‘Vala-Dollars’: the Brazilian city obsessed with emigrating to the U.S.

The provincial city of Governador Valadares is Brazil's biggest 'exporter' of citizens to the U.S., so much so that the local economy now revolves around dollars being sent home by expats

dollars governador valadares
Photo: Felipe Queiroz/Shutterstock

At the beginning of the 1960s, a group of 17 young adults from the Brazilian city of Governador Valadares filed for work visas in the U.S. They were the first people from the provincial municipality — 315 kilometers from the Minas Gerais state capital of Belo Horizonte — to leave the city en masse to pursue the ‘American Dream.’

Money was not their main objective, however. Born into upper-middle-class families and fluent English speakers, they saw the U.S. as a land of opportunity, well-developed, and culturally interesting.

At the time, Governador Valadares found itself in a period of economic...

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