The culture of Brazil is one of a very diverse nature. The religion of most Brazilians is Roman Catholic. Many other beliefs over time have been incorporated into the Brazilian catholic belief system such as Spiritism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Judaism. Many Catholics do not view Protestants as Christians and the vice-versa is also true. A majority of the population are non-practicing catholics and would actually be considered agnostics in many circles.
Both Brazil and the United States are large countries whose population was formed by multiple immigration sources from many countries, each one bringing its own culture. But although the Americans pride themselves of the diversity of multiple cultures and their peaceful coexistence, Brazilian idea of culture is a one mixed unity, formed of multiple ingredients, but one meal. While the ideal image of the average American is the idea of a protestant white, living next to a Afro-American Muslim, or a Jew, the mythical Brazilian is the Mulato, the century long sexual mixture of all races. In Brazil, religions are not mutually exclusive, therefore to every Saint one may light a candle to, there is an equivalent Orixá you should also name, just to be sure.
The invention of Brazil
The concept of a Brazilian culture and nationalism did not exist until the 20th century, or the second half of 19th century, (although there were some nationalist movements before it). Many researchers even say it was artificially created by some governments.
It was during the hyper Nationalist (almost integralist) Government of Getúlio Vargas, a complicated political status that begins in 1930 and ends in 1954 that many of the ufanistic nationalism was created. Vargas created the Labor day in Brazil, and promoted gigantic commemorations of the Independence Day, september 7, and the Republic Day, november 15.
The stereotype of Brazilian culture was born with Carmen Miranda, who was brought to Hollywood by the United States' government in 1939 as an attempt to create sympathy between both countries.
Most of Brazil's national heros were created during the military dictatorship (1964-1985), notably Tiradentes whose image was redrawn as long-haired and long-bearded to have a messianic look.
But not everything came from governments, the last two centuries in Brazil have seen dozens of artists from Gilberto Gil to Oscar Niemeyer to Oswald de Andrade , who though that the average Brazilian was a lover of anything foreign and decided to search and promote everything they could find to define themselves. Niemeyer, seeking for local inspiration, created the most beautiful architecture of the country, Gil, looking for its own roots, started a internationally important musical movement.
Paraphrasing John Lennon, Brazilian culture happened while everyone was busy making other plans.
Antropophagy and tropicalia
According to Oswald de Andrade Brazilian culture started in 1516, when Jesuit Bishop Sardinha shipwrecked on the shores of Brazil and tried to teach them the values of the Bible. The locals, eager to absorb that refined civilization, promptly ate him. This antrophagy was thus the first of Brazil's history. After this all Brazilian identity was formed by eagerly absorbing anything that was foreign and letting it all boil together.
Thus was with the Portuguese monarchy, American rock and roll, and even internet. Brazilians love novelty, especially when foreign. In fact, Brazilians tend only to valorize a local artist after he had had some success in Europe.
The Five Sub-Cultures
The geography of Brazil makes it a country of many faces. The five official regions of Brazil were thought to divide the country between its cultural feats.
People in the Northern states tend to be spread out. The Amazon River allows hundreds of small communities to live independent of the outside world, depending only for medicine and some food supply from traders. Indian culture is very hierarchical. Tribes still exist living solely off the river and its surrounding natural resources. Their religions usually are nature-related, relying heavily on ancestral worship. The exception to this might be the cities of Manaus and Belém which both are centers for a more westernized learning and industry and tends to appear more included within the mainstream Brazilian culture.
In what is called the Northeastern states people in the countryside areas usually live in a feudal relationship with their land owners. Droughts are very common and the whole countryside Northeast is called sertão, a short version for the Portuguese word "desertão" which means "big desert". This is the less developed region of Brazil and is often blamed by the rest of Brazilians for the country's ugly social indexes. Altough that poverty, this region is strongly influential in Brazilian culture. Several Brazilian painters, sculptors, and writters was born in this region. Caetano Veloso was born in Bahia and is among the greatest popular musicians Brazil has ever produced. Continually active since the 1960s, Veloso is considered one of the founding fathers of MPB (musica popular brasileira).
In the Southeastern part of Brazil is found most of the culture that is known world-wide. Among these there is a sculptor known by the name of Aleijadinho (little cripple). Aleijadinho was a brilliant baroque sculptor who was maimed in hands and feet. He is famous for his carvings found in the Church of St. Francisco in Ouro Preto. He is also known for his statues known as the Twelve Prophets . Antonio Carlos Jobim, the composer of "The Girl from Ipanema", is probably one of the better known artists coming from this section of Brazil. Another famous composer is Heitor Villa-Lobos. Villa-Lobos is most famous for his orchestral works such his Choro series. Samba was created in Bahia but just started being a definitive feature of Brazilian culture when it had hit the shores of Rio de Janeiro.
The South is highly influenced by later European immigration, which took place by the 19th-20th centuries. The Germanic and Italian influences are clearly felt, especially in terms of appearance. There is even an annual Oktoberfest held in the city of Blumenau. Brazilian top model Gisele Bundchen came from this region. The gaucho subculture is also very appeasing in this region.
The West Central part of the country is primarily grasslands and flooded lands. The countries surrounding it are very influential in affecting its culture, notably Paraguay. The extensive cattle economy also makes this region the motherland of Brazilian cowboys .
Day to Day
In Brazil, a person might come to your house and not leave for hours. If you have previous commitments it is understood you will break these and entertain your guests until they decide to leave. Meetings and social gatherings, other than in business settings, tend to be scheduled at times that are subject to change. Usually this means a Brazilian will rarely be on time. There is a folkloric exception for the people from Minas Gerais. They are acknowledged to come to a meeting in the day before.
- Brazilians are also very mixed in their ethnicity. A person with slightly lighter skin might be considered white. Most Brazilians have a mixture of Indian, African, and European in their blood lines. Instead of focusing on ethnicity, Brazilians tend to classify people in terms of social class. The very wealthy tend to seclude themselves. The middle class aspires to be part of the wealthier class. The poor concern themselves with family and getting through the day.
- When thinking of a Brazilian, you might envision the Italian family in their large gatherings where literally dozens of conversations are taking place.
- Also, a Brazilian couple sitting at a restaurant table usually sits side by side, rather than across from each other.
A Curiosity about Coffee
It is interesting to note that most Brazilians drink coffee for breakfast every day. In fact, the word for "breakfast" in Portuguese (café da manhã) means "morning coffee". The drink's popularity had a probable origin in the earlier days of Café com leite (Milk and Coffee) politics (reference to Brazil's domination by the "coffee oligarchs").
- Julian Dibbel is a englishman who lived in brazil many years and wrote fantastic, profound and light hearted essays on Brazilian culture, specially the mysticisms of brasilia, tropicalismo, and even [open-source software]
Last updated: 09-12-2005 02:39:13