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September 21, 2017

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In southern Brazil, Germany gets World Cup support

NOVO HAMBURGO, Brazil -- Germany's World Cup team is popular in the rolling hills of southern Brazil, home to of one of the largest communities of German descendants outside of Europe. But the Muellers, Hoffmans and Schmidts of these parts will forget the land of their ancestors come semifinal time, if Germany and Brazil keep winning.

"We are all hoping Germany will win until then," said Jorge Schroer, a chemical salesman who is proud of his German heritage and wants to keep hold of it. "But after that, we are Brazilian."

On Monday, the region will celebrate its ancestry when Germany takes on Algeria in a World Cup second-round match at Porto Alegre, the largest city in southern Brazil. Schroer and others said the German team could expect a rousing reception from locals in the stadium.

More than 80 percent of Porto Alegre's residents claim some European ancestry, and the city is dotted with parks, squares and wide avenues lined with grand, if sometimes tatty, colonial buildings. Combined with the "Gaucho" or traditional cowboy culture the region shares with neighboring Uruguay and Argentina, the beaches and samba of Rio di Janeiro can seem very far away from here.

Germans began migrating to Brazil 190 years ago and most settled in the south, where they endured tough conditions and attacks from indigenous people. But they soon established farms and eventually branched into cottage industries. Now along with Italian-Brazilians, their descendants play an important role in southern Brazil's economically important leather industries.

Some 12 million people now claim German ancestry in Brazil, part of a diverse ethnic fabric that includes indigenous peoples, Portuguese Africans, Italian, Arabs, Japanese and others. In Novo Hamburgo — or New Hamburg in English — and surrounding towns up to 90 percent of the people are of German heritage.

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