“Rediscovering” Brazil? A Qualitative Study of Highly-Skilled Portuguese Immigration in Brazil in the Twenty-First Century

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The objective of this master’s thesis is to offer a qualitative case study research of post-crisis North-South migration flows, by analyzing recent flows of young highly-skilled Portuguese migration to Brazil. The focus is on the personal level, thus on the personal experiences of the Portuguese immigrants on their own migratory process. A framework of analysis based on Migration Systems Approach was adopted, which focused on present day’s mass cultural connections and regulatory linkages that might facilitate or incite Portuguese migration to Brazil. As many former European colonial powers, Portugal shares an intense history with its former colonies. One of the repercussions of this shared colonial history is increased migration flows between these countries. Portugal and Brazil are often seen as the traditional members within the so-called Lusophone Migration System, mainly because migration flows between these two countries has always been significant, despite its dynamic character (in numbers and directions). In order to find out to what extent young Portuguese immigrants in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, felt connected to Brazil before emigrating, thirteen qualitative semi-structured interviews were conducted alongside an extensive literature review on different aspects that hold relation to the topic. What I found out, was that although the presence of Brazilian cultural elements – and to some extent Brazilian immigrants – in Portugal makes young Portuguese feel more connected to the country and its culture (which encourages choosing Brazil as a migration destination when migration is considered as a strategy of coping with the economic crisis), existing regulatory linkages no longer facilitate migration to Brazil. This lack of facilitating regulations is a repercussion of diplomatic setbacks during the second half of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s that coincided with Portuguese accession to the European Union. The difficulties experienced go against the idea that most of my respondents defend that they should have their ‘way-in’ facilitated, since they share a history and a language with the country, a perspective which emphasizes the Lusophone imaginary that shapes the way Portuguese see the world and relate to their past history and former colonies. In other words, while today’s migrants feel connected and attracted to Brazil by more than a shared history and language – namely also by their familiarity with Brazilians in Portugal as well as Brazilian soap operas and music – the regulatory linkages in place today do not encourage Portuguese migration like they used to in different periods in history. In fact, one could say that the current typical Portuguese immigrant in Brazil experiences the setbacks of Luso-Brazilian diplomacy in the everyday life context like no other generation of Portuguese in Brazil has ever done. This is visible in the difficulty experienced in finding jobs and obtaining residency permits. While the general opinion among my respondents emphasizes the assumption that it should be easier for the Portuguese to migrate to Brazil, the reality is that today the entrance of Portuguese is in no way facilitated, despite the connections that are deeply felt by the Portuguese.
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