Brazilians (brasileiros in Portuguese) are all people born in Brazil. A Brazilian can be also a person born abroad from a Brazilian parent or a foreigner living in Brazil who applied for the Brazilian citizenship. The vast majority of Brazilians live in Brazil, although there are significant Brazilian communities in Paraguay, the United States, Japan, and Europe.
According to the Constitution of Brazil, a Brazilian citizen is:
According to the Constitution, all people who hold a Brazilian citizenship are equal, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender or religion.
A foreigner can apply for Brazilian citizenship after living for 15 uninterrupted years in Brazil and being able to speak Portuguese. A native person from an official Portuguese language country (Portugal, Angola, Mozambique, Cape Verde, São Tomé and Príncipe, Guinea Bissau and East Timor) can request the Brazilian nationality after only 1 uninterrupted year living in Brazil. A foreign born person who holds a Brazilian citizenship has exactly the same rights and duties of the Brazilian citizen by birth (jus soli or jus sanguinis), but cannot occupy some special public positions such as the Presidency of the Republic, Vice-presidency of the Republic, Minister (Secretary) of Defense, Presidency (Speaker) of the Senate, Presidency (Speaker) of the House of Representatives.
According to the Brazilian Constitution, the Portuguese people have a special status in Brazil. Article 12, first paragraph of the Constitution, grants to citizens of Portugal with permanent residence in Brazil "the rights attached to Brazilians", excluded from the constitutional prerogatives of Brazilian born. Requirements for the granting of equality are: habitual residence (permanent), the age of majority and formulation of request from the Minister of Justice.
In Brazil, the Portuguese may require equal treatment with regard to civil rights; moreover, they may ask to be granted political rights granted to Brazilians (except the rights exclusive to the Brazilian born). In the latter case, this requires a minimum of three years of permanent residence.
The use of citizenship by non-Brazilian nationals (in this case, Portuguese) is a rare exception to the principle that nationality is a sine qua non for citizenship, granted to the Portuguese - if with reciprocal treatment for the Brazilians in Portugal - due to the historic relationship between the two countries.
Brazilians are mostly descendants of colonial and post-colonial Portuguese settlers and immigrants, African slaves and Brazil's indigenous peoples, along with several other groups of immigrants who arrived in Brazil mostly from the 1820s until the 1970s. Most of the immigrants were Italians and Portuguese, but also significant numbers of Germans, Spaniards, Japanese, and Lebanese and Syrians.
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When the Portuguese arrived at South America in 1500, the current Brazil was inhabited by an estimated 2.4 million Amerindians, who were living there since the Pleistocene. From 1500 until its independence in 1822, Brazil was settled by some 500,000 Portuguese, mostly men. Portugal remained an the only significant source of European immigrants to Brazil until the early 19th century. As a result of the Atlantic slave trade, from the mid-16th century until 1855, an estimated 4 million African slaves were brought to Brazil. In 1808, the Portuguese court moved to Brazil and opened its seaports to other nations. Then, other groups of immigrants started to immigrate to the country. From 1820 to 1975, 5,686,133 immigrants entered Brazil, the vast majority of them Europeans. Portuguese and Italians arrived in equal numbers, and numbered close to 70% of all immigrants. The rest was composed mainly of Spaniards, Germans, Japanese, Syrians and Lebanese.
The Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE) classify the Brazilian population in five categories: brancos (white), negros (black), pardos (brown), amarelos (Asian/yellow) and índios (Amerindian), based on skin color or race. The last detailed census (PNAD) found Brazil to be made up of 93 million Whites, 80 million brown people, 11.7 million Blacks, and 1.3 million Asian or Amerindian.
In the 2005 detailed census, for the first time in two decades, the number of White Brazilians did not exceed 50% of the population. On the other side, the number of pardos (Brown) people increased and all the other remained almost the same. According to the IBGE, this trend is mainly because of the revaluation of the identity of historically discriminated ethnic groups.
The ethnic composition of Brazilians is not uniform across the country. Due to its large influx of European immigrants in the 19th century, the Southern Region has a large White majority, composing 79.6% of its population. The Northeastern Region, as a result of the large numbers of African slaves working in the sugar cane engenhos, has a majority of pardos and black peoples, respectively, 63.1% and 7.0%. Northern Brazil, largely covered by the Amazon Rainforest, is 71.5% pardo, due to Amerindian ancestry. Southeast and Central-Western Brazil have a more balanced ratio among different racial groups.
Brazilian anthropologist Darcy Ribeiro, in his book O Povo Brasileiro, compares Brazil with the population of other former European colonies, such as Argentina, Australia or the United States. In these countries, the population was directly carried from Europe to the Americas. They only perpetuated their customs and way of life in another part of the planet. On the other hand, the embryo of the Brazilians was a hybrid population, so an identity emerged earlier than in most other colonized countries. This population resulted from the mixing of Portuguese men with the Native Indian women (the Brazilindians or Mamelucos). They were rejected by the Portuguese father, as well as by their Indian relatives (the Indians did not consider the children of Indian women like one of them). In consequence they build an identity that was not European nor Amerindian: it was a Brazilian identity. This new Tupi-Portuguese population mingled both elements. They spoke an indigenous language with Portuguese pronunciation (known as Língua Geral, a lingua franca in Brazil until the 18th century), inherited the adaptation to the rainforest from their Indian mothers, but were proudly Catholics and attacked with violence Indian tribes or Jesuit Reductions to enslave the natives.
The African element appears later, and according to Ribeiro its influence was more passive than active. The fact that Blacks were brought from different parts of Africa and spoke different languages, along with the conflicts between different African ethnic groups, hindered the emergence of an African identity in Brazil. The Blacks, surprisingly, learned how to speak Portuguese with the shouts of foremen. Ribeiro says that Blacks were those responsible for spreading the Portuguese language in Brazil, since they used this language to speak with other African slaves from different ethnicities, as well to the Portuguese and to the Indians. The appearance of the mulatto also builds a new identity, which is not European nor is African.
According to Ribeiro, the Brazilian population, then, was formed by the "mixture of a few whites with crowds of black and Indian women". The intensive arrival of European immigrants in the late 19th and early 20th centuries did not have a great impact in most of Brazil's regions, since there was already a large and ethnically constituted population. In contrast to the United States, which has a "carried population" and where immigrant communities keep with their original traditions, in Brazil the immigrants were quickly assimilated in the Brazilian society, and even the Italian, German and Japanese communities that preserved their languages and institutions for decades are now completly integrated.
Ribeiro points different "rustic ways of being Brazilian" that includes regional differences, such as the Sertanejos in the Northeast, the Amazonian Caboclos, the Blacks of the coast, the Caipira from the Southeast and Center of the country, the Gauchos from the Southern Pampas, and also the Italian Brazilians, German Brazilians, Japanese Brazilians etc. He concluded that "They're all more marked with what they have in common as Brazilians, than by differences due to regional or functional adaptations, or miscegenation and acculturation that lend own physiognomy to one or another portion of the population".