Brazilian people: Race and Ethnics



Brazilian population is a mix of people from several different origins: from the original Native Americans (called índios), with the confluence of Portuguese colonizers, Black African slaves, and most recently European, Arab, and Japanese immigration.


In 2015, an autosomal genetic study took samples from people all over Brazil intending to examine the population’s racial heritage. Contradicting the expectations, they found a major European contribution, followed by high African and Native American components.  It also analyzed data of 25 studies of 38 different Brazilian populations and concluded that: European ancestry accounts for 62% of the heritage of the population, followed by the African (21%) and the Native American (17%). The European contribution is highest in Southern Brazil (77%), the African highest in Northeast Brazil (27%) and the Native American is the highest in Northern Brazil (32%).

Region European African Native American
North Region 51% 16% 32%
Northeast Region 58% 27% 15%
Central-West Region 64% 24% 12%
Southeast Region 67% 23% 10%
South Region 77% 12% 11%


The study concluded that Brazilians from different regions are more homogeneous than previously thought by some based on the census alone. “Brazilian homogeneity is, therefore, a lot greater between Brazilian regions than within Brazilian regions.” The results, published by the scientific American Journal of Human Biology by a team of the Catholic University of Brasília, show that, in Brazil, physical indicators such as colour of skin, eyes and hair have little to do with the genetic ancestry of each person, which has been shown in previous studies (regardless of census classification).


Daniele Suzuki – Brazilian actress

According to the 2010 census promoted by IBGE (Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística – Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics), 45,9% of the population declared themselves as white. The rest of the population is divided into black (7,6%) and brown (43,1%, normally understood as mixed race) or not declared (3,4%). However, not many African descendants consider themselves brown or even white, but not black.

Brazilian indigenous

This fact is a notable heritage from the Brazilian slavery past and still present racial issues. Even though Brazil is a very mixed race country and seen as more tolerant than most, racism is still present in every place and class. Daily and apparently harmless jokes and expressions that diminish the black people are frequent and internalized in a way most people don’t even realize they might be offensive to African Brazilians and descendants.

Rodrigo Hilber – Brazilian model and TV host

It all began in the second half of the XVI century with the canebrake production. Manpower was needed and the Portuguese farmers started buying African citizens, making them slaves. This implicates in considering the African people inferior than white people, less evolved than the European society, serving only for heavy work as if they were not gifted with human intelligence. They were seen as animals, and treated as such.

Seu Jorge – Brazilian singer and actor

Long time after the slavery became illegal, that concept still remained part of Brazilian society. Black people (African and Brazilian, considering several black women had by then given birth to mixed children, most of them due to sexual abuse from their masters) have always been subjugated, the scum of Brazilian society. That lead to poverty and declassification. Black people are a majority in slums, penitentiaries and have the lowest salary rates. They are a minority in education, managements and government positions.

Marina Ruy Barbosa – Brazilian actress

Some actions have been taken to prevent and punish racism in Brazil. Racism is a crime and, if convicted, the criminal can face up to 5 years of prison, no right to bail. In much smaller rate, other groups suffer from racism and crimes motivated by hate specially native Indians. The law that establishes the punishment for racism protects all groups, even though most of the crimes are never reported.



Post Author: Juliana Pavao

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