Creating a Little Brazil: Café Belô as Enclave
As Café Belô’s owner, Hildo DaCosta counts himself among the 150 Brazilian-born entrepreneurs in Massachusetts. That figure alone may seem arbitrary, but given that, according to the Boston Redevelopment Authority, “more than thirteen percent [of Brazilians in the United States] are self-employed, a rate more than three times that of the foreign-born population and almost four times the self-employment rate of the native population,” his position is something to be proud of. Indeed, Café Belô has stood as a model Brazilian business since its inception, as one is hard-pressed to think of an industry where the community has a larger presence—cooking, washing dishes, or doing cleaning for a restaurant, maybe, but not owning one, let alone one as large as the Belô chain.
Café Belô, to its credit, has certainly taken this hard-earned position of influence and run with it. Where the original restaurant began with a small number of offerings and no eat-in service, all of them now boast live music in addition to an expanded buffet and all-you-can-eat barbecue (which has become a Belô trademark). The restaurant chain is unique in this way, not solely within the Brazilian community in Massachusetts but within Boston nightlife as well; very few restaurants in the area double as nightclubs.
It is this triple-threat status—as a pay-by-the-kilo café (of which there are many in Brazil, incidentally), a bar, and a dance club/music venue—that makes Café Belô, especially the Somerville and Everett locations, so successful. An unsurprisingly large number of the people I have spoken to cited the existence of a strong network as an overwhelmingly beneficial factor in their adjustment to life in the United States. What is surprising is that no one else thought to combine all of the comforts of home in one location (or a chain of five). The fact that Café Belô executed it with such success is a testament to the demand for a service like the one the restaurant provides.
None of this means that the restaurant is in any way closed off from the non-Brazilian world, however. While Portuguese is the primary language spoken in the Somerville location, the staff is incredibly accommodating and always willing to explain any unfamiliar element, provided the customer asks. For the uninitiated, visiting the restaurant is the best way to acquaint one’s self with Brazil without having to leave Massachusetts.
Return to the Café Belô main page here.