Brazilian Culture Header

The People and Their Customs

A Brief History
Brazil is a nation made up of a plethora of different people from around the world. Originally populated by native, indigenous people, the Portuguese were the first Europeans to arrive and settle in Brazil in 1500. Some time after that, around 1850, other Europeans began coming and settling in Brazil. Soon after the Portuguese arrived, they began importing slaves from Africa to use on their plantations. The colonial period in Brazil bears some similarities to that of the US. The slave trade continued until 1850 when it was abolished.

Over the past 150 years all of these different nationalities have intermingled to create a culturally complex society. One main function of the PR practitioner is to properly identify the target audience of the company or firm he or she is working for. Without understanding some of Brazil's most basic history and, most importantly, its people, the PR practitioner would not be able to perform at the level needed, and the company or firm would suffer.

A Brief Historical Timeline

Brief Timeline

The People
The people of Brazil share a rich and diverse ancestry, however, this diversity leads to problems with racial classification. "The Portuguese colonists who settled Brazil had a more relaxed attitude toward interracial relationships than other Europeans and often intermarried with Africans and Native Americans" (Brazil). As a result of this intermarrying, the Brazilian census has more than 100 colors to choose from such as, "preto (black), escuro (dark), mulato escuro (dark brown), or mulato claro (light brown)" (Brazil). Citizens sometimes have problems choosing which color they are, which leads to problems of racial identity. Also, due to racial discrimination, many people will mark themselves as lighter when filling out the census, not being completely honest, in order to feel lighter and possibly avoid any undue dicrimination. "Racial classification often reflects an individualís economic or social standing. For example, a Brazilian of mixed racial heritage who has done well economically may be classified as white" (Brazil).

It cannot be stressed hard enough how important it is for a PR practitioner, or any foreign businessman, to study and understand the problems that could exist if he or she tried to market to only a small sector of the population. Since brazilians often have trouble identifying with a race or color it is almost impossible to market to a particular one. Instead, businesses often market to a particular social class.

The Language Unlike the rest of South and Central America, the people of Brazil do not speak Spanish. They speak Portuguese. Making a mistake in this, one of the most simple areas, could hurt the reputation of even the most reputable or credible PR professional. Besides, for a PR practitioner to do his job correctly, that is, communicate with the public and arouse a change in behavior, he or she must at least be aware of which language(s) is(are) spoken.

Soccer, Samba, and Carnival !
Though there are many differences between the races and social classes of Brazil, there are certain things that all Brazilians have in common.

To begin with, soccer, or futebol in Portuguese, is their national pastime. "Soccer is the most popular sport, played in the massive stadiums of the big cities and as recreation" (Brazil). Everyone, from the rich to the extreme poor, eats, breathes, and sleeps soccer. A person cannot go more than a city block without seeing someone, or a group, in a mock game of soccer. Brazil has won five World Cup titles, more than any other country in the world. They truly take pride in their pastime !

The most popular dance in Brazil is Samba. "The dance known as the Samba emerged in the favelas (shantytowns) of the city" (Brazil). Samba celebrates many facets of Brazil's African heritage. There are massive schools in Brazil that teach Samba in large groups to prepare for their roles in Carnival, when there are huge competitions between the different Samba schools. They perform in Sambadromos, which are like open air stadiums in the street, where the performers dance and parade their skills. Dancers adorn themselves in extravegant, brightly colored costumes to compete for the title of "Best School."

Carnival is a celebration that takes place in the streets, mostly, throughout many large cities in Brazil. "Carnival begins on the Friday before Ash Wednesday and lasts for five days" (Brazil). It is a celebration of life that originated in Europe as a means for the people of a tribe or villiage to get together and dance and eat in order to drive off the evil spirits for another year and celebrate all they had reaped during the previous year.

Carnival was introduced to Brazil through the Italian immigrants. They had celebrated it in their homeland and brought the Carnival custom to Brazil. It was not widely celebrated as it is today, through the large parades, traditional music, and two or three day-long festivals until the 1930s, when, along with the Samba, it emerged from the favelas.

In Summary
As you can see, in just this brief introduction to Brazil and its people, there exists a multitude of challenges that a PR practitioner must face when working in Brazil with the various publics (internal and external). He or she must be careful not to insult or exclude any group of people unknowingly due to his or her own ignorance. Brazil is a very socially and culturally complex and diverse country, which needs to be treated as such by all professionals.

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