The Concrete Amazon

Brazil, known for its exotic tropics, picturesque beaches, delicious food, beautiful women, and painful waxes, has a home in New York City where anyone can get a taste of the luscious culture. Only a twenty-minute train ride from Midtown, Astoria, Queens has become the Brazil of New York City. Initially, the hotspot for Brazilian culture in New York was “Little Brazil” located on 46th street in Manhattan but as of late, because of skyrocketing rents, Brazilians have been moving to Astoria by the masses. Over the past 30 years, Astoria has become the go-to spot for New York City Brazilians to experience a piece of their home in a city 5000 miles away from their birthplace.

Brazilian immigration to the United States has been largely based on economical factors. Over the past 30 years, the fluctuations in the Brazilian economy and the American economy have been key factors in Brazilian immigration. After a military coup d’état in 1964, there was intense economic growth due to the neoliberal economic reforms. However, the reforms ended up leaving the economy in shambles, with a crashing market and soaring national debt. The fall of Brazil’s economy sparked an intense emigration from the country, reaching a rate of 20% per year. According to Maxine Margolis in Little Brazil: An Ethnography of Brazilian Immigrants in New York City, approximately 1.4 million Brazilians left the country between 1986 and 1990, while about 20,800 of those emigrants arrived in the United States. New York City, being the premier destination for immigrants in search for economic opportunity, became home to thousands of Brazilians during this period. The Brazilian immigrants to New York City were generally among the middle-class in Brazil whom had white-collar jobs, but now had to obtain tedious labor jobs in New York City. The irony however, is that because of Brazil’s substandard economy at the time, a dishwasher in New York still made more than a teacher in Brazil. According to Ernest Barteldes in his article, “Little Brazil Is Dead, Long Live Astoria”, “[Brazilians] aren’t desperate fugitives, but people with money who are looking for another way of life.” Motivated largely by economic troubles in Brazil, the Brazilian immigrants in New York City differ greatly from those immigrants who come here for religious or political persecution because they are not escaping anything, but rather looking for greater opportunities.

Little Brazil Street, better known as 46th street, was once a thriving destination for anyone who wanted a taste of Brazil in The Big Apple. Now, if you were to walk down 46th street between 5th and 6th avenue, the amount of Brazilian-owned businesses could be counted using the fingers on your left hand. It is a sad reality to many among the Brazilian community to see the lose of Little Brazil, but not all hope is lost because the community did not disappear, it merely moved.

Today, Astoria has become a synonym for Brazil itself. It has become a thriving community, modeling the Little Brazil That Was. Over the years, the neighborhood has been home to many immigrant cultures such as Greeks and Arabs, sprouting diners, hookah bars, and churches all within walking distance of each other. Since the influx of Brazilians to Astoria, there has been a significantly noticeable boom of Brazilian owned establishments in the area such as grocery stores, beauty salons, and restaurants. Brazilian rodízios (all you can eat meat buffets) populate the neighborhood along with restaurants, Brazilian and American alike, hosting Brazilian music nights to cater to the ever-growing Brazilian population. A simple walk around lower-Astoria and one will inevitably feel the presence of the vibrantly exotic Brazilian culture.

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