White Brazilians

White Brazilian

According to the 2006 census, White Brazilians make up 49.7% of Brazil's population, or around 93 million people. Whites are present in the entire territory of Brazil, although the main concentrations are found in the South and Southeastern parts of the country. White Brazilians are all people who are full or mainly descended of European and other White immigrants.

Brazil has the largest White population in the Southern Hemisphere, and the third largest in the World, after the United States and Russia. The majority of White Brazilians are of Portuguese, Italian, Spanish, and German descent.


Brazil received more European immigrants in its colonial era than did the United States of America. Between 1500 and 1760, 700,000 Europeans settled in Brazil, compared to 530,000 in the United States.

One important fact about the European immigration in Brazil is that it was, for three centuries, dominated exclusively by Portuguese. In the 17th century, Dutch and French settlers created colonies in the country. The Dutch presence in Northeast Brazil lasted 24 years. Many European Jews arrived in that period. However, in 1654, the Dutch were expelled. The hegemony of the Portuguese ethnicity in the White population of Brazil lasted until the 19th century.

Most of the immigrants were ethnically Portuguese, but some of the first settlers were, actually, Portuguese Jews. According to some estimates, 45% of colonial Portuguese settlers in Brazil came from Minho, 20% from the Azores Islands, 16% from Lisbon and 19% from other parts. In all Brazil's History, most immigrants came from Northern Portugal.

Another characteristic of the Portuguese colonization is that it was done mostly by males. The lack of European women was a problem faced during much of Brazil's colonization. The Portuguese Crown even sent orphaned women for marriage with the settlers, but a large part of the settlers was involved in relationships with indigenous women and with their African slaves. However, not all Portuguese colonists were in interracial relationships: at the end of the 16th century, Whites made up half of Brazil's population. It is remarkable that most Portuguese settlers arrived in Brazil in the 18th century: 600,000 in a period of only 60 years. The exploitation of gold in the region of Minas Gerais has been a crucial factor in the arrival of this contingent of immigrants.

The hegemony of the white Portuguese ethnicity had its end only in 1824, when Brazil attracted German families to occupy inhospitable regions. It is important to note that before, in 1818, Swiss settlers were attracted to the region of Nova Friburgo, in Rio de Janeiro. The presence of German immigrants had great importance for the occupation of Southern Brazil. They founded rural communities that later became prosperous cities, as was the case of São Leopoldo, Joinville and Blumenau.

The end of the slave trade (1850) and the abolition of slavery (1888) were crucial to the entry of millions of Europeans to Brazil. The industry cultivating coffee, the main product of Brazil at the time, began to suffer a shortage of workers. The Brazilian Government then opened its doors to immigrants. From 1875, the Italians began to enter Brazil in huge numbers. From 1884 to 1933, 1.4 million Italians immigrated to Brazil, 70% of whom settled in São Paulo. Brazil is, nowadays, the country with the largest Italian population outside of Italy itself: 25 million Brazilians are of Italian descent.

The period of the great European immigration in Brazil, between 1880 and 1930, brought to the country more than 5 million Europeans. A majority were Italians and Portuguese, followed by Spaniards, Germans, Poles, and Ukrainians. It is notable that most of this more recent wave of immigrants from Europe settled Southern and Southeastern Brazil.

Regions of settlement

European immigration to Brazil by State
State Percentage
São Paulo 55.3%
Rio de Janeiro 12.4%
Minas Gerais 7.6%
Rio Grande do Sul 7.3%
Paraná 4.5%
Santa Catarina 3.0%
Pernambuco 2.2%
Other states 7.7%

Most European immigrants entered Brazil for the state of São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Minas Gerais. Rio de Janeiro and Minas Gerais received most of the Portuguese settlers since the 16th century. São Paulo received most of the Italians and other immigrants in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. However, the impact of the European immigration was larger in Southern Brazil. This region received a smaller number of immigrants, but since it had a low population, the arrival of the Europeans was greater to its demography. Pernambuco was also an important place to the arrival of Portuguese immigrants. In the rest of Brazil, most Europeans and their descendants arrived from other states and had a smaller impact in the population's ethnicity.


Many Brazilians are full or partly of Portuguese ancestry. They started arriving in 1500, the immigration grew in the 18th century and the boom occurred in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.


Spaniards came in large numbers to Brazil, starting in the late 19th century. Most of them were attracted to work in the coffee plantations in the State of São Paulo. Today, there is an estimated 15 million Brazilians of direct Spanish descent .


Italians started arriving in Brazil in 1875. First they settled in rural communities across Southern Brazil. In the early 20th century, they mostly settled in the coffee plantations in the Southeast. 25 million Brazilians are of Italian origin, the largest numbers outside of Italy itself.


The first Germans arrived in Brazil in 1824. They were the first non-Portuguese immigrants to settle in the country. Most of them established themselves in rural communities across Southern Brazil, such as São Leopoldo, Novo Hamburgo, Blumenau and Pomerode. In states of the south, such as Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul, they may represent as much as 35% of the population.


Poles came in significant numbers to Brazil after 1870. Most of them settled in the State of Paraná, working as small farmers.


Ukrainians came to Brazil primary between 1895 and the Second World War, settling mostly in Parana (state) and working as small farmers. They currently number approximately 400,000.


Besides the Europeans, many Brazilians descend from Caucasoid Arabs, mostly Syrians and Lebanese people. The Arab Brazilian population is estimated at about 10 million people. The Lebanese population in Brazil is about 7 million people while Lebanon has a population of over 4 million people.


The history of the Jews in Brazil is relatively long and complex as it stretches over many centuries. Jews settled early in Brazil, especially when it was under Dutch rule, setting up the first synagogue in the Americas, in Recife as early as 1636. Nowadays Brazil has 295 thousand Jews, most of them are Ashkenazi Jews, descendants of immigrants from Germany, Poland, Russia and Ukraine.


By Brazilian states

The Brazilian states with the highest percentages of Whites are the three located in the South of the country: Santa Catarina, Rio Grande do Sul and Paraná. These states, along with São Paulo, were settled mainly by German, Italian and Portuguese immigrants. The other states in the list are those whose population is mainly of Portuguese ancestry.

The Brazilian states with the lowest percentages of Whites are those located in the North and Northeast regions of Brazil. Both had a stronger African and Amerindian influence to the population's ethnic composition.

Source: IBGE 2000

By Population

By cities and towns

In a list of the 144 Brazilian towns with the highest percentages of White people, all the cities were located in two states: Rio Grande do Sul or Santa Catarina. Another fact is that all these towns are settled predominantly by Brazilians of German and Italian descent. It is important to note that, in the late 19th century, many German and Italian immigrants created small communties across Southern Brazil. These communities were settled, in many cases, exclusivily by European immigrants and their descendants.

The Brazilian towns with the largest percentages of Whites are:

The Brazilian towns with the lowest percentages of Whites are located in Northern and Northeastern Brazil. Some of the towns are Indian reservations, others are Quilombos (rural areas settled by descendants of escaped African slaves).


Immigration to Brazil, by Ethnic groups, periods from 1500 to 1933
Ethnic group 1500-1700 1701-1760 1761-1829 1830-1855 1856-1883 1884-1893 1894-1903 1904-1913 1914-1923 1924-1933
Africans 510,000 958,000 1,720,000 618,000 - - - - - -
Portuguese 100,000 600,000 26,000 16,737 116,000 170,621 155,542 384,672 201,252 233,650
Italians - - - - 100,000 510,533 537,784 196,521 86,320 70,177
Spaniards - - - - - 113,116 102,142 224,672 94,779 52,405
Germans - - 5,003 2,008 30,000 22,778 6,698 33,859 29,339 61,723
Japanese - - - - - - - 11,868 20,398 110,191
Syrians and Lebanese - - - - - 96 7,124 45,803 20,400 20,400
Others - - - - - 66,524 42,820 109,222 51,493 164,586

Non-White admixture

Genetic origin of Caucasian Brazilian population
(Rounded values)
Origin Line Perc.(%)
Sub-Saharan Africa Maternal (mtDNA) 29%
Paternal (Y chromosome) 2%
Europe Maternal (mtDNA) 38%
Paternal (Y chromosome) 98%
Native American Maternal (mtDNA) 33%
Paternal (Y chromosome) 0%

The genes can reveal from what part of the world the oldest ancestors of the paternal and maternal line of a person came from. The mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is present in all human beings and passed down through the maternal line, i.e. the mother of the mother of the mother etc. The Y chromosome is present only in males and passed down through the paternal line, i.e., the father of father of father etc. The mitochondrial DNA and Y chromosome suffer only minor mutations through centuries, thus can be used to establish the paternal line in males (because only males have the Y chromossome) and the maternal line in both males and females.

Caucasian Brazilians and
Caucasian Americans
with 10% or more of
Sub-Saharan African genes
Region Perc.(%)
Brazil - Northern, Northeastern
and Southeastern regions
Brazil - Southern region 49%
United States 11%

A genetic research carried out in a sample of Brazilian people revealed that almost all (98%) Brazilian males have a Y Chromosome) originated in Europe. However, in the maternal line, there would be a 39% European, 33% Native American and 28% Sub-Saharan African contribution to the total mtDNA pool. This research was criticized because it only 200 people genes were analysed. .

The same genetic research concluded that over 75% of caucasians from North, Northeast and Southeast Brazil would have over 10% Sub-Saharan African genes. Even Southern Brazil, that received a large group of European immigration, 49% of the Caucasian population would have over 10% Sub-Saharan African genes. According to this study, in all United States only 11% of Caucasians would have over 10% African genes. Some researchers have found that the average European American type has approximately 10% to 12% non-White genetic material.

However, these results are far from being conclusive since the study was restricted to a relatively small area of Brazil and involved not a large sample, and other studies have given entirely different results. It is really difficult to assess the levels of African, European and Amerindian ancestries in all Brazil given the racial complexity and extension of this country.

As an example, one thousand individuals from Porto Alegre city, Southern Brazil, and 760 from Natal city, Northeastern Brazil, were studied in relation to 12 and 8 genetic systems, respectively. The data thus gathered were used in different ways to estimate quantitatively the ethnic composition of individuals from these communities. More than half of the genes present in individuals classified as Black in Porto Alegre are of European origin, while the Whites from this city have 8% of African alleles. White Brazilians from the Southern Region were found to carry only 8% of Sub-Saharan African genes. The estimated degree of admixture in persons identified as White or Mixed in Natal is not much different among themselves. According to this other study "mixed" and "unmixed" looking Brazilian Northeastern people carry on average almost 60% European genetic material and about 25% Sub-Saharan African on the mtDNA line(instead of the 44% figure of the previously mentioned study). The ancestry of the total sample can be characterized as 58% White, 25% Black, and 17% Indian.

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