Migration and the Making of Industrial São Paulo

Paulo Fontes

Published in 2008 and winner of the 2011 Thomas E. Skidmore Prize, Paulo Fontes’s Migration and the Making of Industrial São Paulo is a detailed social history of São Paulo’s extraordinary urban and industrial expansion. Fontes focuses on those migrants who settled in the suburb of São Miguel Paulista, which grew from 7,000 residents in the 1940s to over 140,000 two decades later. Reconstructing these migrants’ everyday lives within a broad social context, Fontes examines the economic conditions that prompted their migration, their creation of an integrated identity and community, and their efforts to gain worker rights. Fontes challenges the stereotypes of Northeasterners as culturally backward, uneducated, violent, and unreliable, instead seeing them as a resourceful population with considerable social and political resolve. Fontes’s investigations into Northeastern life in São Miguel Paulista yield a fresh understanding of São Paulo’s incredible and difficult growth while outlining how a marginalized population exercised its political agency.


Editorial Reviews

“Fontes offers an unprecedented closeup account of Brazil’s most crucial yet understudied mass movements of people: the migration of thousands of impoverished rural northeasterners to the country’s burgeoning industrial centers in the mid-20th century. . . . By centering the complexity of this important working population, Fontes contributes a fresh perspective on the vital processes of urbanization and labor activism that defined and continues to shape this crucial South American powerhouse. Highly recommended.”
(B. A. Lucero Choice)

Migration and the Making of Industrial São Paulo offers critical tools for understanding not just the understudied period of migration it takes as its subject. It should encourage us to take seriously the continuation of the cycles of poverty, unemployment, and uneven development—often stratified along lines of class and race—that drive ordinary people to leave behind everything they have ever known in search of something better.”
(Baird Campbell Cosmologics 2017-01-17)

“[T]his is an outstanding book that enriches our understanding of the Latin American working class during the Cold War era…. [T]he masterly incorporation of the voices of the many men and women who worked and lived in São Miguel provides a genuinely bottom-up approach and a rich social history.”
(Àngela Vergara Journal of Latin American Studies 2017-06-21)

“A superb study of migration, adaptation, the interplay of ethnic and class identity, popular politics, and a particular pattern of postwar development in São Paulo. To begin with, the methodology is both solid and creative. . . . Its bottom-up approach, street-level perspective, and multi-faceted analysis enhances our understanding of issues usually discussed in the abstract.”
(José C. Moya Canadian Journal of History 2018-12-17)

“More than a careful historiographic investigation of Sao Paulo from the 1940s to the 1960s, Migration and the Making of Industrial Sao Paulo is a solid theoretical-methodological construct, mandatory reading for those social scientists and intellectuals of diverse academic fields who wish to better acquaint themselves with Brazil and to investigate the vicissitudes and legacies of those who built the great cities of Latin America.”
(Nadya Araujo Guimaraes HAHR 2019-02-01)

“Paulo Fontes’s excellent scholarship and strong narrative sense make Migration and the Making of Industrial São Paulo a book that should be widely read.”
(Jeffrey Lesser, author of Immigration, Ethnicity, and National Identity in Brazil, 1808 to the Present)

“Paulo Fontes’s work stands out as the best book in the current surge in research about the Brazilian working class. Fontes challenges the received wisdom of previous generations of scholars and presents an integrated study of the complex interactions of race, gender, social origins, and political processes among those who migrated to São Paulo. Migration and the Making of Industrial São Paulo makes for an enjoyable and accessible read for students and scholars of Brazilian history, modern Latin America, and labor history alike.”
(James N. Green, author of We Cannot Remain Silent: Opposition to the Brazilian Military Dictatorship in the United States)

Published on 06/05/2008
Duke University Press