Brazil - Early Colonists from Glarus
Emigration from Glarus to Brazil 185-1857
As little as the Empire of Brazil was known to the people of Glarus in 1849, so little is generally known today about the approximately 2000 Swiss (318 of them from Glarus) who immigrated to Brazil between 1852 and 1857 as coffee pickers. For until then, the United States had been the preferred destination. A famine catastrophe in 1814/16 triggered a first wave of emigration, from 1845 onwards New Glarus was established (mainly by emigrants from the Glarus Grosstal), and a third wave of emigration was to take place in the 1980s. From 1852 to 1857, however, extreme poverty forced people from the Kleintal - as well as from the rest of Switzerland - to flee their local life, where industrialization, in addition to economic growth, brought manifold problems, where, for example, hand weavers became unemployed and, moreover, these problems were combined with rural ones such as crop failures or potato disease.
Brazil was in a difficult situation at the same time because England had threatened to stop the slave trade. Therefore, they wanted free whites for this work. The colonization society in Santos appointed a general agent for Europe in Hamburg (they wanted to recruit Germans, Swiss and Portuguese as colonists) as well as a general agent for Switzerland, who had to deal directly with the cantons. He was responsible for public relations and thus to make life in Brazil public - that is why the emigrant newspaper "Der Kolonist" was published.
Brazil was thinking of a half-lease system in which European emigrants would be advanced the crossing costs and the necessary equipment for the plantation work. In return, however, the emigrants had to work on the coffee plantations until all debts were paid off, which sounded very tempting to many Swiss communities. Since the crossing costs were covered, even the poorest could emigrate. In addition, quite a few communities agreed to advance part of the crossing costs. The interest that the communities had to bear until repayment was still cheaper than supporting the families if they had stayed here.
Thus, a total of 57 families from the Glarus towns of Bilten, Elm, Engi, Kerenzerberg, Luchsingen, Matt, Näfels, Niederurnen and Schwanden emigrated, 318 people in total, whereby a noticeable number of family fathers had previously been active in mining. Not all of them set out together, but a preliminary party was to be on the spot to report from there. When positive letters arrived, a large contingent set out for Sao Paulo in 1855. After a grueling voyage by ship, after the disappointment of seeing families torn apart in the port city of Santos and assigned to different colonies, followed a land journey to the highlands that became an ordeal. Once there, they encountered unfinished houses that looked more like tool sheds than human dwellings.
The first year was crucial for the debt and thus the future. At the same time, especially in that year, the stresses of getting used to the climate, the food, the poor accommodations, and the work were extraordinarily high, which often illnesses had as a consequence. The ideas did not correspond at all with the reality, and nevertheless positive letters arrived in Glarus (did they not admit their situation, or would a letter, which would have described the truth, never have reached Switzerland?) After the first year's accounts, however, it became apparent that most of them were heavily in debt, indeed, not even the interest could be paid, and the dream of independence had become a distant prospect.
Now they realized that they had been deceived. The project, which foresaw that the colonists could become debt-free after five years, did not stand up to scrutiny, since it took decades to reach that point. There were families who paid their debts within a short period of time (single emigrants without debts, for example), but the others constantly increased their debts, and the yield of the work on the coffee plantations remained far below expectations, because the colonists had been cheated in the calculation of their income (they were cheated by up to 44% of their earnings through false calculation). The emigrants thus found themselves trapped in an indissoluble debt bondage; they were at the mercy of the planters for better or worse.
Gradually, the pent-up feelings erupted on the various colonies (seven in all). On the colony of Ibicaba, best known through Evelyn Hasler's novel, Thomas Davatz sent letters to the Swiss consulate about the prevailing grievances; the colony of Gituba, in turn, was soon dissolved, on that of Nova Olinda/Santa Cruz a consul was sent who called in the chancellor of the French legation, while on the colony of Boa Vista a strike broke out. In 1860, as a deputy, the Swiss Johann Jakob von Tschudi, a knowledgeable expert on Brazil, visited the various colonies. According to his report he colonists did not return, after all, they had lost their faith after five years of hard, unsuccessful work and had become "lazy" and indifferent.
In 1865, when the process was to begin, the colonization company - which had stopped repaying the communal advances after the revolts - declared bankruptcy, and the communes came away empty-handed. The traces of the Swiss emigrants dispersed. Twelve families from the cantons of Graubünden, Bern and Schaffhausen were transferred through Tschudi's mediation to the state colony founded in 1861. Although this colony did not flourish either, some of the Swiss emigrants remained settled there; others sought better job opportunities in the surrounding area. The replacement of slavery by the introduction of free labor on the plantations had thus failed miserably.
Source: Lecture by Dr. Béatrice Ziegler on 11.11.1986 at the Historical Society of the Canton of Glarus (Yearbook of the Historical Society of the Canton of Glarus, Volume 72 (1988), 173 f.
Original Pioneer Colonist (Arrival in August 1853)
The first known group of Glarus colonist mainly from Engi and Matt left Hamburg for Santos in July 1853. They all went to the coffee plantation farm Ibicaba after they arrived in Santos.
Original Pioneer Colonist (Arrival in June 1855)
Thomas Davatz (1815-1888) was schoolmaster in Fanas, Fideris and Malans in the Swiss canton of Graubünden. In 1854 he decided to emigrate to America. His original idea was to settle in the USA. As a result of the positive official propaganda of the government he finally decided to settle in Brazil. Together with a group of compatriots from Graubünden, but also from Glarus, Aargau and other parts of Switzerland, he boarded the sailing ship "Kronprinz Ernst August" in Hamburg on April 20, 1855, with which he arrived in Santos on June 15, 1855 after a little more than 7 weeks. The group was hired by the colonization company of Senator Nicolau de Campos Vergueiro. Some of the settlers were led to the Ibicaba estate and others to the Angelica estate which both were in the state of São Paulo. Both colonies belonged to Senator Vergueiro where he had coffee grown.
Original Pioneer Colonist (Arrival in August 1855)
The group which set sail from Hamburg to Santos in June 1855 was the largest closed travel group of Glarner to Brazil. Most of them came from Matt and Engi.
The Beginnings of Immigration to São Paulo
(Translation from the below mentioned website Imigração germânica no estado de São Paulo)
It began in the state of São Paulo in 1827, when 995 settlers were brought from Germany, hired by Major Schaffer to serve the Imperial Government. With these immigrants were constituted the colonies of Santo Amaro (mostly evangelical) and Itapecerica (mostly catholic).
In 1837, through Major João Bloem, another 227 immigrants, mostly Prussians, were brought in, of which 56 settled in the steelworks of Ipanema in Sorocaba and the remaining 171 were employed in the construction of the Cubatão/São Paulo road.
From 1846 to 1849 Senator Vergueiro introduced the colonial partnership system (Parceria), hiring 506 German immigrants to work in the coffee plantation near the Ibicaba Farm. After a revolt initiated by the Swiss Thomaz Davatz, who demanded better working conditions, Prussia prohibited immigration to the state of São Paulo.
In 1852, 36 families from Holstein were immigrated, totaling 170 people. Of these 27 families went to work at Fazenda São Jerônimo owned by Francisco Antonio de Souza Queiroz in the municipality of Limeira.
The rest, that is, 9 families went to Sete Quedas Farm, owned by Joaquim Bonifácio do Amaral located in the municipality of Campinas.
In the year 1862, the Ibicaba Farm again received more German immigrants. There were 104 families who were mostly from Renania Palatinado and Vestphalia.
According to information there were more than 100 localities with immigrants of German and Swiss origin working in the coffee plantations in the interior of São Paulo.
This influx of immigrants introduced approximately 8,000 Germanic and Swiss immigrants into the state of São Paulo during the 19th century.
These immigrants were fully incorporated into the local population, so much so that their descendants, 3rd and 4th generations, completely forgot the German language.
Colonies (19th and 20th centuries) are listed and described on the above mentioned website.
Documents about Early Colonists in Brazil
Link to the website about German Immigration in the State of São Paulo with a list and description of the various colonies (only in Portuguese)