Most Croatians found their new homes in Brazil in São Paolo state, many in the city itself, while a smaller number settled in Rio de Janeiro, Curitiba, Rio Grande do Sul, Belo Horizonte, Recife and the capital, Brasilia
Croatian Heritage Foundation headquarters was the venue today for the presentation of a trilogy on the Croatian community in Brazil by São Paulo resident Milan Puh. On hand for the event were top academics from Zagreb and Croatian society figures. Joining CHF director Mijo Marić and the author to welcome everyone and discuss this trilogy on Brazilian Croatians were historians of the Croatian Institute of History, including the institute’s director Gordan Ravančić and Darjan Godić.
The Brazilian horizons of the local Croatians as presented by researcher Milan Puh sheds light on the layered story of Brazilians of Croatian extraction over a one-hundred-year period. Croatians moved to Brazil in the previous century in two waves. The first wave of emigrants from Croatia relocated to the South American country in the early 1920s, when Brazil was in need of agricultural workers and its government was providing financial support for immigrant labour. The majority of these people came from the southern Croatian regions of Dalmatia and Istria, but there were also those moving out of other Croatian regions.
The regime that took power here in the period following World War II saw political motivations lead many to move to Brazil. This second wave saw emigrants leaving all Croatian regions. Most of these people found their new homes in São Paolo state, many in the city itself, while a smaller number settled in Rio de Janeiro, Curitiba, Rio Grande do Sul, Belo Horizonte, Recife and the capital, Brasilia.
Typical of both waves of immigrants is that their descendants were fully assimilated into Brazilian society and that they no longer speak Croatian. Most have completed secondary or higher education. Brazil is now home to the fourth generation that follows the original immigrant Croatians—weak ties with the country of origin and a turbulent history has seen them fully adopt the local Portuguese language.
Among the dignitaries on hand for the event were state secretary Zdravka Bušić, as representative of Croatian prime minister Plenković, CHF board of directors chair Milan Kovač, Mario Škunca, an advisor to the prime minister, Koraljka Sopta of the culture ministry, Tomislav Markić, the head of the Roman Catholic pastoral office for Croats abroad, teacher Slavica Schreng Pilić, a senior advisor for Croatian instruction abroad at the science and education ministry, Andrija Petrović, representing the mayor of Zagreb; Katarina Milković from the City of Zagreb education department; Institute for Migration and Ethnic Studies director Marina Perić Kaselj, Croatian Science Foundation director Irena Martinović Klarić, and Darija Hofgräff of the Croatian State Archive. The State Office for Croats Abroad, which has provided long term support to the research and education project work of Milan Puh in Brazil, was represented at the promotion by special advisor for Croatian emigrant communities Draženka Arar and by advisor Ivan Lozo.
CHF director Marić thanked Milan Puh, a native of the Croatian coastal town of Pula and long-time resident of Brazil, for everything he has done for the local ethnic Croatian community. Milan Puh PhD is at the helm of a research project focused on the history of Croatian immigrants in Brazil and has since 2015 worked on compiling the three volumes: Hrvatska u Brazilu – iseljeničke priče i priče o useljenju (Croatia in Brazil – Emigrant Stories and Stories of Immigration), Hrvatska u Brazilu do 1918: prva faza useljavanja (Croatia in Brazil up to 1918: The First Phase of Immigration), and Hrvatska u Brazilu između 1918. i 1945.: druga faza useljavanja (Croatia in Brazil from 1918 to 1945: The Second Phase of Immigration). Funding for the project has been provided through the State Office for Croats Abroad.
At the event promoting this unique trilogy specialists with the Croatian Institute of History, Gordan Ravančić PhD and Darjan Godić PhD, focused on some of the societal and cultural attributes of the descendants of immigrant Croatians in Brazil in the past and present, discussed the demographic indicators, and pointed to the creative contribution of Croatians to the development of the largest and most populous country in South America. Milan Puh also teaches Croatian language and history at the Croatia Sacra Paulistani association and the Society of the Friends of Dalmatia in the eleven-million-strong metropolis of São Paulo, where most Brazilian Croatians live. Puh also works as a research fellow of the Slavic studies centre of the University of the State of Paraná on a project that seeks to map Slavic studies in Brazil in terms of research and internationalisation of research. The latest figures on people of Croatian extraction in Brazil put their number at somewhere between sixty to eighty thousand people.
Historians Ravančić and Godić also noted that Croatian territories have been part of four different countries in the course of the twentieth century, starting with the Austria-Hungary dual monarchy and followed by the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, communist Yugoslavia and finally our independent republic, and has seen three economic/political regimes: a constitutional monarchy, a socialist federation and a parliamentary democracy. All of this has produced a lasting instability in the societal context and the fragmentary/incomplete state of modernisation processes across all aspects of life, including migration out of Croatian territories, with Croatians moving to Brazil and other countries compelled to travel with passports identifying them as Austrians, Dalmatians, Yugoslavs and the like.
It was only in the 1990s and the revival of Croatian independence that many of these twentieth century migrants began seeking out their own roots and country of origin, to visit it and, as fourth generation descendants, seeking to learn the language of their grandparents, as are the pupils taught Croatian by Milan Puh in São Paulo.
Brazil, a federation of states and the largest country in South America, is a place in which people of Croatian extraction feel welcome and in the life of which they take part in the best possible way, Puh noted. Brazil is the fifth largest country in the world and has just under 200 million inhabitants. In terms of GDP the Brazilian economy is the eighth largest in the world. It is the only Portuguese speaking area in the Americas and the largest lusophone country in the world. Brazil won independence from Portugal 197 years ago (1822) and has been a republic for 120 years, since 1889. Its current constitution defines Brazil as a federal republic composed of federal districts and twenty-six states, and has 5,564 towns and cities. Much of Brazil is covered by the Amazon River basin, an area that the famed Seljan brothers of Karlovac were among the first from Europe to explore.
By: Vesna Kukavica; Photography: Snježana Radoš