Latvians in Brazil


Latvians have been immigrating to Brazil since the early 1890’s. They were people who hoped to find land for farming, as well as a more prosperous and freer life in the country. Economist Kārlis Balodis (1864-1932) and philosopher Pēteris Zālīte (1864-1939) encouraged Latvian emigration to Brazil. They published articles in Latvian newspapers about the land of opportunity, Brazil – a free, fertile and spasely populated land with a warm climate and favourable entry requirements. The first place that Latvians settled was the Rio Nova colony, and later they also settled in Ijui, Nova Odessa and other places. However, the conditions were much more difficult than the immigrants had initially hoped. The Latvian immigrants had varied success, some were able to acclimatize to the unfamiliar circumstances and became wealthy, others didn’t do so well. A number of the immigrants didn’t stay in the colonies, but settled in the large cities, most in Sao Paulo, or even tried to return to Latvia. The next wave of immigration from Latvia to Brazil was in 1922 and 1923, with about 2,000 people in total. They were Baptists, who emigrated due to religious reasons, settled deep in the jungle and established the Vārpa colony, and later the Palma collective farm. After clearing the land, they too were involved mainly in agriculture.

Another wave of immigration to Brazil came after the Second World War. About 1,000 Latvian refugees, who had ended up in DP camps in Germany after the war, moved to Brazil with the assistance of the IRO (International Refugee Organization) at the end of the 1940’s and beginning of the 1950’s. The majority of them settled in Sao Paulo, where they also founded a Latvian Lutheran congregation. A number of these post-war arrivals later headed to North America in the 1950’s and 1960’s, where they settled in Canada and the USA.