Brazilians in San Diego to Study and Play

“The Census states most authoritatively 3,091 Brazilians live in San Diego. But the fine print says plus or minus 962. So exact and yet, so … so inexact.

Sergio Machado who came to San Diego for a few weeks in 1987, fell in love and has stayed for 24 years guesses around 5,000. He says similar weather and surfing conditions to Brazil draw many to the beach communities. Lots come to study, as he eventually did, at San Diego State or other colleges and end up staying, he added.

Paulo Batuta, producer of Brazilian Day, looking out over his crowded and very successful event, and in an expansive mood estimates there are as many as 30,000 Brazilians in San Diego.

It isn’t the number that’s important, says Claudia Lyra of the Brazilian Cultural Center in Point Loma. “It is their passion for the culture,” she says, “how they treat each other as brothers and sisters.” She adds to that, enthusiasm for music, dance, the Capoeira martial arts, even soccer.

One of her Portuguese language students, Michigan native Lindsey Brown, was drawn to the culture by a boyfriend and stayed for that familial feeling. “Claudia is passionate about all aspects of the culture. Her lessons turn into conversations about the people, culture, music and life,” says Brown.

When she wraps up her masters degree at University of San Diego she wants to go to school in Brazil and work in the poorest sections of its cities.

Pastor Roberto Marques of the fledgling Foursquare Gospel Church, which ministers to Brazilian Pentecostals, estimates 12,000 of his fellow citizens are in the county. His church draws followers from Vista, Poway and el Cajon as well as San Diego.

Most Brazilians are concentrated on the East Coast and Florida, he says. That’s where they go to work. They come to California, he said with a smile, to study and play.

Don’t tell that to Gabriela Dedolph, a petite blonde whirlwind of energy and enterprise from Carmel Valley. With her American husband, James, she has launched a Brazilian real estate agency, a Brazilian business yellow pages and a Brazilian family play group, with 150 members.

Brazilian population in San Diego? “It’s large,” said James as his wife dashed about with arms filled with Brazilian flags for the parade. “Just look around.” – Source

My Take

I used to live in San Diego towards the beginning of my studies on Brazilian culture and while I wouldn’t say there’s 12,000 Brazilians as the Pastor suggests, there very well could be around 5,000. It’s not hard to see why Brazilians love San Diego and it’s definitely not hard to find yourself hearing a familiar accent on the bus and trolley lines while passing through certain neighborhoods. There are Brazilian nights at clubs, Brazilian delis, Brazilian…well, just about anything you can think of. The trick is knowing the secret handshake to gain access into the community ; ) As I find true in most US cities where Brazilians are, there’s a difference between being invited to a party or two and being thought of as “one of the guys”.  While US Brazilians maintain their openness in social situations, it takes some work to enter their community (just like any other foreign community in the US). Have any of you had similar or non-similar experiences?

More Info

NaCalifa (San Diego Brazilian Community)

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