Transnationalism in Surinam: Brazilian Migrants in Paramaribo

Type Working Paper
Title Transnationalism in Surinam: Brazilian Migrants in Paramaribo
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2006
A new flow of migrants is rapidly changing the population of the Guianas. In
less than a decade, Brazilians have become a significant group in Surinam, a country
with, according to the latest census, a total population of only 487,024 inhabitants
(Censuskantoor 2005).] It is estimated that between 15,000 and 40,000
Brazilians have found a home in the country, mostly since 1995. The large majority
of these migrants came to prospect for gold in the forest, but increasing
numbers now live in Paramaribo (the capital), where a part of the Tourtonne
neighborhood is now known as Belenzinho—which is a diminutive form of
Belém, the capital of the state of Pará in the north of Brazil and the hometown
of many of the new inhabitants.
The influx of Brazilian migrants is also considerable in the bordering
Guianas, although exact numbers are lacking. While the contacts between the
Guianas and Brazil are not entirely new, the scale of this influx of Brazilians is unprecedented.
This recent migration has added to the already ethnically plural population
of the three Guianas. In Surinam, for example, the Brazilians have to make
a place for themselves among Hindus (East Indian, 37%), Afro-Surinamese (31%),
Javanese (15%), five Amerindian peoples (totaling 3%), Chinese (2%) and Europeans
(1%) (Baines 2003:10).2 As several migrants mentioned during our conversations:“We
think Brazil has a great variety of ethnic groups, but in Surinam there
are many more different peoples.”

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