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Migration as a Response to Internal Colonialism in Brazil

Terry-Ann Jones

Keywords: Brazil; domestic migration; internal colonialism; seasonal labor; spatial mobility; sugarcane

Abstract

The concept of internal colonialism h as been used to frame studies of marginalized populations exploited by the dominant or majority population. Brazil’s regional inequalities have gained notoriety, as wealth tends to be concentrated in the southern regions, while poverty is most rampant in the north and northeast. Inequality in Brazil is connected to geographic region and related to complex factors such as race, ethnicity, color, kinship, and class, and is deeply rooted in Brazil’s colonial history. Using data from in-depth, qualitative interviews with seasonal sugarcane workers, this article argues that the inequality that motivates their migration pattern is rooted in internal colonialism. These temporary labor migrants travel from northern and northeastern states to the cane fields of São Paulo, where labor demands are high and they face many of the challenges that international labor migrants encounter, including discrimination, poor wages, and inhumane working conditions.

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