When I travel I like to do a bit of reading before I leave to give me a little better insight into the country or countries I will be visiting. Not so much history texts or political primers, but rather rich novels written by native authors, since translated into English. Or maybe a sweeping historical novel that lays out a chunk of the country’s history in an interesting and provocative manner.
When it comes to Brazil I have been all over the map. I’ve read novels, histories, biographies and social anthropological texts. The country is so vast and diverse. It’s history is brief, but rich with fantastic tales of discovery, anguish, struggle and triumphs. The culture is an amazing amalgamation of immigrants, natives, slaves, gay, straight, rich and very poor. Brazil is a land of survivors, by hook or by crook.
What follows is a list of books worth considering, if you are looking to understand more about Brazil, it’s history, politics, people and culture. It is not an exhaustive list, of course, but it should serve to get you started. Suggestions for additional reading and why are welcome in the comments section – what would you recommend?
In no particular order:
Anything written by Brazil’s native son Jorge Amado. His novels, set in Bahia, are rich in texture, are written in a fun and lush voice and they always have a sexy hue. Consider: “Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon”, “Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands”, “The War of the Saints”, or “Tent of Miracles”. There are others.Continue reading Getting to know Brazil – a reading tour→
Despite its very wide coast, Brazil has few beaches destined to the practice of naturism. In most beaches, you are expected to keep your bathing suit on (and this includes the ladies’ tops). Topless girls are welcome in some places, but that is not universally practiced, accepted or allowed. Technically, it is still illegal to be naked in public in Brazil, but there is a bill waiting for approval in the Senate that might change that.
So, if you like to sunbathe in your birthday suit, you might have to look for the few isolated spots that offer privacy and total freedom for the practice of naturism. Most of them are regulated by local legislation.
Here is the list of official naturist beaches, organized from Northern to Southern states, in case you intend to vacation “au naturel”:
A student was shot during the 15th edition of the Rio Gay Pride Parade. Two boys were insulted and heavily beaten by upper class teenagers at Avenida Paulista, one of São Paulo’s postcards. These two episodes happened in the last few days in two metropolis that are, arguably, the heart of the gay community in the country.
It is no surprise. According to an annual report about violence against homosexuals published by Grupo Gay da Bahia, the oldest gay advocacy active in the country, in the last two years, one gay Brazilian was killed every two days. It’s 54% more than the two previous years. Violence was particularly serious in the states of Bahia and Paraná. In 2009, 117 gays, 72 transvestites (and transsexuals) and 9 lesbians were murdered. Click here and here for the full report published in March (in Portuguese). Attention: the second link includes very graphic images of corpses.
In a recent post I mentioned a poll that indicated that 26.1% of the Brazilian interviewees would rather not having a homosexual neighbor. The consequences of this prejudice are evident.A new public phone service (#0800 023 4567) created to record complaints against homophobes in the state of Rio registered 1.500 calls since July. Aggressions are particularly frequent in the shanty towns of the city of Rio. In some cases, gays, lesbians and transvestites are expelled from their communities.
This is sad. Let’s reach for the intolerant ones that surround us and try to help them see beyond their prejudices.
And if you want to learn more about gay life in Brazil, read this post, which was definitely more optimistic.