I was recently talking to a friend and they were telling me about how Brazilian women are seen abroad. I knew the stereotypes of Brazil and Brazilian women, long before this conversation. Brazilian people in general are seen as being lazy (an overarching stereotype of Latin American people in general), but also being “spicy” and “foreign/exotic.” The whole country of Brazil is seen as one big beach party, or the Amazon rain forest. There’s no in between. As for gender, Brazilian women are seen as beautiful, but also sexually promiscuous/available. Men are also seen this way, as seen in most recently in Inside Out, where the mother has a day dream about a Brazilian helicopter pilot. He has a sexy accent, a half buttoned shirt, toned muscles, and a full head of hair. In addition, recently on the 3rd episode of season 11 of The Big Bang Theory, Sheldon comments on his Brazilian bikini line. This is funny because the stereotype for a man's bathing suit in Brazil, is a lot smaller than in the U.S. Sheldon doing anything "sexual" is the butt of the joke. They use Brazil as a way to mark him as sexually deviant.
I’ve visited Fortaleza Brazil for the past two years. In 2015, I came here for the first time and it was definitely a huge culture shock. I was afraid to go outside at night, I was afraid of getting food poisoning, cockroaches crawling on me while I slept, etc. Before I came to Brazil, I thought it was going to a big jungle and small villages. But when I got here, I realized that there was actual civilization. I still find this surprising considering that we’re basically living in a desert (at least in Fortaleza). I only stayed for 2 months in 2015 because I still studying to get my Bachelor’s degree in English in the U.S. I came again in 2016 for two more months and that trip was a lot better. I didn’t have that much culture shock, but things were still new. The only difference was I knew what to expect - the smalls, the sounds, and the sights. As well as customs and infrastructure that are different from the U.S. Now I’m here for the third time. And rather than staying for only a couple of months, I intend to live here permanently. I came June 13th and today, it’s the 3rd of August. Being here for the 3rd time, everything that was once different or weird, is basically normal for me. I still don’t feel totally comfortable because of the language (I’m working on that), but over all nothing surprises me anymore. I’m no longer afraid to go out at night by myself, take the bus alone, or carry my cell phone with me (though of course I still carry emergency money with me just in case anything happens). I know to be cautious in the streets and how to be safe. I also have adapted to the food, but nothing is really so different here food wise compared to the U.S. Most importantly, I’m used to the way of life here. I don’t think it’s so different from the U.S. unless you’re extremely impoverished, but most people do what people in the U.S. do. They go work, school, they study, they go to the gym, they watch movies, they go to the beach, they have family problems, they have relationship problems. As much as people like to sensationalize the differences between countries, or the pros and cons of living abroad, it’s pretty much the same as any other place. Sure, the infrastructure is different, the language is different, but people are people. The same personalities I see in the U.S.
Is it weird that some of our most patriotic holidays (Memorial Day and 4th of July) happen in the summer? Memorial Day isn't just about remembering those who fought, but about the unofficial start of summer. That means everyone can celebrate, right? Wrong. I guess it's better for these commemorative days to be associated with warm and happy feelings than actually reflecting on our actions as a global "super power." The 4th can’t really be avoided because history, but maybe Veterans Day/Memorial Day could have been in the winter to make it more of a somber holiday, where we really reflect on the army’s practices. Holidays like today and others make it hard to criticize our country and self reflect because if we discount those who died, it seems as though they died for nothing. And dying for nothing is a really horrible end for anyone. So we say they died “defending our country” and “we wouldn’t be here today without those who served,” but we don’t really know that. Just like we don’t really know if they died for nothing. That's an alternate history we’ll never get to live out, so I guess both statements “died for nothing” and “died protecting us” are kind of invalid? This holiday also goes without mentioning COs, it’s just to remember the “heroes.” Most go into he army with good intentions, but then the total institution of the military changes them for the worse or brings out qualities in them that they wish they didn’t know they had. At the same time, people go into the military for less patriotic reasons too, people who just like to be violent may join, just to be kill. Some people thrive, others don’t. It’s just a whole unfair system to not only those who fight, but the victims within the military and those who died as victims on the “opposing side.”
Why is the U.S. is afraid of mixed people? Because it means the loss of white racial privilege. With racial mixing come mixed raced people who don’t fit in the binary and thus, debunk it. The U.S.’s miscegenation laws were used by Hitler. Hitler actually got a lot of his eugenic ideas from how the U.S. justified their treatment of non-whites. So, that brings us to Latin Americans. I guess we call it Latin America because the roots of Spanish, French and Portuguese are from Latin. They speak those Latin rooted languages because of white European colonial and imperialism, and their people are mainly of mixed race, because of the intermixing of indigenous and African slaves. We in the U.S. refer to central and south America as “Latin America” because of the languages. But it is also used to mean a “race,” not just a geographic area and nationality. We say Latin, rather than mixed because of the U.S.’s fear of racial mixing.
My mom constantly brings up struggles that people living in impoverished conditions face in order to make the people around her, and herself, feel more grateful for what they and she has. “Whenever you think you have it bad, just think about the people who walk bare foot in carrying heavy logs on their heads in [insert 3rd world country/continent named here]. It really puts things in perspective.” That reminds me of the aphorism parents say, “There’s people starving in Africa, you better finish your food.” My mom (and other people) uses “third world problems” to make her feel better and rid herself of white guilt. It helps her cope with her own “first world problems.”
Nothing gets me more mad than a Julia Roberts bad film. Not saying I don’t like her at all (Mona Lisa Smile is a great film!) but god has her agent put her in some bad films recently (Timothy Green comes to mind). However, I think the worse movie she has been cast in was EAT PRAY LOVE. MY GOD that movie makes me angry. Typical clichéd unhappily married woman goes to Italy and India to try to find herself and magically gets transformed into a better person.
Now that the Rio Summer 2016 Olympics are over I think its important we unpackage some of the stereotypes and common misconceptions about Brazil. First, I don't speak for all Brazilians, I'm speaking from a western US gaze to remind other people in more 'developed' countries to check our privilege before falling for all of the stereotypes of Brazil. Second, it's important to note that the Olympics being held in Brazil have been contested mainly because they are seen as a 'second/third world' country filled with disease and corruption. I'd like to remind the reader that this kind of uproar wasn't so prevalent with the London 2012 Summer games because unlike Brazil,
Culture is hard to put into words. It’s so easy to say culture is a language, food, famous land marks and famous people who come from that certain culture. Culture can be embodied in clothing, music and art. But is that it? Can we grasp a culture just by tasting its food, by walking down a street in a foreign city, or even by becoming an expatriate and living there permanently as an adult? Well, I don’t think so.
21 year old English major and ESL Teacher. Currently living in Fortaleza, Brazil. Feminist and kill joy with a cause.