New trends show many Brazilians in Mass. hail from Goias

Liz Mineo

For many years, scholars have studied Brazil's southeastern city of Governador Valadares as the main source of Brazilian immigrants to the United States, but work by a UMass-Amherst researcher may soon change that.

Alan Marcus, a geographer writing a doctoral dissertation on Brazilian migration, found that a growing number of Brazilians in Massachusetts hail from Goias, a state that shares borders with Minas Gerais, where Valadares is located.

"Minas Gerais has sent the highest numbers of Brazilians immigrants to Massachusetts," said Marcus. "But Goias comes second."

Most Framingham Brazilians hail from Valadares, and the close relationship between both communities was formalized in 2004, when officials signed a sister-city agreement between Framingham and Valadares, but the link to Goias is not well known.

Marcus, who visited Framingham and traveled to Minas Gerais and Goias as part of his fieldwork, found Goias natives made up a large portion of the local Brazilian community. In a review of 1,200 job applications Brazilians filed at a Framingham center between 1999 and 2006, Marcus found 50 percent were from Minas Gerais and over 20 percent from Goias.

"Goias is an understudied state in the history of Brazilian immigration," he said. "The migration corridor between Framingham and Valadares is the oldest and the most traditional one. The corridor between Goias and the United States is newer and under-researched."

The presence of Goias natives in Framingham and MetroWest goes back to the 1980s, when Brazilians from Minas Gerais began immigrating here taking advantage of the networks developed by a group of pioneers, most of whom hail from the Valadares region. The proximity of Minas Gerais to Goias helped spur migration in Goias as the news of the benefits of working abroad spread across the region, said Marcus. But Goias didn't become Brazil's second exporter of Brazilians overnight. A Goias native, Pablo Maia, who owns a real state business in downtown Framingham, recalled the days when he moved here in 1988, after living four years in Texas.

"I was one of the first people from Goias in town," said Maia, who left Brazil in 1984. "In a restaurant where I worked, there were 27 people from Minas (Gerais) and one from Goias. Now, it's pretty much even."

Most Goias natives came here during the 1990s, said Marcus. Such was the case of Fabiola DePaula, the 24-year-old woman who died after undergoing an illegal liposuction performed at a Framingham basement in 2006. She's buried in Sanclerlandia, a small town in the interior of Goias.

Goias' officials estimate that 10 percent of its population lives abroad, - between 400,000 to 500,000 of its 4.5 million residents - and that they send more than $1 billion per year to Brazil. About 250,000 are said to live in the United States.

Not only researchers are taking notice of the exodus from the state that is home to Brasilia, Brazil's capital. This week, Goias' leading newspaper, "O Popular," published a story about the subject saying, "What happened with Valadares in the 1990s has been happening in cities in Goias over the past five years."

Andre Massamba, the article's author, said of those cities, "They are the new Valadares: The cities lose their local labor force and gain investments in real state."

In Framingham, where she has lived since 2001 when she left Goiania, her hometown and the capital of Goias, Nilva Ferreira begs to differ.

"Many people have left Goias, but it's not Valadares," she said.

With 30,000 of its 300,000 citizens living abroad, Valadares is known in Brazil as the country's major exporter of Brazilians. Goias is sending most of its population to Europe, with Ireland being the main destination, where many are finding jobs in the meatpacking industry, said Marcus.

In Goias, Marcus visited Piracanjuba, a municipality of 24,000 that is quickly becoming the symbol of Goias' migration abroad. Officials said 12 percent of Piracanjuba's population lives outside Brazil. Marcus also visited Marietta in Georgia, where many Goias natives are settling down, some on their second migration from Framingham and others directly from Piracanjuba. Due to the presence of so many Brazilians in Georgia, many of them from Goias, officials will soon open a Brazilian Consulate in Atlanta, Marcus said.

Like many Brazilian immigrants, Goias natives bring hard work ethics and strong entrepreneurial spirit to their new land. Lucimar Guimaraes, who owns a clothing shop on Concord Street, and Lindamar Martins and her husband Francisco, who run a perfume shop next door to Guimaraes, hail from Goias. John Dias, who co-owns Vera Jewelers with his wife Vera Dias-Freitas, is also from Goias.

So is Ana de Moura, who owns "Ana's Shop," one of the most popular Brazilian shops in downtown Framingham.

The migration from Goias seems to have a strong religious component due to the influence of U.S. Protestant missionaries that came to the state in the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s.

"There is a transnational religious network," said Marcus. "It's beneficial to join a Pentecostal church in Brazil because once you're in the United States, the idea is that they'll take care of you."

Religion played a big role in Wando Resende's coming here. Resende, who was an evangelical radio host in his native Goias and a musical director, was invited to come here to join a Brazilian church in Marlborough. Resende, known as "Maestro Wando" for his musical credentials, came here in 2001 with a religious visa. He hosts the most popular Brazilian radio show aired through Framingham-based WSRO 650 AM.

"People from Valadares discovered America for us," said Resende, who lives in Ashland. "Most Brazilians around here hail from Valadares, but Goias natives are second. There are so many of us that we feel at home here."

Liz Mineo can be reached at 508-626-3825 or

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