Black History Culture : Blacks in Brazil: The myth and reality.

Discussion in 'Black History - Culture - Panafricanism' started by Sekhemu, Apr 5, 2006.

  1. Sekhemu

    Sekhemu Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    MENTION Brazil and the minds of travel magazine junkies conjure up images of ample-bottomed, amber colored mulattas strolling Ipanema Beach in thongs, or a parade of elaborately constumed revelers carelessly dancing the lambada in the night during carnival, the bacchnalian festival that lures thousands of tourists to Rio each year.

    That's the glimpse of Brazil offered throught the filtered lense of guarded tour guides. It is a travelogue view that shows off the breathtaking topography of the Amazon and the seductive rhythms of the samba.

    Conspicuously absent from this view, however, is a true sense of the cultural diversity and racial complexity that are part and parcel of this, the country with the larges population of African descendants (60 million) in the Western hemisphere. In fact, Brazil's Black population is second only to that of Nigeria.

    Yet, according to the rehearsed blather of many of the country's official mouthpieces, Brazil is the world's one true melting pot, a tropical paradise where the cultures and complexions of the land's Portuguese invaders, their African captives and the Indian natives from a melanged of 150 million people who are uniquely and unitedly Brazilian.

    "There is nothing here like the racism you have in the United States," says Adriana Lopez, as she escorts a visitor from Rio de Janeiro International Airport to the lush hotels that line the rich and touristy Copacabana area of the City. "Racism like you know it is illegal here. Black, White, Brown, Yellow, here we are all just Brazilians."

    That is the party line. Promotion of the myth that a Brazilian national character supersedes any and all racial distinctions. Speak with Brazilians of color, however, and one learns that the country's melting pot is more like a boiling cauldron wherein the suppressed cultural, religious and political identity of Black and Brown Brazilians is now bubbling to the surface.

    Race in Brazil, where amalgamation has colored the population, is not the cut and dried proposition that it is in America. In a 1983 census for example, when Brazilians were asked to state their racial identification, many respondents labeled themselves not according to "race" but along a color continuum that included such descriptions as "yellow-brown" or "light tan." Census takers recorded more than 100 such categories.

    Demographers estimate that the nearly 80 million Brazilians who classify themselves as White, as many as 15 percent have enough of a trace of African ancestry to be considered Black by American standards. Internationally acclaimed actress Sonia Braga is among the dark, abundantly hipped "white" beauties about whom Black Brazilians whisper: "She has more than a touch of the mother country in her."

    Also compelling is the lack of uplifting Black images on Display to inspire Afro-Brazilians. Only during the five days of carnival, when competing "samba schools" march hundreds of lavishly constumed Black singers, dancers and musicians down the specially designed parade route, do Afro-Brazilians take center stage in the national consciousness.

    Though retired soccer star Pele, who in his playind days led Brazil to three World Cup championships, is still a revered national hero, and artist like musician Gilberto Gil and novelist Jorge Amado have considerable international stature, Afro-Brazilians have a relatively low national profile.

    Black politicians are still few and far between. The federal congress has but one senator (2003) and three deputies in the lower chamber.

    For all the talk of a national character, nearly l40 percent of the nations Blacks live in Favelas, the contanimated hillside slums composed of thousands of ramshackle houses. Blacks still have a higher illiteracy rate than whites (33 percent versus 15 percent); and almost 40 percent of the black population toils in menial jobs where they earn less than the minimum wage of $50 per month.

    But in spite of the bleak outlook, or perhaps because of it, a new day is dawning for Afro-Brazilians. After decades in which military dictators preached that completer amalgamation was the cure-all for festering racial tensions. Brazilians of African descent, taking their cues from BLACK AMERICANS, are in the throes of a consciousness-raising movement designed to help gain political power in the civilian government and to highlight African contributions to the country.

    Not only are Afro-Brazilian music and dance, which have always been among the country's great drawing cards, enjoying heightened international popularity, but the other forms of Afro-Brazilian art and African-influenced religious beliefs are also gaining acceptance and respect.

    Even in the fractious political arena, which for years has been controlled exclusively by either White military leaders or, in the nearly 10 years of civilian rule. White business man, Afro-Brazilians are making small inroads, not the least of which is Pele's dramatic announcement in October '94 of his presidential aspirations.

    At last, a time has arrived in Brazil when many Afro-Brazilians are loudly and proudly celebrating their heritage. There is much to celebrate.

    "Almost everything that tourist associate with Brazil has its origins in Africa," says Haroldo Costa, a well known nightclub performer and one of the few Afro-Brazilians to appear on one of the country's popular soap operas.

    Costa cites bother the samba and the lambada, the sensual Brazilian music and dance crazes that are among the country's chief cultural exports, as examples of Africa's influence in Brazil. "The words 'samba' and 'lambada' come from the Bantu words siemba, meaning navel,' he says, wriggling in his seat at a Rio restaurant to demonstrate the sexually suggestive movements that are typical of both dances. "These things, samba, bossa nova, even carnival...these things that are so much a part of Brazil and that make people want to come here, all go back to Africa."

    And back to Africa is exactly where the sensibilities of many Afro-Brazilians are travelling. Examples of the rise of Afro-Brazilian consciousness have slowly emerged throughout the country in the last decade, but are most pronounced in Bahia, the Brazilian state boasting the larges and most unadulterated concentration of Afro-Brazilians. Approximately 75 percent of Bahia's population is of African Descent. It is not surprising then that Bahia is the center of the Afro-Brazilian renaissance. and is attracting Black tourist from around the world with its distinctly African (Yoruba, to be precise) character.

    "Because there are so many Afro-Brazilians living there, Bahia has taken the lead in Black culture and, some say, political activism," says internationally famous musician Gilberto Gil, who in 1988 was elected to the City Council of Salvador, the capital of Bahia. "Bahia is like a spiritual home to Black Brazilians. It is probably where the African connection is strongest."

    Bahia is also where the religion Candomble was once banned in Brazil, flourishes most. Africans, kidnapped and brought to Brazil during the slave trade, brought Candomble with them and practiced it underground for generations while also professing an allegiance to Catholicism.

    Candomble festivals hold virtually the same significance as the national observance of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. And Salvador's Afro-Brazilian Museum (the founding and funding of which is a coup for Black Brazlians) is virtuall a monument to the history, the growth and development of Brazilian Candomble.

    "You have all these things like Candomble that are African and that were underground until maybe 20 or 30 years ago," says Paula Santos, a free lance writer and journalist. "People did not admit to being involved in it. Now, you have people saying proudly that they are part of Candomble. They are proud of their African heritage, but it has taken a long time to get to this point
     
  2. African_Prince

    African_Prince Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    I haven't read the article, but only 6% of the people in Brazil are classified as Black because that country doesn't follow the one drop rule. Another 39% are "mulattoes". If I can, I'll be watching City of God this Friday.
     
  3. dustyelbow

    dustyelbow Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    As a fool, I am glad I am not focus on colors and declare who is African descent and who isnt. I see that it was wasted effort or in vain because using candy coated terms I hear in the community, chocolate all the way up to almost white cream vanilla is suffering from unjust structural intentional poverty.

    No where in those color candy terms is African or Afro anywhere which means nobody wants to associated with Africa or "black". Just be 'sweet' like a piece of candy.

    I dont live in candy land.

    Went to a meeting a while back of a minister from Venezuela and he said his government is helping the Afro-communities in his country to participate in all levels of Chavez government and business while looking at the history of Afro-Venezuelans and using it to form a link with Africa the continent. They even brought in Africans from Africa to conduct research activities for their own Afro-communities. This will lift the stigma of "black" people unfairly stereotyped to being considered active participants in all forms of government and busniess activities there.

    Being of African descent or declaring one "black" will no longer be a badge of shame.

    That's great news for the "black" race.
     
  4. Sekhemu

    Sekhemu Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    I want to thank you all for your replies and input!
     
  5. African_Prince

    African_Prince Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    I'm pissed because I found out the channel it was playing I never had.
     
  6. KWABENA

    KWABENA STAFF STAFF

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    Interesting...........I just met a brother from South America earlier today!

    CD
     
  7. African_Prince

    African_Prince Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    That **** movie better come on again. That and Goodfellas.
     
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