Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

James Cavendish, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Elizabeth Hordge-Freeman, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Elizabeth Aranda, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Gerardo Marti, Ph.D.


Brazilians, Congregations, Immigration, Racial ideology, Racism, Second-generation


Beginning in the mid-1980s, a significant number of Brazilians began to leave their country due to economic stagnation, affecting the population and the middle class in particular. This event became known as the “Brazilian Diaspora” and was characterized by a type of labor diaspora that made scholars identify Brazilian immigrants as economic refugees. In the United States, churches have been one of the most important institutions to receive and socialize Brazilians. Considering that a new generation of U.S. born Brazilian Americans emerged, this dissertation provides one of the first studies to investigate the dynamics of a second-generation Brazilian church. In this dissertation, my focus is on how issues of race and ethnicity are entangled with religion in the context of multigenerational immigrant churches. I argue that the different macro-level national and racial ideologies that have developed in Brazil and the U.S. influence the day-to-day practices of the church (meso-level) and inform members’ understandings of themselves (micro-level) and the larger society.

Drawing from diverse immigration (racial schema and transnational racial optic), race (colorblind racism and racialized colonial perspective), and religion (ethnic transcendence) conceptual frameworks, I approached my questions through three main research methods: in-depth interviews with fifty-one members of the Portuguese- and English-speaking congregations (Central and South Florida), participant observation during eight months from 2017 to 2018 in two churches in South Florida and from July 2018 to January 2019 in a church in Central Florida. Finally, content analysis of sermons posted on social media by the South Florida churches. By focusing on issues of race and racism in a Latina/o congregation, this dissertation makes a significant scholarly contribution by combining two bodies of literature, one that centers on immigration, ethnicity, and religion and the other that emphasizes race and religion. Furthermore, this dissertation provides critical empirical and theoretical contribution to the field of race and ethnicity, due to its focus on the understudied white Latina/o/x population in the U.S. Findings reveal that the second-generation Brazilian immigrant churches investigated pursue a Christian identity that supersedes all others without creating the proper spaces for affirming members’ diverse ethnoracial identities. As such, congregational leaders and members do not challenge society-wide colorblind racism that is still prevalent among white members in their churches. Another finding reveals that members I interviewed from the second-generation

church, Brazilian Americans and non-Brazilians, perceive the first-generation Brazilian church as non-modern, intolerant, and disorganized while simultaneously viewing their church as modern, accepting, and organized. Finally, my focus on white or light-skinned Brazilian immigrants’ perception of racism found that many considered blacks in the United States as racist when interactions did not go as they expected when blacks did not conform to Brazilians expectations of showing respect.

Included in

Sociology Commons