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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