Brazil Travel

People and Culture

Brazilian culture is incredibly rich due to the many influences the country has absorbed. The Portuguese who gave the country its' most popular language and culture, were a dominant influence but so were the Native Indians and the big influx of African slaves, whos music and food tastes were absorbed and now hold a permanent residence in the overall Brazilian culture. Contemporary writers such as Jorge Amado color the culture with tales of Romance and of the everyday lives of the people. Brazilian music has always been known for its diversity, with major influences from Spain, the American Jazz age, and Caribbean beats and rhythms. The sizzling sounds of the Samba and the world-famous song "Girl from Ipanema" reflect the heat, passion and zest for life of the Brazilian people. The bossa nova of the 1960s was replaced by the lively Brazilian rhythms and dance movement of forro , lambada , and pagode .

The Portuguese language unites this vast and diverse country, with nearly 100 percent of the population speaking it. The exceptions are the small immigration groups dominantly from Japan and South Korea and the Amerindians, whose main languages are Tupí, Arawak, Carib, and Gê. Within Brazil, there are no various dialects of Portuguese, with the Media helping to diminish the variations, yet the Portuguese of Portugal and that of Brazil is vastly different. Foreign languages are not widely spoken, though English is often taught in school and in private lessons. As for the Spanish speakers, though the Brazilians can usually understand them, the communication is not as easily reciprocated.

Introduction to Portuguese
Portuguese is a beautiful language that has a very distinct feel from the more common Spanish language. Whether you would like to learn simple greetings or how to direct a cab driver, we have listed some basic Portuguese phrases to help you.
Portugese Language Guide
Brazilian Glossary of Common Terms
Brazilian Menu Guide

The almost 5 million Africans who arrived before the abolition of slavery and the 1 million native Indians who resided their upon the arrival of the Portuguese have combined to give the national Brazilian cuisine some very eclectic tastes. They did not blend in to form an overall palate of food so much as to stay as a collection of regional tastes.

In the North, this region being commonly known as Amazonia, the diet consists of local fish, root vegetables such as yams and peanuts, and tropical fruits. This cuisine is heavily Indian influenced, and a very popular dish here is the Caruru do Par, a meal of dried shrimp, onion, okra, cilantro, tomato and dendl oil.

In the Northeast, the Bahia region has heavy African influence where as in the coastal areas the staples of the menus usually include seafood, shellfish, and tropical fruits.

Locally caught fish and beef dominate the Central West region. Pork from the surrounding ranches is another common meat from this area, as well as soybean, corn, rice and manioc.

The Southeast has distinct cooking styles, whereas in Minas regional dishes include a lot of corn, beans, pork and cheeses, around Rio and Sao Paulo you will encounter a lot of bean and meat dishes, with black beans usually prepared in Rio and red or blonde beans in Sao Paulo. Sao Paulo also has a heavier influence of European and North African tastes, with a lot of immigrants coming from Italy, Spain and also Arab countries.

In the last area, the South, the gaucho (or cowboy) introduced dishes with salt or sun dried meats and churrasco.

Fine Art in Brazil brags of strong heritage roots in the many works of the old indigenous Indian populations. When Brazil became independent in the late 19th century, a new cultural identity was needed in painting, with a search for a unique country voice paralleled in the literary and musical traditions as well. The influx of European influence brought to painting the styles of Expressionism and heavy Art Deco influences, reflected in many architectural works.

The Colonial era in Brazil produced the works of Jose de Anchieta, a European missionary, who is considered the father of Brazilian literature. The Colonial era had a lot of works criticizing the society and hypocrisies of the time and in the late 17th century the first native Brazilian writer worthy of mention, Gregorio de Matos Guerra, wrote poetry satirizing the society he lived in. Revolutionary ideas from France penetrated Brazil through a group of writers who formed in the late 18th century, including Jose Basilio de Gama and Tomas Antonio Gonzaga.

After Independence, national and romantic feelings grew and produced volumes of beautiful poetry. The two major Brazilian romantic poets were Antônio Goncalves Dias who wrote of the beauties of the indigenous peoples, and Antônio de Castro Alves, who led the fight for the abolition of slavery. Afonso Henrique de Lima Barreto was the author of the now classic "Triste Fim de Policarpo Quaresma" or "Tragic death of...", which describes the adventures of a music and literature lover within the peculiarities of the country at the turn of the century.

The twentieth century gave rise to the social novel in the 1930's, with great writers such as Joao Guimaraes Rosa. Themes of violence, repression and social censorship rose during the military regime of the 1960's, with representation in the works of Ignacio de Loyola Brandao, Joao Ubaldo Ribiero, Gerald Thomas, and Chico Buarque.

As you might have guessed from other aspects of Brazilian culture, the music of Brazil is also a hybrid of different influences, with beats and rhythms taken from all over the world to combine into a style termed "Brazilian Music." The Portuguese brought with them the instruments heard in most of Brazilian music today: flute, clarinet, cavaquinho, guitar, piano, violin, cello, accordion and the tambourine. Yet the African slaves were the biggest influence on Brazilian music, bringing in an array of percussion instruments: the atabaques, surdo, tamborim, the agogo, and the cuica. The berimbau de corpo is the main instrument used in the Brazilian martial art of Capoeira.

From all these influences sprang the different types of music associated with Brazil today. The chorro, which means "weeping" or "crying", originated in Rio de Janeiro in the 1870's and was originally the Brazilian way of playing European music. The flutist and saxophonist Pixinguinha (1897-1973) is considered to be the greatest Chorro musician. Rio de Janeiro has many places to check out this musical style, along with the other distinctly Brazilian musical styles. Check out Espírito do Chopp at Cobal do Humaita and Carioca da Gema, Rua Mem de Sa, 79, Lapa. In Brasilia there is the Clube do Choro ( which is a must see.

Music for the extravagant Carnaval started gaining its unique character only after 1899 when Chiquinha Gonzaga wrote the marchinha "O Abre Alas" (Make Way) that incorporated Afro-Brazilian rhythms. The samba appeared in 1917 with the recording of Pelo Telefone and this is the origin of the association between samba music and carnaval.
More on Brazilian music

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