Note from BW of Brazil: It’s been a while since we reported on the situation of Haitian immigrants who have been steadily arriving in Brazil in search of better lives since the devastating 2010 earthquake. This history of Brazil and Haiti is actually not a new thing. After the 2004 coup d’etat that removed President Jean-Bertrand Aristide from office, Brazilian troops were sent to the country on a United Nations peacekeeping mission that was to last less than a year. Late in 2005, Brazil requested more troops as the situation in the country deteriorated. As year after year passed, the presence of Brazilian troops was increasingly seen as an occupation.
After the 2010 earthquake, thousands of Haitian fled the island in search of work and the opportunity to send resources back home to relatives. With the Brazilian economy booming in the period of 2010 and 2011, many Haitians saw the country as possibility and an alternative to the United States, but as they arrived in increasing numbers, the disappointment of the conditions in which they lived were determined to be inhumane and a state of emergency was soon declared. The conditions were so bad that some believed they would have been better off staying in their devastated homeland!
Added to this dilemma is Brazil’s history of anti-black racist sentiments and the fact that Haitians are black brings another dimension to the situation. As more and more black people from outside of Brazil are discovering that Brazil’s so-called ‘racial paradise’ is nothing more than a myth, Haitian and African immigrants are seeing it first hand, up close and personal! As we have pointed out before, the question is not necessarily as much xenophobia as it is racism due to the fact that there is a substantial number of Asian and European immigrants also living in Brazil and one never hears about Brazilians rejecting them. Given Brazil’s stated mission (since the late 19th century) of whitening its population and its treatment of its own black population, this shouldn’t come as any surprise.
Rio Grande do Sul should accommodate about 1,000 Haitians by July, says secretary
Promise of jobs and better life attract immigrants to the state. Until Sunday, it is expected the arrival of two buses of Haitians to the capital.
Courtesy of G1
The dream of a better life with housing and employment attracts more and more Haitians to Brazil. The country has an agreement with Haiti that allows the arrival of Haitians to work. Under the agreement, only Rio Grande do Sul alone should welcome a thousand people by July, according to the Secretaria da Justiça e dos Direitos Humanos (Department of Justice and Human Rights), as shown in reports by RBS Notícias and RBS TV (see video above).
Until Sunday, it’s expected the arrival of two buses of Haitians to Porto Alegre. At least 400 should arrive in the coming weeks to the state. Therefore, the government met with NGOs and humanitarian institutions on Friday (22) to create an emergency plan to receive the immigrants.
“It’s a war operation aimed at giving a humanitarian welcoming. And see, it’s not only a welcoming, it’s not only the space that is already difficult to achieve. It is the space, food, groceries, clothes and blanket,” says the secretary of Justice and Human Rights, César Luis de Araújo Faccioli.
Migrants left Haiti toward Peru and enter Brazil by the state of Acre. From there, they migrate to other regions. Rio Grande do Sul is one of the preferred destinations of those who left a country destroyed by an earthquake five years ago. The distance between Rio Branco and Porto Alegre is about 4,100 kilometers.
“I bought a book about Rio Grande do Sul having a more advanced people, and I would like to be here,” says the attendant Anmade Altimo, who lives in a rental and got a job as attendant at a gas station. The Haitians in the area are already reputable.
“They are really surprising us. These are people who are not lacking, have time, attendance. They are very good,” says gas station manager Paulo César Oliveira.
Banking on the state, he now plans to bring his family. “I am married. I have three children, all there in Haiti. I need help, work, but I’m bringing my wife and family,” says the attendant Odrigue Moldesir.
Immigrants sent without notice
On May 12, the government of Acre published in the Diário Oficial the bus contract to transport the immigrants of a “social emergency” character. The estimated cost for the service is R$409,920.00, paid through an agreement with the Ministry of Justice. The news took the gaúcha authorities by surprise, as they were informed only by media outlets. This was only communicated officially on Wednesday (20).
“I received a call from the state secretary of Human Rights in Acre [Nilson Moura Leite Mourão], which was very kind and explained their reality,” he said. “But [before] we were intrigued, anxious. If it was already planned, why not tell us? If not for the press reporting, we wouldn’t know,” complains the secretary.
In November 2014, about 300 Haitians coming from Acre reached the Porto Alegre bus station. At the time there was also no notice on the part of the Acre authorities.
“We were also taken by surprise, without warning from anyone. We did a joint action with the state government and provided food, lodging, health (care). We kept up with them for a period, but 90% went to (the states of) Santa Catarina, Paraná and São Paulo,” he explains. According to the secretary, 20 Haitian immigrants have been working in Porto Alegre since last year.
On Tuesday (26), Marcantônio embarks to Brasília where he has an agenda with the Ministry of Justice. The goal is to articulate a set planning to receive foreigners. The federal government suspended the sending of Haitian immigrants only to the city of São Paulo.
Haitians in Brazil
The immigration of Haitians who have left their homeland to Brazil gained momentum in 2010 when a strong earthquake left more than 300,000 dead and devastated parts of the country. They come to Brazil in search of a better life and to be able to help family members they left behind.
Arriving in Acre, they come, mostly from the Haitian capital, Port au Prince, and go by bus to Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic. There, they buy a plane ticket and go to Panama. From Panama, they continue by plane or bus to Quito, Ecuador.
By land, go to the Peruvian border town of Tumbes and pass through Piura, Lima, Cusco and Puerto Maldonado until reaching Iñapari, a city bordering Assis Brazil (Acre), by which they reach Brasiléia, also in Acre.
Note from BW of Brazil: While it’s nice to know that officials will make an effort to help the transition of these Haitians as smooth as possible, this doesn’t necessarily apply to the general population. The ironic thing is, in the Brazilian south, millions of people are the direct descendants of Europeans who came to Brazil early in the 20th century for much the same reasons as Haitians arriving today. And while there are millions of Brazilians’ who will forever scream the idea that ‘racism doesn’t exist’ regardless of the facts, at least there’s one person who knows the truth!
The racism of immigrant children in Brazil against Haitians
By Túlio Milman
It’s amazing. Grandchildren and great-grandchildren of immigrants turning their noses up at Haitian immigration. Even more so in Brazil. Even more so in Rio Grande do Sul. During the week, supporting the welcoming of the Caribbeans, I heard everything. “Ignorant, uninformed, malicious.” I was ashamed to read what I read and hear what I heard. Not by me. I’m used to criticism. I was embarrassed by the past. Perhaps because you well know two stories.
The first is of contemporary Haiti. I have been there twice as a journalist. In 1995, I thought: “It can’t get worse.” When I returned in 2009, I saw that I was wrong as soon as I landed in Porto Príncipe (Port au Prince).
The second story I know well is that of my family – the same of the families of millions of gaúchos (residents of the state of Rio Grande do Sul). Wretched immigrants, penniless and full of hope who crossed the sea and the world in search of a new life. Arriving here, they were welcomed here, they became equal to other and among themselves here.
Times were different, they argue. Yes, there were other times. But the dramas and the essence of the people are the same. It is this angle through which I see the issue. The right to freedom is the same. The dream is the same.
When Europeans arrived, there was a lack of manpower. Today, leftovers. Even so, it’s impossible for such a large country not to organize this new flux of immigration. To create incentives for the settlement of less populated areas, stimulate the filling of vacancies in places where they are available.
There is another issue camouflaged in this debate. Camouflaged, but fundamental. Racism. If the new immigrants coming to Brazil and to Rio Grande do Sul were blond with blue eyes, the stir would be much lower. But they are black, they are poor, they are alone. They have strange names and speak a strange language, Creole.
The other day, I fill my car at a gas station in Porto Alegre (capital city). The attendant was Haitian. She was proud to be working. I saw the gleam in her eye. I remembered my grandparents. And I left wondering how human beings can quickly forget their own paths.
Haiti is not here (1)
Here it’s Brazil.
We have no right to deny these people the opportunities that our families have had in a not so distant past. Even if we have to sacrifice a little more for it.
Note from BW of Brazil: It’s not hard to tell. If people are really honest with themselves, people can see what is at the root of anti-Haitian attitudes! The south of the country is considered the whitest and ‘racial democracy’ myth or not, many people who live in that state are shy about their idea that are more ‘special’ than the rest of the country. We can only hope the experience of the Haitian in the story below is not the same in store for the thousands of others arriving to the south of the country.
Haitian is beaten until he passed out in Rio Grande do Sul
Courtesy of Pragmatismo Político
Haitian is beaten by three men in the RS. Joseph says he doesn’t know what might have motivated such brutality. “To be attacked in that way that was unacceptable”
Haitian was beaten by three men in Lajedo/RS (Photo: Carolina Gasparotto)
After finishing his shift at work, Renald Joseph (30) took his bike at 5 am, Saturday, 22, and as usual, pedaled toward his residence, located on Rua Barão do Santo Ângelo (street), downtown. As he passed Avenida Benjamin Constant, he was stopped by a stranger, who was also on a bike.
In the approach, the suspect asked if Joseph had a cigarette. Helpful, the victim stopped to explain that he didn’t smoke. At this time, the man called two friends and realizing the assault, the Haitian ran toward Parque Professor Theobaldo Dick (park), almost there, the three suspects were able to stop him.
Now with Joseph’s bicycle, the assailants weren’t satisfied, they ripped the victim’s necklace and also took his shirt. “I remember that the three beat me a lot, I beat me in the back with kicks and punches, and hit me in the head with a rock,” says the Haitian.
Quite shaken, Joseph says he fainted after being beaten and remained unconscious for a while. “When I woke up, I managed with great difficulty to go home for help, it was then that I was taken to the hospital.” Receiving treatment, the Haitian needed to get four stitches on his head. “I have a lot of pain all over.”
Joseph, who has resided in Lajeado for 11 months, says he doesn’t know what might have motivated such brutality. “It’s not the first time that a Haitian was assaulted in the city, but attacking the way I was assaulted is unacceptable.” The victim ensures that the schedule of his job can facilitate this type of attack. “7am to 5pm, I know that at this time everything is more dangerous, but nothing justifies what they did to me.”
1. A reference to the famous Caetano Veloso/Gilberto Gil song “Haiti”.
“Pense no Haiti. Reze pelo Haiti. O Haiti é aqui. O Haiti não é aqui”
“Think about Haiti. Pray for Haiti. Haiti is here. Haiti is not here”