Organized Panel Session
200,000 Japanese farmers migrated to Brazil, primarily the State of São Paulo, through a state-sponsored migration program that aimed to populate the Brazilian countryside and establish a base of agricultural production. São Paulo elites welcomed the farmers, considered surplus at home, as experienced and modern agriculturalists. However, the 1930 Brazilian Revolution brought an end to the immigrant-friendly Old Republic, and Brazil’s new government, led by Getúlio Vargas, implemented new laws that restricted non-citizens’ economic rights. Most notably, the Two-Thirds Labor Law, passed in 1930, required businesses to hire Brazilians as two-thirds of their workforce, and in 1934, a new Brazilian Constitution included an immigration quotas, severely limiting Japanese immigration.
Using records and newspaper articles found in both the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs archive in Tokyo and the Brazilian Ministry of External Relations archive in Rio de Janeiro along with accounts from Brazil’s Japanese-language newspapers, my paper examines the effects of the Two-Thirds Labor Law and the new immigration quotas in the Japanese Brazilian community in the run up the Estado Novo. I argue that these restrictive laws were a powerful blow to both Japanese Brazilian agriculturalists and the economic power of the State of São Paulo. My research reveals that in the wake of these laws’ effects, even the most assimilationist Japanese in Brazil began to question their place in this new homeland and instead advocated agricultural settlement in Japan’s East Asian colonies.