Popular misconceptions about Brazil are rife, but rarely do these myths have any solid grounding
Before travelling to Brazil for the first time, my friends gave me pretty concerned looks.
“Are you not afraid of being shot in the street?”
“I heard during Carnival the death toll is in the thousands.”
I could go on and on listing the prejudices people have towards Brazil (and many other countries, for that matter), as the mere fact of being “foreign” is often enough to make many people uncomfortable. However, unwilling to form my own opinion without evidence, especially when it comes to travelling, I’ve always preferred to verify information first-hand. As such, travelling to Brazil multiple times has given me the opportunity to fall in love with this “controversial” Latin American country.
Be it because of distorted media coverage or other reasons, many people seem to know everything about Brazil. As it happens, most of the time, such opinions are as alarming as they are lacking in actual evidence.
So let’s debunk some common myths about Brazil.
No, Rio de Janeiro is not a city at the mercy of drug gangsters. For sure, drugs circulate in a metropolis of 14 million people, but I believe this happens in many other places, and if you don’t look for it in Rio, you won’t find it in the markets.
No, I didn’t get mugged every time I went to Brazil. As a matter of fact, I went seven times, travelled around extensively and have been to Copacabana in Rio de Janeiro (allegedly the most dangerous area in the most dangerous city) – never once was I robbed. I have been through robbery/pickpocketing experiences elsewhere though, three times in Rome and once in Seville.
No, Lula did not “ruin” Brazil as many people would think – and which has also been suggested by some media outlets. As a Brazilian friend of mine who didn’t vote for Lula put it: “I didn’t like him before, but I have to admit that now the poor in Brazil can eat.”
No, Brazilian women are not promiscuous. Brazil has been a poor country until relatively recently, and sex tourism was one of the worst aspects which, thankfully, is now being properly addressed. It goes without saying that this is a vulgar generalisation and stereotype of Brazilian women.
No, Brazilians do not party every day. Maybe due to their samba and capoeira traditions, it’s a common belief that nationals spend their lives dancing, singing and partying, but I can pretty much vouch for most Brazilians leading normal working lives. They do smile a lot though, and maybe this also contributes to confusion about their lifestyle.
No, Brazilians do not live in forests. Some native tribes of the Amazon do live in the rainforest, far from modernity and happy to preserve their culture and heritage away from the modern onslaught, but Brazil is a huge country with big cities, small towns and tiny villages. All of them with their own municipality council, offices, schools, hospitals and with the modern facilities we see in the rest of the world.
No, Carnival is not a massacre. Every year around February, I witness an escalation of alarming headlines warning citizens from participating in a potentially deadly festival – leaving behind thousands of victims. These reports do not mention that the statistics also include people who have died as a result of accidents, illnesses, etc., unrelated to Carnival.
No, you are not going to get Brazilian full residency just because you are European or because Latin Americans will be honoured for you to grace them with your presence. Getting full residency in Brazil is a hard process unless you have a spare £50,000 or €70,000 to invest in a local company – either yours or someone else’s.
Last but not least: yes, Brazil is a very friendly and welcoming country where tourists will most certainly spend a great holiday and may return with lovely hand-crafted souvenirs, gained kilos, and a better working knowledge of samba steps!
Photo Credits: Angela Corrias Featured image is of the Jericoacoara dunes
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