It is the country which gave the world Samba, Capoeira, Pele, and of course, Gisele Bundchen. Of course, I am referring to the crazy country of Brazil. This powerhouse of a country of over 200 million in Latin America is a religious, multi-cultural and ethnic melting pot. And not just that, it is also home to many of nature’s marvels (most of the Amazon forest is in Brazil, remember?). You probably already know this & don’t need me to tell you all these things.
But some of the crazy aspects of this massive country’s culture are mostly lost on travellers. So we thought it might be a good idea to give you a flavour, of idiosyncrasies of Brasilieros. These were things I noticed in my four month long stint in the country, feel free to add if you know more.
The crazy joke of an election:
Image credit: Jose Daymom
One evening while sitting with Brazilian friends, and smoking you know what, I was told that Brazilian elections are funny. Now, you may say, ‘what’s the big deal homie? Politicians everywhere are unintentionally funny’. But Brazilian ones are on a different level.
Well, first up voting is mandatory in Brazil, and most people have no or very little faith in politicians. So, somewhere along the way the trend of ‘joke candidates’ started, and continues till date. ‘How funny are the candidates?’ you ask. ‘As funny as they can be’, I would say. Some of the candidates in the last few elections have been Obama, Wonder Woman, Jesus and many other popular figures. Of course, none of them were real, candidates spoofed these figures in the hope that they would get voters’ attention. Isn’t that crazy?
A really funny story is that in the mid-20th century, residents of Sao Paulo actually voted for a Rhino over politicians for the city council elections. A more recent example is ‘Tiririca’, who plays a clown on TV, and he decided to run the elections for the state deputy as a joke. His campaign was satire against politicians, and contrary to his own expectations, people actually voted for him. He now represents the state of Sao Paulo in the chamber of deputies.
I strike, we strike, you strike:
Image credit: Agencia Brasilia
While in Salvador, I saw these posters with ‘Estamos en greve’ everywhere. It was a friend who explained this to me later. Bank employees were on strike. Brazilians are used to strikes. It is almost as if there is a calendar of strikes, ask most Brazilians in the state of Bahia. Depending on the month they will tell you the institution that is on strike. Most of them happen generally for salary hikes. But still why it happens every year, is beyond my comprehension. Inflation too high? May be.
In Salvador(capital of the northern state of Bahia), when the bus drivers go on strike, without alternate means of transport, its holiday for the entire city. But the really crazy situation is when cops go on strike, yes the cops! It is almost a purge like situation with all the criminals coming out of the favelas to loot residents for as long as the strike lasts. Remember ‘The Dark Knight Rises’, when bane traps all the Gotham cops in the sewers, something like that. Every one recedes into their gated communities, getting out is thought of as plain stupid.
My friend Brene who runs a restaurant told me that he drives around delivering food during the policia strike. Sometimes, he ferries his customers to and fro from their homes. And, of course for safety, he has a gun with him while doing so.
Undies for good luck:
Image credit: Wikimedia commons
Where I come from, we wear underwear for boring health reasons. Count on Brazilians to lead the way in making the underwear a crazy cultural phenomenon too. On New Year’s Eve, Brazilians, especially in the coastal cities wear white to usher in the New Year. But there is an interesting twist, they wear coloured underwear. Reason – coloured undies bring good luck.
So, red underwear means you will find love or romance the coming year. Similarly, orange means good luck for your career, yellow for prosperity and green is for health.
And since you are in Brazil, showing off a little bit(or, a lot) of your underwear is not just accepted, it is actually encouraged.
Pichacao – paint the town red, or black
Image credit: Wikimedia commons
If you ever find yourself on the streets of Rio or Sao Paulo, you will notice cryptic tags in black or white paint on many buildings. Welcome to the land of Pichacao. This form of street art is known as tagging. In Brazil they call it Pichacao.
Pichadores, people who practise this are known so, tag walls with their signatures. Brazil has a fairly liberal attitude towards street art, but Pichacao has few supporters even within the graffiti community. Practitioners claim that it is their way of asserting their identity in a country with grave income inequality.
Most of the Pichadores operate in the dead of the night, and compete to tag places of importance. The more difficult the access, the more praise the Pichador gets within the community. I spent a crazy night tagging the city with these guys once, you can read about that here.
The Most Important One – The Brazilian Thong:
Many of us have heard and may be seen pictures of the Brazilian thong. Here is some good news, the Brazilian thong is not an exception, but the norm on Brazilian beaches. Where I come from, it’s a bit of cultural shock considering most Indian women prefer to take a dip whilst fully clothed. And in Brazil, things are exactly the opposite. You may feel out of place if you aren’t in a teeny weeny bikini. That explains the craze of the famed Brazilian bikini wax.
Ladies do not be disappointed – even Brazilian men, who are equally fitness conscious, come out in modest swimming briefs. So, Brazilian beaches are a delight both for the male and female eyes.