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million white (branco) people (67.2 per cent); approximately 11 million brown (pardo) people (25.4 per cent); 2.5 million black (preto) people (6.2 per cent); and 500,000 Asian or Amerindian people (1.3 per cent). For comparison, the IBGE census of 2000 showed that for the whole of Brazil the levels were White as 53.7 per cent, Mixed race as 38.5 per cent, black at 6.2 percent, asian as 0.5 percent and Amerindian as 0.7 percent with a 0.7 per centre remaining ‘unspecified’. 142 Most of the non-whites are migrants from northeast Brazil. Interestingly, in 2008, the national statistics office recorded an Afrodescendent-Brazilian majority for the first time since the abolition of slavery in 1888, with a national division of 49.7 per cent black and 49.5 per cent white. São Paulo, therefore, is not representative of Brazil’s demographics and is a predominantly white state. In the SEADE/UN-HABITAT survey, the representative and weighted sample echoed the metropolitan proportions of white (64.2 per cent), brown (26.4 per cent) and black (8.4 per cent). Afrodescendent-Brazilians were the first people to create what became known as the favela in Brazil. In the late 19th century, the first settlements were called bairros Africanos (African neighbourhoods), home to former slaves without land, and with only meagre work opportunities. Over the years, many freed black slaves moved in. They were poor people economically forced to live a long distance from the city centre. Although today’s favelas are racially mixed, descendent-

Brazilians make up the largest proportion of the favela population in large southern cities like São Paulo and Rio (no data was available on the specific ethnic breakdown of favelas and cortiços). The Brazilian social context is changing: colour is now ‘self-declaratory’ in the census, and after centuries of trying to

São Paulo... is not representative of Brazil’s demographics and is a predominantly white state. promote their own white credentials or associations, increasing numbers of people are identifying themselves as AfrodescendentBrazilian, though they continue to occupy the bottom of the social hierarchy. Despite comprehensive legal frameworks aimed at addressing all forms of racial discrimination, the reality of life in cities like São Paulo reveals a racial hierarchy resulting in different socioeconomic outcomes for different racial groups. Much social science research and literature has documented pervasive racial discrimination in Brazil, suggesting little doubt that race and ethnicity can handicap social advancement. Afrodescendent-Brazilian men, women and children, find themselves on the lowest rungs of social hierarchy in Brazilian society, despite Brazil’s claims to racial democracy and strong anti-discriminatory legislation. Brazilians enjoy their reputation as a ‘melting pot’, an ‘exotic hybrid’ people, and a ‘racially integrated society’, and surveys have shown that few Brazilians consider themselves racist.

According to those who use it, public transport in São Paulo leaves a lot to be desired with the ‘transport burden’ falling far harder on the poor than the wealthy. Image: Marcelo Min Fotogarrafa Agency

Profile for UN-Habitat

Sao Paulo; A tale of two cities  

UN-HABITAT’s new Cities and Citizens series examines urban inequality in the developing world through in-depth analysis of intracity data de...

Sao Paulo; A tale of two cities  

UN-HABITAT’s new Cities and Citizens series examines urban inequality in the developing world through in-depth analysis of intracity data de...

Profile for unhabitat
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