peggy Levitt’s book is telling in itself: “God Needs No Passport” (2007), where she clearly delineates the transnational framework for understanding religious dimension within the context of immigrant movements, including Brazilian immigrants (from Governador Valadares). Ana Cristina Braga Martes (2013) claimed that Brazilian immigration to the United States is unique and draws on five main characteristics: central position of churches in social; community and economic life; favorable image; ethnic entrepreneurialism; practice of job selling; and, ethnic-racial dimensions. She demonstrates the complex relationships between the salience of churches within migration processes and entrepreneurialism, and shows how the labor market available to Brazilian immigrants, contains mobility and diversity, as well as continuity to their jobs in Brazil. Also, according to Manuel A. Vasquez (2009), Brazilian immigrant churches become a collective affirmation of national identity. Finally, Philip J. Williams et al. (2009) have explored identity, immigrant community formation, resources they bring, and strategies they deploy through the nexus of religion within the migration process. They also highlight implications of the macro-context of neo-liberal capitalism in the Americas as religion becomes fragmented, privatized, and rationalized competing, thus a precursor to the lived religion school (i.e.; religion as ways of being in the world). They conclude that Latino immigrants rely heavily on congregations as they move to a new destination.

4This article will show how Brazilian migration processes have shaped two receiving and two sending communities, and, the experiences of Brazilian migrants provide additional understandings of transnational migration flows (e.g.; Basch, Glick Schiller, and Sanzton Blanc 1995; Tsuda 1999; Levitt 2001, 2004, 2007). I claim that exposure to religious networks; globalized consumer markets; and U.S. values and imageries spread by Brazilian returnees, increase and disseminate an idealization and a seduction to emigrate. Brazil is home to the largest number of Catholics in the world, with 74% of the total population self-identifying as Catholic. Yet unlike Europe, where most Catholics have become secular, Brazil has one of the highest rates of conversions to Protestant religions (mainly Pentecostal), where three in four Pentecostals were former Catholics (Pew Hispanic). Religious spaces are instrumental in generating networks used to facilitate out-migration from sending communities (particularly the evangélicos) where the pastor plays a key role on many levels of migrants’ livelihoods, especially in the migration process. They affect labor markets (mainly housecleaning for women and construction work for men), facilitate and sustain transnational ties and loyalties to Brazil. These processes fluctuate and can change over time. These processes and movements are what I call convenient liaisons.

Methods used

  • 2 My approach here is to weave ethnographic accounts, participant observation and the results from a (...)

5This study has its limitations, and it is important to clarify that these results are non-generalizable as they were not intended to be about all Brazilian immigrants in the United States or all returnees in Brazil, therefore; they should not be generalized at the macro-level, and this article is part of a larger, broader study about Brazilian immigration to the United States and returnees in Brazil [Marcus, 2009a, 2009b, 2010, 2011, 2013]. I conducted fieldwork research in four locations in two countries: Framingham, Massachusetts, and Marietta, Georgia, in the United States, and; Governador Valadares, in the state of Minas Gerais and Piracanjuba, in the state of Goiás, in Brazil. I obtained all contacts through snowball sampling techniques, reiterating Maxine L. Margolis’ statement, “snowball sampling” can be very credible when combined with qualitative ethnographic techniques (1994: xxi). Ethnographic techniques consisted of asking interviewees open-ended questions on multiple occasions and settings as well as participant observation (e.g.; churches, stores, households, barbeques, etc.). I discuss quantitative results as well as selected ethnographic excerpts together with survey results, and I have weaved these selected selected excerpts throughout this narrative.2

6Fieldwork in both places of destination and origin were instrumental in providing a complete scope of Brazilian migration processes to the United States, confirming the work of Wayne A. Cornelius (1982). This way I simultaneously established rapport with friends and family members of migrants in both sending and receiving communities, thus gaining trust within the Brazilian community and entrée into various religious networks. These “migration corridors” become useful to illustrate changes and inter-relations at different scalar, spatial and temporal dimensions. Religious networks provide “convenient liaisons” within these migration processes as I discuss below.

Historical and geographical contexts

7Business ownership has increased in receiving communities precisely in light of the effective outreach strategies for customer bases forged by Pentecostal religions. Peggy Levitt (2007) has looked at these relationships between religious networks sustained in Governador Valadares and Framingham, Massachusetts, and the resulting increase in Pentecostalism in those areas. She showed the impact on business practices, favoring Pentecostal entrepreneurs in these areas. Ana Cristina Martes Braga (2004, 2013) has also explained how the role of Protestant favoritism applies to capitalism, and how the increase in Pentecostal immigrants in the Greater Boston area have impacted the form in which Brazilian immigrant business enterprises are shaped, particularly the Church of the Assembly of God (Assembléia de Deus). She explained that evangelical churches encourage social mobility through self-employment, forming a customer base from within, which the Catholic Church does not do. Braga Martes also evaluated how evangelical pastors play a crucial and active role, by becoming personally closer with membership interactions and the Brazilian immigrant business communities. My research results, confirm these claims.

8Brazilian Protestant pastors had a high level of control and outreach over immigrants’ livelihoods and in disseminating Christian fundamentalist and politically conservative values. This underlines effective outreach strategies and aggressive proselytizing of protestant religions in Brazilian immigrant communities. This is aggressive proselytizing is likely due to a sense of urgency driven by Pentecostal belief in the second coming of Christ. Brazilian immigrants will also learn the benefits of affiliations to Protestant churches precisely because of prior knowledge to networks afforded to them. However, some will join Protestant churches merely for the short-term benefits immediately after arrival to the United States, only to leave the churches once they have established themselves. Religious affiliations help propel and sustain immigration resulting from social networks, and at the same time create exclusionary clusters and friction between them, in this case between Catholics and Pentecostals.

Connections between religion and Brazil’s mineral wealth

  • 3 American industrial businessmen, such as Nelson Rockefeller, Percival Furquhar, and Edgar and Henry (...)

9The impact of U.S. influences on Brazil’s cultural, religious and economic systems during the first quarter of the twentieth century have been highlighted by scholars before [Cobb 1989, 1992; Colby and Dennet 1996; Rodrigues 2006]. As a consequence various economic activities and political actors are important considerations within the development of Brazilian out-migration patterns.3 Such engagements become an important fulcrum in understanding the full context behind cultural change in Brazil, including changes in consumer behavior and values, religious affiliations (increasingly, U.S. Pentecostal influence), the individualistic Protestant work ethic (capitalist-based), which lies in opposition to more of a community-based type of Catholicism or even more so, to the marxist-oriented Liberation Theology. Hence the seduction of U.S. values spread in particular places in Brazil.

10Historian David McCreery informed us that in the early nineteenth century Goiás was an “urban-based frontier” (2006:15). He explained the differences between the U.S. understanding of a “frontier,” as a place of opportunity, with the understanding of the Brazilian equivalent, the sertão, as “a dark, unknown, and dangerous space without God, society or the state” (15). This historical perception of Goiás, cited by McCreery as a “space without God,” may have contributed, among other factors, to the significant influx of missionaries to that region with a perceived high demand for religious proselytizing. U.S. Protestant missionaries, when they left Brazil, triggered off a series of interests, influences and connections, culminating in out-migration from those areas to immigrant settlements in Framingham, Massachusetts, and Marietta, Georgia.

11Brazilian Pentecostal pastors need only study nine months to officially be ordained as a pastor, whereas Brazilian Catholic priests need to study four years of college and another four years of theological training, with a minimum of eight years total of formal studying before officially becoming a priest. The differences in professional and academic training as well as subsequent revenues to be generated (one with large profit margins, and the other, with none) reflect the fundamental different ideological stances in each of these two religions. U.S. Protestant missionaries who operated in Minas Gerais and Goiás (two major focal points of immigration), over time influenced locals and forged network ties that subsequently contributed to the resulting segmented labor market sectors (housecleaning for women, and construction for men), and to Protestant (mainly Pentecostal) religious affiliations in receiving communities. U.S.-Protestant missionaries (mainly Pentecostals) were welcomed in Brazil by the right-winged Brazilian military dictatorship (1964-1985) and encouraged by the U.S. government to engage in proselytizing in Brazil, and thus act as a tool to eliminate Marxist-oriented Catholic strains, such as Liberation Theology. These same U.S. missionaries became a vehicle to disseminate U.S. values and “capitalist democracy.”

12In the past two centuries, with the expanding natural resource exploitation (i.e.; timber, sugarcane, and precious stones cycle), a deforested landscape emerged in several areas in Brazil, particularly in the Vale do Rio Doce region of Northeast Minas Gerais. The region of Southeast Goiás had been extensively modified ecologically, by use of fires set by local Amerindian populations to clear land for agriculture, a practice European settlers adopted [McCreery 2006]. The area of Governador Valadares was already a geographically volatile region before urbanization in the twentieth century, resulting in further ecological damage by the time it was founded by German immigrant Lutherans in the 1930s [Rodrigues 2006]. This region was highly sought-after, particularly because it sits upon large amounts of mineral wealth [Abreu 1946]. Increased U.S. economic, religious, and cultural penetration in the 1930s, introduced Brazil to the American way of life, particulary in the states of Minas Gerais and Goiás. Some intellectuals believe that a conjuction with inter-related religous and business factors played an important role in the virtual elimination of local Brazilian cultures, and provided a springboard for the eventual U.S. socioeconomic “conquest” of Brazil [Colby and Dennett 1996] – mainly via Rockefeller family financial and agricultural investments, U.S. Protestant missionary activities which helped to disseminate U.S. values. Henry Kaiser introduced the Kaiser-Frazer car line to Brazilian markets with the Aero-Willys and Jeeps (military and civilian). After purchasing Willys-Overland in 1953, Kaiser changed its name to Willys Motor Company [Cobb 1992]. The industrial production introduced new U.S. consumer values to Brazil as well as U.S. employees to Brazil. Nelson Rockefeller headed the Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs (OCIAA) from 1940-44, an agency whose purpose was to disseminate pan-American values and “to promote increased hemispheric solidarity and inter-American cooperation, especially in commercial and economic areas, in 1945” [U.S. National Archives and Records 2007]. The divisions within this agency consisted of sectors including cultural (films, literature, radio, art), economic and transportation relations, and health (sanitation issues) [U.S. National Archives and Records Administration 2007]. Rockefeller was also the Chairman of the Inter-American Development Commission and Corporation from 1940-47, and the Assistant Secretary of State for Latin American Affairs from 1944-45 [Marcus 2011].

13Under Rockefeller’s leadership, the Office of Inter-American Affairs grew from $3.5 million to $140 million in four years [Cobb 1989: 94]. In 1946, he founded the American International Association (AIA), and created companies to develop hybrid seeds and to provide rural credit in Brazil, involving agreements between a foreign nonprofit organization and a local government, rather than between national governments. The first agreements occurred in the state of Minas Gerais [Cobb 1989]. U.S. loans funded Brazil’s first steel plant in Volta Redonda (in the state of Rio de Janeiro) in 1940, and Brazil’s first mutual fund, Crescinco (an abbreviation in Portuguese crescimento industrial e comercial: “industrial and commercial growth:”), was founded by Nelson Rockeller in the 1950s [Cobb 1989]. It is likely that Rockefeller’s ideology of “capitalist democracy” played a direct role in accelerating the seduction of Brazilians for U.S. cultural consumption and values [Marcus 2011]. Hence, the nationalizing of natural resources plan proposed by Brazil’s President João “Jango” Goulart in the early 1960s received unwelcome responses by domestic and foreign industrialists and governments invested in the area (including Rockefeller, Kaiser, and the U.S. federal government). The threat of nationalization and of any potential Marxist-slanted leadership in Brazil, particularly soon after the Cuban revolution in 1959, contributed to the pressure U.S. President Lyndon Johnson felt to help a Brazilian military junta overthrow President Goulart [National Archive 2007]. The Brazilian military coup d’état occurred in 1964, with a fully U.S.-backed Brazilian military dictatorship that lasted until 1985, forcing Goulart to exile to Uruguay [Marcus 2011].

14Hence, the social movement spearheaded by Liberation Theology in the 1960s for land reform, was virtually eliminated by Brazilian government and military controls, and to a large extent, by the influence and increased influx of U.S. Protestant missionaries who were welcomed by the Brazilian dictatorship to combat leftist strains of Catholicism, especially in Minas Gerais. These missionaries became the convenient disseminators for Brazilian and U.S. government political and cultural ideals of the time, particularly since they shared the same ideological principles intrinsically opposed to Marxist ideology [Marcus 2011]. The U.S. missionaries inseminated “capitalist democracy” and U.S. sociocultural values upon their new converts. At this point, the U.S. social and religious links of networks are forged between U.S. Protestant churches and Brazilian locals – which will lead to future out-migration patterns from this area.

15In Governador Valadares (the oldest focal point of emigration to the United States), the combination of poor planning, development, and management by local government, contributed to the areas’ social, political, and ecological disintegration. Thus, compounding the issue of an absent local male labor force due to out-migration, and increasing real estate speculation with the high prices driven up by remittances sent back by Brazilian immigrants abroad. Stories about immigrants’ substantial earnings abroad were disseminated amongst locals, particularly in Governador Valadares since the 1980s, and immigrant returnees to Brazil exhibited their new wealth by conspicuous consumption in order to increase their perceived social and cultural capital desired. For example, there is a plaque in a park in Governador Valadares, honoring emigrants as heroes, inaugurated on the unlikely date of July 4, 2007. The date “July 4” is telling, and speaks volumes. he plaque reads: “A tribute to the emigrants who do justice to dignified Labor, they are heroes for their contribution to the Development of Governador Valadares, 4th of July, 2007.”

16The ever-growing U.S. Pentecostal Churches in Brazil and within Brazilian immigrant communities suggests the role of prior U.S. influence before migration processes occur. Peggy Levitt (2007) has looked at these relationships between religious networks sustained in Governador Valadares and Framingham, Massachusetts, and with the resulting increase in Pentecostalism in those respective sites. She discussed the impact on business practices, favoring Pentecostal entrepreneurs in these areas. Ana Cristina Martes Braga (2004) also explained how the role of Protestant favoritism applies to capitalism, and how the increase in Pentecostal immigrants in the Greater Boston area have impacted the form in which Brazilian immigrant business enterprises are shaped, particularly the Church of the Assembly of God (Assembléia de Deus). She explained that evangelical churches encourage social mobility through self-employment, forming a customer base from within, which the Catholic Church does not do. She also evaluated how Evangelical pastors play a crucial role as community activists, by becoming personally closer with membership interactions and the Brazilian immigrant business communities (2004: 5). Again, research results from my study, confirm these claims. Brazilian Protestant pastors had a high level of control and outreach over immigrants’ livelihoods and in disseminating Christian fundamentalist and politically conservative values. This underlines effective outreach strategies and aggressive proselytizing of protestant religions in Brazilian immigrant communities. This aggressive proselytizing is perhaps due to a sense of urgency driven by Pentecostal belief in the second coming of Christ. These examples shed light on resulting outcomes of U.S. Pentecostal influences upon Brazilian immigrants between Governador Valadares and Framingham. In the above examples transnational networks are seen generating and sustaining migration patterns and processes between receiving and sending communities. Below I will weave through selected excerpts from my ethnographic interviews with data from my research results.

Religious practices among Brazilian immigrants

17The important role Pentecostal pastor plays in receiving communities is central to immigrants’ social networks, facilitating various aspects of their livelihoods. As a Brazilian Pentecostal pastor from Minas Gerais, age 52, Framingham, explained to me: “The church becomes the immigrants’ second family, since they don’t have their family or spouses here, and they spend Christmas at the Pastor’s house, as he becomes everything to him…lawyer, psychologist….” More broadly speaking, religious affiliations are instrumental in generating networks used to facilitate out-migration from sending communities, particularly in the case of Protestant religions, mainly Pentecostals – the evangélicos –where the pastor plays a key role on many levels of migrants’ livelihoods.

18Brazil is home to the largest number of Catholics in the world, with 74 percent of the total population self-identifying as Catholic. Unlike Europe, where most Catholics have become secular, Brazil has one of the highest rates of conversions to Protestant (mainly Pentecostal) religions, where three in four Pentecostals were former Catholics [Pew Research Center 2007]. This religious dynamic has important implications to Brazilian politics and especially within migration processes.

19Ana Cristina Braga Martes (2012) demonstrates the complex relationships between the salience of churches within migration processes and entrepreneurialism. She shows how the labor market available to Brazilian immigrants, contains mobility and diversity, as well as continuity to their jobs in Brazil. She examines community solidarity, job selling, and religious networks, and claims that there are three niche markets among Brazilian immigrants: low-wage workers, self-employed workers, and small-scale entrepreneurs.

20For example, Chico from Piracanjuba, age 47, a Brazilian former Pentecostal pastor, who now lives in Marietta, explained that the style and form of U.S. Pentecostalism has influenced Brazilian Protestant churches, and it is popular among Brazilians because it speaks “the language of the masses.” Chico refers to the importance of the work ethic within Protestantism, but more importantly he also reveals the effective outreach and networks made available to fellow church members, impacting ethnic entrepreneurship in receiving communities, confirming the findings of Martes (2003) and Levitt (2007), and again; enforcing the idea of religious networks providing convenient liaisons within the migration process. There are also several other broader reasons, as well as historical, geographical and social forces, politically connected, that explain the rise in popularity of Pentecostalism among Brazilians.

Survey results

21My research results further help to illustrate the diversity and fluidity within respondents’ religious affiliations. Some respondents selected more than one religion, and four respondents selected no religious affiliations. Of the total 11 religious affiliations claimed by those Brazilians interviewed (Table 1 and Figure 1), over half (52 percent) are Catholic, 15 percent belong to the Pentecostal Church of the Assembly of God (Assembléia de Deus), 9 percent are Baptist, 8 percent are Presbyterian, 6 percent are Spiritist, 2 percent are Umbandistas, and one percent for each of the following affiliations: Methodist, Lutheran, Jehovah Witness, Seventh Day Adventist, and an Agnostic (who believes in God); and 4 percent claimed no religious affiliations.

Table 1. Results: Religious Affiliations by Each Research Site

Affiliation

Framingham
%

Marietta
%

Gov. Val.
%

Piracanjuba

%

Total
Averages %

Catholic

58

42

50

58

52

Assembly of God

0

27

18

15

15

Baptist

15

8

7

8

9

Presbyterian

8

8

4

12

8

Spiritist

4

12

4

4

6

Umbandista

8

0

0

0

2

Methodist

4

0

0

0

1

Lutheran

4

0

0

0

1

Jehovah Witness

0

4

0

0

1

7th Day Adventist

0

0

4

0

1

Agnostic

0

0

4

0

1

No Affiliations

0

0

11

4

4

Total

100

100

100

100

100

Source: Survey conducted by author.

Figure 1. Overall Results: Religious Affiliations by Percent of Total

Figure 1. Overall Results: Religious Affiliations by Percent of Total

Source: Survey conducted by author.

22If all of the above Protestant religions are grouped, and compared with the Catholic group, a broader picture emerges, thus illustrating the increase in Protestant religions among Brazilian immigrants. Protestant religions represent 34 percent of all the Brazilians interviewed. Although these figures provide important insights into religious affiliations among Brazilian immigrants and returnees, they should not generalized as monolithic identity markers. More importantly, Brazilian immigrants often attend different church services at different points in time, and they are not exclusively loyal to only one church, sometimes participating in more than one religious affiliation at the same time. Sometimes Brazilian immigrants convert to a different religion because of friendship and family ties to other church denominations, and upon their return to Brazil, revert back to their original religious affiliation, or refrain from any religious affiliation. The majority of respondents identified as Catholics (over half) in all research sites, except for Marietta, where they made up only 40 percent of the total interviewed, and where the Church of the Assembly of God was the highest, consisting of 24 percent of those interviewed.

23The combined category for “Catholic and Spiritist” was common in all sites (accounting for 4 percent in each place) except for Governador Valadares. This drives the perspective of how religious syncretism is common in Brazil as much as it is among Brazilian immigrants abroad. That is, Brazilian immigrants may decide to belong to different church affiliations at different points in time or at the same time, without any social stigma or reprimand. Perceptions and inter-relationships stemming from religious affiliations reflect the important consequences of immigration.

Tensions between catholists, spiritists, and the rise of the Evangélicos

24Through the following reflections based on participant observation and using ethnographic interviewing techniques, this section illustrates the understandings, friction and complexities that arise from these affiliations within receiving immigrant settlements. For example, Manuela, age 44, originally from Governador Valadares, has lived in Framingham for over two decades – she has strived to develop awareness by building bridges between the receiving and Brazilian immigrant communities. However, she feels that as an immigrant community activist, that non-religious civic organizations are perceived by local Brazilian pastors as a threat to religious organizations, particularly to the evangélicos, “since civic organizations attempt to create health awareness campaigns (such as cancer prevention, mammograms), evangélicos feel this will reduce their church memberships.” Although, the Evangelical Churches have a strong media outreach within Brazilian immigrant communities, a Brazilian pastor in Framingham, originally from Piracanjuba, explained that in the month of August, 2007, his church lost fourteen individuals, and that during the past year, from 2006 to 2007, his church had lost eighty of its members who had either left for the U.S. South or had left to return to Brazil. According to the pastor, Brazilians have been leaving to states such as Georgia, Louisiana, or the Carolinas, because of the warmer climate and increased demand for construction work, particularly in New Orleans.

25A Pastor from Minas Gerais, at a Marietta evangélico Bookstore, he said that the three popular Ministries in Atlanta are: Agapé, Madureira, and Missão and all part of the Assembléia de Deus. He explained that the Pentecostal movement started in Brazil by two Americans in 1910, and has since influenced Brazilian Baptist and Presbyterian churches, now called igrejas renovada [literally “renovated churches” or “revived”]. Brazilian Pentecostal pastors have impacted receiving communities by disseminating fundamentalist and conservative ideologies and claims. The importance of the Pentecostal pastor is instrumental in creating and disseminating values and perceptions among their members in receiving communities, thus playing a significant role of change and place and in providing a “convenient liaison” as well.

Conclusion

26Liberation theologists claim that Pentecostal missionaries in Brazil functioned as convenient disseminators of U.S. Protestant-based “capitalist democracy,” as their influx increased to weaken Catholic Church and its membership [Westmeier 1998]. Exposure to a globalized consumer markets and U.S. values, imageries disseminated by returnees, and opportunities to increase social capital, further increased the idealization and the seduction of out-migration. Brazilian migrants today leave with the mindset of the so-called “capitalist democracy,” that once was promoted and practiced upon them by previous domestic, foreign and U.S. industrialists and Protestant missionaries, and this mindset is embedded in them as they leave for the United States. The recent migration cycle is a continuation of previous economic Brazilian cycles, including the exploitation of sugarcane, timber, minerals and precious stones from previous centuries. That is, the migration cycle is a short-term endeavor, evaluated as a short-term goal, “to work, make money, and return to Brazil.”

27Results show that Brazilians who migrate were historically seduced by U.S. idealization and by the geographical imagination inspired by U.S. popular culture, U.S.-based Protestant influence, and by stories of returnees [Marcus 2009]. In sending communities, migration benefits only a few, generally the local Brazilian elites. Most remittances are sent informally, and hence Brazil’s Central Bank only registered $2.4 million of the total estimated $6 billion sent to Brazil from Brazilian immigrants living abroad [Martes and Soares 2006]. To perceive Brazilian emigrants as “heroes” (as they are formally perceived by the Mayor’s office in Governador Valadares) is also problematic, as it misleads other Brazilians into believing that there is an imminent potential of obtaining cultural and social capital characterized with such an ascription, by emigrating. In Brazilian political spheres, out-migration is mostly discussed in the myopic context of financial and economic gains and losses resulting from migration processes. It is true that financial remittances have benefitted some migrants’ families, however; there is a societal price to be paid with human costs that emerge with such benefits (such as high divorce rates, parentless children, and family fragmentation) – costs which are either understated or invisible within Brazilian public spheres [Marcus 2009]. The human cost resulting from migration processes needs to be included in the equation of adequately gauging net benefits gained from migrants’ financial remittances.

28Religious spaces are instrumental in generating networks used to facilitate out-migration from sending communities (particularly the evangélicos). The contexts and conditions of migration processes are multi-dimensional and complex, not economic alone [Marcus 2010]; and they are generated and sustained by inter-related transnational social and religious networks. Migration processes affect labor markets (mainly housecleaning for women and construction work for men), intersect with religious affiliations (mainly Pentecostal) which facilitate and sustain transnational ties and loyalties to Brazil. These processes fluctuate over time, and furthermore, these are the convenient liaisons within Brazilian migration movements.

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Notes

1 Patricia Fortuny Loret de Mola et al. (2009) make an important claim that Brazilians have more social capital than Mexicans, securing higher-paying jobs in the service sector.

2 My approach here is to weave ethnographic accounts, participant observation and the results from a 100 formal interviews using structured (a twenty-question survey), semi-structured, and unstructured interviews – altogether, twenty-five formal interviews in each location, and from173 informal unstructured interviews (sixty-six in Brazil and 107 in the United States). Interviews were conducted in Portuguese. I supervised, conducted, and completed all translations and transcriptions. I use only respondents’ first names –pseudonyms. Sixty-five percent of my interviewees were documented; 39 percent were undocumented; and, 4 percent were in the process of “becoming” documented. I did not interview minors (under eighteen years of age) or mentally incompetent subjects.

3 American industrial businessmen, such as Nelson Rockefeller, Percival Furquhar, and Edgar and Henry Kaiser, as well as U.S. Protestant missionaries, in particular.

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Table des illustrations

Titre Figure 1. Overall Results: Religious Affiliations by Percent of Total
Crédits Source: Survey conducted by author.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/eps/docannexe/image/5766/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 320k
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Pour citer cet article

Référence papier

Alan P. Marcus, « Convenient Liaisons: Brazilian Immigration/Emigration and the Spatial-relationships of Religious Networks », Espace populations sociétés, 2014/2-3 | -1, 85-97.

Référence électronique

Alan P. Marcus, « Convenient Liaisons: Brazilian Immigration/Emigration and the Spatial-relationships of Religious Networks », Espace populations sociétés [En ligne], 2014/2-3 | 2015, mis en ligne le 01 décembre 2014, consulté le 18 décembre 2017. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/eps/5766 ; DOI : 10.4000/eps.5766

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Auteur

Alan P. Marcus

Ph.D., Associate Professor
Department of Geography and Environmental Planning
8000 York Road
Towson University
Towson, MD
USA 21252-0001
amarcus@towson.edu

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Espace Populations Sociétés est mis à disposition selon les termes de la licence Creative Commons Attribution - Pas d'Utilisation Commerciale - Pas de Modification 4.0 International.

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