MIAMI (AP) - As all eyes turn to Brazil for the World Cup, Brazilians in the U.S. are also gaining notice. According to the U.S. Census, more than 325,000 people of Brazilian ancestry now call the United States home, but experts put the numbers higher. Most have come since the late 1980s, first landing in the nation’s traditional Portuguese-speaking enclaves around Boston and more recently congregating in central and South Florida. Still others have settled in New York, California and New Jersey. Here are snapshots of the growing Brazilian influence in Florida and beyond.
THE ENTREPRENEUR: DANIEL PEREIRA
It’s 7 a.m., and Pompano Beach contractor Daniel Pereira waits in the frigid Miami International Airport for a friend flying in from Sao Paulo to scope out Florida properties for possible purchase.
In good times and bad, Brazilians have flocked to Florida over the last decade. Even with their country’s recent economic slowdown - or some say because of it - Brazilians are buying most properties in cash, often by the beach or in Kissimmee, an eastern suburb of Orlando, according to the Florida Realtors association. Last year, they tied Venezuelans for international real estate sales in Florida, behind only Canadians.
Pereira loves playing host. Last week, it was a group of Brazilian civil engineering students learning about U.S. construction techniques.
It reminds Pereira how much has changed since the early 1980s, when he left his widowed mother and 10 siblings in the southern Brazilian state of Minas de Gerais, flying to Canada and crossing the U.S. border on foot. He worked as a dishwasher in Massachusetts but sought warmer climates, eventually opening a floor and tiling business in Broward County. These days, so many Brazilians live in Pompano that the local churches advertise in Portuguese, and the neighborhood Brazilian buffet carries five different free Portuguese papers.
Pereira says his friends worry about increasing crime and that Brazil’s real estate bubble will burst following the World Cup and 2016 Olympics, which will be held in Rio de Janeiro.
“A lot of people come, always asking us for help,” Pereira says. “I feel glad I can.”
THE ARTIST: CARMEN GUSMAO
Carmen Gusmao strides past the crystal chandeliers embellished with faux bluebirds and the gilded, antique chairs painted with delicate trees. She stops in front of a large abstract painting, emblazoned with Latin phrases and rainforest animals.
“It doesn’t matter the medium. I don’t stop creating except to sleep,” she says, gesturing around her studio in Miami’s Wynwood Arts District, where she does both.
Gusmao moved to the U.S. 13 years ago, part of a wave of Brazilian artists and designers helping revamp the former Wynwood warehouse district into a thriving arts scene and driving the region’s upscale home furnishing industry with brands like Orinare and Artefacto.
Gusmao straddles both worlds with her furniture, jewelry and paintings. Her views these days of the downtown skyline are a far cry from those of the Amazonian ranch where she spent much of her childhood, but Gusmao reaches back to that history for inspiration.
“Art, like life, gives new energy to old things,” she says.
THE TECH EXEC: ALEXANDRE HOHAGEN