“Not men, not women. People”, was their revolutionary motto. They were the Dzi Croquettes, an irreverent androgynous theater company directed by Broadway chorus line dancer Lennie Dale that defied the dictatorship and inspired a whole generation of carioca artists. The so-called besteirol theatre (anarchic, hilarious and politically incorrect) and several slang words and expressions ( Tá boa, santa?) are remnants of their influence.
They became so popular that their performances were finally forbidden, and they decided to tour Europe, where they conquered Paris and even appeared in a Claude Lelouch’s movie. “When I die, I want my show substituted by the Dzi Croquettes”, said legendary diva Josephine Baker. Continue reading Dzi Croquettes – Rio’s revolutionary cabaret→
Jean Wyllys, a journalist born in a poor family in the countryside of Bahia, is one of the main leaders of the Brazilian gay movement today. In the last few days he was all over the country’s media, celebrating the unanimous approval of same sex civil union by the Supreme Court last Thursday. The decision introduced a series of new rights for homosexual couples (the last Census indicates that there are 60,000 such unions in the country, half of them in the Southeast region). Now, gays and lesbians can, for instance, buy a house and pay taxes together, extend to the partner their health plans, obtain a pension in case of separation, adopt the partner’s children and inherit their companions’ assets.
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→
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.
Brazilians have prejudices, but are among the most tolerant populations of the world. This is one of the conclusions you can draw from the graphs produced by the World Values Society. It is a worldwide network of social scientists that study changing values and their impact on social and political life. They have been conducting surveys in 97 countries since 1981.
In one of their latest studies, they asked people all over the world about their tolerance towards their neighbors. The following percentage of Brazilian respondents said they wouldn’t like to live close to:
People who speak a different language:9.1% (US – 11.1%, Great-Britain – 6.3%)
People of a different race: 5.3% (US – 4.1%, Great-Britain – 5.4%)
Unmarried people living together:7.1% (US – 8.4%, Great-Britain – 2.3%)
People who have Aids:17.8% (US – 15.9%, Great-Britain – 13.6%)
Drug addicts: 82.2% (US – 93.8%, Great-Britain – 94.4%)
Heavy drinkers: 60.4% (US – 72.9%, Great-Britain – 67.8%)
In all of the scenarios, Brazilians were among the most tolerant or, at least, in the average group. But it is sad to see that the rejection of gays is still very high. If you want to check the statistics for other countries, just click here.
Boy meets boy in San Francisco. They live happily ever after (11 years and counting) and at some point, two years ago, decide to move to Niterói, next door to Rio de Janeiro.
This is the story of American Jim and Brazilian Luiz, a globetrotter couple that is particularly well-positioned to evaluate Brazil’s gay friendliness. “We have always been “out” as individuals and as a couple”, says Jim. “Living in San Francisco afforded us a tremendous amount of personal freedom to be ourselves and to express our affection for each other in the street and other public places. Throughout our travels (Thailand, Greece, Turkey) we have had to adapt our conscious and unconscious habits around each other to fit the local scene/custom. Although we generally get spotted as a gay couple because we simply do not edit our every gesture – we are often guilty of looking into each others’ eyes for longer than a brief moment at restaurants and we wear matching wedding bands, for example. We have never had a problem and we have never had to defend ourselves – ever”.
In this interview, Jim Shattuck describes the joys and challenges of his gay experience in Brazil.
Deep Brazil – Rio is considered one of the gay-friendlier cities in the country. Right?
Jim Shattuck – We have found Rio and Niterói to be very gay friendly. Never a problem. There are gay people everywhere and everyone else seems to be quite at ease with it all. Although it could be said that as an older couple we do not attract the attention a younger and flashier couple might. Continue reading Being gay in Rio→
Whenever you deal with foreigners – for business or pleasure – it is wise to match your tone to their cultures and habits. There are countless anecdotes of people who lost deals because they offered alcohol to an observant Muslim or couldn´t negotiate with a Japanese for lack of understanding what “yes” and “maybe” really mean in their world – “maybe” and “probably no”, respectively. So, what should you know about Brazilians to have a smooth dialogue with my countrymen?
The short and obvious answer is: it depends. The same way you cannot compare the behaviour of Frenchmen born in Paris and Guadeloupe, in the Caribbean, it is really tough to set up rules that apply both to an Amazonian and a gaúcho (someone from the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul). But the following observations might be a good guide to avoid faux-pas.
Informality – If you know anything about the country, you probably could guess this one. We tend to be very informal and cheerful – in ways that may shock sterner tourists. This applies, for instance, to the dress code. It is not a problem to show some – not all – flesh in coastal cities and in warmer cities of the Amazon and Centro-Oeste region, which includes the capital, Brasília, and the Pantanal wetlands). Informality also applies to the high level of physical contact, which includes two or three kisses (less frequent) when you meet someone (woman-woman or woman-man, rarely man-man, unless among gays or relatives), or touching the arm or shoulder of someone else in the middle of a conversation (if it is persistent, there is flirt in the air). Naturally, you should avoid the kiss/touching routine in business meetings, unless you became somewhat more intimate. This informality is present, but attenuated, in the southern states (Rio Grande do Sul, Santa Catarina and Paraná), and in the states of São Paulo and Minas Gerais. Continue reading How to talk to a Brazilian→