Commercial mobilities in Brazil

Feira da Sulanca – Caruaru – Agreste Pernambucano (© F. Rabossi, 2017)

Distribution channels in Brazil have never been controlled exclusively by official distributors, formalized wholesalers or registered retailers. They shared the distribution channels with other actors; informal ones, if by that we mean that they are unregistered intermediaries. Through Brazilian history, several figures capture the figure of itinerary merchants. The mascate was the name given in Brazil to the travelling salesman, who carried the merchandises from production and distribution centers to the interior of the country.

Feira da Sulanca – Caruaru – Agreste Pernambucano (© F. Rabossi, 2017)

In Amazonia, they were called regatones3. However, since the 80’s a new figure appeared in the Brazilian commercial landscape, expressing a new configuration of trade mobilities: the sacoleiros. Focusing on the sacoleiro circuits, a world in movement will appeared connecting capillary the Brazilian cities to dynamic poles of production and commercial districts that specialize in the supply of imported merchandises.

Following the sacoleiro circuits: Ciudad del Este, São Paulo, Caruaru

Located onthe eastern border of Paraguay, Ciudad del Este is a huge marketplace for imported goods from all around the world, especially from China and East Asia. What started as a shopping and casino tourist destination at the end of the 1960s became the supply center of imported goods for traders from all around Brazil during the 80s and 90s. Thousand buyers traveled to Ciudad del Este to buy imported goods that they would resell at their cities. They were called sacoleiros; known in this way for the bags (sacolas) where they carried their goods.4 Sacoleiros are merchants that stock up themselves in Ciudad del Este to resell in malls, shops, fairs, on the street, or in private homes at their cities of origin. Some sacoleiros operate in wholesale circuits; others in retail. They traveled by bus, generally rented ones, but they also use public transportation and private cars and vans.

Crossing the Friendship Bridge (©F. Rabossi, 2017)


“Circuitos sacoleiros : Commercial mobilities in contemporary Brazil”, par  Fernando Rabossi 1 avec l’aide d’Angelina Peralva 2 pour la traduction, a été présenté lors des Rencontres Mondis du 27 et 28 juin 2017

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1 Fernando Rabossi est professeur adjoint au Département d’anthropologie culturelle de l’Institut de Philosophie et Sciences Sociales (IFCS) de l’Université Fédérale de Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ). Professeur du Programme d’Études Supérieures en Sociologie et Anthropologie de l’IFCS, UFRJ. Coordinateur du Groupe de Recherche en Culture et Économie (NuCEC, www.cultura-economia.org) à côté de Federico Neiburg (Musée National, UFRJ).

2 Angelina Peralva est Professeure émérite de Sociologie à l’Université Toulouse Jean Jaurès (Toulouse).

3 Mascates and regatões are travelling salesmen; the later one circulating through rivers. During the first half of the XX century, they were associated with migrants from the Middle East –particularly, Lebanese and Syrians. The itinerant commercial representative was known as caixeiro-viajante or cometa. The social mobility of the Syrians and Lebaneses in São Paulo was analyzed by Truzzi, 1992.

4 A parallel flow of Brazilian products is imported or smuggled into Paraguay by several merchants and paseros –the Paraguayans specialized in moving goods into their country through the border.


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