8 Myths About Brazil That Foreigners Get Wrong

by Gaía Passarelli Apr 6, 2016

1. It’s all samba.

Samba is awesome. It truly is. But it’s not the only kind of music you’ll find in Brazil.

Chorinho, the Brazilian answer to jazz, is something to behold. And world famous Bossa Nova is Brazilian too. The music from countryside Violeiros is a sort of local, traditional blues, often sad and moving. And don’t even get me started on the musical traditions of the Northern coast like maracatu and frevo.

And then there’s the modern sounds from the past two or three decades, like Rio funk, tecnobrega or arrocha. Of course, gringo pop stars find their way here too, but Brazilians dig their music and get wildly creative about it.

2. Religious freedom means diversity.

Yes, it’s true that Brazil welcomes Jews, embrace Spiritism, and cradle afro-religions Umbanda and Candomblé. It’s also true that Pentecostal cults been fast replacing Catholics churches all over the territory. But we’re still the biggest Catholic nation in the world — I mean 160 million Catholics, according to the latest Vatican numbers. This fact alone justifies the largest cathedral of the Americas built halfway between Rio and São Paulo: Catedral de Nossa Senhora Aparecida celebrates the patron saint of Brazil and is second in size only to Vatican’s San Peter itself.

3. Local soccer is magical.

Long gone are the times of Pele (crying inside). Even Neymar is not around anymore. With all the young stars moving quickly to Europe or Asia, and with the backlash of the tragic World Cup, the Brazilian championship, a.k.a Brasileirão is a sad thing to see.

4. Brazil is tolerant.

We like to think about ourselves as tolerant towards diversity, but racial and social prejudice is strong in all spheres of Brazilian society. And here there’s no Black Lives Matter movement going on round here.

5. Corruption is political.

Our political dramas may put House of Cards to shame: corruption runs deep in Brazil, and not only amongst politicians. Corruption is the reason the protected jungle areas give space to soy farming, that rich kids put a homeless man on fire and get away with it, or that a famous journalist confessed the murder of his girlfriend and did not go to jail. Those are real examples of Brazilian news and, sadly, not exceptions. We’re guilty of smaller sins in daily life too — paying an extra fee to get a driver’s licence, creating a scheme to pay fewer taxes, falsificating student documents to get discounts on theatres and concerts. As Brazilian ambassador to France Carlos Alves de Souza famously said: this is not a serious country.

6. Rio is where Carnival is to be experienced.

Yes, Rio may be one of the top three most well know Carnival in the world. And, yes, it is an amazing spectacle of energetic music, gorgeous bodies, and cheap cocaine. But each region, each city, each neighbourhood joins the party. So, the week-long holiday can be family-friendly, celebrate old traditions; or have people dancing to a complete different beat all over the country.

7. Jericoacoara is one of the most beautiful beaches in the world.

In 2004 Lonely Planet voted Jericoacoara, in the northeast state of Ceará, the most scenic beach in the world. It’s been heaven and hell for this former peaceful fishermen’s village and, sorry to say, but I’ve been there and it’s not even one of the ten most beautiful beaches in the country. Come on! We’re talking 7.500 kilometers of coast in Brazil, so there’s much better than Jericoacoara out there.

8. We have a problem with Argentina.

Sure, it’s hard during the World Cup or the Libertadores da America soccer championship. But think about it: Brazilians are always vacationing in Buenos Aires, we appreciate parrillas and empanadas from our vizinhos, and we’re so sorry for them to have such a Siberian coast that we welcome hundreds of them into the warmer climates of Santa Catarina and Paraná. Also, we love this jolly fellow.

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