Journey, dream and destination

Immigration Museum of the State of São Paulo

In this exhibition we propose a "journey" through the Immigration Museum's collection with the movement and paths trailed as guidelines, through decades of history without a strict commitment to chronology.

Above all, migrating means changing one's life. This change can be temporary or permanent, a solitary, family or community experience. Many are the reasons leading to the decision of leaving some place and starting a life elsewhere: financial necessity, political or military crisis, the search for adventure or opportunities, marriage or family reunion... Also numerous are the stories regarding this experience, mixed to the complex webbings of memory and the material records that have lasted. In this exhibition we propose a "journey" through the Immigration Museum's collection with the movement and paths trailed as guidelines, through decades of history without a strict commitment to chronology. We attempted to articulate the photographic and oral history collections in regard to the most valuable elements they offer: life experiences, here understood as exemplary of the course of 2.5 million people that had the Immigrant Hostelry at the Brás district (the building that today hosts the Museum) as part of a journey between a life left behind and another, still unknown.
One trait converges thousands of life stories we gather here: the experience of relocation and the first contact with an unknown future. Thus, we start our "journey" from here. The Port of Santos was the destination of the first part of the path traveled by thousands of workers and their families, either foreigners or Brazilians. After disembarking, all were conducted to the Immigration Inspector's Office, where their documents were verified and sanitary agents and physicians assessed their health status. From there they followed to the Immigrant Hostelry of Brás, in the São Paulo state capital, where they received shelter, meals and placement. The trip up the Coast Mountains was made by train. It started at the Santos Port railway station and ended at the Hostelry's station. That was the most common itinerary, but there were still those who disembarked at other ports, in Rio de Janeiro for example, or who came from railroad stations of various Brazilian cities. Either way, throughout its 91 years of activities, the Hostelry was a crossing point for many families who came to São Paulo to work, generally with government subsidy.
The Immigrant Hostelry of Brás
The history of the Immigrant Hostelry of Brás begins in 1887 (when its operation first began) and ends in 1978 (when the last group of immigrants - Koreans - is received). In these 91 years, around 2.5 million men, women and children roamed through its buildings, coming from other countries and other Brazilian states as well. The Immigrant Hostelry of Brás was the first São Paulo hence dwelling for many. Although the time of stay was limited to a few days, the impact of this experience can be proven by many of the narratives preserved in diaries and testimonials from migrants and immigrants. In general, we can define the Hostelry's activities by the tripod: reception, sheltering and placement. In order to fulfill each of these activities, departments and facilities were created. In order to handle the large number of people, a strict structure was conceived with flows and schedules, involving dozens of employees.

Warehouse / Baggage Sector - The Hostelry had a reception service for baggage, these important travel companions and essential references of the places of origin of recently arrived foreigners and Brazilians. In baggages, trunks, bags and chests were transported articles considered important for the maintenance of daily rites, such as eating, dressing, and working, in addition to identity-defining objects: photographs, diaries, sentimental or ritual items. Losing them from sight meant losing part of their personal history, and perhaps their entire possessions. Also, it was believed that these baggages arrived pervaded with disease transmitting bacteria and viruses. Attempting to minimize these problems, the Baggage Sector was responsible for their reception, disinfection and distribution.

Enrollment - The actual entrance into the Immigrant Hostelry of Brás occurred at the time of enrollment of workers and their family members.
This bureaucratic procedure consisted in interviews with the incomers, verifying the information on personal documents and boarding lists of the respective ships, in the records of the summarized data in the enrollment log, and delivering the permanence visas. Hostelry employees, such as clerks and translators, followed the procedure. After these procedures, they could use the services offered by the institution: meals, hygiene, rooms, medical assistance and placement.
Thanks to this enrollment, today we have an important set of books which documents names, ages, nationalities and the destinations of men, women and children, immigrants and migrants, who passed through the facilities of the Brás Hostelry, considered in 2009 a documental heritage by the UNESCO Memory of the World programme.

Restrooms and laundry - After the actual entrance at the Immigrant Hostelry of Brás, immigrants and migrants were taken to the facilities reserved for hygiene. Men, women and children took showers and had their clothes washed in the Hostelry's mechanized laundry. Men would go to the barber shop, were they'd get a haircut and a clean shave. After their long journey, that was certainly a pleasant moment, although these restrooms were shared and the volume of people at some times increased and exceeded the institution's accommodation limits. The modernity of the laundry's facilities was justified by the amount of clothes required to be washed per day – considering the clothes of the sheltered people, as well as bed and bath linen – and due to the concern at the time with hygiene and salubrity.

Meals - Meals were an important part of the Immigrant Hostelry of Brás routine. At the moment they arrived, migrants and immigrants received the "ranch card" and could head to the mess hall for their first meal. In total, around four daily meals were offered per person, with typical Brazilian items served, such as rice, beans, coffee and banana. Food was certainly one of the first cultural shocks for workers and their family members sheltered at the Hostelry and, not incidentally, this is one of the most remembered subjects during the interviews carried out by the Museum that today compose its valuable collection of Oral History.

Medical Service - The Immigrant Hostelry of Brás had installations and staff focused exclusively in the prophylaxis and medical treatment of sheltered migrants and immigrants: adult and infant infirmary, medical clinic, dental clinic, delivery room, as well as physicians, nurses and midwives. In their first day at the Hostelry, workers and family members were vaccinated for typical Brazilian diseases, against which these people, from different origins, had no immunity. Routine cases were cared for in the Hostelry itself, but the infectiously diseased or those in a more severe state were taken to the Catholic Hospital. Currently the Immigration Museum has in their collection a rich set of medical articles that attest the importance of this service for the institution.

Lodgings - In 1890, the Immigrant Hostelry of Brás did not have proper conditions for accommodation; each dorm was a salon with room for 300 to 600 people, many slept on the floor, including women and children, on mats distributed on arrival and returned on departure. The restrooms facilities were few, there was one faucet and tub in the internal patio to drink water and wash up. After 1892, when the Hostelry management was assumed by the Agriculture, Commerce and Public Works Department (government body), and no longer by the Immigration Promotion Society (administered by the coffee farmers), the place went through some modifications. In 1906 the Hostelry was reformed and the dorms were remodeled. In the first floors, there were six vast dorms, with capacity to house 150 people each, well ventilated and lit during the day by several windows and at night, with electric light. Along the walls, the iron beds, during the day, were lifted and strapped to the walls, freeing space for circulation; the central part was divided, by wood, into small rooms reserved for families; such divisions were easily dismounted and both these and the iron beds were important innovations at the time. All of the bed linen was sterilized by vapor machines. The dorms were closed during the day, and the only ones allowed were those who, due to old age, exhaustion or indisposition needed rest.

Official Job Placement Agency - The main purpose of the Immigrant Hostelry of Brás was to organize labor immigration to São Paulo. Therefore, it was extremely important to provide the contact between employers and employees and ensure legitimate and secure contracts for both parties, whether for agriculture, industry or commerce. For such, the Official Job Placement Agency was built within the Hostelry's complex. Inside, workers were informed about the existing positions and were able to negotiate the conditions with their employers. When necessary, interpreters facilitated the dialog with immigrants and, at the end of the negotiations, the name of who was hiring and the place where they would be sent was marked on the Enrollment Log and on the card that followed the sheltered incomers. As of that moment, the stay at the Hostelry reached its end.

Placement - When the migrants and immigrants' hiring was concluded, employees of the Official Job Placement Agency requested the Brás Immigrants Immigrant Hostelry of Brás that the necessary transport was provided. After the tickets were acquired, workers and family members would be accompanied to their places of destination by employer representatives. When leaving the Hostelry, provisions with bread and salami were distributed for consumption during their new journey. For many, that would be the last stage of a long journey, initiated days, weeks, and even months before, and having as a starting point some landscapes never to be seen again. For others, the new place of work would be the first of many dwellings in Brazilian soil. For few, the return to their native land would be a yearning fulfilled, and São Paulo would become one among many memories accumulated during their lifetime.

Credits: Story


Governador do Estado

Secretário de Estado da Cultura

Secretário-adjunto de Estado da Cultura

Regina Célia Pousa Ponte
Coordenadora da Unidade de Preservação do Patrimônio Museológico


Roberto Penteado de Camargo Ticoulat
Presidente do Conselho de Administração

Carlos Henrique Jorge Brando
Vice-presidente do Conselho de Administração

Guilherme Braga Abreu Pires Neto
Sérgio Ferreira Silva Carvalhaes
Comitê Executivo

Alessandra Almeida
Diretora Executiva

Thiago Santos
Diretor Administrativo

Caroline Nóbrega
Gerente de Comunicação e Desenvolvimento Institucional

Mariana Esteves Martins
Coordenadora Técnica do Museu da Imigração

Claudia Marinelli
Coordenadora Administrativa



Lucinea Gomes do Nascimento
Maria Christina Chiara
Marisa dos Santos
Melise Pereira Lopes da Silva
Natalia Alves de Oliveira
Priscila da Silva Vitor Dias

César Pimenta
Trajano Rodrigues
Adriano Aparecido de Jesus do Carmo
Bruno dos Santos Callender
Elisangela Maria Melo da Silva
Glecia Lopes Ferreira
Grimaldo Madeira da Silva
Janifer Martinelli da Silva
Maria Aparecida dos Santos
Maria Conceição da Silva
Maria Sandra Soares Batista
Railde Maria Lima
Rogério Vagner da Silva
Veronica Simão da Silva

Recepção e bilheteria
Débora Castequini Lemes
Drielly Gloria dos Santos
Joselma Guilherme Silva
Mariane Nunes
Simone Monteiro de Brito

Tecnologia da informação
Alexandre Jorge Cardoso
Rafael da Silva e Souza

Sttela Gatuso Desenzi Vasco
Thâmara Malfatti


Comunicação Museológica
Juliana Silveira
Vivian Bortolotti

Isabela Maia
Aline Oliveira
Ana Menezes
Bruna Marques
Felipe Pontoni
Guilherme Ramalho
Jenifer Bene Lu
Juliana Barros
Luiz Gregório G. de Camargo
Mariana Kimie Nito
Raquel Freitas
Valeria Chagas

Tatiana Chang Waldman
Angélica Beghini
Henrique Trindade Abreu
Mariana de Oliveira Keller

Ana Beatriz Giacomini
Letícia Brito de Sá
Luciane Santesso
Marcelo Alves de Macedo Leandro
Victor Marques


Mariana Esteves Martins

Pesquisa de acervo
Luciane Santesso
Pedro Malafaia

Equipes Administrativa, Comunicação Institucional, Infraestrutura e Técnica do Museu da Imigração
Voluntários do Museu da Imigração

Rua Visconde de Parnaíba, 1316
Mooca - São Paulo-SP
(11) 2692 1866
Horário de funcionamento da bilheteria: Terça a sábado das 9h às 17h - Domingo das 10h às 17h

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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