In Brazil, where most historians continue to be preoccupied with bygone days, some of the most revealing insights concerning contemporary society are provided by sociologists. The two books here reviewed are eases in point. Brazilian-born Hiroshi Saito’s study, the first published book-length scholarly examination of the role of the Japanese immigrant in Brazil, is essentially a reworking of the author’s dissertation but also draws upon his previously-published field studies. Besides utilizing Brazilian government reports and sociological materials in western languages, Saito effectively exploited a considerable body of sources in Japanese.

Part I concerns the scope of Japanese emigration to Brazil and the problems of adjustment experienced by the newcomers. Saito distinguishes three major periods of Japanese immigration: (1) 1908-1925, the so-called “experimental” years when Japanese laborers, excluded from the United States, Hawaii, Canada, and Australia, were welcomed in Brazil mainly because of a shortage of workers in the coffee plantations after Italy had prohibited her crop hands from going to São Paulo; (2) 1926-1941, the peak years, when the Japanese government assumed the costs of the emigrants’ transportation after the State of São Paulo declined to continue to do so; (3) 1946—, the resumption (on a modest scale) of the flow of Japanese to Brazil. Saito emphasizes that while postwar immigrants intend to remain in Brazil permanently, the majority of those who came before the war planned to return to their homeland as soon as they had acquired the substantial sums they confidently expected to earn in Brazil.

After analyzing the problems of adjustment faced by the new arrivals (clothing, diet, housing, hygiene, the language barrier, and the shock of low wages), Saito turns in Part II to an examination of “fixation” and mobility. Because of low earnings, conflicts with employers and other factors, many of the contract laborers soon abandoned their original employers; some re-emigrated (particularly to Argentina) but most remained and sought better-paying jobs in the cities or elsewhere in the countryside where in ensuing years they passed through successive stages as wage workers, share croppers, renters, and finally as fazendeiros. While those attracted to coffee growing became permanently domiciled, those specializing in annual crops such as cotton, potatoes, and tomatoes preferred to rent lands for the season and then move elsewhere. Owing to declining yields, many Japanese coffee planters have sold their properties (usually to nordestinos) during the past twenty years and have relocated elsewhere. Dr. Saito detects two major locomotive tendencies among the Japanese since World War II: (1) a movement from the countryside to the city and suburbs of São Paulo (where approximately one-third of them live today), and (2) a shift to other parts of Brazil, especially to Paraná. Since 1940 an increasing number of Japanese (c. 30%) have left agricultural activities to engage in commercial and industrial pursuits.

While Dr. Saito devotes little attention to problems of racial conflict, that is the major theme of the Cardoso-Ianni monograph, one of a growing number of studies of racial contact in contemporary Brazil. But unlike those written by Florestán Fernandes, Roger Bastide, L. A. Costa Pinto, and by Charles Wagley and his students, this work is concerned with an area where persons of African descent have always constituted a small minority (though a larger one during the colonial period than the authors realize). The first section (prepared by Cardoso) is an excessively long historical introduction based upon the rather meager printed literature concerning the economic and social development of Santa Catarina since its colonial beginnings, emphasizing types of occupations and social restrictions experienced by persons of color. Because of the backward economy of the state capital, Florianópolis (colonial N. S. do Destêrro), abolition brought little socio-economic improvement in the status of persons of color, although the growth of small industries since 1940 has somewhat increased their vertical and horizontal mobility.

Part II (written by Ianni) examines the status of persons of color in Florianópolis today with respect to housing conditions, educational, recreational, and job opportunities, and indicates the various kinds of restrictions imposed by the white majority upon the community’s Negroes and mulattoes. Perhaps the most revealing information discovered by the authors are the racial attitudes they found through interviews and questionnaires circulated among a sample (how selected is not specified) of 572 whites, Negroes, and mulattoes. For the answers they obtained makes clear why “whitening” (branqueando) is “a universal aspiration” of persons of color in Florianópolis, where “the barriers opposed to the integration and ascent of ‘the colored element’ are universal” (p. 174). The authors thus provide further evidence that Brazil’s much extolled “racial democracy” is simply a myth.

Both studies possess considerable merit. Saito’s is the more impressive because it is better researched and summarizes a larger body of evidence about a more significant topic. While it suffers from excessive repetition (as well as the failure to reconcile conflicting statistical data) and lacks a summation, it nevertheless provides the most complete account we have concerning one of Brazil’s most important immigrant groups. The Cardoso-Ianni study is much too long and is cluttered with too many tables and exegeses that belabor the obvious. While both works contain numerous tables, graphs, and even a few maps, neither is equipped with an index.