The president of the National Council of Switzerland, Dominique de Buman, is slated to arrive in Brazil on Sunday (May 13) for a four-day visit to the country. De Buman is to stay in Nova Friburgo, Rio de Janeiro, the city that hosts the celebrations for the 200th anniversary of Swiss immigration to Brazil. Dominique de Buman, the highest political authority in his country, will be in Brazil until May 17. Representatives from the cantons of Fribourg and Jura should also accompany de Buman on his trip.
The Swiss were the first European immigrants to have settled in Brazil after the Portuguese. They left Switzerland at a moment when a severe economic crisis, unemployment, and famine were plaguing the whole of Europe. The first Swiss immigrants landed in Brazil between 1819 and 1820, from the canton of Fribourg, backed by John VI of Portugal. This is what earned Brazil its fame as a welcoming nation—the moment in Brazilian history that triggered a series of waves of immigrants that also included a large number of arrivals from Italy, Syria, Lebanon, Japan, and thousands of people from other countries.
As soon as they arrived in Brazil, the Swiss named the region they occupied Nova Friburgo (lit. New Fribourg), now a city with 186 thousand people, 140 km away from the city of Rio de Janeiro.
Fribourg is one of Switzerland’s 26 cantons—autonomous areas that make up the Swiss Confederation.
Today, Switzerland is experiencing the polar opposite of what its people were going through when they headed for Brazil and other countries. Brazil is Switzerland’s number one commercial partner in Latin America, with trade transactions between the two economies adding up to $ 3.3 billion.
Pharmaceuticals and chemicals head the list of Swiss goods exported to Brazil, while metals and gemstones are among Brazil’s top exports for Switzerland. Approximately 370 Swiss companies are active in Brazil and generate over 60 thousand direct jobs.
The festivities for the 200th anniversary of Nova Friburgo will include concerts, exhibits, film airings, and a parade, scheduled for May 16 and expected to draw over 10 thousand people. De Buman is also visiting the city of Santa Maria Madalena, where he is to meet other members of the Swiss community.
Switzerland has endorsed projects connected to the event over the course of the year. An example is the digital scanning of the city’s historical documents, an initiative spearheaded by the Dom João VI Foundation. Additionally, computers have been donated in order to help grant public school students access to rare documents, like manuscripts, books, and maps.
The lives of Swiss and Brazilian people also found their way to the big screen. Thanks to the work of the Swiss Embassy in Brasília and the General Consulate in Rio de Janeiro, young producers in Nova Friburgo flew to Switzerland to shoot short films on the ties between the two nations. Swiss directors also went to Nova Friburgo in search of Swiss qualities in Brazilian culture.
Celebrations will also be held in the European country. In the city of Fribourg, the Parc de Pérolles was given a replica of Rio’s Christ the Redeemer statue, measuring 12.5 meters high.
Up to the 1920’s, Brazil was the destination chosen by most Swiss immigrants, who spread across coffee plantations in western São Paulo, as well as the states of Santa Catarina, Paraná, Rio Grande do Sul, Rio de Janeiro, Espírito Santo, and Bahia.
Today, Brazil is home to the biggest Swiss community in Latin America—some 15 thousand people. Brazilians in Switzerland amount to an even larger number: an estimated 20 thousand.
Key agreements have recently kept bilateral relations at full steam, like the pact that brings an end to the double taxation on companies from one country operating in the other. Also underway are talks aiming at a free-trade deal between the European Free-Trade Association (EFTA) and Mercosur—of which Switzerland and Brazil are country members. As for research and innovation, a new plan of actions has been set to ensure the exchange of researchers and the support for research programs and institutes.