Following the Civil War, a group of about 10,000-20,000 Confederates immigrated to Brazil, settling around Sao Paulo and other locations. This group of ex-Confederates intermarried with locals, learned Portuguese, and brought Southern cooking and traditions to the region.
Emperor Don Pedro II wanted to increase cultivation of cotton in Brazil, so he offered these immigrants “subsidized transport to Brazil, cheap land, and tax breaks.” (Harter, Eugene C. The Lost Colony of the Confederacy) While former Confederate president Jefferson Davis and General Robert E. Lee tried to discourage this move by the former Confederates, the offer of a new life with a fresh start was too much to resist, as many had lost their lands as a result of losing the Civil War.
According to Paul N. Herbert, writing for The Washington Times, Dom Pedro’s program was judged a success for both the immigrants and the Brazilian government, with the settlers quickly gaining a reputation for honesty and hard work. Harter adds that the settlers brought modern agricultural techniques for cotton and new food crops, such as sugar and coffee, which spread among the Brazilian farmers. Dishes of the South were also adopted in Brazilian culture, such as chess pie, vinegar pie, and fried chicken.
In addition to bringing farming methods and new foods to their new home, the settlers established Baptist churches in the country. They also built schools that educated both slaves (slavery was legal in Brazil until 1888) and freed blacks that moved there.
The History Channel notes that “the most successful settlement was located near Santa Barbara d’Oeste, where a group led by former Alabama Senator William Norris forged a thriving farming community and established a nearby town called Americana. Descendants of the Norris colony and other Confederate exile groups remain in Brazil to this day, and they still celebrate their unusual heritage with an annual ‘Festa Confederada.’ A few even kept their Southern drawl. When future President Jimmy Carter visited the Santa Barbara d’Oeste region in 1972, he was astonished to find that many of its residents spoke English with a South Georgia accent.”