Paraná is one of the most ethnically diverse states in Brazil. It is home to the German, Polish, Ukrainian, Italian and Japanese people that helped to build present-day Paraná.
The 28 ethnic groups that colonized the State brought culture, customs and traditions in their baggage. Immigrants arrived with the promise of finding peace in a “strange land”, that also promised work, land, production and tranquillity.
Spanish immigration. Mass colonization started after the ban of slave trafficking, which increased the demand for labour in the coffee estates, especially in the North of Paraná.
This paid labour became the best alternative for the development of cattle farming, which was the main rural activity in Paraná at the time, and of coffee cultivation.
Ukrainian Immigration. In 1850, when Paraná stopped being the province of São Paulo, the government initiated a campaign to attract new immigrants. Between 1853 and 1886, the State received around 20 thousand immigrants. Every group that colonized Paraná formed colonies in the State regions.
Germans – The Germans were the first to arrive in Paraná, in 1829, and settle in Rio Negro. However, most of the immigrants from Germany arrived in the State during the periods of the world wars in order to flee from the horror of warfare. This group also brought all their homeland activities to Paraná, such as pottery, agriculture, joinery, carpentry, etc. As the cities prospered, the immigrants also initiated commercial and industrial activities. Today, the largest colony of Germans is in the municipality of Marechal Cândido Rondon, which flaunts the marks of colonization in the façades of homes, in its gastronomy and on the faces of its inhabitants.
German colonies are also found in Rolândia, Cambé and Rio Negro. Most of these groups arrived in Paraná from Santa Catarina.
Arabs – The first location where Arabs settled in Paraná was Paranaguá. Later, they moved to Curitiba, Araucária, Lapa, Ponta Grossa, Guarapuava, Serro Azul, Londrina, Maringá and Foz do Iguaçu, which currently has the largest Arab colony of the State. They arrived in Curitiba in larger numbers after the Second World War, totalling almost 10% of the population.
One of the greatest Arab influences in the State is found in the gastronomy, where spices and seasoning were incorporated to the dishes and the kibes and esfihas that are still present on the tables of the people of Paraná. Arab immigrants were mainly dedicated to literature, architecture, music and dance.
Spanish – The first Spanish immigrants that arrived in Paraná formed colonies in the municipalities of Jacarezinho, Santo Antônio da Platina and Wensceslau Brás. Between 1942 and 1952, Spanish immigration intensified. New municipalities, especially in the region of Londrina, were formed by these immigrants. They mainly worked with commerce, handicrafts and activities related to the furniture industry.
Dutch – The first Dutch immigrants arrived in Paraná in 1909 and settled in a community near Irati. Some families returned to Holland, while others moved to the region of Campos Gerais were they established the Cooperativa Holandesa de Laticínios (Dutch Cooperative of Dairy Products), in 1925. The Cooperativa resulted in the consolidation of the colony of Carambeí. Castrolanda is the most recently formed colony of Dutch immigrants in the region.
Indians – In the Discovery period, in 1500, Brazil was inhabited by indigenous tribes that were scattered throughout the national territory. In Paraná, native inhabitants were also the indigenous people that formed large groups or tribes, the Jê or Tapuia and the large Tupis-Guarani family. The Carijó and Tupiniquim lived along the coastline; the Tingüi, lived in the region that is presently Curitiba; the Camé, in the region that is currently the municipality of Palmas; the Caigangue and the Botocudo lived in the interior of Paraná. The first paths of Paraná were made by the indigenous populations and used by the bandeirantes to penetrate the territory: Caminho de Peaberu, Caminho da Graciosa, Caminho de Itupava and Estrada da Mata are some of these paths.
Italians – Undoubtedly, the Italians rank first in the list of Brazilian immigration. In Paraná, they greatly contributed with their work in the coffee plantations and, later, in other cultivations. The largest concentrations of these immigrants in the State are in the capital, Curitiba, in Morretes, along the coast and in the cities of Palmeira and Lapa, where the anarchist colony of Santa Cecilia was located. Italians also contributed to industry and the formation of labour and cultural associations.
Japanese – Japanese immigrants settled in Norte Pioneiro, bringing the tradition of cultivation. However, as they did not know farming techniques related to tropical crops they focused on fish farming and fruit and vegetable cultivation in the regional economy.
Some of the products introduced in the State by the Japanese were the khaki and the silk worm. Maringá and Londrina are the cities of Paraná with the largest concentrations of Japanese inhabitants. The municipalities of Uraí and Assaí originated from Japanese colonies.
Black Africans – The traditional population of Paraná, that is, of the Paraná of mining, cattle raising, extractive industries of mate and timber, and of sustenance farming, was heterogeneous and comprised the same elements that were present in the populations of other Brazilian regions: Indian tribes, Europeans, Black Africans and people of mixed races. However, it was also a society marked by slavery and the significant financial and social participation of Black slaves.
In the first half of the 19th century, the Black population relatively represented 40% of the total population of the Province.
In Curitiba, slaves did the house work and also played an important role in the cultural scenario of the city. They displayed their musical talent by participating in "cantos" (songs) in the square of the municipal market.
Polish – Polish immigrants arrived in Paraná in around 1871 and settled in São Mateus do Sul, Rio Claro, Mallet, Cruz Machado, Ivaí, Reserva and Irati. In Curitiba, they established several colonies that are presently the neighbourhoods of Santa Cândida and Abranches. These immigrants helped to spread knowledge on the use of the plough and the horse-driven wagon with a moveable header. They mostly worked with farming and they helped to increase State production.
Portuguese – In Paraná, after the mid 19th century, masses of Portuguese immigrants arrived in Brazil attracted by the coffee boom of the Novo Norte of Paraná, from the regions of Londrina, Maringá, Campo Mourão to Umuarama. Most of these immigrants came from the Beiras (High and Low), Minho, Trás-os-Montes.
The city of Paranaguá was and still is the city of Paraná with the greatest presence of Portuguese cultural traits and heritage. It was the entrance door of the Portuguese and still maintains some of the characteristic traits of this legacy.
Ukrainians – The Ukrainians arrived in Paraná between 1895 and 1897. More than 20 thousand immigrants arrived in the State and formed their main colonies in Prudentópolis and Mallet. They are also present in the municipalities of União da Vitória, Roncador and Pato Branco. Today, Paraná houses most of the Ukrainians that live in Brazil: 350 thousand of the 400 thousand immigrants and descendents.