foreword / barbara weinstein
The immigrant alighting on American shores to take up residence in Brazil or
Argentina or the United States has long received a warm welcome from his-
torians and social scientists. Typically figured as hardworking and forward-
looking, those migrating from Eu rope across the Atlantic have been depicted
as audacious, socially mobile, and prepared for modern po litical participa-
tion, whether in its liberal or left- wing variants. By contrast, the internal mi-
grant arriving in the large urban area via third- class railroad cars or rickety
flatbed trucks has not enjoyed an enthusiastic reception from the scholarly
Those flocking to the major Latin American cities from the
countryside have been judged considerably less well prepared for the de-
mands of “modern” urban life, and the first wave of social science research
on internal migration associated them with a distorted modernity character-
ized by hyper- urbanization and populist demagoguery. In many ways, this
massive movement of millions of rural and small- town dwellers to the larger
metropolitan areas, from the 1930s to the 1970s, can be considered the most
transformative social phenomenon in the recent history of Latin Amer i ca,
and in Brazil it produced, among other consequences, the most impor tant
labor leader and most beloved politician in the nation’s history, Luiz Inácio
Lula da Silva. Yet it took many de cades before scholars began to shift away
from their largely negative assessment of the participants in this great migra-
tion and what their actions and decisions meant for Latin American society.
Even as more and more research demonstrated that claims about the internal
mi grants’ stubborn traditionalism or po litical naiveté were little better than
ste reotypes, one could still perceive in the acad emy, especially among those
who studied labor movements in Latin Amer i ca, a certain nostalgia for the
Eu ropean immigrants, with their supposedly acute sense of solidarity, apti-
tude for labor militancy, and immunity to the blandishments of mainstream
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