With President Obama Headed to Latin America the Spotlight is on Brazil
Published March 18, 2011 | Fox News Latino
As President Obama ventures south for his big Latin America trip, which will include El Salvador, and Chile -- most eyes will be watching the president's visit to Brazil. In the past few years, the South American country has boomed, like a samba-drum, into a global powerhouse and has emerged as the region's undisputed economic leader.
The Brazilian boom has drifted north and into the United States where places like Florida, reeling from the recent financial implosion, are experiencing the ripple impact from the influx of Brazilian immigrants, tourists, and investors.
"Brazil's influence has grown dramatically," Joachim Bamrud of the Latin Trade Group and Latin Business Chronicle said.
"Their economy, their currency is strong. Up 20 percent in the last five years. They can go into an economy like the American one, where there are a lot of opportunities to buy companies and to invest in local industries," he said. "And the Brazilians have the resources and the talent."
In the past year, no other part of the United States has felt the influence of Brazilians as much as the Miami-area. An estimated 800,000 Brazilian visitors came to South Florida last year and spent more than $1 billion in 2010 alone, according to the Greater Miami Visitors Bureau. And it could not have come at a better time for Florida.
Even though it has seen a recent rebound, Florida took it on the chin during the recession: It has been one of the worst states for the foreclosure of homes. There were over 250,000 foreclosed homes in Florida during July 2010 alone. Unemployment is also a major issue with Florida's rate hovering around 12 percent.
For Brazil's growing middle class a vacation home in the Sunshine state is more attainable than ever.
"Prices in America are a great bargain right now for Brazilians," Bamrud said."They are not just emigrating here; they are buying second homes." And he said that the state of Brazil's economy allows middle-class and upper-class Brazilians to afford buying condos in Miami and other parts of the U.S.
Luxury real estate had been hurting in the last few years but wealthy Brazilian investors and buyers are also flooding the region.
Edgardo Defortuna, CEO of Fortune International, an upscale real estate company that caters to the wealthy, told FOX that in nearly 30 years he has not seen business as good in terms of the international luxury market in Florida.
"The international market is 60 to 70 percent of all high, upscale residential real estate and 20 percent of that is from Brazil," Defortuna, who has offices in Miami and Sao Paolo said. "The perception in Brazil is that it will continue well into the future," he said.
"Brazilians investors are a confident crowd right now with the upcoming World Cup, Summer Olympics, " Peter Zalewski, a Latin American Real Estate analyst with Condo Vultures said.
"Given the prospects, it is easy to see how this could shape up to be the Brazilian century," he said.
The economic influence goes hand in hand with a cultural one as well. For the first time, the popular reality TV Bravo series "Real Housewives" set their show in Miami and included a Brazilian cast member.
Adriana DeMoura, who is also a Miami art dealer agrees that it is Brazil's time to shine.
"Brazilians are finally coming out of the shadow where they've been seen as a third world country," she said.
"Now the Brazilian economy is booming and the wealth is spread out. Now there's actually a strong middle class, the currency is stronger than ever. It's actually cheaper for Brazilians to come and purchase real estate and do their major shopping here," DeMoura said.
"Now it's time the Brazilian people come out of their shell and show what they're really about," she said.
Serafin Gómez is the Miami Bureau Producer for FOX News Channel.