Finnish Brazilian (Portuguese: Fino-brasileiro or Portuguese: Finlandês-brasileiro) is a Brazilian person of full, partial, or predominantly Finnish ancestry, or a Finnish-born person residing in Brazil.
In 1906, the first Finnish immigrants seem to have been sailors who went ashore especially in the port of Rio de Janeiro. From the close of the 19th century onwards, we also hear about Finnishengineers and technicians who worked in constructing railways in Brazil. In 1908, a small Finnishcolony was founded, comprising about 20 families. Then in 1909–1910, a group of Finns from northern Sweden and northern Finland emigrated to the southern part of Brazil (Rio Grande do Sul). In the inter-war years, somewhere around one thousand Finns immigrated to Latin America, mainly to Brazil and Argentina. Especially from the year 1924, Colonia Finlandesa in Argentina received new emigrants from eastern Finland. In Brazil, a utopian social experiment, Penedo, was started in 1929.
After World War II, immigration from Finland to Latin America continued, but to a smaller degree than before. According to Finnish official statistics, about 500 immigrants left for Latin American countries. Venezuela then became a new country to Finnish emigration. In the course of time small Finnish colonies have sprung up within some of South America's major cities, especially in São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires and Caracas. Here, however, we must distinguish between true emigrants and the occasional Finnish resident in Latin American countries for diplomatic service or business.
Penedo is a small village with a curious history. It is located right next to Parque Nacional do Itatiaia. Penedo was settled by Finnish immigrants in 1929. The founder of the settlement, Toivo Uuskallio, came here with a small group of like-minded fellows, and they had prosaic plans in mind. His idea was to build a community that would live in peace with nature, and the precepts included a strict vegan diet, with no foods of animal origin. He arrived in the city of Rio with his wife Liisa. They were marveled with the lush natural beauty of the state. After taking some Portuguese lessons (reportedly at Berlitz), he ended up going by train to nearby Barra Mansa. From there he started exploring the region, visiting farms and properties in Rio and neighboring states.
He finally visited Fazenda Penedo, then owned by the São Bento Monastery. With 3,500 hectares, it was crisscrossed by fresh water springs and rivers, that were distributed along several altitudes. He could use the large Casa Grande, the main house in the farm, to accommodate his group. He envisioned that the area would allow them to grow both European and tropical flora. He was not aware that the former use of the farm as a coffee plantation had basically drained the most substantial nutrients from the soil, and that saúvaants were to cut the plants. In 1929, he purchased the property, and a second group of settlers arrived. After working on the land, they were finally able to plant corn, yams, bananas, flowers, and loofah. By 1935 most settlers had their own individual houses. Women took care of the laundry, cooking and vegetablegardens, while men tended the earth, planted and negotiated the crops. Many of the settlers did not adapt well to the new country, and returned home to Finland. When things got ugly with World War II some of them came back to Brazil. The strict vegan philosophy was no longer prevalent, though, and fowl, pig and dairy farming were gradually introduced. Tourism became an alternative. Liisa Uuskallio was the pioneer, using the spacious Casa Grande. Penedo is where Brazilians were introduced to the Finnish sauna. Guests could enjoy the healthy lifestyle, delicious food and fresh-baked breads, and relax in the river. Clube Finlandês opened doors in 1943. Massages and treatments were incorporated into the attractions for visitors. It could be considered the grandfather of today's spas. In 1970, electricity reached the village, and 1980 the first phones were installed.
The Scandinavian style of the houses has been preserved, and the village has kept its European charm. With a number of talented local artisans, handcraft and carpets (Ryijy and Raanu) are offered in local stores for very attractive prices. Decorative candles, hand-woven blankets and throws are also part of the Finnish legacy. As the descendants of the immigrants stopped growing loofah in the 70's, the traditional bathing gloves, sandals, dolls and other items are no longer available. To compensate, food specialties such as fruit preserves, chutney, home-made chocolates and ice cream are well known for excellent quality. In addition to nature lovers and gourmets, Penedo is popular with adventure seekers. Rappelling, mountaineering and horseback riding are among the options. If you would rather take things a little more lightly, enjoy the nature trails, waterfalls, go for a few laps in the river, breathe the fresh mountain air.