From coffee to industry: Changes in migrants’ characteristics in metropolitan areas in Brazil

The overall aim of this work is to investigate the migratory processes of metropolitan areas in Brazil, including the flows and sociodemographic characteristics of migrants, given the different economic and political contexts through which Brazil has passed as a whole. The end of slavery in Brazil in 1888 enabled the creation of a rural work market and altered the structure of mass consumption thanks, precisely, to the rise of coffee exports. The accumulation of capital that proceeded from the selling of this commodity was what enabled investment in infrastructure and industry, especially in textiles and cotton. The end of slavery also marks the beginning of European immigration to Brazil; migrants who would later head for the city’s industries. The Brazilian metropolises have emerged due to the tendency in countries such as Brazil, which have a low capacity to invest in production, of concentrating industrial parks in a single region, seeking to take advantage of the infrastructure of transportation, public services, teaching institutions and appropriate workforce qualifications.

Between 1980 and 1985 there was an intensification of industrial and urban growth in major centres. The cost of transport, land and services increased, and part of the industry was forced to abandon big centers like São Paulo – a process understood as ‘diseconomies of agglomeration’ – enabling the development of new economies and agglomerations around the city. The processes of economic transformation provide us with the idea that internal and international migration processes were also influenced and changed, both in relation to flows and in relation to the characteristics of these migrants. Lastly we must recognise the influence of industrialisation and migration processes in the structuring of space. The dynamics of labour relations, as well as migration and mobility of individuals within metropolitan areas are critical to determine the living conditions of the population and the space they occupy. Therefore we investigated the importance of migrant destination – the area in which they live in the metropolitan area – taking into account their sociodemographic characteristics.