Southern Brazil Embraces Its German Roots
In 1861, the town of Pomerode was founded in the northeast region of Santa Catarina state by Pomeranian Germans, who originate from the north of Germany. Santa Catarina is the second most southern state in Brazil. Today, of the 25,000 inhabitants of Pomerode, 90 percent still speak German. Even more unique, for those familiar with the German language, listening to the residents here in Santa Catarina, it is quite clear they speak with a distinct Pomeranian accent.
The southernmost part of Brazil has been host to successive waves of German immigration since the 19th century, with the most significant period occurring between 1848 and 1939, and a record influx immediately after the First World War. As a result, in the state of Santa Catarina about 50 percent of all immigrants were Germans and Austrians.
This not only affected the ethnic makeup of the population but also gave rise to an eclectic culture characterized by a peculiar attachment to traditional German influences. It is a culture that has also left an indelible mark on the region’s architecture. The buildings, characterized by exposed brick within a frame of exposed wood, recall German rural settings from around 1900, but are housing Brazilians. Rather than being set in an alpine landscape, they are embedded in the Brazilian subtropics.
The German government has recently acknowledged the cultural significance of this far-flung outpost of German life, which has resulted in a renaissance of Pomeranian cultural events and related tourism. Architecturally speaking, older houses are being carefully preserved and property developers are encouraged to build in supposedly authentic German styles. Photographer Erik van der Weijde set out to capture the architectural uniqueness of Pomerode, consisting of enxiamel structures (Portuguese for half-timbered, or fachwerk in German).
Over the years Brazilian Germans have maintained their close connection to the mother country. Interestingly, many of the traditions promoted here, including dance and clothing, are influenced by Bavarian culture. Last year, Pomerode made the global news after a large swastika was spotted by a police helicopter painted on the bottom of a swimming pool at a private home.
[Research for this article comes from the website Failed Architecture. All photos are by Erik van der Weijde.]