Society

The forgotten black history of São Paulo’s “Japantown”

The São Paulo area of Liberdade is one of the largest Japanese communities outside of Japan, but few people it began as a black district

são paulo liberdade asian district
Liberdade neighborhood, in São Paulo. Photo: Alf Ribeiro/Shutterstock

São Paulo, Brazil’s biggest city, turns 467 years old today. The history of this sprawling — and seemingly never-ending — metropolis is intrinsically linked to migration. From the arrival of the British and Americans to kickstart industrialization in the mid-1800s, passing through the waves of European and East Asian laborers in the post-slavery period, all the way up to today’s growing communities of migrants from crisis-ridden nations in Africa, South America, and the Caribbean.

A prime example is the central São Paulo neighborhood of Liberdade, known for being one of the world’s biggest Japanese communities outside of Japan itself.

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