Ethnic Groups in Brazil

Instructor: Natalie Klema

I have been a high school math instructor for 10 years. I have a Master's degree in Leadership.

Brazil is the largest country in South America and has the sixth largest population in the world, mostly due to immigration. Because of this, it has a very diverse make up with many nationalities.


Brazil has a population of over 200 million people. Because of its size and immigration, there are several different ethnic groups living in the country. These groups are the result of European, Asian, African, and Native Americans combining to create new ethnicities.

The blending of so many different nationalities has made Brazil an engaging country, with its share of problems too. Let's take a look at some of these groups in more detail.

Brazil has the sixth highest population in the world


Native Americans, called Indigenas, came to the land at about 60,00 to 8,000 BC. They were hunter/gatherers and semi-nomadic, but many ultimately became farmers and settled. They did not create advanced civilizations like the Incas of Peru. There were approximately 2000 tribes of natives when the Portuguese arrived.

The Portuguese accidentally found Brazil in 1500 AD when Pedro Alvares Cabral landed his boats. By 1530, the French had come to Brazil. Many natives died as a result of the diseases the Europeans brought with them that the Indigenas had no natural immunity to. Entire tribes were wiped out due to the epidemics.

In 1532, sugar was introduced to Brazil and it is still one of its largest crops. Many Indigenas were taken as slaves by the Europeans, forced to work on sugar plantations.


Because sugar grew so well in Brazil, plantations were built to grow it. However, there was a need for people to work the land. This is when the Europeans began bringing slaves, called Pretos from Africa to provide this labor. As you might expect, their treatment and conditions were deplorable.

Brazil was the last country to abolish slavery in the Americas. It also brought 10 times the slaves that the United States had brought, leaving their population about 50% African. However, slaves in Brazil were allowed to buy their freedom, unlike in the United States.

Categories of Skin Color

With all of these different people living together, there began to be mixing of the races and nationalities creating a new mixed race culture. Skin color is one of the main ways that Brazilians label themselves. One of the largest groups in Brazil is called Pardos. These are people who are multiracial and have brown skin. Europeans are called Brancos, or white Brazilians.

The Pardos are a multi-racial group in Brazil

In the late 1800's, Japan restructured its government in a way that left many of its people displaced. Because of this, there was a large migration to Brazil. Brazil now has the largest Japanese community outside of Japan. Amarelo is the term used to describe people of Asian decent. It means East Asian or yellow, again using skin color.

Heirarchy and Class

The culture of Brazil has a hierarchy: Brancos are at the top followed by, in order, Pardos, Amarelos, Indigenas, and Pretos. This results in discrimination in education and the opportunity for advancement.

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