October 5, 1988 – Brazil Redefines Itself as a Federal Republic

Brazil had been ruled by a military dictatorship from 1964-1985. In the 1980s, as other military regimes in Latin America fell, and with the government unable to help the floundering economy, a pro-democracy movement gained momentum. Presidential elections were held in 1984 with civilian candidates. Deliberations were begun for a new constitution, which was ratified on this date in history.

The Federative Republic of Brazil is the largest country in both South America and the Latin American region; the fifth largest country in the world (both in terms of area and population); and the largest Lusophone country in the world. (Lusophonic means not only Portuguese-speaking, but refers to people who are culturally and linguistically linked to Portugal. It comes from “Lusitania,” which is the old name for the area encompassing all of modern Portugal and part of modern Spain.)

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Interestingly, according to the New York Times, Brazil is also home to 62 percent of Japanese living outside of Japan, around 1.4 million people. Japanese immigrated to Brazil in large numbers in the late 1880’s to work on coffee plantations. Only seven percent returned to Japan. Now, forty percent of the descendants of Japanese immigrants are mixed-race.

Ironically, one hundred years later, during the 1980’s, Japan was seeking foreign workers for its car industry, and recruited from among the Japanese-speaking citizens of Brazil. Thousands returned. In 2009, with too many people in the country competing for a smaller number of jobs, Japan offered to pay these people airfare to go back to Brazil.

The Japanese are caught between two worlds: the Brazilians consider them Japanese, and the Japanese consider them Brazilian. But some 200,000 have chosen to remain in Japan because they consider it a safer place to raise their families, with more public services, better schools, and a working pension system.

A ceremony of Umbanda, a religious practice originating in Brazil that blends African faiths and Catholicism, held in Japan by Japanese-Brazilians

A ceremony of Umbanda, a religious practice originating in Brazil that blends African faiths and Catholicism, held in Japan by Japanese-Brazilians

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