Brazil (useful notes)

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    Humongous!


    Brazil (Officially the Federative Republic of Brazil) is, by far, the largest country in Latin America.

    The most important thing to know about its culture, before anything else, is that in Brazil people speak Portuguese, different from the rest of Latin America, which mostly speaks Spanish; though there is a Spanish speaking minority (way less than 1%) in the west and south, and Spanish is taught in schools (but again, so is English). Furthermore, Brazil's population is a mix of Portuguese colonists, African slaves and Native Americans plus immigrants from Europe, Middle East and Japan, making for a gene pool different from the rest of the continent - For example, "Hispanic" is not a very well-known group, and more people have skin tones between white and black than of either extreme. Though it is not well known, Brazil contains the most Japanese people (and descendants) of any nation outside of Japan. The Southern state of Rio Grande do Sul was colonized by Germans, and there's a lot of German influence in the culture and architecture, with people occasionally speaking German dialects on the streets, especially in the smallest towns.

    The capital of Brazil is not Buenos Aires. It is not Rio de Janeiro either (it was before 1960) ; it has been Brasília since 1960, which is a planned city built specifically for that purpose. There are about ten major political parties in Brazil, with PSDB (nominally social democrats), PT (nominally labour) and PMDB (unabashed populists) being the bigger and more important parties. All of them have been involved in political scandals of all sorts and no wonder too, as the political system tends to lead to corruption very easily. This is because all sorts of high ranking jobs in the government are directly or indirectly nominated by politicians, with the nominees tending to 'share' their gains with those who put them there. To make things worse, the people who nominate are usually power-brokers in either chamber of Congress, who themselves can only be tried by Brazil's highest court and/or their peers. Combine this with inefficient oversight from the judiciary branch directly responsible for monitoring government spending [1], all sorts of problems with the police, the absurdly long time (i.e., more than a decade) for the judiciary to finish trying a case [2] and other problems, and the results are plain to see.

    But one tip though: despite most Brazilians acknowledging all this, they tend to be a little defensive from outside criticism, in part due to the perception that such criticism may be masking 'imperialistic intentions' [3]. And, to be fair, not all politicians are bad and, after decades of severe problems, Brazil is finally enjoying a good period, thanks mainly to the successive PSDB and PT governments since 1994 not screwing up... at least, not too badly.

    Like most other Latin American states, it's a laic country, although the roman catholic church is the predominant religion (many non-practitioners merely declare themselves Catholic) with a growing Protestant neo-Pentecostal (Evangelical) population. Particularly amongst the north-eastern states, various syncretic religions which mix Roman Catholic saints and African deities together are also practiced, including candomblé, macumba and umbanda. Spiritism or Judaism are small minorities, but not that uncommon. Atheists and agnosticists are also minorities, but seem to be growing.

    Brazil's television is composed by five or six main open channels (cable TV is available for a fee, but lots of people pirate it). The most popular shows are daily soap operas, news, variety shows (run non-stop on weekends), football (soccer) matches (twice a week, at least), Jerry Springer clones and the occasional reality show. Popular presenters will often get two, three or four-hour weekly shows. Weekly serials in the popular American format are rare. Cartoons? Are seem as kid's stuff, but frequent in the mornings (sometimes with dubbed anime).

    Brazilian literature and cinema is practically devoid of the fantasy genre, and is mostly composed of dramas and comedies centered on one of Brazil's major cities (Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Salvador). Magical Realism is common, and very popular in soap operas. Also popular in soap operas are stereotyped versions of foreign countries for some extra exoticism in the plot.

    The climate is very varied. Most of its area is between the tropics, which means they don't have clearly set Equinoxes and Solstices. The northern half (area-wise) of the country can be roughly considered to be warm year-round. The southern half sees Winter and Summer only as a difference in temperature (and rainfall), as deciduous trees are an underwhelming minority of the everyday vegetation (even though most trees do look like deciduous trees - at summer, that is). Yearly temperature variation will usually not be much, and in South urban areas they usually vary by about 35°C (2°C~37°C). Sub-zero temperatures are extremely localized (in small towns) and brief, and flurries are even more so and very much newsworthy. Keep in mind this is a country with no mountains as we know them.

    Brazil is famous for:

    • Its excellent football players. Brazil has won the FIFA World Cup five times, more often than any other country.
      • Pelé, which is know worldwide as the greatest football player ever, and was elected the "Athlete of the Century" by the International Olympic Committee in 1999, is Brazilian.
    • Its beautiful seashores. Being that the country only has an eastern coast, it doesn't have as much shoreline as, say, the US - but almost all of its shoreline is beach, being as plate tectonics in the area are more or less dead and erosion has been working its magic on it for millions of years.
    • Its beautiful women (who are known for their bundas).
    • Its beautiful men (who wear speedos on said beaches).
    • Its beautiful Carnivals (where said beautiful women don't wear very much at all).
      • And other popular festivals/holidays as well, such as Saint John's Day, where Brazilians, especially those from the Northeast, make bonfires and dance forró.
        • Honestly, it's not about Getting Crap Past the Radar... it's just the way Brazilian autochthon culture is- Americans have views about scantly clad women as "sinful" or "barbaric", but in fact, this is part of the folklore of Brazil, from the times of the Native pre-Columbian people and the Black slaves brought from Africa. People with political reservations might not realize it when they see all those "slutish" women wearing thong bikinis in Brazilian beaches and so on.
    • Its also beautiful, but unfortunately threatened rain forest. Although according to estimates of the nineties, it should be completely depleted by now.
        • The Atlantic rain forest, on the other hand, was almost completely destroyed during the colonial period, and now exists almost exclusively in parks and nature reserves.
    • Its very varied and beautiful music, such as: forró, samba, MPB, frevo, maracatu, choro, caipira, axé, bossa nova, mangue beat, etc.
    • Its not-so-beautiful poverty, inequality and violence (Rio de Janeiro's war between police and drug cartels is legendary)
      • In their aid, the Police (most specifically, the BOPE) uses APCs equipped with speakers to warn people of its coming and full of elite soldiers, called Caveirão ("Big Skull"), which make FBI and SWAT vans look like cardboard boxes.
      • Crime has, however, been going down in almost all large cities; São Paulo, the largest city in the continent, no longer leads its inhabitants into fits of paranoid panic and even Rio de Janeiro seems to be averting this sad state at last, with a harsher security policy and spreading more efficient police centers in violent areas.
    • Its beautiful proposition of the Mercosul (Mercado Comum do Sul, or Southern Common Market), the most powerful Latin American economic power, centered around Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay. In the country, the organization is regarded more or less favorably depending on whether the Argentinians and Uruguayans are behaving themselves.
    • Its beautiful advanced research in biology and medicine (you know, large biodiversity).
      • Ironically, public health services aren't, doctors working for them are underpaid and people which can't pay for a doctor/have insurance spend a lot of time waiting, but this seems to be changing (very slowly).
    • Its beautiful, though only technical, self-sufficiency regarding oil - not really because the only kind of oil so far exploited is the crude variety, which can only make up about 3/4 of actual petrol. This makes it necessary to import higher-grade oil. New deposits have been found recently.
      • This is helped both by having almost no thermoelectric power, and by a good portion of cars running on ethanol since eighties. Almost all newer cars are flex-fuel, able to run on either gasoline, ethanol, or any mix of both.
        • Flex-fuel cars was a big help in ethanol consumption instead of gasoline, due to the original ethanol-fueled cars taking longer to "warm the engine" and be usable with no problem, something fuel-flex cars fixed by adding a second, smaller gasoline tank to start it.
        • Brazilian ethanol is also mostly derived from inedible by-products of the sugar refining process, unlike US ethanol which mostly comes from the same part of corn that people actually eat.
    • Being a pretty diplomatic country in its international relations. Brazil thinks of itself as the cornerstone of stability in South America, and sometimes it might even be right. Brazil has generally seen getting a permanent seat in the UN security council as a long-term foreign policy goal.
    • Being the place of origin for the World Social Forum
    • For its beautiful mostly clean energy. Around 95% of all electric power in Brazil is hydroelectric; thermoelectric plants are either used to make up the deficit during droughts, as back-up systems, or as experimental plants using biomass instead of natural gas. Brazil has no coal power plants, but its third nuclear reactor plant just went online; those plants are more experimental than practical, but they do produce some (very expensive) energy. Unfortunately, the heavy abuse of the rain forests and the practice of slash-and-burn agriculture - which are illegal, but go over underfunded government agencies - somewhat makes up for it, slinging Brazil higher into the pollution rating. Regardless, the country makes money by selling carbon credits, and just like many nations has signed into the Kyoto Protocol.
      • Also, one of the most polluted cities in the world, Cubatão, is located in the state of São Paulo.
        • They have done a great work in diminishing the pollution in Cubatão. Most of the damage is reversed, and mostly all the smoke you see from the factories' chimneys comes from water.
    • Also, it is very likely that Brazil was discovered before the USA not only officially (by Portugal, if it is the case, who then decided to keep secret until Christopher Columbus ruined their plans), but "extra-officially" it may have been discovered time and again by the: Vikings, Romans, Greek, Phoenicians and even the Irish! All thanks to an ocean current that parts from the exit of the Mediterranean straight to Brazil's coast.
    • Also noteworthy is that it is the only American country which became an Empire for a lasting period of time[4]. It even lasted more than half a century (1822-89) and is partially responsible for its large territory (Portugal ensured most of it by aggressive colonization and quite a bit of treaty-breaking). Brazil had two Emperors.
    • In recent years, Brazilians have become somewhat known for their fondness of Sega (sometimes to levels of Germans Love David Hasselhoff).
      • You see, all of the Sega consoles were published in Brazil by Tectoy. They also ported Game Gear games to the Master System, and made translations to some games, among them, the Phantasy Star series. They also made their own games, and made hacks to others. Because of this, Sega consoles and games were always very successful in Brazil - so much so, to this day, the Master System and Sega Genesis are still regularly commercialized (only they come in X-in-1 game paks with many of the consoles' past hits). One wonders, though, why they decided to give the Master System a Genesis-like six-button controller...
    • During the 2010 FIFA World Cup, a number of Brazilians started to tweet Cala Boca Galvao ("Shut up Galvao") as a criticism to Brazilian commentator Galvão Bueno. Non-Portuguese speakers misinterpreted this as meaning "Save the Galvao" and assumed it was some sort of environmentalist campaign. Brazilians decided to perpetuate this misconception, up to Memetic Mutation status, and spread rumors that Lady Gaga was releasing a song titled "Cala Boca Galvao".
      • Actually it went ahead of only spreading some rumors about it to the point of this "official-sounding ad of the campaign".
      • "Twitter is free. Seeing the foreigners asking 'Who is Cala Boca Galvao': Priceless."
      • Brazilians are fond to spread every misconception and false information about theirs own culture and language if the rule of funny applies. Take everything a Brazilian taught about the meaning of some obscure Portuguese word with a grain of salt. If the said Brazilian insists that some string of words is a very polite way to introduce yourself to strangers, take note; actually is a very offensive curse idiom. Maybe this trope born in an old routine in a famous TV show, A praça é nossa, where a poor German (played by Jô Soares), with a poor grasp of the Portuguese, are made the butt of the joke. Kelly Key, a Brazilian pop singer, has admitted doing the same with her north American manager, on the talk show of the same Jô Soares.
    • Names: One of the main things about Brazil is that many people have informal nicknames. For example, former president Luiz Inácio da Silva is generally just "Lula"; even the press will call him just "Presidente Lula" (he actually had it legally incorporated into his name), and his successor Dilma Rousseff is just "Dilma". Also, Brazilian names tend to go to three or more words, because as rule of thumb both parents pass their last names forward with the child, not only the father - and the mother can register only in her name too.
      • Calling people by surnames is almost never an indicative of being formal or polite. Most often, this happens because there are more people who go by the same given name and surnames are used as surrogate names to avoid ambiguity when a nickname can't be earned.
      • But some of these, like "da Silva" and "de Oliveira", or are composed surnames, directly correlate to German "von" and Dutch "van"/"van der" as in "von Braun" or "van Helsing". Unlike these counterparts, they're stipped when out of context: "Mr. Silva" is valid, "Mr. Da Silva" is not.
        • Literally, in archaic and modern Portuguese, respectively, "da Silva" and "de Oliveira" literally mean "of the forest" and "of the olive tree," and aren't so much related to land ownership or specific places. Often, they're "generic" Christian names given to slaves in substitution for their original African names.
          • And to an even deeper root, they gave the same surname for converted Jews in Portugal back in the Middle Ages, so, expect many people with these surnames, but Jewish features.
        • A relatively new trend (mostly shared by poor families) is to give their children "exotic" names. Mostly consist of poorly spelled American names (with as many double consonants, w's and y's that can be thrown in), but there are also the Brazilian and American celebrity stage names.
    • Brazilians don't know anything about the Wright brothers. To them, the inventor of the airplane is Alberto Santos Dumont! Specifically: The Wright brothers' flier was catapulted into flight, and the only documentation of its flight was their own account. Santos Dumont's flight was in a self-powered craft, and had many viewers. It was also photographed. Since the flight took place in France, the French are also aware of this - Dumont spent many years in France constructing various types of balloons and airships, as well as the first commercially produced aircraft, the Demoiselle.
    • The Dance Battler martial art capoeira was developed in Brazil. In action films, if there's a Brazilian, expect him to be a capoeirista.
    • Placing some beautiful cultural value in lateral thinking and in the harmless bending of rules. Brazilians are fond of a mix of ingenuity and trickery known as the "jeitinho brasileiro" - the "Brazilian fix", in a non-literal translation. This actually saved lives during the Brazilian participation in WWII - our soldiers learned to coat their boots with newspaper and straw, preventing hypothermia, while soldiers of other countries paid much more for (or went without) special equipment that delivered much less. The figure of the 40s "Malandro" (Scoundrel) is romanticized in several works, and, in the few Brazilian works that have a law enforcement agent as the protagonist, pretty much none is a By-The-Book Cop.

    Oh, and it's got pretty much nothing in common with the Terry Gilliam movie Brazil, besides the damned bureaucracy. Terry Gilliam said in an interview that the name was taken from the bouncy big band number that plays several times in the movie. He also admitted that it didn't matter what country people thought it was about, bureaucracy is bureaucracy.

    • The "big band number" is, in fact, Aquarela do Brasil, which was composed by Brazilian samba composer Ary Barroso, and has had many re-interpretations of it recorded in the English-speaking world.
    • Let me count the nothings: bureaucracy, police abuse, torture, authoritarian government (1964-1985, during the Brazilian dictatorship), inefficient public service. Yeah, nothing in common.

    The law is alternately liberal and conservative: the death penalty is unconstitutional (except during warfare), but abortions are restricted; gun possession is regulated but more liberal than in European countries; gay marriage has just begun to be considered; and you get to go to special (much less screwed up) prisons if you got a superior degree. Laws in Brazil change very slowly, as they have to move their way through Congress like molasses running uphill in July (Which, of course, is winter in Brazil). Also, while Brazil is a federal democracy much like the US, the states have much more limited legislative powers, with federal laws taking precedence over state, and state over municipal. Judges generally have considerably more power to emit potentially insane judicial orders, however. In spite of that, Brazil is a civil law country, unlike the US. Interpretation of the law or judicial custom is not binding; only the written, stamped, signed law is binding.

    The Brazilian flag[edit | hide | hide all]

    Flag of Brazil.svg

    The writing on the white stripe means "order and progress". Brazil can seemingly only achieve one of them at a given time. It was a Banana Republic when the former was last achieved (1964-1984). Luckily, right now, it is achieving the latter. Considering that we're actually achieving progress and that order landed us into a fascist Dystopia of a state, while failing utterly to alleviate crime or develop anything at all except for torture technology (To the point of exporting it at that time, just in case you were in doubt if they were evil), order is overrated anyways.


    Brazilian works in this wiki:[edit | hide]

    1. the TCU, the members of which are directly nominated by the same politicians they monitor!
    2. no small part due to the amazing amounts of appeals anyone can have, it being not rare at all for a mundane case to reach the Supreme Court!
    3. This perception does have some historical basis as the military coup in Brazil in 1964 and the horrid dictatorship that followed did receive tacit support from the US government, although the level of direct intervention never reached that of Central America countries
    4. Mexico was an empire 1821-23 and 1864-67, and Haiti 1804-06 and 1849-59, but as you can see, they didn't exactly stick