July 2012


Brazilian Race, Ethnicity, and Multiculturalism! Part 1 of a series

Posted on Monday, July 23, 2012

Before I ever set foot in Brazil, I knew that is was a country full of colors and cultural influences like the United States. I also thought that Brazil would be just like the picture portrayed in many other Latin American countries, that being the typical brown stereotypical Latin we all know. To my surprise, and delight, I was wrong. Very wrong. Brazil was and is much more than Ronaldo and 
Carmen Miranda.

Walking though the streets and along the Beaches of just Rio, I saw every hue and combination of physical feature just walking down Avienda Nossa Senhora in Copacabana. The scene reminded me of Providence, Rhode Island, when I first moved there in 2006. Providence has very diverse population of people from the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rican, Cape Verde, Cambodia, and Portugal. This was much different what I experienced in North Carolina growing up. Typically Black or White with a speckle of Latino or Asian. But even experiencing the diversity of Providence didn't  compare to what Rio had in store for me. With being in North Carolina or Rhode Island, heck, basically all over the United States, even with lots of diversity, most people are segregated by ethnic group, religion, etc, etc. The United States calls itself a "melting pot" but really it is more like a salad mixing bowl. Many different ingredients that can work well together but never blend. Each piece can be easily separated and identified just like communities and neighborhoods that dot the US. Brazil, on the other hand, is definitely a melting pot of native american, european, african, and asian customs, cultures, and peoples. Take 10 people of the same complexion and ask them what their ethnic background is and you are likely to get 10 different answers. Why is this? Well it all goes back to how Brazil was colonized by the Portuguese. 
Gilberto Freyre

Sociologist and author Gilberto Freyere examines and describes Brazilian colonization and the dynamics of that developed between Natives, Portuguese, and Africans. His book entitled , Casa-Grande e Senzala or The Masters and the Slaves, breaks down the history, influences, and consequences of Portuguese colonization with some comparisons the the colonization of North America. Basically the major difference is the willingness, eagerness, and/or desperation of the Portuguese to from relationships with native women and eventually african women upon the expansion of the slave trade. This happened also in North American but what was eventually banned in the North became accepted, common practice in the South. Continuous miscegenation between Native, African, and European peoples has lead to this rainbow that is the Brazilian population. Most Brazilian can trace their ancestry to euro/native, euro/african, african/native background and many times all 3 are found. More recently, the program Black in America, explores are the African roots of Brazil. Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr traveled to the city of Salvador in the Brazilian state of Bahia. Salvador is known as center for African culture and history and I highly recommend this series to anyone who is interested in the african roots of Brazil and South America.
Dr. Gates - Carnaval - Bahia
 Black in Latin America - Brazil


Interview with Bruna Maria

Posted on Sunday, July 1, 2012

Introducing Bruna Maria, teacher, writer, and blogger. A Carioca born and bred. Another great interview. She talks about Portuguese Literature, Education in Brazil, and some of her favorite places. Hope you enjoy and definitely check out her blog. http://blog.brunamaria.com/

How old are you?
- I'm 25 years old.

Where did you grow up in Brazil? 
- I grew up in Rio de Janeiro.

What is your profession?
- I'm a teacher. I teach Portuguese, English and Literature. Now I'm working at the coordination of an English Course.

What is your blog about? 
- My blog is about Literature. All kinds of it. I also write and publish my own production there. I try to write some short essays about what I read as well.

What sparked your interest in Portuguese Lit.? 
Machado de Assis
- Some Brazilian authors as Manuel Bandeira, Guimarães Rosa, Machado de Assis, Fernando Pessoa, and others. They were introduced to me when I was at high school and I just loved it. I always liked to write as well and - as we know - to be a good writer you gotta read a lot. Then, I was really into the Portuguese Literature because of that too.

Favorite authors? 
- My favorite authors in Portuguese Literature are: Guimarães Rosa and Fernando Pessoa. But I like to read all kinds of Literature. For me, the language it's not a big deal. I mean, I believe we have Literature as an Art path - the language doesn't really matter to me. Then, I love to read Marcel Proust, Goethe, Henry Miller, Elias Canetti's essays, Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen's and Sylvia Plath's poetry and so many others!...

Which languages do you speak? 
- Only Portuguese and English.

How did you learn English? 
- I studied at a regular course. And as I'm a very curious person, I always try to keep learning by reading, watching movies, TV shows and listening to music. I like to keep in touch with native speakers as well.

What is your cultural/ethnic background? 
My ethnic background is a mix of African, Portuguese and Índios.

Favorite place in Brazil? Why? 

Ilha Grande
- I haven't traveled through Brazil's territory as I'd like to (yet), but wherever I find some beaches - then I have my favorite place. Ilha Grande and Região dos Lagos are great places to go to.

What is your favorite time of year in Brazil?
- I like the Spring time. I love to feel the weather that is warm but not too hot like in the Summer. And I don't really enjoy the Winter. I like to feel the sun, to feel warm, to see the sun shining, the flowers...

How can you tell that a person is a gringo/gringa - minus language? 
- By the clothes they are wearing, mostly; by the accent and by how they wish to speak Portuguese with us. And I can perceive it by how hard is the person tanned as well. Sometimes there are some tourists that get almost burned and it scares me because sunny days are definitely awesome but they can be very dangerous too if you don't walk around carrying your sunblock.

How has Brazil changed over the years? 
- Brazil has been developing it's economics paths, I would say. People are able to buy more and it seems to be a good thing, for instance. However, I'm afraid that it's just a phase, and that the real problems have been discarded. Poor people stay poor, with terrible healthy conditions as well as educational opportunities. I don't see further changes in educational matters, you know. Nowadays - you may say - we have more people studying and applying to universities, but it doesn't really mean that we are developing in science and technical paths. And it doesn't really mean that everybody has the same opportunity to study and to improve. Of course we have better conditions nowadays, but I'm a bit concerned about it. I don't believe that we have a real "solving problems" culture here in Brazil. In my opinion, the government just works on pretending that everything is going as good as it can go. 

Could you see yourself living anywhere else? (Outside your current city or abroad)
- Well, I have never traveled abroad, so it's kinda difficult to think about living in another country. But I must say that I have already considered living in another city - yes.

How do we know each other? 
- We have a friend in common, Renata. She gave me your contact.

What is your biggest annoyance about visitors? 
- The way they believe in stereotypes. Men that think that all the girls are skanks, for instance (pardon my vocabulary, but that's how I feel about it). 

Favorite foreigners? (country)
I don't have a favorite foreigner. I think I like them all, when they come here and respect us. :)

Advice to future visitors coming to Brazil? 
- Try not to know the country by what people tell you before you come. Try to get used to our real routines and life. Don't get stuck at Zona Sul, in Rio (Copacabana, Ipanema, Leblon, etc), try to visit the suburbs, for instance, try to get to know who we really are.

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