The concept of internal colonialism has 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.
Terry-Ann Jones is an associate professor of sociology and anthropology, and director of the International Studies Program at Fairfield University. Her areas of research and teaching interest are in international and domestic migration, particularly movement between and within Latin America and the Caribbean and North America. The role of migration as a livelihood strategy among both domestic and international migrants is a theme throughout her research. She is currently working on undocumented students’ access to tertiary education. E-mail: email@example.com