Photo Credit: Courtesy of Andre James
A Jamaican Living In Brazil: I Have Always Felt Welcomed As A Foreigner
Andre James is a 32-year-old Jamaican originally from the city of Kingston. Living in São Paulo, Brazil, since 2010, he owns a Jamaican restaurant – Jerky’s Cozinha Caribenha– in one of the largest cities in the world and Latin America’s financial hub. Jerky’s Cozinha Caribenha is the first Jamaican restaurant in São Paulo’s downtown. Feeling totally adjusted to the Brazilian culture, James shared his experience as a Jamaican living in Brazil, a country where he feels welcomed and with many similarities with his homeland.
Life in Jamaica
Growing up in the inner city of Kingston was never easy. Unfortunately, like many poor Jamaicans, my family was not able to provide ideal conditions for me and my siblings. Despite our financial difficulties, my parents did the best they could which allowed me to study in the best schools in Jamaica.
Living In Brazil
I moved to Brazil in 2010 due to my receiving a diplomatic scholarship to do dentistry at the University of São Paulo. I have been living in São Paulo for the past 13 years.
Before moving to Brazil, I knew very little about the country besides the basics like language and the name of the capital. However, I knew a lot about Brazilian soccer. Jamaicans are huge supporters and fans of the Brazilian National Soccer team. Players like Ronaldinho, Ronaldo and Rivaldo have always been idols for soccer fans in Jamaica.
In my opinion, the best thing about Brazil is the Brazilian. Brazilians are extremely friendly and helpful people. I have always felt very welcomed as a foreigner.
Similarities Between Brazil and Jamaica
There are many similarities between Brazil and Jamaica. Firstly, Jamaicans and Brazilians essentially eat the same kinds of food despite differences in preparation. Secondly, Brazilians and Jamaicans like to party. We always find an excuse to party. Thirdly, the people in both countries are very laid back.
There are not many Jamaicans in Brazil. Jamaicans rarely migrate to countries other than the USA, Canada or the UK. Of the few Jamaicans in the country, a majority are students who came here to study in the public universities in Brazil.
Race Relations In Brazil
I am not an expert on race, but; I have noticed that racial identity in Brazil tends to be more fluid than in Jamaica. For example, a person with a lighter skin tone in Brazil may be considered white while in Jamaica that same person would be considered Black.
Opening a Jamaican Restaurant in São Paulo – Brazil
After graduating from Dental School, I decided to leave dentistry to enter the world of entrepreneurship. In 2020, I founded a startup company called Jerky´s: Cozinha Caribenha which is the only Jamaican restaurant in the country at the moment. At Jerky´s, we specialize in Jerk cuisine which is a style of barbeque native to the island of Jamaica. Jerk cuisine is arguably Jamaica´s most known gastronomic export. Our menu is very simple and tasty. Clients personalize their dishes by selecting from our list of sides that include popular options like plantains and rice and peas.
Since our launch in 2020, we have had a lot of support from Brazilians. Then a unique mix of herbs that make jerk delicious has been a hit amongst our customers. For this reason, we have been able to continuously survive the Covid-19 pandemic.