Brazil (Brasil) officially the Federative Republic of Brazil is the largest country in both South America and the Latin American region. It is the world’s fifth largest country, both by geographical area and by population. It is the largest Portuguese-speaking country in the world, and the only one in the Americas.
Tourism in Brazil is a growing sector and key to the economy of several regions of the country. The country had 5 million visitors in 2010, ranking in terms of international tourist arrivals as the second destination in South America, and third in Latin America after Mexico and Argentina. Revenues from international tourists reached US$6 billion in 2010. Natural areas are its most popular tourism product, a combination of ecotourism with leisure and recreation, mainly sun and beach, and adventure travel, as well as cultural tourism. Among the most popular destinations are the Amazon Rainforest, beaches and dunes in the Northeast Region, the Pantanal in the Center-West Region, beaches at Rio de Janeiro and Santa Catarina, cultural tourism in Minas Gerais and business trips to São Paulo city.
Ethical Travel Issues and advice
Favella tours are sold as an alternative to traditional tourism and a more realistic form of experiencing a country – getting in touch with real people and the local culture. It is estimated that 40,000 tourists visit favelas in Rio de Janeiro each year. According to UN-Habitat slums are groups of people living in urban areas that lack one or more of the following: durable housing, sufficient living space, easy access to safe water, access to adequate sanitation and security of ternure that prevents forced evictions. However, it is important to highlight that not all slum dwellers suffer from the same degree of deprivation. Despite the growing popularity of Favella tours there is much criticism and controversy in relation to this form of tourism. On the one hand, proponents of poverty tourism argue that this form of tourism can contribute to a change in the representation of the slums and its people and that slum tourism is a legitimate way to fight poverty. They also argue that the tours help tourists to better understand the world and become more compassionate.
Opponents argue that it’s exploitative of poor people and really doesn’t add much to the understanding of the complicated issues. Moreover, they highlight the fact that the motivation to undertake this kind of experience is only related to voyeuristic consumption of poverty and that the basic human rights of the local residents to dignity and privacy are often undermined. Additionally the inhabitants of these communities, have an uneven access to the benefits generated by tourism.
Of course the reality is more complex. For example if the tours are community based, where negative stereotypes are challenged and local residents have control over and benefit from tourism activities, then this could bring real and lasting benefits to some of the poorest communities.
To read more about a street vendors perspective in Brazil follow this link!
Tribal People – The Guarani were one of the first peoples contacted after Europeans arrived in South America around 500 years ago. In Brazil, there are today around 51,000 Guarani living in seven states, making them the country’s most numerous tribe. Guarani children work on the sugar cane fields which now cover much of their people’s ancestral lands in Mato Grosso do Sul state. Over hundreds of years, the Guarani have travelled vast distances in search of this land. This permanent quest is indicative of the unique character of the Guarani, a ‘difference’ about them which has often been noted by outsiders. Today, this manifests itself in a more tragic way: profoundly affected by the loss of almost all their land in the last century, the Guarani suffer a wave of suicide unequalled in South America. The problems are especially acute in Mato Grosso do Sul where the Guarani once occupied a homeland of forests and plains totalling some 350,000 square kilometers
Due to the hidden nature of child sexual abuse reliable figures are hard to compile and cases difficult to document. However child sex tourism is widespread in Brazil, with between a quarter and half a million children trafficked for sex – the highest number after Thailand.
Ethical Photography: Travelling presents an opportunity to photograph in lots of different destinations and situations, but sometimes there may be culturally sensitive issues to think about before reaching for the camera or other photo-taking device. There are lots of people in the world who do not have clean water, electricity, schooling or enough to eat, let alone access to mobile telephones, the internet and printed media, so they have no idea where their photograph may end up or how it could be used. Sadly, in this day and age, child prostitution, child trafficking and other crimes against children are facilitated via the Internet, and photography can play an unwitting and innocent role. Photography and its use is no longer straight forward, so perhaps it is time to stop and think a little about the ethics of photography.
Taking photos of the friendly people of Brazil, especially if visiting the Favellas, is a highlight for many travellers and photographers. Smiles are universal ways to engage, as is showing people the photo you just took of them. If you show an interest in their work or ask them questions, they’ll be happy to have their picture taken. In some touristy places it has become common for people to ask for money for their photos to be taken. Do as you wish, but a photo of someone you shared a laugh with may have a better lasting impression than one you paid for. Don’t forget the same holds true for any porters and guides that may help you along the way. Take an interest in them and you’ll be rewarded with more great photo opportunities.
To learn more check out the following Tourism Concern articles on ethical photography: https://tourismconcern.wpengine.com/ethical-photography/
Cultural Impact – Indigenous Tourism vs Community based Tourism:
As we have extended the scope of our holidays into remote places, we now see ‘remote people’ as part of our holiday landscape. Our interest in other people’s cultures is not always sensitive. What are the implications, for example, of tourists viewing, filming & photographing tribal peoples who now demand payment in exchange for becoming models in their finery? Performing for tourists has become an income earner for tribal groups all over the world. But the income comes with a price. However, Community based tourism has started to emerge in Brazil which is providing real benefit to local communities.
To learn more check out the following Tourism Concern articles on the impacts of Indigenous tourism & community based tourism:
Road Kill: Brazilian biologist Alex Bager has been leading a crusade to raise awareness of a major but neglected threat to biodiversity in his country. Every year over 475 million animals die in Brazil as victims of roadkill, according to an estimate by Centro Brasileiro de Ecologia de Estradas (the Brazilian Centre for the Study of Road Ecology) or CBEE, an initiative funded and coordinated by Bager. This means 15 animals are run down every second on Brazilian roads and highways. Read more.
Extinction: Forests, the size of a small country, are destroyed every year through extensive legal (and illegal) logging. Since 1970, over 600,000 square kilometers of the Amazon Rainforest have been wiped out. Along with it, many wildlife species have lost their habitat and are becoming endangered. Extinction has become even more problematic in the Atlantic Forest, where over 90% of the forest has been cleared.
Illegal Wildlife Trade: According to Brazil’s National Network Against the Trafficking of Wild Animals (RENCTAS), 38 million animals are poached from Brazilian forests every year. Even though nine out of ten animals die in the process of being caught or during transportation, Brazil still maintains a 15 percent share of the illegal wildlife trade market. Birds are the most sought after by traffickers, with some sold live and others killed for their feathers or body parts. Reptiles (highly valued for their skins) and mammals (mostly primates) are also targets.
Stray Animals: Major cities like the capital city Brasilia, Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro have large numbers of stray animals. There are nearly 150,000 stray cats and dogs in Rio de Janeiro alone. Many roam the streets in very poor conditions – sick and injured. Many dogs face unimaginable cruelty by being poisoned, beaten, denied medical treatment and intentionally run over. If you encounter stray animals, you could consider giving them some food and water, but avoid interacting with the animal too closely as rabies is still a problem in certain areas of Brazil.
More information on Rights Tourism
Waste Disposal: Like most major countries in the world, Brazil produces enormous amounts of solid waste, or garbage. This has to be taken away from occupied areas and destroyed or disposed of. However, such waste poisons the soil, air and water, creating the dilemma of what to do with it. Currently, Brazil produces more than 161 000 tons of solid waste every day. Almost two-thirds of Brazilian municipalities use landfills to dispose of such waste. As landfills become larger, natural areas have to be reduced and the soil in and around the landfills becomes toxic, or unable to sustain life. The solution includes the use of recycled and recyclable goods, as well as a major education campaign that assists with the responsible use and disposal of various items, both in the home and workplace.
Deforestation in the Amazon Basin: Forests, the size of a small country, are destroyed every year through extensive legal (and illegal) logging. Since 1970, over 600,000 square kilometers of the Amazon Rainforest have been wiped out. Along with it, many wildlife species have lost their habitat and are becoming endangered.
Brazil has a humid tropical and subtropical climate except for a drier area in the Northeast that extends from northern Bahia to the coast between Natal and São Luís; the zone receives about 375–750 mm of precipitation a year. Much of Brazil receives 1,000–1,800 mm annually, but precipitation often is much heavier in parts of the Amazon basin and the sea-facing rim of the Serra do Mar.
There are five major climates prevail in Brazil:
- humid equatorial climate caused by the convergence of the trade winds – this includes Amazônia;
- tropical climate alternately humid and dry – this includes the greater part of the central area of the country and the coast of the middle-north;
- tropical climate tending to be dry due to the irregularity of the action of the masses of air – this includes the hinterlands of northeastern Brazil and the medium valley of the river São Francisco;
- coastal humid climate exposed to the marine tropical masses – this includes narrow strips of the coast – east and northeast;
- humid subtropical climate of the oriental and subtropical coasts, dominated mainly by marine tropical mass – this includes the South Area of Brazil.
Deforestation is a major issue and Brazil, which did have the highest rate of deforestation in the world. This is not only a significant source of pollution, biodiversity loss, and greenhouse gas emissions, but has been Brazil’s foremost cause of environmental and ecological degradation. Since 1970, over 600,000 square kilometers of Amazonian rainforest have been destroyed and the level of deforestation in the protected zones of Brazil’s Amazon rainforest increased by over 127 percent between 2000 and 2010. Recently, further destruction of the Amazon Rainforest has been promoted by an increased global demand for wood and soybeans.
The construction of the Belo Monte Dam is strongly criticised by indigenous people and numerous environmental organisations due to its potential effects on local people, biodiversity and the release of greenhouse gases.
In 2009, 769 endangered species were identified in Brazil making it home to the eighth largest number of endangered species in the world. Much of this increase in Brazil, as well as the countries it precedes, is caused by rapid deforestation and industrialisation.
With about 40% of fuel used in Brazilian vehicles sourced from ethanol, air pollution in Brazil differs from that of other nations where predominately petroleum or natural gas-based fuels are used. Atmospheric concentrations of acetaldehyde, ethanol and possibly nitrogen oxides are greater in Brazil than most other areas of the world due to their emissions being higher in vehicles using ethanol fuels. The larger urban areas of São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, and Brasilia suffer from substantial ozone issues because both acetaldehyde and nitrogen oxides are significant contributors to photochemical air pollution and ozone formation. On the other hand, by the mid-1990s, lead levels in the air had decreased by approximately 70% after the widespread introduction of unleaded fuels in Brazil in 1975
Brazilians are friendly and free-spirited, with an incredible zest for life. They are very risk-oriented and very creative. Predominantly Roman Catholic (73%), families are large and often include extended family members. Family, educational and socioeconomic backgrounds are important to Brazilians.
- Take time to greet and say good-bye to each person present.
- Physical contact is part of simple communication. Touching arms, elbows and backs is very common and acceptable. Brazilians also stand extremely close to one another. Do not back away.
- The “O.K.” sign is considered very rude and vulgar; the “thumbs up” gesture is used for approval.
- Wiping your hands together means “it doesn’t matter.”
- Clicking the tongue and shaking the head indicates disagreement or disapproval.
- Brazilians always wash their hands before eating and rarely touch food with their hands. Use a knife and fork for everything, even fruit. Always use a napkin while eating or drinking.
- To beckon a waiter, hold up the index finger of your right hand and quietly say “Garçon.” To request the check, say “A conta, por favor.” Waiters generally don’t bring checks until they are requested.
- Brazilians are extremely casual about time. Being ten to fifteen minutes late in business is normal, and twenty to thirty minutes late is not unusual. Be on time for a formal meeting, but prepare to wait for your Brazilian colleagues.
- Soccer (football), family, Brazil’s beautiful beaches and the country’s rapid growth are all appropriate conversation topics. Politics, poverty, religion, Argentina (considered a rival) and the deforestation of Brazil are not. Personal topics such as age, salary and marital or job status are also unacceptable.
- Brazilians are expressive and passionate conversationalists. Be prepared to be interrupted.
- Don’t smoke in public. Federal law bans smoking in public places.
- Don’t refer to Brazilians as Latins.
Based on material contained in the “Put Your Best Foot Forward” series of books by Mary Murray Bosrock.
Brazilian cuisine has developed from indigenous, European, and African influences and varies greatly by region, reflecting the country’s mix of native and immigrant populations. Many consider that Salvador, with its African influences, produces the most interesting food. However if you like barbecue meat then a churrasqueira is worth a visit – it serves all-you-can-eat barbequed meat, sometimes served impaled on swords. Diners are given red and green cards to indicate if they want more or need a rest from eating.
Other interesting restaurants sell food by the kilo – similar to a buffet where you choose what you would like to eat, pile it onto your plate, which is then weighed, to see how much it costs.
Typical Brazilian dishes include:
Acarajé: Made with black-eyed peas that are rolled into balls and then deep fried in Palm Oil. It is then typically stuffed with shrimp, peanuts and some other ingredients depending on the region. It is typically found in the north of Brazil, especially in the city of Salvador.
Brigadeiro: Probably the national dessert of Brazil they look like balls of chocolate similar to truffles. A thick mix of condensed milk, butter and chocolate powder is rolled into small balls and cooked. Once cooled, they are covered in chocolate sprinkles like a truffle. They are named after a Brigadier that helped stop a communist coup in Rio.
Coxinha: a common snack in Brazil which is minced chicken shaped like a drumstick and deep fried in batter until golden brown. (Watch out! Sometimes there is a toothpick placed inside to represent where the bone should be)
Feijoada: Considered the national dish of Brazil, this is a thick stew of black beans with pieces of beef and pork added to it. It is traditionally prepared in a clay pot. Feijão is Portuguese for Beans.
Fruit: Brazilians all eat a large amount of fruit that mainly comes from the Amazon. The range includes but is not limited to: mango, guava, cashew fruit, pineapple, passion fruit, orange and plum.
Moqueca: Is a seafood stew made without adding any water. Different fish and shellfish are thrown together with a mixture onions, tomatoes,some garlic and Coriander). The recipe varies greatly depending upon location but in general, the option for liquid include palm oil and coconut milk or olive and soy oil. It simmers for hours in a traditional clay pot and becomes a viscous liquid, sometimes so that your spoon will stand up right.
Pão de queijo: These bread rolls are found throughout the country and are prepared in the home and also served at restaurants. If you don’t have time to make your own you can also find them in the supermarket freezer section. It is a simple roll with cheese and accompanies most meals, especially breakfast.
Picadinho de Jacaré: Found predominately in the Northern Amazon region, it is a traditional indigenous meal made from alligator meat.
Roupa Velha: (literally means Old Clothes) shredded dried meat normally served with rice and mandiocas.
Vatapá: originally from the the north of Brazil, this is a creamy dish made from bread, shrimp, ground peanuts added to coconut milk and palm oil. It is usually served with rice.
Portuguese is the official language of Brazil, and is the only language used in schools, newspapers, radio and TV. It is used for all business and administrative purposes. Brazil is the only Portuguese-speaking nation in the Americas, giving it a national culture sharply distinct from its Spanish-speaking neighbours and also being a major factor contributing to the differentiation between Brazilians and people from the rest of South America. Brazilian Portuguese has had its own development, influenced by the Amerindian and African languages. Due to this, the language is somewhat different from that spoken in Portugal and other Portuguese-speaking countries, mainly due to phonological differences, similar to the differences between British English and American English.
- Obrigado/Obrigada – Thank you. If you’re male you say ‘obrigado’ whereas females says ‘obrigada’.
- Fala inglês? – Do you speak English?
- Quanto custa isto? – How much is this?
- Quero uma cerveja – I would like a beer
- Lindo maravilhoso! – Beautiful or marvellous.
- É mesmo? – A reaction to an interesting new fact, it’s like saying ‘really’.
- Pois não?- A common phrase you might hear when you enter a shop. Pois não means can I help you?
- Fique tranquilo – If something doesn’t work out someone will probably say ‘fique tranquilo’ which means don’t worry!
- Você quer dançar? – Would you like to dance?
- Gringo/gringa – What the Brazilians call foreigners, gringo for a male, gringa for a female. This isn’t an insult!
Many Brazilian will greet using you with “tudo bem?” (Which means is everything well?) The most common way to answer is to simply say: Tudo or Tudo bom; and you can be nice and ask back: E você? = And you?
Tudo bom? is also used interchangeably and means is everything good?
Religion in Brazil has a higher adherence level compared to other Latin American countries, and is more diverse. The dominant religion of Brazil historically was and still is Christianity. Brazil possesses a richly spiritual society formed from the meeting of the Roman Catholic Church with the religious traditions of African slaves and indigenous people. This confluence of faiths during the Portuguese colonisation of Brazil led to the development of a diverse array of syncretistic practices within the overarching umbrella of Brazilian Roman Catholicism, characterised by traditional Portuguese festivities. Until recently Catholicism was overwhelmingly dominant. Rapid change in the 21st century has led to a growth in secularism (no religious affiliation), and evangelical Protestantism to over 22% of the population.
In 1891, when the first Brazilian Republican Constitution was set forth, Brazil ceased to have an official religion and has remained secular ever since, though the Catholic Church remained politically influential into the 1970s. The Constitution of Brazil guarantees freedom of religion and strongly prohibits the establishment of any religion by banning government support or hindrance of religion at all levels. In the 2010 census 64.6% of the population declared themselves as Roman Catholic, 22.2% as Protestant, 8% as non religious, and 5.2% as followers of other religions.