The Context of Colonization in Southern Brazil
and the Immigrant Family
Maria Luiza Andreazza *
Sérgio Odilon Nadalin, Ph.D **
The 19th-century immigration of
Europeans to Brazil is taken up in this paper,
especially in regard to the premise that this
significant movement of peoples was a
rejoinder by the Brazilian elite to the
impasse caused by the end of slavery
[1888]. The immigration was one of the
indicators of the crisis that represented a
crack in the colonial structures. In this same
context, the arrival of immigrants to Brazil
during the 19th century gave rise to what
might be called an “immigrant culture.”
The considerations presented in this
study are an attempt to situate the
emergence of this culture by analyzing
descendants of Europeans from the point of
view of historical demography as well as
that of cultural contacts. The analyses that
follow were based on data gathered from
the reconstitution of families of European
immigrants and their descendants, which is
an especially valuable method for
retrospective demographic studies. The
juxtaposition of demographic patterns with
cultural aspects that were specific to the
immigrants made it possible to circumscribe
their forms of social life, and this, in turn,
allowed a delineation of a theory of the
immigrant family. The study can therefore to
be classified within the broad spectrum of
demographic studies or, what for us is more
pertinent, the history of the population.
The history of Brazil unfolded in the
State of Paraná [southern part of the country]
in a very particular way. Therefore, although
our attention here will be focused mainly on
the southern region of Brazil, especially
Paraná, the country as a whole will not be
ignored. At various points in our paper, the
articulation and contradictions of the efforts
made by what was then the Province of
Paraná will be mentioned in the context of a
national immigration policy.
In fact, the theme of immigration is
sufficiently broad to include many varied
experiences related to the settlement of
foreigners in the region, a process that
involved both governmental programs and
spontaneous movements. These populations
of settlers in rural regions lived both on the
Atlantic coast and in the interior of the
province, including some near the “urban”
centers, whether on the outskirts or closer
to town. There foreigners and their
descendants migrated and re-migrated from
one region to another, where numerous
specific cases occurred.
Consequently, considering the
limitations imposed by the specific
objectives of this study, some limits will have
to be drawn. On the one hand, we will
concentrate on the period of almost one
hundred years during which, in our opinion,
foreign presence had the strongest impact
on society in Paraná, and in Brazil in general.
A “Great Migration” took place, largely
expressed by the repercussions from the
prohibition of slave traffic to Brazil, beginning
in the 1850s and extending to the beginning
of the Second World War (1939).
* Assistant Professor at the History Department of the Federal University of Paraná.
** Professor at the History Department of the Federal University of Paraná, with a grant from the CNPq.
Andreazza, M.L. and Nadalin, S.O.
Our other focus will be on the origin of
the immigrants. One specific group of
Immigrants to Brazil consisted of Asians
(mainly Japanese), and is very recent,
characterizing almost a sub-period within
the dates mentioned above. There are of
course other types of problem that cannot
be taken up here. For this reason, we will
deal especially with the immigration of
Europeans, if only because the ideology
behind the Brazilian immigration policy was
much more closely related to this
The third aspect to be emphasized here
results from the realization that Paraná’s
capital, and largest city, Curitiba, has been
the main focus of demographic analyses on
immigration in the state’s historiographic
production. In a more or less thorough
manner, since the 1970s, Germans, Poles
and Italians have been studied from this
methodological perspective. Therefore, our
analyses and considerations will be
centered on the history of Curitiba, the
“laboratory” of an original demographic
experience that can, with the necessary
adjustments, permit generalizations for
immigrations to other regions in Paraná.
In addition, Curitiba is in fashion, and
this fact is related to a history of an immigrant
presence that was successful. Although
the city and its inhabitants deserve great
credit, there are nevertheless some obvious
distortions involved, indicated by
exaggerations that do not hold up under
critical analysis. In our opinion, these
distortions are part of a certain tradition that
sees Paraná as a different Brazil
[MARTINS, 1955], with a tradition based on
the predominance of a characteristic
biotype of the state’s population, its distinct
accent in Portuguese, and a singular
interpretation of the region’s history. It is as
if the “stigma of slavery,” and even of
Portuguese colonization, were non-existent
in Paraná and that an ideally peasant and
European civilization had been set up there.
By reproducing this simplistic and naive
reasoning, aspects of the liberal and
conservative immigrational ideology of the
19th century are confirmed and reiterated.
Braz. Journ. Pop. Stud., Campinas, 2, 1999/2000
There is no doubt, however, that the
presence of immigrants was a major aspect
of the region’s history, and introduced
special characteristics that distinguishes in
a special way what might be called an
“immigrant culture,” a term used by
Diegues Jr. (1960). However, due to the
contact with a society that was desirous of
“regenerating” and renewing practices of
work that had been depreciated by slavery,
part of the immigrant culture seems to have
been based on the incorporation of this
ideology, elaborating on and reconstructing
it as an ethnic argument for a vocation. This
was one of the topics alluded to in the
Brazilian novel by Viana Moog, Um Rio imita
o Reno [A river imitates the Rhine].
Therefore, one should take into account
that this new fragment of the population of
Paraná was assimilated by a society whose
structures have colonial roots. No matter how
singular, innovative and original the cultural
and demographic contribution of the
immigrants might have been, the historical
process of Paraná has a clearly Brazilian
dynamic structure.
Displacements of populations: 19th and
20th centuries
In this section we intend to delineate
the broad lines of how we understand the
structural ruptures that, in one way or
another, contributed significantly to the
occurrence of the great migrations of the 19th
century and the early decades of the 20th.
One must first accept the undisputed
fact that the American and European
motivations that stimulated the 19th-century
migrations were part of the same process,
whose roots are to be found in Europe. On
the one hand, there was a complex set of
changes that occurred during the 19th and
20th centuries which have often been
referred to as a demographic transition.
These transformations in the European
population were articulated in opposition to
the inertia that sustained the peasant
societies on that continent, based on a long
history sustained by a local, communitybased “moral economy.” This situation
Andreazza, M.L. and Nadalin, S.O.
corresponded to an almost stationary
population, with high death and birth rates.
As a counterpoint to this apparently
conservative world, broad changes were
nevertheless taking place with the
expansion of capitalism, often closely
related to the socio-demographic
transformations going on. These changes
brought about excess populations that,
depending on the local situation and on
what we might call cultural factors, led to a
greater interest in migrating and, by
extension, to transoceanic emigration.
Modern times also saw the gradual fusion
of the countless economic units - until then
closed in upon themselves - into broad
regional markets and even the constitution
of international markets. These events were
accompanied by the strengthening of an
individualistic mentality which gradually
contributed to the uprooting of the population
of many rural areas (and small urban
villages), and to long-distance migrations.
In other words, we are talking about the
phenomenon of capitalist expansion, which
determined transfers of capital to the “new
countries” and the “colonies.” These
processes are closely interwoven, since the
migration of capital generated the need to
transform labor to impregnate this capital
and make it multiply [SINGER, 1968: 88].
Stated in another way, although still
reinforcing this perspective of economic
history but, seen from a broader point of view,
the great migrations of the 19th century can
be seen as part of the adaptations needed
for the full development of capitalism. In fact,
they played a decisive role in strengthening
it on a worldwide scale (PETRONE, 1982:
Demographic transition, capitalist
expansion and great migrations are also
interconnected in space. The various waves
of European immigrants, which reached
their zenith at the turn of the 20th century
and resumed, with other characteristics, in
the period between the wars, accompanied
to a certain extent the advance of
demographic transition and of capitalism
itself, expanding successively from
Northwestern to Southern and Eastern
Braz. Journ. Pop. Stud., Campinas, 2, 1999/2000
One can only understand the process
of demographic transfer from this multilateral
perspective, also allied to the fact that the
process of attraction of immigrants to
America corresponded to the mechanism
of ejection from Europe, not as some
fortuitous coincidence, but as part of the
international division of labor. This is
because a new society was being built on
this side of the Atlantic where there was an
urgent need for immigrants, based on
arguments from the 19th-century liberal
From a Brazilian perspective, the
“immigration” was aimed at supplying the
country with workers, and it went far beyond
a process of “colonization” for the purpose
of populating the territory. Nevertheless, the
relative importance of this latter system for
the history of southern Brazil is undisputed.
As is known, by delegation of the central
government [in Rio de Janeiro], as of 1850
the provincial governments became directly
interested in the question of colonization.
Whether as private or governmentally
sponsored projects, new colonies
proliferated, and penetrated farther and
farther into the interior of the country. The
younger generations (the “branches”) were
based on the older “headquarters.” They
gradually followed the courses of the rivers,
sometimes isolating themselves, but always
occupying inhospitable regions. The trend
in southern Brazil meant the complete
possession of the plateau, which was
eventually connected to the coast.
The limits of this expansion were the
plains, traditionally occupied by cattle
grazers. In other words, the immigrants and
their descendants could only settle on lands
that had been rejected by the large land
owners, just as the settlers in the provinces
of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro could only
prosper in regions that the coffee growers
had abandoned, far from the influence of
large rural holdings (CARNEIRO, 1950: 40).
It is true that the relationships between
the immigrants and rural society were much
more cordial than those that developed
between the immigrants and the coffee
growers. Even so, the two rural systems were
quite distinct, even in the south. One group
Andreazza, M.L. and Nadalin, S.O.
had inherited the social relationships
established by the colony, whereas the other
emerged from the construction of an
immigrant culture, with clearly different
characteristics. These two sectors of rural
society contrasted in the importance they
gave to physical work, to savings, and to
structured polyculture on small land
holdings aimed at urban markets, as well
as by characteristic family morals and
organization, and other aspects of life. But
basically, two different ethics in regard to
work entered into conflict.
Besides these systems, there were two
distinct environmental components. The
“forest,” or areas that were once covered by
forests, were inhabited by the white farmers
descendants of the recent European
immigrants, while the neighboring “fields,”
were occupied by ranchers. These latter
“consider the working settlers as their
inferiors, and they are arrogant and
disdainful in their contacts with them.
The forest and the fields are thus two
completely different worlds in southern
Brazil. They are different both in terms
of natural conditions and in their
economic, social and racial aspects“
(WAIBEL, 1979: 231).
Summing up, the main feature of the
period encompassed by the second phase 1
of foreign immigration in Brazil, in its regional
perspective, was the continuity of
colonization by both government initiative
and private enterprise.
Another factor, more immediate and
concrete, at least in Paraná, began to
emerge in the wake of the issues discussed
above during the first decades of the second
half of the 19th century. It was the result of
the heavy demand for slave labor for the
coffee plantations, with the consequent
mobilization of slaves, especially toward the
plantations in the State of São Paulo. The
resale of slaves for the coffee trade
worsened the problems related to food
supplies in the province of Paraná. In
consequence, the introduction of settlers
began to emerge as a remedy for the
problem of the scarcity and high prices of
Braz. Journ. Pop. Stud., Campinas, 2, 1999/2000
foodstuffs. In addition, the European
immigrants were seen from a romantic point
of view, as being able to establish a
“peasant civilization in European style”
[PINHEIRO MACHADO et al., 1968: 51].
The reasons for setting up an
agricultural system to supply foodstuffs in
the province personalized the history of its
colonization, since, for almost 30 years, this
was the main argument used to justify the
provincial immigration policy. As a result,
besides the three so-called colonies in
existence in the region at the moment of its
political emancipation - Rio Negro, Thereza,
and Superagüi - dozens of others were later
established, especially between 1870 and
It was in the region of Curitiba that the
colonizing process was most successful,
with the establishment of Germans, Swiss,
Italians and Poles, as well as smaller
contingents of French, English and
Scandinavians. The point of reference for
the presence of immigrants in the first
plateau in Paraná was between 1850 and
1859. During this period, a re-migration
process began, consisting of Germanspeaking settlers who left the Dona Francisca
colony, in Joinville, in northern Santa
Catarina, and moved to Curitiba. Between
1869 and 1878 settlements were founded
between two and sixteen kilometers from
Curitiba, comprised of Germans of various
origins, as well as French, Algerian French,
English, Italians, Poles and Swedes. Before
these colonies, only one other large
enterprise – Assungui - had arisen, in the
present-day municipality of Cerro Azul,
farther from Curitiba.
The satisfactory results achieved in the
colonization of the surroundings of Curitiba
encouraged the extension of the program
to the coast and to the Campos Gerais,
involving “Germans from the Volga,” in
1878. For reasons that need not be gone
into here, if only because the data must still
be analyzed and discussed at greater
length, these projects did not prosper. What
is important to note is that, because of the
Begun between 1850-1870 and characterized mainly by the crisis of slave labor.
Andreazza, M.L. and Nadalin, S.O.
unfavorable results, one phase of the
program for interiorizing the colonization in
Paraná was suspended. This meant the end
of the romantic conceptions about
possibilities of progress brought in by the
The failure of the project to occupy the
interior led the provincial government to
change its immigration policy in the 1880s,
substantially reducing its financial
participation and thus virtually phasing out
emancipating the establishments in
existence. As a result, the number of
immigrants living in colonies in that decade
fell to 2,769, in comparison with the
approximately 12,500 in the preceding
However, the province still seemed
interested in seeing new foreigners arrive,
since the provincial authorities soon set
about creating immigration societies,
concentrated in Curitiba. In all, 11
associations were founded between 1885
and 1886, and “Acted in an efficient and
diversified manner in promoting immigration
services, including advertising of the land
in Paraná for colonization” (BALHANA,
1969: 76). The numerical consequence of
the work of these societies and of the
colonization companies was evident only
in the next decade (1890-1899), when
45,752 immigrants were brought to colonial
establishments organized in the state.
Another factor which contributed to the
increase of immigrations was a public works
program, basically in the capital city of
Curitiba, but also on the coast, which led to
the construction of railways and telegraph
lines, both of which required large numbers
of laborers. It is also likely that the increased
colonization in this new cycle was carried
out - at least in part - to address the interests
of the companies that were building the
railways, since they were, at the same time,
colonization companies.
Between 1880 and 1889, most of the
settlers to Paraná were Italians while,
Braz. Journ. Pop. Stud., Campinas, 2, 1999/2000
between 1890 and 1899, Poles, Italians and
Germans prevailed, while a new aspect
provided by the high proportion of
Ukrainians. Between 1900 and 1911,
besides the groups already mentioned,
there were a certain number of Dutch
immigrants. In contrast, there is no record of
Italians in the composition of these more
recent immigrations.
In general, between 1829 and 1911,
85,537 foreign settlers moved to Paraná.
Due to the low rate of fixation of these
immigrants, we know that many saw their
aspirations thwarted, and remained only a
short time in the colonies where they first
settled, especially when possibilities for
development were unfavorable. For these
and other reasons, the same phenomenon
took place in Santa Catarina, which was the
origin of a return migration to Paraná, mainly
to Curitiba. A reasonable conclusion
therefore allows one to suppose that more
than 100,000 immigrants settled in this
region in the period of approximately 80
years mentioned above.
The question of demographic “voids”
It was during this period, partly due to
international migrations, that the situation
of society in Paraná, basically comprised of
the institution of large landholdings
[latifundio campeiro], underwent the final
impact that was to accelerate its
disaggregation. 2
At least in the southern provinces of
Brazil, the continuation of the immigrational
flow constituted an epiphenomenon of the
process caused by the large landholdings
[BALHANA et al., 1969a: 351]. In Balhana’s
“[...] in the composition of forces in
existence at the time, the immigrants
were called in and immigration was
encouraged by the dominant class
which held the political power, but only
with the purpose of replacing the slaves,
and not to colonize the demographic
voids” (BALHANA et al., 1969a: 351).
A term used describe of the patriarchal, slave-based society in Southern Brazil, characterized by cattle raising and a self-contained
economy. For more on this topic, see BALHANA et al. (1969b).
Andreazza, M.L. and Nadalin, S.O.
In contrast, an examination of the state
government’s discourse makes it clear that
“colonization” did in fact, at least implicitly,
reflect a concern about the population. The
Brazilian elite as a whole supposed that the
presence of foreigners and their future
descendants would be a major factor in
settling as well as in developing the
country’s agriculture. Hopes were that the
immigrants would also contribute to the
construction of public works, and finally, they
were to participate in general in the
development of the economy.
For these reasons, the authorities in
Paraná were attentive to what was going on
in other countries that opened their doors to
European immigrants. It is clear that there
was an attempt to repeat the model of the
United States, despite occasional mentions
of other immigrant-receiving countries.
However, there was the factor of the
“high price of boat passages from
Europe to Brazil, compared to the trifling
sum needed for the same settlers to
obtain transportation from their
homelands to the states of the AngloAmerican Union” (RPPPr, 1855: 30). 3
Notwithstanding, the president of the
province warned, in another report, “that the
colonization of the United States, so widely
proclaimed, was accomplished after
immense sacrifices were undergone by the
public treasury and private investments”
(RPPPr, 1860: 61). 4
He also warned that “when immigrants
arrive in the American Union, in Canada or in
Australia, they find the land cleared of trees
and stumps, and ready to sell” (Ibid.), 5 as
this is “a process that has already been tried
Braz. Journ. Pop. Stud., Campinas, 2, 1999/2000
out in the United States and that inspires trust”
(RPPPr, 1882: 79). Immigration, therefore,
was an undertaking that required heavy
investments for a province that had only
recently been established.
Characteristically, the discourse was
almost always boastful and unilateral. It
called for
“fully occupying the province’s vast
territory with an active population where
everything flourishes under the force of
nature, where European settlers
encounter a climate similar to that of their
homelands and where the climactic
conditions are quite propitious for
assuring the future already visible on
the horizon” (RPPPr, 1854: 62). 6
Despite the mentioned changes in the
immigration policy of Paraná during the last
quarter of the 19th century, the issue
of population still seemed to carry
considerable weight in the government’s
pronouncements. In 1897, the mayor
of Curitiba, Candido Ferreira de Abreu,
proclaimed that there was “serious need
to take measures to increase the density
of our population,” and asked:
“Of what use are the vast territories
where ferocious animals despotically
reign free and which serve for leisurely
outings of vagrant aborigines?” (RPPPr,
1897: 8). 7
If the declared objectives were to be
attained, the immigrants would have to come
in large numbers, but neither should their
quality be neglected. When referring to the
great project of settling “Germans from the
Volga” in Campos Gerais, followed by 26
colonial centers in the late 1870s in the
[Translator’s Note] The text of this and several other quotes is in typically 19th-century Brazilian style and spelling in the original
verson, difficult to render into English in this translation. For reference purposes. In all cases we will provide the original text in
“alto preço das passagens da Europa para o Brasil comparativamente á diminuta somma porque os colonos conseguem transportarse de seu paiz aos estados da União anglo-americana”
“que a colonização americana, que tanto se apregoa, realizou-se apoz enormes sacrifícios por parte do thesouro e dos particulares
“que quando os imigrantes se dirigem para a União Americana, Canadá e Austrália, encontram até derribadas feitas, terras destocadas
e expostas á venda” (idem), sendo esse “um processo já experimentado nos Estados Unidos e que inspira confiança.”
“encher de população ativa o vasto território da província, onde tudo floresce a força da natureza, onde o colono europeu depara
com um clima análogo ao de seu país natal, e onde finalmente a salubridade que tanto o distingue, é título de mais para confiar no
futuro que se entreolha”
“preciso cuidar seriamente de aumentar a densidade de nossa população” e perguntava-se “de que nos servem vastos territórios
onde imperam despoticamente animais ferozes e servem de passeio temporário ao errante aborígene?”
Andreazza, M.L. and Nadalin, S.O.
municipalities of Ponta Grossa, Palmeira,
and Lapa, the president of the province
called attention to the fact that the plan
involved receiving:
“Spontaneous settlers in search of a new
fatherland, not as adventurers, but in
search of refuge and shelter from the
hardships of life. Peaceful working men
with the special qualities of the race to
which they belong, the German Russian
settlers come to our shores not in search
of the fantasy of accumulating imaginary
wealth. They are attracted by the
mildness of our climate and the fertility
of our land. They bring with them their
tools and the fruit of their savings, which
are powerful resources with which, in a
short time, they will be able to multiply
their assets to their own benefit, and
with enormous advantages for Brazil.”
(RPPPr, 1878: 54) 8
Besides helping to compensate for the
province’s sparse population, immigration
was considered “a major ethnic factor,
aimed at strengthening the Brazilian
organism which had been spoiled by the
bad habits of origin and by the contact it has
had with slavery” (REPORT by Miranda
Ribeiro, 1888: 26). 9 References to the racial
stains in the Brazilian population caused by
the Indians and Blacks stood out in this and
in many other official declarations of the
period, and to some degree reflected the
Brazilian mentality of the times.
Continuing with this line of discourse
and relating the country’s “defects of origin”
with an attempt to dignify work, the
arguments expanded. A colonization project
was announced to facilitate “the supply of
laborers and useful cultivators” (RPPPr,
1860: 60), to fill in for the “scarcity of laborers
Braz. Journ. Pop. Stud., Campinas, 2, 1999/2000
to work on the roads” (RPPPr, 1855: 31). 10
Finally, there was clearly the need to “foster
the immigration of upright and hard-working
settlers” (Ibid: 21),11 “today, when the salutary
law of emancipating the slaves has made us
dependent on European workers” (RPPPr,
1875: 22]. 12
This meant the immigration of “upright
and hard-working,” individuals, since
everyone “was aware of the repugnance that
the few fellows capable of doing this work
showed” (RPPPr, 1855: 31]. 13 It was
especially important to bring in individuals
who would be useful in agriculture, as the
scarcity of food was an urgent problem for
Paraná. The colonization should continue
in order to “save the Province from the state
of decadence our agriculture has fallen into”
(RPPPr, 1872: 65). 14
These observations, based on the
official discourse present in the reports of
the period, especially of the presidents of
the Province of Paraná, lead to certain
conclusions, which are doubtless tentative.
First there was the fact that the impasse
caused by the threat of the abolition of
slavery permeated the theme of immigration
and colonization. In the case of Paraná, it
may well be that this problem was not
especially important, since the local
economy was not based solely on slave
labor. However, the transition involved in the
process implied a cultural transformation
regarding work and, in this respect, it did
take on importance and became intimately
related with the immigration issue.
Secondly, as for subsistence farming,
the methods used and the volume of the
output of food products were clearly
“colonos espontâneos, em busca de nova pátria, não como aventureiros, mas para refúgio e abrigo de seus penares, homens
laboriosos e pacíficos com as distintas qualidades de raça a que pertencem, os colonos russos alemães não aportam em nossas
praias guiados pela fantasia de colher riquezas imaginárias, mas apenas atraídos pela amenidade de nosso clima e pela fertilidade
de nossas terras, trazendo consigo os instrumentos de trabalho e o fruto de suas economias, poderosos recursos com que dentro de
pouco tempo poderão multiplicar os seus recursos, em proveito próprio e com grandes vantagens para o país.”
“fator étnico de primeira ordem, destinada a tonificar o organismo nacional abastardado por vícios de origem e pelo contato que
teve com a escravidão”
“o suprimento de operários e de cultivadores úteis”
“promover a imigração de colonos morigerados e laboriosos”
“hoje que a salutar lei de emancipação dos escravos nos colocou na dependência do braço europeu”
“conhecida de todos a repugnância que mostram para esse serviço os poucos sujeitos capazes de nele empregar-se
“salvarmos a Província do estado de decadência a que chegou sua agricultura”
Andreazza, M.L. and Nadalin, S.O.
precarious. Stated in another way, society
was still suffering from its acute and chronic
supply crisis, and urgently needed to
renovate working practices. The local elite
felt that only a miracle, provided by
immigrants, both freemen and landowners,
could save the day.
Finally, Paraná was a province that had
received its political independence as a
province only a short time earlier, and saw
in the occupation of its territory a way to
guarantee its political space. Border
disputes were an important factor in this
process, but it should not be forgotten that
the basic problem was how to solve a
demographic issue. That is, the Paraná
state government was seeking to establish
a model for populating its territory. These
considerations allow the assertion that the
premises of the political economy - of which
the demographic question was an integral
part - already impregnated the ideology of
the Brazilian elite and oriented the search
for such a model.
But the liberal discourse assumed in
Brazil could not ignore the country’s past
impregnated by slavery. In fact, the
inheritance of slavery was very deep, and
the ruling classes were dominated by fear. It
was fear fed by the memory of the quilombos
and by a certain Manichaeism that
developed in the wake of the colonial legacy,
whereby the captives passed from the state
of victims of the system to the cause of its
characteristic violence. All this fed the
prejudices of the white minority. Not only
were the Blacks bad, gross and violent; the
entire mestizo population was unreliable
and consequently not in a moral position to
comply with the lofty national intentions of
colonization and the conquest of the
national territory.
Braz. Journ. Pop. Stud., Campinas, 2, 1999/2000
In addition, the Blacks - representatives
of a system that was to be abolished - were
blamed for degrading the institution of work
and were incapable of carrying out the
important tasks so necessary at that
moment. And this stigma included not only
the Blacks, but the indigenous Brazilian
Indians and the mestizos as well. In a tone
very closely aligned with the times, one
foreign witness gave a description in the
following terms:
“There is a class like this in every
country, an inferior caste of civilization,
perhaps more apparent in South
America because it is easy to live in these
plenteous domains and because the
half-breed races, so common here,
inherited the listless and careless habits
of their Indian and African ancestors.
Only a very few have the ambition to
rise above mere animal life. They have
increased the numbers of the
population, but for the State they are
truly worth nothing. They do neither
good nor harm. They bring almost
nothing to market and less yet do they
take home. They live with a come-whatmay attitude and are satisfied when they
have provisions for a day and a hut with
a roof over their heads. Most will
disappear, as the land is taken over by
more industrious folk. They are destined
to submerge and die before the wave
of European immigration. Let them die!
This is the only service they can render
the country, and the inexorable law of
progress has determined their
extinction. I am not against their presentday felicity and, no doubt their
picturesque way of living has a certain
enchantment. A dead tree is also
picturesque, but I prefer a living one. “
[in CARDOSO, 1962: 209] 15
From this point of view, freedom was
“idleness,” and the only way to make a break
with the system was to promote the arrival
“Há uma classe como esta em todos os paízes, extrato inferior da civilização, mais apparente talvez na America do Sul, porque é
facil viver n’nestas plagas ubertosas, e porque as raças mestiças, tão comuns aqui, herdaram os habitos inertes e descuidadosos de
seus antepassados indios e africos; apenas alguns têm a ambição de erguer-se da vida animal. Augmentaram as listas da população,
mas para o estado são verdadeiro zero, não fazendo bem nem mal; quase nada trazem ao mercado e ainda menos levam para casa;
vivem ao deus dará, satisfeitos quando têm provisão para um dia e palhoça que os abrigue. Hão de desapparecer em grande parte,
à medida que da terra se forem apossando gentes mais industriosas; hão de submergir-se e morrer diante da onda de imigração
européia. Pois que morram! É o único serviço que podem prestar ao paiz, e a lei inexoravel do progresso determinou sua extincção.
Não lhes contesto sua felicidade presente, e seu viver pittoresco têm certo encanto, não ha duvida. Tambem uma arvore morta é
pittoresca, mas prefiro a viva”.
Andreazza, M.L. and Nadalin, S.O.
of foreign settlers. The proposal was a recipe
for progress, possible by bringing in free,
white, peaceful and hard-working
immigrants, able to help purify and
“strengthen” – meaning to whiten - both the
Brazilian “race” and work itself. The contact
with the European immigrants should serve
to eliminate the stains in Brazilian society
and lead the nation to produce. We would
remind the reader that Colônia Assungui,
mentioned above, in which Paraná invested
so much and in whose success it deposited
so much hope, was designed to receive not
only foreigners of various backgrounds, but
Brazilian settlers as well. In the eyes of the
idealizers of this great undertaking, the
resulting contact between foreigners and
Brazilians would be salutary.
The central message of the official
discourse was based on several articulated
lines of thinking. First, the settling and true
possession of the territory by a new and
prolific race comprised of families of settlers
was an objective not only of a political
nature, but likewise military and strategic.
To occupy and to colonize meant to control
the country.
Secondly, but with the same degree
of priority, was the substitution of the
slave-based colonial regime with a system
of production based on free work, and this
meant replacing and innovating the nation’s
labor force and its color. In other words,
production was to be rationalized, freeing
capital that was still paralyzed in slaves.
Ideally, the intention was to install a new
standard and type of production in the
country, with new forms of ownership.
European immigration thus proved to be a
strategy of settlement with technical and
“industrial” innovation in view, based on the
pre-supposition of the superior quality
of foreign laborers as “producers” of work.
From this angle, purifying the race also
meant teaching the native Brazilians to
In synthesis, these were the guidelines
involved in a complex mesh of factors.
Sometimes the official discourse was
merged with concerns about the question
of the population, and sometimes it
emphasized the renovation of work itself
Braz. Journ. Pop. Stud., Campinas, 2, 1999/2000
(which was expected to free the creative
spirit). It called attention to the arrival of free,
upright and hard-working immigrant
settlers who would sell their labor on either
the coffee plantations or the necessary
“public works”. Or they might become small
land owners to occupy the demographic
voids and supply the foodstuffs that were so
urgently needed in the towns and cities.
The public discourse, reiterated time and
again, had repercussions in 19th-century
Paraná, very clearly revealing the hopes for
strengthening the Brazilian race. In fact,
Paraná operated under the model of social
Darwinism, striving to be included in
civilization and in Western progress through
racial improvement. In a century characterized
by the strengthening of nationalisms,
especially by asserting a glorious past,
Paraná, like the rest of Brazil, intended to
develop its political cohesion in a projection
toward the future where the “defects of origin”
and the contact with slavery would be
remedied by a “strengthening of the national
As was seen above, the question of
filling in the demographic voids was the main
emphasis during the first period of foreign
immigration in Brazil. However, to conclude
this section, it should be mentioned that the
problems continued beyond that phase.
These problems were related to other issues
that justified not only the maintenance, but
an increase in immigrational flows, based
on the expected need of the monoculture
landholders to fill in for the lack of field hands.
This eventually became a reality with the
prohibition of the slave trade and the gradual
abolition of slavery itself. In other words, our
hypothesis represents a certain explanation,
in the period subsequent to the first wave of
foreign laborers to Brazil, for the
government’s concern with populating the
territory, and this was intimately related to the
substitution of slaves with free workers. The
basic reasoning for the two questions was
the same. In fact, they are very difficult to
separate. First came the proposal for the
white immigrants to strengthen the Brazilian
race. Then, in the same vein, the European
immigrants would strengthen the institution
of work itself, and production, which had
Andreazza, M.L. and Nadalin, S.O.
been distorted by slavery and by the darkskinned population.
In view of the situation described above,
all this seems also to indicate that the
“strengthening of the Brazilian organism”
consciously or unconsciously concealed
the constant and recurrent desire of the
ruling classes to maintain firm control over
not only the country, but over the Brazilian
population itself [BURMESTER, 1987], by
regenerating it.
Immigration and family: for a
demographic history of cultural contacts
The context of immigration to Paraná
seems to have begun taking shape toward
the middle of the 19th century, although a
number of foreigners had already
spontaneously moved to Curitiba some time
earlier (in the 1830s). In 1850, 153
immigrants were counted in the municipality,
representing 1.7% of the total population and
almost 2% of the 7,861 free persons [see
MAP of the inhabitants, 1850].
Shortly after the census of 1850,
immigrants of German origin from Colônia
Dona Francisca, in Joinville [State of Santa
Catarina], began establishing small farms
along the roads leading in and out of
Curitiba, from Bigorilho to Graciosa,
occupying the northwestern, northern and
northeastern outlying areas of the city
(HEISLER, undated: 69). In our opinion, this
re-migratory movement cannot be
considered truly “spontaneous” (BALHANA,
1969: 6). Although the departure of those
immigrants might be described as
spontaneous, given the harsh conditions at
the beginning of Colônia Dona Francisca, it
would seem to be more than mere
coincidence that this movement took place
immediately after the installation of the
province. Even more germane to our present
purpose is that the correspondence received
by the presidents of the province contains
indications that the provincial authorities
had promised subsidies to foreigners who
wished to settle there.
It can nevertheless be supposed that, in
view of the number of foreigners already living
in Curitiba until that time, the number of
Braz. Journ. Pop. Stud., Campinas, 2, 1999/2000
re-immigrants must have been significant, if
one takes into account the information sent
to the president of the Province of Santa
Catarina by the Director of Colônia Dona
Francisca, in 1855. His report advised
that more than 280 immigrants had
abandoned the Joinville region and moved
toward the Curitiba Plateau that year
(BALHANA, 1969: 7).
The renewed immigration as of 1870
involved an ambitious governmental
program in Paraná designed to install
colonies near the cities, with the main
objective of solving the problem of food
shortages once and for all. The plans
resulted in the organization of centers
between two and eight kilometers from one
another in each municipality (Paranaguá,
Morretes, Antonina, São José dos Pinhais,
Campo Largo, Araucária and, especially,
Curitiba). They were located within a radius
that varied from two to thirty kilometers from
the urban areas of the municipalities
(BALHANA et al., 1969b: 168]. In terms of
population, approximately 9,100 foreigners
were settled by the program, of whom 6,900
(76%) on the Curitiba Plateau - 4,000 in the
municipality of Curitiba itself, representing
44% of the total (Ibid: 164-167). The group
of settlers was comprised of Germans,
Italians and Poles, and in smaller numbers,
French, Swiss and English. The majority of
these villages are now districts of Curitiba,
and many still bear their original names,
such as Pilarzinho, Abranches, Santa
Cândida, Orleans, Santa Felicidade, and
The importance of Curitiba in this
project was related not only to the numbers
of immigrants who settled within the
municipality, but also to the relative success
of this enterprise. This fact probably
encouraged the provincial authorities to
expand it, especially the projects in Campos
Gerais, or that of the already mentioned
Russian Germans, responsible for the
settlement of approximately 3,000
individuals distributed among 26 centers.
Likewise, other colonies that were set up on
the coast and places farther south in Paraná
should be mentioned (790 and 47,000
individuals, respectively). The history of
Andreazza, M.L. and Nadalin, S.O.
these places was different, however,
because results were not very satisfactory.
It should be underscored that the
positive results of the early colonies also
encouraged the arrival of a significant
number of re-immigrants from a number of
regions in Paraná and even from other
provinces. These persons seem to have
settled in the colonies already established,
or formed new colonies. Some may even
have taken up typically urban activities
(BALHANA et al., 1969b).
One can imagine the impact caused by
these great numbers of foreign settlers and
re-immigrants on a traditional society, even
though many of the new groups were not in
direct and permanent contact with the local
population. According to the first Brazilian
census carried out by the Empire, the
population of Curitiba in 1872 totaled 11,730
inhabitants. The second census was carried
out in 1890, by which time Brazil had been
declared a republic, and it showed a
population of 24,553 individuals living there
(Martins, 1941: 94-95). Without carrying out
calculations, it can be supposed that there
were roughly 15,000 people living in the
municipality in the late 1880s. Going back
to the figures mentioned above concerning
the colonization around Curitiba, if our
calculations are minimally accurate, it can
be concluded that 25% to 30% of the area’s
population consisted of foreigners. The
actual figure might have been even higher,
since the numbers of re-immigrants are not
included in these calculations. In fact, these
re-immigrations were indeed spontaneous,
and are hard to calculate, because they left
no trace on the local records. This was
approximately the time (1878) when what
could be called the first stage of the
colonization of the province was coming to
an end. Between one fourth and one third of
the population is a considerable proportion,
even if those involved had only partial
contact with the “Luso-Brazilian” majority
surrounding them.
This impact was to the immigrants’
disadvantage. They were considered
foreigners and they undoubtedly felt foreign
in their new but often hostile environment.
There is considerable empirical evidence
Braz. Journ. Pop. Stud., Campinas, 2, 1999/2000
to indicate that the relationships between
the immigrants and the broader society that
received them were based on the
differences. Consequently, the construction
- or “re-construction” - of the identities of the
demographic groups involved in these
processes must be understood historically.
That is, one must consider the multiplicity of
the cultures in contact with one another
inside a space that, until then, had been
occupied by traditional, highly hierarchical
local communities centered basically
around the relationships between ranchers
and slaves.
These were the circumstances in which
an “immigrant culture” developed in
southern Brazil as a response given by
foreigners to expectations expressed by
Brazilian society, or, more exactly, by its
ruling classes. One fact is clear: this
immigrant culture, these ethnic communities,
also took shape in answer to the hopes
created by the immigrants themselves,
despite the cultural differences that still
connected them in specific ways to their
European forebears. There were also
disparities related to the various factors that
operated and led those individuals to
emigrate. In fact, the various and diversified
identities were built up historically as
defenses for the survival of the immigrants
and their descendants. It might also be
conjectured that these identities served as
learning systems unconsciously built up
and channeled to the best possible
integration of the foreigners into a new
Self-preservation and integration are
therefore two basic variables that can
explain the entire process of formation of
ethnic groups, of cultures in contact. In
Paraná, the Germans, Italians, Poles and
Ukrainians, to mention only a few of the
national groups that set down anchor in the
tides of the last century, were the most
representative. Each group with its own
specific characteristics organized itself by
constructing or re-constructing its history, its
myths and its folklore. These populations
thus remained closely linked to their
“sending” societies for more than a
generation, by forging social chains
Andreazza, M.L. and Nadalin, S.O.
[HALBWACHS, 1941: 100]. This fact was
sustained not only by the continuous
migratory flows, but also by the
establishment of other physical, intellectual
and spiritual links.
As a consequence, the aspects of
conservation propitiated a certain social
unity, “accompanied by a common
awareness and a certain cohesion in action”
(GOLFIN, 1973: 94). There was an ethnically
engendered common consciousness, as
well as collective practices partially
determined by solidarity based on the same
state of spirit originating from the established
chain (HALBWACHS, 1941). The individuals
continued to be socially integrated in this
chain, in a unity that had a certain duration
(BIROU, 1973: 180). That is, by continuing
to be immigrants, the characteristic bonds
of the social group remained in place. It
should be observed that the fact that these
groups remained immigrants for over a
generation in some cases, depending on
the circumstances involved, meant that their
children, as members of the groups
considered themselves, or were considered
by others as “immigrants.” The ties with the
motherland, equally (re)constructed, were
thus kept alive and idealized.
The various stories that might be told
take into account the specific aspects of a
Germanic group that gradually moved to the
city and set down roots based on contact
with one another, while at the same time
participating in a society in a rapid process
of urbanization. At some places roots were
defined by being of “Italian” or of “Poles”
descent, constructed in colonies located on
the fringe of the city. Elsewhere, a certain
distance away keeping somewhat aloof from
the influence of the urban markets, was a
“paradise of delicacies” organized by the
Ukrainians [ANDREAZZA, 1992]. The
stories should consider the paces of
building up an ethnic community, combined
with other factors that defined the social
history of the State of Paraná. We would like
to believe that the temporalities created by
the contradictions inherent to cultural
contacts, within a long-lasting social context,
were comprised of various levels of both
“centripetal” and “centrifugal” forces. The
Braz. Journ. Pop. Stud., Campinas, 2, 1999/2000
former tended to strengthen the bonds with
the local community, while the latter involved
disaggregating forces imposed by the
development of broader social relationships
in a city that was in a process of
modernization and whose inhabitants were
gradually adapting to the market.
Therefore, the immigrants could be
found in their own ethnic groups as well as
at churches, since the church was closely
related not only to the everyday life of the
immigrants and their descendants, but to
ethnicity itself.
In the exemplary case of the Germans
in Curitiba, most were of the Lutheran
persuasion, and the names of most of them,
both Protestants and Catholics, can be found
at least once in the parish records. The lives
of many of them were inscribed in the
organized churches, in records of baptisms,
weddings and funerals.
The convenient arrangement of the
information obtained in these records made
it possible to reconstitute hundreds of
families, involving thousands of individuals
who had participated in one degree or
another in the Evangelical (NADALIN, 1978)
or the Catholic communities (RANZI, 1993).
The formation of the nuclear families in
Curitiba, consisting of couples of Germanic
origin and their children, indicates that,
beyond the religious squabbles and
distinctions, the union among the members
of the group was cemented into a single
ethnic destiny. The bond was constituted by
Deutschtum, by “being German.”
A preliminary examination of the
families registered in the Lutheran parochial
records showed that, under the generic label
of “Germans,” the members of the Deutsche
Evangelische Gemeinde in Curitiba came
from numerous regional backgrounds,
especially the first generation of immigrants.
In the “pioneer” phase of the history of this
parish, foreigners were naturally in the
majority, and included individuals from
Prussia, Silesia, Pomerania, Hannover,
Hamburg, Rennes and Switzerland. Some
were from Schleswig-Holstein or
Mecklenburg, others from Saxony, Turingia,
Westphalia, Alsace-Lorraine, and other
places. There were even a few Bavarians
Andreazza, M.L. and Nadalin, S.O.
and Austrians (NADALIN, 1975: 122), these
latter being Catholic by tradition. The
differences are even more pronounced
if one takes into consideration the complex
distinctions of culture (WILLEMS, 1980:
28-40) and local dialects. At a greater
degree of detail, there are distinctions of
origin between city and country, and there
were distinctions related to the times when
the individuals immigrated to Brazil.
The differences thus become so
numerous that it would seem impossible to
group the immigrants under a general
heading. But the indications are that the
contrasts were leveled off in the process of
building up the ethnic identity, and it is this
fact that allows one to generalize. From a
broader perspective, a social group was
identified whose “cohesion in action”
brought about the convergence of a wide
range of regional diversities.
The years that apparently cover the
arrival of the first generation of the Germanic
groups on the Planalto Curitibano seem to
indicate a specific context. From the cultural
point to view, our hypothesis is that
“resistance” was maximum and, therefore,
“intervention” by the receiving society was
minimal (RUDNICKYJ, 1964). To be
consistent, one must conclude that this first
period in the history of the group was
characterized by the development of new
knowledge, under the impact undergone by
its members upon moving into a new reality,
and their consequent withdrawal into a
closed community. This learning process
was probably also characterized by the
need for these families to come closer to
one another and lower the barriers that
existed in function of their different cultural
As contacts developed, the initial
marginalization was overcome, and the
immigrants gradually underwent stronger
cultural influence from society at large and,
as a result, the group as a whole was able
to develop a new ethnic identity. Even after
this identity had been consolidated,
however, the group remained endogamic.
The maintenance of endogamy - which
reinforced the individual’s ethnic identity was possible thanks to the vegetative growth
Braz. Journ. Pop. Stud., Campinas, 2, 1999/2000
of group itself, as well as to the continued
immigration from Germany. In addition, since
the previous century, the arrival of foreigners
had less and less influence on the group’s
growth, and re-migration became more
important as a factor in internal migrations
in southern Brazil, within the radius of the
states of Rio Grande do Sul, São Paulo and,
especially, Santa Catarina.
By comparing data collected from family
files, we were able to come to some
conclusions about the fecundity of these
ethnic groups (NADALIN, 1978; BIDEAU &
NADALIN, 1988). The couples who married
in the Lutheran community were grouped
into three cohorts, or sub-groups, of family
histories, separated from one another in time
by approximately one generation. The full
lineages were obtained for each family,
calculated on the basis of the fecundity rates.
Those families whose married life began
between 1866 (the year when the first
records were made in the community) and
1894 had an average of six or seven
children, extending in time as long as the
woman’s fertility lasted or as long as the
couple deliberately took the risk of
conception (or even as long as the union
lasted). The subsequent group, whose
families were constituted between 1895 and
1919 under the same conditions, had fewer
children, an average of four or five. The last
sub-group - comprised of couples married
between 1920 and 1939 - had an average
of two to three live births. This would lead
one to suppose that there was a significant
reduction in fecundity, especially in the
period between the world wars.
These observations indicate that the
number of children born to couples married
in the second half of the 19th century were
especially important in guaranteeing the high
growth rate of the ethnic community. The fall
in fecundity of the second cohort explains the
fall in the natural growth of the group during
the 20th century, especially as of the 1920s.
This fact was set off by the arrival of large
numbers of new immigrants of German origin
during the same period. In fact, between 1920
and 1939, the numbers of German
immigrants was higher, in absolute numbers,
that in the preceding century.
Andreazza, M.L. and Nadalin, S.O.
Fecundity fell from one sub-group to
the next. What does that mean? This type
of conclusion is not important in itself, since
it is consistent with hundreds of other cases,
regardless of the period in time and the
cultures and social categories involved.
Therefore, the figures shown by the group
of German immigrants and their
descendants in Curitiba between 1866 and
1939 was not much different from those
shown by populations in general along the
road to modernity, although the chronology
may vary from one demographic group to
another (and regardless of whether one
highlights their ethnic, socioeconomic, or
regional characteristics, or others,
depending on the interest of the analysis).
What does matter here is that the path
taken by this population consisted of a
unique and original experience of a
determined social group. It is a reality
characterized by the dynamics of cultural
contacts made more complex by the intraand inter-ethnic social relationships
generated by the urbanization process. The
reduction in fecundity should be understood
in this context of transformations, and this
will aid us in dealing with the broad spectrum
of changes involving the changes in Western
family structures (SHORTER, 1977).
In addition, to the extent that a complex
network of ethnic relationships and contacts
exists, with different combinations
depending on the temporal cuts
established, the use of a demographic
perspective could give some meaning to the
apparent chaos of reality. In other words,
the relationships to be established on
the basis of reproductive behavior in the
group bring up aspects that require
Completing an earlier observation,
“German immigrants” could be found at
churches and schools, as well as in musical,
athletic or shooting organizations. But they
were especially organized into “families”
constituting domestic units. The Lutheran
Church, a typical type of association, and
other institutions founded and organized
by immigrants, consolidated ethnic
consciousness. But it was basically in the
family unit that the group reproduced.
Braz. Journ. Pop. Stud., Campinas, 2, 1999/2000
It should also be stressed that the social
organization characteristic of the group was
closely associated both to the type of urban
work carried out - which would likewise make
a reading based on “class” pertinent - and
to the ethnic relationships that were set up.
This close association affects the re-creation
of the domestic unit and the bonds of kinship
that were established. The consequent
social structure inside the group intervened
in matrimonial choices and in the division of
work, defining the various roles in the home
and, more broadly, in the family.
Thus, frequently going beyond the
home and the conjugal unit, social
relationships were reproduced in the
microcosm of interconnections between
relationships involving friendship,
godfathers and godmothers, neighborhood,
business, and others existing in the group,
on the basis of the family unit. These
connections were grounded on the
possibility of a broad definition of kinship,
not necessarily restricted to blood ties and
similar relationships. This is a likelihood that
we would like to suggest in the situation
we are defining, characteristic of many
traditional societies. It is a possibility much
more closely related to the family as
an “idea” than as a concrete category in
the social organization (ANDERSON, 1984:
When we reconstituted families
according to techniques of historical
demography, we began with the
demographic core, the reproductive
nucleus, that is, a man and a woman, and
their children. Considering the premise that
the reproduction of a population is an
important aspect of its social reproduction,
the “immigrants,” as members of the ethnic
community, not only reproduced themselves
in their children. They also re-created,
through biological reproduction, part of the
successive generations that made up the
social group in time and, in its foundations,
the demographic material, both of the
group and of a determined view of the world
- ethnically reconstructed, as we said above.
As a consequence, this type of situation
must be put into context if we are to explain
the demographic behavior of the men and
Andreazza, M.L. and Nadalin, S.O.
women we are studying. We will thus have
to broaden our earlier observations,
articulating the fecundity rates with the
average ages of the mothers at marriage
and the dates of birth of each one’s last child.
The quantitative data already
presented does not adequately portray the
complexity of the analysis. It was aimed at
expressing the overall evolution of fecundity,
in terms of the total number of descendants
generated by some of the couples in the
group - which would seem to be
representative. It would therefore be well to
go further into the question, recalling that
the presentation below consists of a brief
summary of demographic analyses already
published [BIDEAU & NADALIN, 1988].
The number of children born per one
thousand women, based on the mother’s
age when giving birth to a child, can be
represented graphically in curves, which
express the “average” reproductive
behavior of each of the groups of couples,
classified into three the cohorts mentioned
above. Therefore, the curves for the
fecundity rates of the first sub-group of
families (married between 1866 and 1894)
are convex, typical of populations that do
not voluntarily limit the number of offspring.
This convexity reveals histories of mothers
whose fecundity decreased gradually and
“naturally” to the average age of 38.6 years.
A good number of these women therefore
dedicated almost their entire fertile life
cycles in producing their descendants
(average of 6.8 children).
In the two following sub-groups (18961919, and 1920-1939) there is a clear break
with the pattern shown by the first cohort,
and not only in regard to the continuous
reduction in fecundity (4.6 and 2.6 children,
respectively). These differences can be
seen in the lower curves and, what is perhaps
more significant, in their concavity. The
second cohort shows quite clearly that, once
the couples attained the desired number of
children, they began applying what
Braz. Journ. Pop. Stud., Campinas, 2, 1999/2000
demographers call contraceptive brakes.
There are indications that the third group of
couples of the ethnic community controlled
the number of offspring from the outset of
the marriage. This would explain the trend
toward fewer children, estimated at two or
The fall in the average age at which the
women had their last child also indicates
the use of contraceptive methods. One can
see another fall, from an average age of 38.6
in the first cohort to 34.6 in the second. 16
It would also be important to note that
these differences were accompanied by
changes in marrying behavior patterns. The
women’s age at first marriage increased
from one sub-group to the next, the averages
being 21.1, 21.9 and 23.1, respectively. In
other words, the young people of the
community in the third sub-group were
marrying an average of two years later than
the first sub-group. The reduction in
fecundity can also be seen in the shorter
histories of maternity. The women in the first
cohort had their last child after an average
of 17.5 years of marriage while, in the
following cohorts, these periods decreased
substantially, to 12.7 and 11.5 years (the
average for this last period was estimated,
presuming that the age of the last childbirth
of the women in the third group took place
at about the same age as those in the second,
which is probably not the case).
The studies on fecundity among the
Germans in Curitiba and their descendants
between 1866 and 1939 make it possible to
describe a first sub-group of families. Most
were made up of couples of immigrants, to
judge from the weddings performed in the
local parish between the date of founding of
the Lutheran community and the end of the
19th century. The data obtained by
comparing our files of family reconstitution
indicate that these couples employed no
type of contraception during the reproductive
period of their marriage. (It might be better
to say that very few seem to have limited
In view of the statistical cut determined here, at December 31, 1939, most of the women in the cohort that arrived between 19201939 could not be followed up on until at least 45 years of age. Therefore, the average age at last childbirth was not calculated for
these mothers.
Andreazza, M.L. and Nadalin, S.O.
their fertility, since it is of course possible
that some, or ever considerable numbers,
did used contraceptive methods, or even
interrupted one or more pregnancies.)
These analyses evidence that the
pioneer families seem to have shown
reproductive behavior similar to that of their
parents and grandparents, if one looks at
statistics regarding some regions in
Germany (Ministère du Travail et de le
Prévoyance Sociale, 1907: 209). In a
comparison of fecundity, by placing one
curve over the other, it could be seen that
there are similarities in the levels of the
curves, and their relative convexity
1988). This, of course, is a tentative
conclusion, since it is based on the
hypothesis that the generations of German
women, seen as a whole during the period
studied (1876 to 1880), maintained at least
similar demographic behavior.
However, this was not the case for the
beginning of reproductive age. The young
men and women in Curitiba married earlier,
on the average, than their fellow countrymen
in Germany. This is especially true of the
women. Those in Brazil married at the
average age of 21, and those in the
motherland between age 26 and 27,
generalizing from statistics published by the
Prussian State (Ministère du travail et de la
Prévoyance Sociale, 1907). That is, a
difference of almost five and a half years.
The averages seen in Germany were
relatively consistent with the so-called
Western pattern of age at marriage, showing
relatively late ages for both men and women.
In contrast, both immigrants of Germanic
origin and some of their descendants in
Curitiba belonging to the first sub-group being
considered here neared the Brazilian
standard for beginning their reproductive life.
It is highly probable that the earlier age
for marrying reflected a change in the
articulation between land and demography,
which was the result of migration itself. It
seems that this relationship, in the case of
Curitiba, was related to the granting of free
land to the foreign settlers in the outlying
areas of the city, a fact which probably made
it easier for the young people to set up their
Braz. Journ. Pop. Stud., Campinas, 2, 1999/2000
own households. In any event, the matter is
still an open question, and we could even
ask to what extent the situation of being
pioneers, related to the initial difficulties of
getting settled, might not have led the
parents to encourage earlier weddings for
their children.
The life histories of most of the families
comprised of “Teuto-Brazilian” couples
formed in the 20th century, in contrast,
indicated a double behavioral revolution in
comparison with the cohort that preceded
them. One change could be called
postponement of the age to marry, and
the other, Neomalthusian, represented by
the use of contraceptive methods
(MACFARLANE, 1990: 45). Based on these
empirical conclusions, the next point is to
understand why and how these changes
occurred in the community, considering the
theoretical context of the construction of an
ethnic identity related to an urbanization
process. It is a complex question, since there
are no documentary sources to give us
information about these couples’ private
lives. The only way to solve the problem is
using the successive probing method,
based on the total numbers calculated and
grounded on some already familiar
theoretical systems.
In this regard, we would first be tempted
to linearize our analysis on the basis of
a scheme that is now classical, known
as demographic transition. The first
explanations that attempted to deal with this
process were based on the idea that the
fecundity fell because of a lower mortality
rate (especially infant mortality). Therefore,
the reasons for the transition should be
sought in a single causation, namely, in
improved public health conditions and
medical knowledge.
It is clear that the factor of mortality and
morbidity rates should not be disregarded,
since they constitute a real phenomenon in
the 19th century. In Brazil, especially, rates
probably began falling at the end of the 19th
century and the beginning of the 20th, and
may have affected the group in question. In
fact, some analyses allow one to raise the
hypothesis, also quite tentative, of a
Andreazza, M.L. and Nadalin, S.O.
privileged situation of the community in this
NADALIN, 1984).
However, without disregarding the
explanation for the mortality, we believe we
should avoid using models that tend to be
overly mechanical, due to the complexity of
social reality. The majority of the authors
agree that marriage and fecundity should be
approached in a specific way, as intervening
variables in the overall process of
demographic transition (MACFARLANE,
1990: 34-62). The beginning of reproductive
age and fecundity are not purely biological
manifestations of culture.
As a result, we would appeal to the now
familiar dichotomy between typical family
structures in traditional peasant societies, and
the individualized, nuclear family,
characteristic of Western societies or, in a
broader sense, of modernity. Although it may
be suitable to our purposes here, this
perspective of analysis still runs the risk of
absolutizing linearity. One must therefore take
care not to fall into one pitfall while avoiding
How can these methodological snares
be described? First, as the illusion of some
absolute synchrony in behavioral changes,
misconstruing the contradictory contacts
between the modern and the traditional in
history. In addition, a historian who works with
quantitative methods must be aware of their
limitations. Notwithstanding the accuracy that
specific techniques may afford the researcher,
he or she must also be aware that the data
obtained may contain unexpected
In this respect, it is symptomatic that, on
the basis of the distribution of their children in
time, the German families in the pioneer subgroup showed a certain balance between the
number of small, medium and large families,
of two to four, five to seven, and eight to ten
children, respectively, representing an
overall average of six children, and a mode
of seven (NADALIN, 1978: 322-323).
Therefore, knowing the upper and lower
limits, the articulation of the figures with
theoretical models - even if merely linear constitutes a very fertile course of action for
Braz. Journ. Pop. Stud., Campinas, 2, 1999/2000
analyzing reality. One can see
representative demographic behavior in the
cohort under consideration, represented by
a certain kind of family, probably of peasant
origin. As a result, the hypothesis is that there
is probably a certain homogeneousness indicated by the variables related to
fecundity – that must be adapted before one
can try to understand the process in general.
This said, we feel it would now be well to
characterize the pioneer sub-group more
clearly, and then try to describe the path of
the families that followed.
Regarding this early group, we are
convinced that, underlying the numbers
presented, there was a traditional type of
sociability, at least for the majority of the
families. Relatively high fertility and a
predominance of large families were
indications of the peasant attitudes of the
immigrants regarding marriage, women,
wives and children. For the Germans who
went to Curitiba in the third quarter of the 19th
century, a child was “a very useful commodity
to be produced.” Since a domestic system of
production was set up around the town of
Curitiba, the number of offspring was of
fundamental importance to the settlers’
survival. In other words, children were a
necessary and profitable investment, as they
were intended not only to produce for the
family’s own subsistence, but to create a
surplus to be sold at market in the city,
including poultry, dairy products, fruit and
Children born into a world where these
mechanisms were in place were generally
legitimated by marriage or, in some cases, by
a stable consensual union. In this regard, it
can be said that it never occurred to these
immigrants to control their fertility. In the
peasant’s world, to make the best use of one’s
fertility meant social and economic
advantages and, in a relationship of
reciprocity, support in one’s old age.
In Europe, these characteristics seem
to have tended to disintegration. For some
time, the history of the family showed the
practice of late marriages, very closely
related to the demands of the labor market.
Father-mother-child constituted a model that
spread, representing a process whereby
Andreazza, M.L. and Nadalin, S.O.
everyday family life became an independent
and private matter. Nevertheless, high
fecundity rates were retained, as we saw,
indicating the relative absence of
Neomalthusian behavior. In respect to
fertility, these changes mirrored flexible
mechanisms of fecundity, regulated by
marriage patterns (BIDEAU, 1984: 50-6). We
are dealing here with a process which is
difficult to date, although its indicators are
undoubtedly of long duration. In any event,
even before Malthus, the peasants of
Western Christendom were already trying
to overcome the barriers of poverty by
delaying marriage or even going to the
extreme of choosing permanent celibacy.
To the extent that emigration meant
overcoming a number of obstacles pointed
out by Malthus, we can ask to what extent
this also meant the possibility of the
emergence of a different family model in the
receiving countries.
We are referring especially here to
the very concrete and specific case of the
sub-group of pioneer German immigrants
to Curitiba, whose family histories began
within a very closed community. The later
age at first marriage and the maintenance
of a relatively high fecundity might have been
responses to the traumas, fears and desires
related to migration and, especially, to the
cultural shock characteristic of the marginal
phase. This behavior shows once more the
flexibility of demographic regimes not only
in regard to economic factors as some
authors have shown, but also in regard to
the socio-cultural conditions of existence.
In an inherited peasant system, to which
most of the immigrants and re-immigrants
on the Curitibano Plateau belonged, the
stimulus to marriage and parenthood came
to the fore because there were no obstacles.
Easy access to land and the promise of a
market at which to sell surplus production fit
in well with the inherited demands to define
social status in the community based on
Braz. Journ. Pop. Stud., Campinas, 2, 1999/2000
having a big family. This status was also in
line with a tradition of masculinity that meant
the right to a fertile wife and many children.
This was all that a man could desire. It was
his satisfaction, his honor and his wealth.
For the women, traditional peasant
femininity was related to fertility.
In a such an environment, it is not difficult
to understand the high rate of pre-nuptial
conceptions in this first group of marriages
(1866-1894). This phenomenon was also
common in at least some regions of
Germany in the second half of the 19th
century (SHORTER, 1973). Of all the couples
that remained in the community until at least
the birth of their first child, we saw that, of
each ten brides analyzed, at least two
(21.3%) did not have the right to wear a bridal
veil and wreath at the altar. In fact, there were
probably many more. When one compares
the fecundity of the families whose wedding
and first birth were separated in time by more
than eight months, with those couples with
a shorter interval - meaning pre-matrimonial
conception - we see that the fecundity of the
latter families was higher for all age groups.
This observation allows the conclusion that,
besides the brides who were pregnant or
already mothers at their first wedding, there
was undoubtedly a certain number of
women who had lost their virginity before
marrying but failed to conceive. This number
is difficult to estimate, but it is probably
significant (BIDEAU and NADALIN, 1990:
140). 17
Besides these cases, in practice, one
out of every ten couples (calculated at 8.5%),
if not more, were clearly living in a
consensual union for a certain time before
the wedding, which union resulted in the
birth of at least one child, who was therefore
considered “illegitimate” in the eyes of the
Church and the law. Many other couples,
we do not know how many, never married.
With rare exceptions, the records are laconic
in this regard, and we must ask if this very
It is estimated that the odds for a young, healthy couple to conceive after a single act of sexual intercourse is between 2% and
4%. This means that conception usually occurs only after many weeks, or even months of unprotected sexual relations (STONE,
Andreazza, M.L. and Nadalin, S.O.
brevity is not a lack of concern by the
community about these events, or simply a
very limited number of cases.
The inherited customs, meaning the
perpetuation of Germanic and peasant
cultural traits, therefore seem to have been
stronger than the formal rules for these
foreign immigrants and their descendants
(NADALIN, 1988: 70). The traditional village
communities knew how to control the
relationships between the young men and
women, under the mantle of traditional
customs. Some of these, which could be
generalized as “nighttime courting”
(SHORTER, 1977: 129-130), carried local
names which varied from place to place and
from dialect to dialect. Besides regional
terms, there were also the words
Probenacht (proof night), Kommnacht
(arrival night), Kiltgang (night visits to a
young woman), and Gasselgang (WILLEMS,
1980: 304), related to customs that regulated
the visits made by young men to the
bedrooms of the girls of the village. 18
These practices are institutions that,
besides providing all the youth of the village
with knowledge of the “matrimonial market,”
also regulated the intimate contacts and
sexual intercourse among the community’s
unmarried members. Concurrently with
these functions, it would seem that, in one
way or another, what was also of interest
was the young people’s ability to procreate.
In practice, the young women were more
closely watched. The proof nights would
“until both parties were convinced of
their reciprocal physical aptitude for
marriage, or the girl became pregnant.
Only then would the peasant ask her in
marriage, and the engagement and
wedding followed in rapid succession.”
In such a system, it was obviously very
rare for a young man to abandon a girl he
had made pregnant. Nevertheless, it was
very common for
Braz. Journ. Pop. Stud., Campinas, 2, 1999/2000
“the couple to terminate these visits after
the first or second proof night. The
young lady did not run the risk of
acquiring a bad reputation because,
very shortly thereafter, another young
man would appear who was interested
in a new romance.”
The value attributed to a woman’s
virginity was limited, and the young women’s
and young men’s reputations were not
damaged by the practice in itself, “but rather
with the fruitless repetition of proof nights
with various individuals.” In fact, one strong
indication of the importance the peasants
gave to a woman’s fertility is that a pregnant
young lady was more highly considered than
one whose capacity to procreate had yet to
be proven. 19 One could even say that the
admiration was for the couple’s fertility. What
appears clear is that this behavior, perhaps
seen as quite loose for today’s standards,
was limited to the family sphere. The
peasants were not forbidden to take certain
liberties with the opposite sex under the
community’s supervision, but, sexual
intercourse was conditioned to the promise
to wed. In fact, for the cases observed,
“irregular” pregnancy or birth was always
followed by matrimony. This is confirmed by
noting that, in this group, illegitimacy strictly
speaking, meaning the absence of the
father’s name in the baptismal records, was
rarely higher than one case per one hundred
births. In contrast, in the receiving society of
Luso-Brazilian origin, the proportion of
illegitimate children was as high as 20.7%
to 24.1% between 1851 and 1880.
According to indications, these cases were
limited to pre-nuptial conceptions
(MIRANDA, 1978: 142-3; VALLE, 1983).
An indication of traditional behavior
patterns inherited by the group vis-a-vis the
family can be seen here. Cultural ties are
not easily broken and, in this respect,
numerous offspring and characteristically
peasant behavior related to sexuality were
maintained. It could be added that
These practices seem to be quite similar to the intimate courting practice known in England as bundling. It was common among
the working classes in the 17th and 18th centuries (STONE, 1989:309-310).
The quotations and inferences in this paragraph are taken from WILLEMS (1980:305).
Andreazza, M.L. and Nadalin, S.O.
endogamy and a “moral” economy also
defined the horizon for the majority of the
members of the immigrant community, since
they were part of the traditional rural world.
However, as pointed out above, the loss
of roots, the migration, and the culture shock,
which are interrelated processes, led the
members of the group to remain closed into
an ethnic enclave at the beginning of their
life in Brazil. The family structure set up by
these immigrants was undoubtedly the
outcome of this situation. In other words, it
was important to marry as soon as possible,
even precociously, with the objective of
survival, meaning reproduction, which was
seen as the purpose of the family. Sexuality
was therefore not repressed, but channeled
to procreation.
Were these the expressions of the skills
Willems 20 referred to as proper to the
“marginal group”? It is possible. In any case,
we are not dealing with “Europeans” but
rather with “immigrants.” Cultural
inheritances were therefore reorganized in
view of the specific situation faced by the
group. This is the origin of the idea of
redefining family structures on the basis of
the enclave.
The situation described above and the
empirical evidence we have brought
together allow one to suppose the creation
of new solidarities, based on the group’s
common experience, its neighbors, and the
establishment of new rules of kinship. As a
consequence, a semi-extended family
arose, structured around the initial
conditions of the insertion of the immigrants
into the receiving society, where parents,
brothers and sisters, in-laws, and
godmothers and godfathers all had a place,
redefining the bases of new networks of
kinship. We feel that it was on these
foundations, built up by a group that was
opposed to all, or almost all, cultural
interference from the surrounding LusoBrazilian society, that the mechanisms for
the process that followed were established,
Braz. Journ. Pop. Stud., Campinas, 2, 1999/2000
namely, the construction of an ethnic identity
alongside the integration of the group into
the society of Curitiba.
Having noted inherited behaviors in
relation to fecundity and sexuality in the
pioneer sub-group and indications of
change in the subsequent cohorts, one
might ask to what extent these attitudes
changed from one generation to the next,
not only in response to the dynamics of
cultural contacts, but also regarding the
insertion of the group into a society which
was undergoing rapid urbanization.
The early experiences of the pioneer
immigrants who settled near Curitiba, living
a typically rural way of life, was virtually lost
in terms of the city’s history. Likewise, the
first church built by the Lutheran community,
in Pomeranian style with a central column,
tower and labels was forgotten with the
passage of time. It was later torn down and
in its place a larger, taller and more solid
gothic church was built. This is the church
that still stands today. Local society has
rationalized that the little church on Rua
Inácio Lustosa is older, to judge from the
style of its construction. Likewise, the history
of the German immigrants in Curitiba was
characterized by common sense. These
inhabitants have always been considered
urban dwellers who became involved in the
commercial and industrial activities of the
city, opening up general stores, bakeries,
beer halls, dishware and hardware stores,
and factories, or exercising liberal
professions. Having ascended socially, the
groups often became related to the local
elite of Luso-Brazilian origin. There is also
the false impression that, gilded by this
memory, the Germanic immigrants or their
descendants who became part of the
working class in the process were not
“Germans,” but “Polacks.” Forgotten facts,
prejudices and images, no doubt based on
reality, are all involved in the process. The
establishments, the Teutonic influence on
The “marginal group,” characteristic of very early stages of cultural contacts, include “great skill, mental conflicts accompanied
by more or less serious mal-adjustment, feelings of inferiority, resentment, and ambivalent attitudes” (WILLEMS, 1940:175).
Andreazza, M.L. and Nadalin, S.O.
urban architecture, and the gothic church
on Rua Trajano Reis are all monuments that
characterize the German district in Curitiba
- passed on from the Germans of the second
We would say that the true origin of this
history is to be found in the gradual transition
of the children of the pioneers from farm to
city. These latter gradually mingled in with
the more recent immigrants with more urban
backgrounds, who continued arriving until
the 1930s. By that time, the phase of the
enclave was a thing of the past, and the
immigrants had matured. The mosaic of
cultures that made up the marginal group
had now become part of the melting pot of
an “immigrant culture,” under the aegis of a
re-created common history.
The acculturation of the second
generation into the city took place in a
context wherein an identity was being
created. In the process the (re)construction
of this identify was augmented by the
multiple reinforcement of the links in the
social chain established with the sending
society, increasingly focused on the German
Reich. This chain seems to have been
maintained until the Second World War
(NADALIN, 1987). The bonds were strongly
affected by the Pan-Germanic movements
covered in the Germanic and TeutoBrazilian press, that had wide circulation in
the city. The same social fabric into which
the ethnic community of new immigrants
was grafted underwent a contradiction that
pulled it in opposite directions. On the one
hand, the newcomers brought news of the
fatherland far away, thus reinforcing the
immigrant culture, the German community.
But this also introduced conflicts that pulled
against the cohesion of the group and
tended to stretch it to its limits.
We saw that the demographic changes
that took place during this period (the second
cohort) were evidenced mainly by the fall
and alterations in the fecundity curve,
indicating more frequent use of means
of contraception. But there was also
an increase in average age at marriage.
Although slight, this increase characterized
a “Malthusian” evolution, in addition to
a truly “Neomalthusian” revolution. All
Braz. Journ. Pop. Stud., Campinas, 2, 1999/2000
indications are that these changes took
place in a context of broader and deeper
changes, including a break with the concept
of family that had been fashioned when the
ethnic identity was first being established.
The new rationality imposed by
urbanization also entailed the advent of a
new attitude toward children. For the
peasant families of the first cohort, children
were a necessary asset for the family’s
survival. But beginning with the second
generation, and even more so with the third,
it became increasingly clear to both the new
immigrants and the descendants of the
pioneers that a life of fulfillment was to be
found beyond procreation. This meant a
trend toward concentrating child-bearing in
the earlier phases of marriage, in a context
of a new and positive view of marriage and
offspring. Despite all their advantages, a
wife, children and a home, began to be seen
essentially as entries on the expense
column of the ledger of everyday life.
We are therefore dealing with a cultural
change that forced the group to re-define the
project of marriage. In the city, the family was
no longer a productive unit. From the men’s
point of view, for example, new criteria had to
be found for choosing a wife. In other words,
material considerations, including the idea
of a hardy and fertile wife, were replaced by
values increasingly related to “romantic love.”
Gradually, the choice became an individual
matter, indicating less pressure from the
extended family. The decision to marry now
meant relative independence of young
persons, even in view of the limits that still
existed in relation to the matrimonial market,
which was founded on an endogamous
practice of an ethnic nature. The achievement
of independence tended to postpone the age
at which to wed. In the pioneer generation,
which was essentially peasant, the new
couple’s home could be built under the
protective mantle of the newlyweds’ parents.
But as of the second generation, setting up a
home increasingly depended on the
resources of the young couple itself. As is
known, this process also corresponds to a
trend toward the “nuclearization” of the family.
Modernity also meant leaving behind
other types of behavior shown by the
Andreazza, M.L. and Nadalin, S.O.
peasant group and taking up contraceptive
practices. As a consequence of the adoption
of new values by the community related to
the process of cultural contacts, there was
also a substantial fall in pre-conjugal
conceptions (from 21.3% to 11.8%). With
urbanization and the process of cultural
contacts, a new morale gradually took hold
of the group (NADALIN, 1988), resulting in
attitudes toward sex that might be called
characteristically “Victorian”.
In retrospect
This study represents an attempt to go
back to some earlier lines of investigation
and go over what has already been
discussed regarding the history of the
occupation of Paraná. The intention, of
course, was not to exhaust the topic, but
perhaps to cast new light on earlier
interpretations. This explains the synthetic
nature of part of the text.
Next, the population of Paraná was
considered in view of certain well-known
generalizations and widely accepted
models, at least in their structural forms.
Generalizations were made and paradigms
proposed, based on the knowledge of other
histories, other realities. We considered their
consistencies within the broader context of
southern Brazil where the immigrants
settled. We then asked once again: To what
extent does the model remain consistent
when the aspect of cultural contacts resulting
from immigrations is introduced into its
At this point, seeking to emphasize the
experience of the immigrants, we chose the
German-speaking foreigners as a pretext to
introduce the reader into a much broader
theme of investigation. This discussion was
enlivened by an exercise of re-creation for
which, however, we have little, very little
data. Some figures, calculated methodically,
were articulated one with the other and with
references available on the topic. The result
was the delineation of a system that
functions like a machine. The narrative may
give the reader this impression, but if we
consider the immigrational process in a
Braz. Journ. Pop. Stud., Campinas, 2, 1999/2000
broader sense, as a system of equations
with an extraordinary number of variables
and unknowns - due to the complexity of the
social relationships involved - countless
hypotheses can and should be considered.
However, the combination of the
variables that were shown by some sources,
on the basis of a given methodological
perspective, at least sets down the terms of
a problem. If there are failings, they should
be resolved with the aid of other accounts,
with further research, and with inductions
based on comparative methods. However,
in this equation, there seem to be indications
of relationships among migratory
processes, the immigrants’ original cultures,
the type of expectations harbored by the
receiving society, or at least of its elites, the
nature of the factors involved in the
acculturation process, and others.
These questions led us to discuss the
relationship between the family structure
established by the foreigners and their
descendants, and the broader structure of
social relationships, in a dialectic of changes
from past and present. Some questions
involved the reproductive behavior of the
immigrant couples, but, as we said in the
text, this area leaves much to be explained
and understood. To what extent was this
made clear? We wished to present the
hypothesis, backed up by arguments, that
the family structures at the beginning of the
process of insertion of the group were built
up within the immigrant environment
according to broader social relationships of
standards that were still traditional.
To conclude, we believe that the
problem was clearly circumscribed, at least
in broad terms. Hopes are that the horizon
of the research will be more clearly delimited
and investigation will then be based on
these methodological definitions and
Primary and printed sources
MAP of the inhabitants of [Coritiba] [old
spelling] for the year of 1850. Province of
Paraná, Municipality of Paraná, municipality
of the capital city: demographic statistics for
Andreazza, M.L. and Nadalin, S.O.
1850. Manuscript filed at Arquivo do Instituto
Histórico e Geográfico Brasileiro, Rio de
REPORTS of Presidents of the Province
of Paraná [RPPPr], 1854, 1855, 1860, 1872,
1875, 1878, 1882, 1888, 1897.
ANDERSON, M. 1984. Elementos para a
história da família ocidental; 1500-1914.
Lisbon: Querco.
ANDREAZZA, M. L. 1992 (inédito). O paraíso
das delícias; estudo de uma comunidade
imigrante ucraniana (research project).
Curitiba: UFPR/DEHIS
BALHANA, A. P. et al. 1969a. “Alguns aspectos
relativos aos estudos de imigração e
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The Context of Colonization in Southern Brazil and the