Liberdade, the Asian neighborhood in Brazil

Story by: Lauana Granair De Souza     Date: 8 January 2021    Image by: Canva | Diego Grandi

5 minutes reading time

Brazil is made up of a little bit of everything, a mixture of different cultures. Liberdade, the Asian neighborhood in São Paulo, is a good example as we will see below.

Of course, Brazil is a huge country, the fifth largest in the world. Before being discovered by Portugal, there were already thousands of indigenous peoples with their own cultures living in it. But the influence of immigrants who arrived there in the past centuries is also important.

These three factors combined formed what we now call the cultural mosaic of Brazil! Each piece is different from the other, but together they form something bigger.

Here we will see and learn a few things about Liberdade, a place you should visit to experience what is a cultural mosaic. The neighborhood is located in São Paulo, a big city in Brazil with a population of almost 13 million inhabitants. The city as a whole is very cosmopolitan and diversified.

The Japanese immigration that arrived in the country was one of the most remarkable. Brazil has the second-largest Japanese community in the world, after, of course, Japan itself.

This community is Liberdade.

Praca da Liberdade, Brazil

A little bit of Asia in Brazil

Japanese immigration to Brazil began at the beginning of the last century. Soon after them, other Asian countries also came to Brazil and settled in Liberdade: Chinese, Taiwanese, and South Korean communities. Together they built a small part of Asia in São Paulo, the largest city of the American continent.

Immigrants have been spreading across the country over the years, but Liberdade continues today as the Asian core in Brazil.

It’s common to walk through Liberdade streets and hear people talking in different Asian languages. In the neighborhood’s landscape, the influence of immigration is noticeable: the neon signs and the suzurantos, typical Japanese lanterns, are eyes-catching.

Liberdade naturally attracts a lot of Asian tourists but also curious people who are fascinated by how Brazilian culture and the culture of these Asian countries have merged over time without losing their individual identities.

Places you should visit when in Liberdade

Check out some of the most interesting places to visit when you’re in Liberdade:

Praça da Liberdade

When you go out of the Liberdade Subway Station, you immediately bumped into the Praça da Liberdade. It’s a square that holds street fairs and events that gather a lot of people. On weekends the street fair is where you can find everything, like every other street fair in Brazil. There are all kinds of food, like yakisoba, yakimeshi, gyozas, baozis, and pastel, a Brazilian crispy fried pie. On some special occasions, Praça da Liberdade holds cultural festivals like Chinese New Year, Toyo Matsuri, and Bon Odor.

Japanese Immigration in Brazil History Museum (Bunkyo)

It’s a three-floor building with content about Japanese immigration in Brazil. There is a lot to see in a collection of almost 100,000 items showing how the immigrants arrived in the country and their lifestyle. Among the most interesting items are the replicas of Japanese ships and old utensils.

Liberdade Streets

The main streets in Liberdade are Thomaz Gongaza, da Glória, and Galvão Bueno. Decorated with suzurantos and typical Brazilian artistic graffiti by building walls, these three streets gather the main restaurants, stores, coffee shops, and bars of the area. If you want to take good photos, go there!

Coffee shops

The coffee shops in Liberdade are cozy and with varied options of treats. There you can find good Brazilian coffee in different styles. The 89ºC Coffee Station and Café do Sol are worth visiting.

Restaurants

There are dozens of restaurants in Liberdade, from the most fancy to fast food. You can try Japanese, Thai, Korean and Chinese food on just a simple stroll. Some renowned names: the Chinese Rong He, the Japanese Espaço Kazu, the Japanese Momo Lamen, and the Portal da Coreia with its tasty Korean barbecue. A more underground option is Sukyia, a fast-food restaurant, where you can eat lamén with fries. Fries are one of the favorite side dishes in Brazil!

Markets and Emporiums

At Liberdade, you can easily find places to buy Japanese sweets, Korean alcohol beverages, Chinese noodles, and so on. Marukai, Empório Azuki, and Korean Mart are good options. The prices can be high, but keep in mind that some are exclusive products hard to find elsewhere.

Bookstores

For those who like to read, Liberdade has interesting options for bookstores. Are you studying one of the Asian languages? Because there you can find books in Korean, Japanese, Mandarin, and others. The highlight goes to the popular mangas, Japanese comics, and graphic novels. Livraria Sol is one of the most traditional.

Jardim Oriental Liberdade

Despite being a simple and small garden, it’s a spot of nature in the middle of the São Paulo buildings jungle. Most of the time is crowded but there you can see a pretty pond with colorful carps, like real Japanese gardens!

Karaokes

Karaoke bars are a hit in Asia and in Liberdade would be no different! A few Karaokes are also botecos, a type of Brazilian bar for bohemians where you can find cheap snacks and good drinks (like Cachaça). Karaoke Box Kampai and Okuyama are two nice options.

Liberdade, Liberdade!

Liberdade was founded 114 years ago and way before the Asian immigration arrived in Brazil, the place was marked by a cruel time in the country’s history: Slavery.

Some people say that the name of the neighborhood is related to Chaguinhas, a black soldier who was murder in the Praça da Liberdade centuries ago, just before Brazil became independent from Portugal. Locals say that when Chaguinhas died, in front of everyone, the people get furious screaming “Liberdade, Liberdade!” that means “freedom” in English.

Afro history and heritage is also very important for this neighborhood, and is present and strong till today!

Liberdade is located in the Central Zone of the city of São Paulo and served by the subway stations Liberdade and São Joaquim.

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