Little Brazil

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Little Brazil, W46 Street and 5th Avenue to 6th Avenue - Avenue of the Americas.
Information from Margolis' book: Brazilians in New York City, there is a fascinating and accessible account from Maxine L. Margolis in Little Brazil: An Ethnography of Brazilian Immigrants in New York City Here are a few paragraphs from Margolis' book:

"Brazilians often talk about the absence of an esprit de corps in their community and compare themselves unfavorably in this regard to New York's other new immigrant groups. All the Brazilians present at a gathering in Queens insisted that they alone among ethnic groups in the city lack a sense of community. Lamented one, "We have no club, no school, no union, no support from other Brazilians." "Everyone in New York has a community association except us," said another. Over and over, I was told that there are no Brazilian ethnic, social, or professional groups, no Brazilian occupational specialties akin to those of Korean greengrocers and Indian newsstand dealers --- only commercial enterprises, such as those on West 46th Street. "We are 80,000 strong," complained my research assistant, a Brazilian with a degree in anthropology, "and we can't have a single social club, not even one."

One Brazilian old-timer in New York told me of his unsuccessful attempt to get support from a Brazilian business association to start a club for Brazilian immigrants in the city. This group, comprising long-resident entrepreneurs, many with businesses on West 46th Street, directs its charitable efforts exclusively to the needy in Brazil. Thus, on another occasion, despite pleas for help to this group on behalf of a Brazilian immigrant who needed $1,000 to bury her husband, who had died suddenly of a heart attack, none was forthcoming; the money was eventually raised by members of the Brazilian Catholic congregation in Manhattan.

Brazilians in New York also lacked a physical community, a distinctly Brazilian neighborhood or shopping district with which they can identify. Even the single block of Little Brazil in Manhattan is not entirely their own --- there are Japanese, Argentine, Korean and Italian restaurants along it, as well as businesses of no distinct nationality. And in Astoria, Queens, the primary Brazilian residential area in the city, almost no outward signs of Brazilians' presence exist. A few scattered stores selling Brazilian products, a bar, and a handful of their Brazilian-owned businesses are overwhelmed by the strong Greek flavor of the neighborhood.

Still, because the Brazilian business sector is so circumscribed, newly arrived immigrants from Brazil, in contrast to their Chinese, Indian, Pakistani, Korean and Greek counterparts, have no ready source of jobs within their own community. They have no economic basis for ethnic solidarity. Quite the contrary, said one informant, the few Brazilians who do own businesses "not only don't help new immigrants, they exploit t hem by paying them less and working them longer hours."

Brazilians themselves offer various explanations about their lack of community spirit and organization. One woman who has lived in New York since the mid-1970s blamed it on the growing size of the Brazilian population in the city; when she first arrived, few Brazilians were living in New York, and everyone knew everyone else. "We had more of a sense of community then," she said with nostalgia. Another Brazilian cited the feelings of distrust that permeated a community with so many undocumented immigrants. Because of fear of informers, he said, people are uneasy about getting together in clubs or elsewhere with compatriots they do not know very well. A Brazilian journalist, a longtime resident of the city, agreed, saying that the lack of community was due to Brazilian "paranoia" about the INS. Although denunciations to the authorities are probably rare, when they do occur, people become "paranoid that whenever they have a disagreement with another Brazilian they will be reported to Tia Mimi."
Still, a majority of Brazilians were realists about the lack of community spirit. They said that they and most other Brazilians were in New York for one reason only: to make as much money as quickly as possible for the return to Brazil. They do not get involved in clubs or other activities because that would take time away from this one overriding goal. Or as one Brazilian emphatically put it, "We don't have an immigrant spirit because we are not immigrants." (p.197-199)

Little Brazil is located in the heart of midtown Manhattan in New York City. Usually, its boundary is taken to be the West 46th Street block between Fifth and Sixth Avenues. There is no large physical structure to denote its presence. Except for the proliferation of the yellow and green colors and a small street sign, it is indistinguishable from the other streets in the area.

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