West Boca—Thousands of Brazilians settled in northern Broward County in the last decade. Their businesses and churches subtly changed the character of Pompano Beach and Deerfield Beach.
Now a Brazilian spillover is transforming a neighborhood west of Boca Raton.
Brazilian flags and storefront windows adorned in green, yellow and blue—the colors of the national flag—are everywhere on a two-block stretch on U.S. 441 between Marina Boulevard and Oriole Country Road.
One of the most visible signs, in green and yellow, reads Boca Brazil Supermercado.
Natasha and Mario Mesquita opened the Brazilian supermarket on U.S. 441 and Sandalfoot Boulevard seven months ago. In the same strip mall, they have opened Picanha Brazil Steak House and a boutique selling Brazilian jeans and bathing suits.
Across Sandalfoot, Mario Mesquita runs a real estate firm and a mortgage company. Many of his clients are Brazilians relocating from Broward County, from the Northeast and from their native country.
“More than before, Brazilians are moving to west Boca,” said Natasha Mesquita, based on her own perception.
The Brazilian population in Palm Beach County grew more than 164 percent between 2000 and 2005, according to the U.S. Census. About 6,596 Brazilians live here, up from 2,495 in 2000. Broward County has about 18,097 Brazilians, up from 11,037 six years ago.
Escaping from the cold weather, Natasha and Mario Mesquita moved to South Florida from New Jersey in 1999. They wanted to stay close to the Brazilian community in Broward County but wanted their son to go to high-rated public school.
“The best schools are here,” said Mesquita, who lives west of Boca Raton.
A few feet away from Boca Brazil supermarket, Augusto Novaes, 26, teaches English to Portuguese-speaking adults. About 120 students attend evening classes at his storefront school, hoping to improve their English and find better-paying jobs, Novaes said.
He opened the school—Wisdom—in early 2005. His partner, Jeffrey Lomstein, 34, owns the adjacent retail store, Brazil-USA International. Lomstein sells a variety of Brazilian imports, from jeans and shoes to groceries and Brazilian DVDs and CDs. He plans to install computers with Internet access in Portuguese.
He recently doubled the size of Brazil-USA to 2,500 square feet and is in the process of building a coffee and juice bar resembling those in Brazil.
“I want to duplicate the atmosphere, to be more authentic,” said Lomstein, who traveled to Brazil for design ideas.
Isaias Arruda is also thinking big. He plans to double his Brazilian bakery on U.S. 441 and Sandalfoot Boulevard in the next few months.
Tired of New York’s cruel winters, he moved his family to Plantation in July 2004 and briefly considered opening his business in Broward County. But he changed his mind when he realized Brazilians living west of Boca Raton might have a higher disposable income.
“Here is more up class,” he said. “Brazilians here have a higher buying power.”