Godói proclaims the town as “Garden City and Land of Twins.” The small Brazilian farm town has a population of about 6,600, at least 700 of whom are twins. That’s nearly 1 in 10 pregnancies, considerably higher than the global average twinning rate. The population celebrates its curious claim to fame with a biennial party held around a statue of a woman holding two babies.
Cândido Godói is an immigrant town; more than 80 percent of its residents are of German descent, and still today some residents talk to each other in a German dialect. The enduring mystery of why there are so many identical and fraternal twins born in the town makes it one of the most fascinating places in the south of Brazil. The phenomenon has inspired nonfiction and fiction books, as well as investigations by scientists from all over the world.
One shocking though questionable theory is that Josef Mengele, a Nazi doctor known as “The Angel of Death,” performed genetic experiments in the town in 1963. According to some reports, Mengele traveled the south of Brazil in the 1960s, posing as a veterinarian, and under a pseudonym conducted experiments on women that resulted in the high rate of twins.
That theory has been discredited as a myth. However, it is known that Mengele died in Brazil in 1979 and that he had conducted deadly experiments on twins at Auschwitz as he was trying to increase the Aryan birthrate.
Some residents believe the answer is in the water, in some mysterious mineral. But scientists found that a genetic predisposition to birthing twins, compounded by inbreeding in the immigrant community, may have played a part in the region’s high twin rate. The twinning phenomenon is especially high in the district of Linha São Pedro within the town.