By Pedro Souza, Staff Writer
November 13, 2015

In the streets, parks and beaches of Brazil, one often sees groups of people gathered in a circle, playing instruments while two people inside the circle sway, kick and dodge to the rhythm of the music. This is capoeira, a Brazilian martial art practiced through all of Brazil, especially in the northeast of the country.

No one knows exactly when capoeira originated, but it is believed that it was created by slaves in the 16th century. At that time, slaves were forbidden from practicing martial arts and their cultural traditions as well. They were also constantly subjected to torture and violence, and those that tried to run away were chased by “capites-do-mato”. In order to learn self-defense, it is said that the slaves created a new form of martial art and disguised it as a dance. The movements of capoeira are characterized by the way fighters sway and by the wide variety of kicks that they employ, as well as the acrobatic quality of the movements. Elements of diverse African cultures were also mixed in capoeira, making it a matter not only of self-defense but also of cultural identity.

Training sessions usually took place near the “Senzala”, which was the building where slaves were kept. But fights would sometimes take place in fields with small shrubs which were called “capoeira” at the time. This is where the name of the sport came from.

In 1890, Deodoro Fonseca, who was the president at the time, signed a law that made capoeira illegal, as it was considered subversive and violent. Later on, a capoeira master known as Mestre Bimba created a new style of capoeira known as “capoeira regional” (regional capoeira). Bimba would present his style in 1930 to Getlio Vargas, who was the president of Brazil at the time. Vargas enjoyed it so much that he made it legal and turned it into a national sport as well. Bimba also created the first capoeira gym in 1932 in Salvador and named it “Academia-escola de Capoeira Regional”.

His teaching method and style represented an important step in the development of capoeira. He began the tradition of training in an enclosed space, introduced a course curriculum and a systematic training method. He also fixed a defined instrumental arrangement to be played in a capoeira “roda” (circle). The arrangement consisted of a berimbau, which is an instrument composed of a bow and one string, and two pandeiros, which are hand-framed drums very popular in some Brazilian styles like samba and pagode. But his greatest contribution was probably the idea that capoeira should be disseminated and made widely accessible through the use of legal institutions.

In fact, he contributed enormously to the popularization of the sport. Once capoeira gyms became a thing, they spread like mushrooms after the rain, being found all through Brazil and even in many foreign countries. Because of his contribution, many practitioners consider Bimba the father of modern capoeira. His style is also the most widely practiced form of the sport worldwide.

Training capoeira is a great way to improve cardio, strength, flexibility and learning self-defense. At a capoeira gym one also learns discipline and gains confidence as his skills are honed. Last but not least, training capoeira is extremely fun, as well as being a great way to make friends. Whether youre looking to get in shape, lose some weight, learn to defend yourself or just have some fun, capoeira is a great choice and well worth a try.

By Larry Ludwig
October 18, 2015

Sergei Prokofievs Opera “Monastery Weddings” is sheer JOY! He composed this work at the onset of World War II, in 1940. Think perhaps to escape for but a brief few hours into a delightful comedy with which to forget the doom and gloom of Stalin purges and the horrors of war. Yes, it is a comic opera, featuring some eight-lead roles, yes, eight principal singers. More than likely the key reason why this work is rarely performed. Wikipedia mentions “recent” performances in only England, Scotland and Spain, in 1989, 2006 and 2008. It was first performed in 1946 in St. Petersburg.

Well to be added to that list is the August-September 2015 production of Theatro So Pedro in São Paulo, Brasil. Also called “Betrothals in a Monastery” (“Bodas no Monastrio” in Portuguese), the plot is a convoluted, complex scenariao much reminiscent of a Shakespearean “Comedy of Errors” mixed in with a Verdian “Falstaff”. At times seemingly too complex to follow, but in the end, as the saying goes, “alls well that ends well.” Yes, an opera with a happy ending. Nobody dies! Hopefully the Wikipedia plot summary below will help clarify the confusion.

The 600-seat Theatros production was superb, excellent. Not a single fault could I find. A friendly semi-abstract set with its mix of a curtain drop and multi-purpose plastic blocks that for once “worked”, which with varying degrees of multi-colored lighting, allowed for quick scene changes (of which there are many in this opera) clearly evoking the required plot setting. Beautiful period Costumes (the opera seems to take place in the 1700s-1800s), good makeup, wonderful wigs, great choreography, great acting, and of course, excellent singing.

Not a weak link in the entire eight singing lead roles (contralto, bass, tenors, baritones, soprano, mezzo-soprano), two principal secondaries and an exemplary chorus. Not to mention, excellent conducting and outstanding performance of the orchestra. Sung in Russian, a Russian speaking Brasilian friend pointed out, the singers Russian diction was more than passable, a testament to both the Russian language coach and the linguistic talents of the mostly Brasilian cast. And for the record, the Portuguese subtitles were excellent.

Besides the myriad of plot surprises, Prokofiev worked in a few subtle, not so subtle surprising moments. For instance, what seemed like pure walk-on non-singing supernumerary roles for some of the servants, servants who pretended to be talking and gesticulating… well appearances can be deceiving. Two of them turn into secondary singing roles, with the maid suddenly becoming, after what seemed like half of the opera, one of the two top lead, and most applauded singers. Never had occasion to experience that role-reversal in an opera heretofore.

Then there was the subdued, but quite classically balletic dancing by some of the servants, done in quite confined spaces. Difficult but done beautifully, elegantly. More like a side-bar action to main events elsewhere on stage… sometimes feeling like a three ring circus. Also featured was a three-piece trumpet, drum, clarinet combo on stage, as well as cast members walking onstage up from the audience.

Than the big WOWer, well one of two big WOWs of the night… a super rousing rambunctious well staged chorus of drunken, rapacious, yes very greedy monastery monks. Felt like a scene out of Karl Orffs “Carmina Burana”, perhaps the inspiration for what was one of the more powerful scenes of this opera. The monks brought the house down, as that saying goes.

The other “WOW” moment was during the concluding moments of the opera, with Don Jerome, tenor Giovanni Tristacci, while singing at full volume, put on a virtuoso performance playing musical-bottles non-stop, at a presto high-velocity pace. A true musical “tour de force”, one of the evenings many memorable highlights.

Prokofievs music is much like that of his ballet, “Romeo and Juliet”. The music melodies, tender or be it martial, flow, seeming seamlessly, without pause, leading one easily from one scene to the next, from one emotional moment to the next. There are very few solo aria or duet or quartet like moments common to more traditional operas, no real place for the audience to express delight with applause and bravos. That has to be saved for the end of each act, and especially at the end of the opera itself. And applause and bravos, bravas and bravis were aplenty with the standing ovation, this one, in my view, truly earned and very much deserved.

If you get the chance, do go see this work. Its an opera evening as noted earlier of pure JOY. You wont be disappointed.

By the way, the cast list follows, along with the Wikipedia plot-summary synopsis.

A Duenna Lidia Schffer, Mendoza Svio Sperandio, Don Jerome Giovanni Tristacci, Don Ferdinando Johnny Frana, Louisa Laua Duarte, Don Antonio Anibal Mancini, Clara DAlmanza Marly Montoni, Dom Carlos Erick Souza…and honorable mention on secondary, the two chief Monks, Padre Elustaf and Padre Augustin, Mar Oliveira and Educaro Fujita. This is in addition to eight other minor secondary roles.

Conductor Andr Dos Santos.
Coral Lrico Paulista and Orquestra do Theatro So Pedro

Act 1
Don Jerome intends his daughter Louisa to marry the vain, wealthy and ugly fish merchant Mendoza. However, she loves instead Antonio, who is poor, though noble in spirit. Furthermore, Don Ferdinand, son of Don Jerome and prone to fits of jealousy, wants to marry Clara dAlmanza, who is a virtual prisoner of her stepmother.
Act 2
Don Jerome locks up Louisa in her room to force her to marry Mendoza. Louisas nurse (the Duenna) provokes the fury of Don Jerome by pretending to be a messenger between Antonio and Louisa. Jerome dismisses her – but the Duenna exchanges clothes with Louisa who makes her escape in this disguise.
By the quayside – where fisherwomen are praising the quality of the fish caught in Mendozas boats – Louisa encounters her friend Clara, who has also run away from home and intends to seek sanctuary at the monastery. Louisa asks to borrow Claras name for a day – Clara assents. Enter Mendoza and his courtly friend Don Carlos. Mendoza is recognized by Louisa but he has never seen her. She therefore approaches Mendoza claiming to be Clara and asks him to take her under his protection and find Antonio with whom she is in love. Mendoza is attracted by this idea as a means to rid himself of his rival Antonio by marrying him off to Clara. Don Carlos escorts Clara to Mendozas house.
Mendoza visits the house of Don Jerome to meet Louisa (the Duenna in disguise); whilst Louisa is not as young and beautiful as Mendoza had been led to believe, her dowry is sufficient attraction. they agree to elope that evening.
Act 3
The mystified Antonio arrives at Mendozas house; while he is offstage meeting Clara, Mendoza and don Carlos congratulate themselves on their cunning. Still unwitting, they agree to help the pair get married.
Don Jerome is rehearsing some amateur musicians (A trio of trumpet, clarinet and bass drum). He receives two messages- one from Mendoza saying he has eloped with Louisa, which delights him, and another from the real Louisa, which he does not read carefully, asking for his blessing on her marriage. He sends back his consent with both messengers and arranges for a great feat later that evening to celebrate.
At the monastery, Clara meets with Antonio and Luisa and laments her apparent loss of Ferdinand. Enter Ferdinand , who mistaking Clara for a nun exclaims that he is chasing his false friend Antonio who has run off with his beloved Clara. Clara is secretly overjoyed at this demonstration of Ferdinands passion.
Act 4
The act opens with a drinking song for the monks in the monastery where the marriages are to be performed. The monks then switch to a hymn that extols fasting and abstinence, to a tune that is a slower variant of the earlier drinking song. Enter Mendoza and Antonio who by lavish bribery gain the monks consent to marry them to their loves. Enter Ferdinand who challenges Antonio to a duel, but the genuine Clara arrives and Ferdinand now understands the true situation. The three marriages are agreed.
At Don Jeromes feast, the host is increasingly amazed, exasperated and infuriated as the successive arrival of the newly-weds makes it clear that his plans have gone completely awry. He is slightly compensated by the likely size of Claras dowry. He sings a drinking song, accompanying himself on a set of tuned glasses.

By Pedro Souza, Staff Writer
October 18, 2015

When trying to speak Brazilian Portuguese, the language that is used on a day-to-day basis is riddled with slangs and expressions. As if this wasn’t enough of a challenge, these expressions change a lot from region to region. Below, we have listed some slangs and expressions that will help you to understand the people of São Paulo, Paulistas.

Meu/mano: Both of these expressions are frequently used by young people, and they are the paulista equivalent of "dude", "bro" or "man".

Ta ligado?: This expression literally means "are you on?". This is asked after making a statement, and it is the same as asking in English "You know what I mean?"

Na moral: To do something "na moral" is to do it in a way that is not arrogant or disrespectful. But when you ask "Na moral?", this slang has a completely different meaning. In this case, it is the same as asking "really?"

Sinistro!: As one can easily guess, this translated literally to "sinister". People say that as a reaction to something that is bizarre, cool or freaky.

Mina: A shortened version of "menina" (girl), this is the paulista equivalent of "chick".

Firmeza: This word means "firmeness", but when used as a slang it is the same as saying "all right". It is also used as a greeting, with one person asking "firmeza?", and the other person answering "firmeza!".

Fica Frio: When telling someone to relax, this is what paulistanos say. Literally, this expression means "stay cool".

Pode crer: When people from São Paulo agree with what someone just said, they often reply "pode crer", which literally means "you can believe).

Tipo: This word is pops up a lot when paulistanos speak. It means "type", but they also use it in a way similar to a comma, without altering the meaning of the sentence at all.

Farol: The paulista word for "traffic light".

Lombada: This is how paulistas call a speed bump.

Mo cara!: A way of saying "a long time"

Se pa: A slang with no possible translation that means "maybe".

U: This expression has no real meaning or translation, but it is used a lot by people from São Paulo. It is usually said when questioning something unusual.

Top: Taken from english, paulistas call something "top" when it is really good.

Suave: One of the most common slangs used by young paulistas, this expression has a few uses. It can be used as a greeting the same way as firmeza, but it can also mean that something or someone is easy or relaxed.

Tenso: Meaning "tense", this expression is used to describe something or some situation that is difficult or bad. If someone tells a story about getting robbed for example, someone else might reply "tenso!". Another person might use the word to describe a difficult videogame level.

By Pedro Souza, Staff Writer
October 18, 2015

Brazilians are known throughout the world as warm and friendly people. They are also usually receptive towards foreigners, and tend to treat them very well. That being said, there are many cultural differences foreigners face when coming to Brazil, especially those that do not come from a Latino culture. Whether you plan to visit Brazil or live here, being aware of those differences is a good way to improve your interactions with locals.

One of the first things that strike unaware foreigners is the way people greet each other in Brazil. Men tend to great one another with handshakes, while kissing women on the cheeks. Women also kiss each other on the cheeks usually. In some parts of the country such as São Paulo, this is done with a single kiss, but in other places, people will greet with two kisses instead.

Another thing that might seem strange for foreigners, especially those from European or Asian countries, is how touchy Brazilians are. It is very common for locals to touch others in the shoulder or to give a slap in the back while they talk for example. When talking, Brazilians tend to speak in a direct manner, and in a relaxed and casual style. They also have a tendency to interrupt others during a conversation, which can bother foreigners but is considered normal for natives.

Brazilians usually dress well and in a stylish manner, specially in large cities. In the countryside, people tend to dress in a simpler manner and are more conservative in their style. When going to churches or government buildings, using tank-tops or hats is frowned upon. As for business meetings, men are always expected to wear a full suit, while women should wear smart business suits. Brazilians can also be quite formal when it comes to business settings, despite their laidback manner in casual settings.

There is also something known as "Brazilian time". For most informal meetings, be they parties, dinners or reunions, it is very common for people to be late. Except in the case of a business meeting, you should not expect people to arrive on time.

When it comes to conversations, it is often sensible to avoid some topics. Brazilians tend to be very sensitive when it comes to foreigners opinion of Brazil, and usually do not take criticism very well. Topics such as poverty, crime and politics can make Brazilians upset, so you need to be very careful when threading on these topics. You should avoid criticizing Brazilian culture as well, unless you are fairly sure that the people you are talking to are open to it, which usually isn’t the case.

There are also a few things foreigners should know about eating in Brazil, the first being that lunches or dinners can take very long. Brazilians like to take their meals slowly and talk a lot, so a lunch can last over two hours in some cases. They also tend to have good table manners in industrial cities, so be careful with the way you eat. Chewing or talking with an open mouth is considered really rude, and in some settings putting your elbows on the table is frowned upon. When eating at a restaurant, putting your fork and knife side by side in your plate indicate that you have finished, but waiters will not bring the bill unless you ask them to. Tipping is not common in Brazil, and there is usually a 10% service fee that is included in the bill.

With those things in mind, you shouldn’t have much of a problem adapting to Brazil. Despite cultural differences, Brazilians are friendly and easy to deal with, and are usually quite tolerant of mistakes that foreigners might make. Be willing to adapt and open, and soon you will find yourself at home here in Brazil.

By Pedro Souza, Staff Writer
September 26, 2015

The Brazilian film industry is highly underrated. Although few national movies have become popular internationally, Brazilian movie directors has been releasing solid films for decades. We have compiled a list of some of the best for you to enjoy.

Cidade de Deus (City of God)

If you have never been to Brazil but have heard of a Brazilian movie before, it is probably Cidade de Deus. Directed by Fernando Meirelles, this movie is a harrowing tale about a slum known as Cidade de Deus in the beginning of the 80s. The movie tells the story of many characters from the point of view of Buscap, an aspiring photographer that has to face the grim reality of living in an environment where the only choice seems to be between semi-slave labor and crime. It is through his perspective that we come to understand the humanity that exists in a world ravaged by constant violence. Those that intent to watch it without subtitles should be aware that the heavy use of slangs make it a hard movie to understand. But with our without subtitles, this is a must watch if you want to get into Brazilian cinema.

O Auto da Compadecida (A Dogs Will)
Based on a work of Brazilian writer Ariano Suassuna and directed by Guel Arraes, many consider this the best Brazilian comedy every made. The protagonists of the story are two friends that live in the village of Tapero in the state of Paraba called Joo Grilo (Jack the Cricket) and Chic. Grilo is a liar, Chic is a coward and they are both poor. The movie chronicles their adventures as they get into all sorts of shenanigans, whether looking for work, tricking people or trying to get Chic a girl. The movie plays with stereotypes from the northeast of Brazil, and at the same time offers a humorous criticism of the misery that the region still faces nowadays. It is also hilarious from beginning to end, with many unforgettable scenes. If you are feeling adventurous and want to watch it without subtitles be warned: like Cidade de Deus, it is quite hard to understand due to the heavy northeastern accent and use of regional expressions.

O Que Isso Companheiro? (Four Days in September)
In 1969, the United States ambassador to Brazil Charles Elbrick was kidnapped by members of the Revolutionary Movement 8th October (MR8) and Ao Libertadora Nacional (ALN), two left-wing guerilla groups that fought against the military dictatorship. Their intention was to trade Elbrick for 15 political prisoners, most of them guerilla fighters as well. This film, directed by Bruno Barreto, is a thriller that tells a fictional version of the event. Loosely based on a memoir written by Fernando Gabeira, a Brazilian politician who was one of the kidnappers, it is a truly fascinating account from the time Brazil lived under a dictatorship engaged in a constant fight with guerilla groups and other “subversives”. This movie, which was nominated for a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, is a must watch for those that want to have a better understanding of that period, as well as for those that simply enjoy watching a good thriller.

By Pedro Souza, Staff Writer
August 25, 2015

So you have found your love in Brazil and wants to get married, but between you and your (hopefully) happy marriage, there stands a bureaucratic process for you to conquer. Do not be afraid, for we have written this article to guide you through the process. First, you need to gather the documents that you will be presenting at the cartorio (registry office). You should have a notarized copy of your spouse’s ID, an original and up to date copy of their birth certificate, your original birth certificate (certified by the Brazilian Consulate in the issuing country), receipt showing that the birth certificate has been legalized (GRU receipt), a translated copy of your birth certificate and passport, a declaration of non-impediment and a notarized ID copy of two Brazilian witnesses. You might also need to register your passport and birth certificate at the Cartorio de registros and bring a proof of address in Brazil.

In order for your spouse to get a notarized copy of an ID, they need to request a photocopy of an ID, which can be done in any cartorio at the cost of roughly R$5. They also need to apply for an up to date birth certificate from the state that they were born. As for your birth certificate, it needs to be recognized in Brazil, which can be done by sending it to the Brazilian consulate with a cover letter asking them to legalize it. Once you get your birth certificate back, you need to pay a fee at a branch of Banco do Brazil through a GRU form.

After you have gathered all the documents that are necessary, you need to go to the Cartrio de Registro Civil e Pessoas Naturais (Civil Registry), and apply for permission to marry. They will then give you a date and a time for you to pay a fee of roughly R$300, sign some forms and present two witnesses that know you well. On this day, you should show the officer that you have a basic understanding of Portuguese if you don’t want to hire a public translator. After this process is finished they will send the documentation to another official office for approval. Once the documents are approved, you will be notified and asked to sign another form, in which you need to list two godparents as witnesses and attach a certified copy of their identification to the form. After this is finished, you are finally allowed to marry on a date of your choice.

One thing to remember is that whether or not you chose to have a wedding ceremony, it is required for all Brazilians to have the civil wedding as well, whether in the registry office or elsewhere (at additional cost). At the registry office both the bride and the groom are allowed to have 8 people present, or 16 in some cases. Once this process is finished, you are finally married, and free to enjoy your marriage.

You can contact Pedro via

Previous articles by Pedro:

16 Funny Brazilian Expressions
The Best Festivals in Brazil for the EDM Lovers – Part 1
6 Common Mistakes Foreigners Make Trying to Speak Portuguese in Brazil
Brazil: 10 Hiking Trails for Nature Lovers in the State of São Paulo – Part 1

By Marilyn Diggs
July 21, 2015

View works of art, listen to classical music concerts, attend cultural lectures and drink tea in one lush and peaceful setting. Sounds too good to be true? It all happens at the Maria Luisa and Oscar Americano Foundation, in São Paulo.

In Honor of his Wife
The spacious home built in the 1950s was the country residence of Oscar Americano de Caldas Filho and his family. As a civil engineer he made his fortune by founding and directing a company that constructed many public works and buildings. When his wife Maria died, Oscar left his home as a museum in her memory. It was his way of thanking São Paulo for his prosperity. Thus, the 75,000-square-meters of woods and 2,500-square-meter house became a park and museum displaying paintings, rugs, furniture, objets d’art and commemorative memorabilia from Brazilian history. After the museum opened in 1974, new donations, mostly from the couple’s children, were added.

Seeing Eye to Eye – the Portrait Gallery
Visitors can’t help but be impressed as they enter the house and see two giant tapestries woven in 1768 by Globelins in France. Their former owner was British poet and writer, Lord Byron. Their theme is the New World, an appropriate introduction to the Brazilian artwork and furniture showcased in the museum’s collection.

Continue walking to see paintings and objects from the colonial time, Imperial Period (1823-1889) and the Old Republican Era (1898-1930). Explanations are in English as well as Portuguese. An important collection of paintings by the Dutch painter Frans Post (1612-1680) hangs in the dining room. The 24-year-old artist was enchanted by Brazil and remained 30 years. His somber colonial landscapes were painted in the dark European colors instead of tropical ones, and maintain the popular composition of his time – sky and land. Since Post was not a prolific painter, this museum’s collection has a significant sampling.

Portraits of Brazilian royalty are extensive. Princess Leopoldina as a child caresses a parrot, and baby Prince Dom Alfonso nestles in from a carriage window with a view of Guanabara Bay in Rio de Janeiro.

Brazilian modern art is scarce but well represented by Portinari, Di Cavalcanti and Lasar Segall. These three were instrumental in changing the direction of Brazilian art during the early part of this century.

Toothpicks and Tea
The collection of porcelain and china includes lovely pieces from the Dutch East India Company and Delft China. Empress Maria Leopoldina’s 98 plates are each painted with a different flower motif. Dancing animals, cupids, birds and much more decorate the curious collection of elaborate sterling silver toothpick holders.

After your visit, relax in the charming tea room where you will be served a traditional high tea, Brazilian style. Light meals are available too.

Be sure to ask for the concert schedule for the season.

Here is an excellent opportunity to learn about Brazilian heritage through a wide range of objects and cultural experiences.

Fundao Maria Luisa e Oscar Americano. Av. Morumbi 3700. Tel: 3742-0077.

Marilyn Diggs is an American living in Brazil for over twenty-five years. She is a freelance writer, artist, lecturer and author of nine books – two about Brazilian art history. As an art reporter and travel writer she has two monthly columns in Sunday News, Brazil’s English language newspaper that circulates in São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Brasilia. She has written for the Miami Herald, UNESCO’s Museum International and several in-flight magazines. Marilyn has a degree in Latin American Studies and is often contracted by intercultural training services to give talks on expat challenges.

Previous articles by Marilyn:

Beautiful Meets Bizarre in Brazilian Swamps
Brazil: Head for the Hills for an Authentic Festa Junina
Fazenda Capoava: Tourism – Brazilian Style
Dune Walk in Northeastern Brazil
Everythings Coming Up Roses in Holambra, the City of Flowers
Around Brazil: Embu Das Artes – History, Headdresses and Handicrafts
Full Steam Ahead! Chilean Vineyards by Train
A Trip to Easter Island: Beyond the Obvious
Atacama Desert, Chile – I Came, I Saw, I Explored
Journey through the Fjords of Patagonia
Around Brazil: Jap Mountains, When Nature Calls
Around Brazil: Living the Amazon
Brazil: A Spa that Takes Care of Body and Soul
Around South America: Puyuhuapi – Chiles Patagonian Secret
Around South America: Looking for Adventure in Chiles Patagonia
Around South America: Road Trip through a Forgotten Land – Aisn, Chile
Conquering Cape Horn
Around Brazil: Hang-Gliding Over Rio
Around Brazil: Sailing in Paraty
Santiago: Gateway to the Chilean Experience
The Enchanting Easter Island
Nature and Nurturing in Chile’s Lake Region
Chilean Patagonia: Going to the Ends of the Earth
Around Brazil: Adventure in the Pantanal and Bonito Part 2
Around Brazil: Adventure in the Pantanal and Bonito Part 1
Spending the Night in the Lost City of the Incas – Machu Picchu
Brazil: Happy Moonlit Trails To You
Brazil: Paradise Found – Fernando de Noronha

By Ed Catchpole
May 12, 2015

Brazil’s intelligentsia has often considered the question “who are Brazilians?” This was an important issue in the 1920s when the character of “Macunama”, an anti hero who had absolutely no moral fiber was created by Brazilian writer, Mrio de Andrade. Macunamaappeared at exactly the time that a new definition of what it means to be Brazilian was needed.

New immigrants were arriving and contributing to a new profile of Brazil which led to the conviction that imported labor was much better than the existing Brazilian workers.

Some scholars at the time argued that slaves had an inherent horror of labor and the native indians a knack for laziness. In this context the Lei de Gerson (to take advantage of someone or something) was a reaction to the dedicated and productive workers required when, firstly Brazilian agriculture, and then its industry needed to compete in the international market.

These wheeler dealers have become part of the folklore of an imaginary country with a slave soul, the antithesis of the European model which was perceived as full of rules.

They were viewed as shrewd, smart, lived by “jeitinho” and most importantly could find a “way around” anything. They made money through unofficial means; playing billiards, betting on horses, and in some cases surviving as gigolos. Over time, this imaginary rogue has increasingly become viewed as a criminal, but not before his associated folklore took hold of the national psyche.

A more marked expression of jeitinho came in the 1970s, in a landmark commercial for Vila Rica cigarettes. It was a time when nationalism was very different to the 1920s, a green and yellow pride and a megalomania fueled by the dictatorship. Against this backdrop a national hero and triple world cup champion midfielder Gerson coined his most famous phrase “You like to take advantage of everything too, right?”

(The above text translated from the article Lei de Gerson at Istoe Brasil, 1999)

The commercial did not have negative connotations at the time but later became the Lei de Gerson (Gerson’s Law). “It was very widespread jargon back then and the advertising captured the popular imagination,” says Historian and Researcher Maria Matos Izilda. “The Lei de Gerson served as yet another element in the definition of the Brazilian identity and a more explicit symbol of our ethics… or lack of them,” adds the historian.

Lei de Gerson works like this; if you have a regular job and pay your taxes you are an “Otario” a sucker. If you can somehow gain advantage (money) finding a way around your circumstances without necessarily working you are “Esperto” or smart. To put this esperto guy into context you might recognize him in the character of Captain Jack Sparrow, an anti-hero who uses wit and deceit to attain his goals.

Unfortunately, this also means there is usually a victim because someone has to get tricked for the jeitinho to work and those victims are nearly always other Brazilians. To me it explains why Brazilians are so reluctant to trust people they don’t know very well.

The recent protests are an example of how frustrated Brazilian are with Lei de Gerson and jeitinho which is the root cause of most political corruption and scandals. Billions of reais of government money are wasted every year through esquemas “schemes” that rely on these cultural traits.

In fact, many, many Brazilians do not subscribe to and deeply dislike this character trait. The thousands of companies operating in Brazil would not tolerate its official use by their employees and Supreme Court Justice, Joaquim Barboza, gave it no credence in his decisions in the Mensalo case. But it is still very ingrained in Brazilian society and bound up in its folklore.

However, it has to be said that some Brazilians still admire such people and regard the perpetrators as heroes and their victims as gullible saps who should have seen it coming.

Previous articles by Ed:

Brazil: Mr Fancy Pants
Brazil Pass Notes No. 1 – The Basics
The United States of Brazil
Brazil: Dont Stop the Party
Brazil: Super Toucans and Little Freddy Seaside
Brazil: Adventures in Portuguese


By Mose Hayward
Feburary 18, 2015

Whether youre kissing, drinking beer, dancing, or fondling your new love-interest, chances are youre doing it wrong, gringo.

For years Ive been interviewing Brazilians about their culture for travel guides, and in particular zeroing in on their sex, dancing and drinking customs for articles What I hadnt yet done is compile Brazilians observations on gringos partying. Its about time I drew up the short list of gripes, partly for what they reflect about Brazilians themselves, and partly of course to remind us of how we ought to behave when we want to fit in.

1. Youre drinking beer all wrong. “Gringos!” laughed one of my friends in Rio. “You buy uma garrafa (a 600mL bottle) for each of you, and you keep them to yourselves. You even drink from the bottle!” Beer drinking in Brazil is a social venture; just buy one garrafa at a time, and use the little cups that are provided. In mixed company, a gentleman might do the pouring.

2. Youre fondling your lover in public all wrong. Yes, yes, I know, youve seen Brazilians groping each other like crazy in the streets, and youve realized its OK here, and youve even found yourself a Brazilian love-muffin. Now you are hankering to get some of that sex-with-clothes-on Brazilian street action. But beware of the secret tripwire, lest you cross into the sacred Brazilian region that can bring all of that wet, wild, groping, rubbing craziness to a halt: the bunda.

You can touch, rub, and grind against each other pretty much any way you want in public in Brazil, but if a hand strays anywhere just a smidge south of the waistline, expect a quick halt and a long interrogation. “Do you think Im a whore?” a Brazilian woman might ask, even if moments earlier she was joyously grinding her pelvis against your leg. “Were in public!” A Brazilian man, on the other hand, is less likely to stop things if a foreign woman touches his ass in public, but he is likely to think of her, again, as a whore. (Yes, a double standard, obviously.)

Do feel free to enjoy your Brazilian street fondling, just remember, in spite of how crazy things might get, to keep those elbows bent so that your hands dont accidentally graze anywhere near that dangerous, tempting DMZ.

3. Youve ordered a glass of wine. In Brazil. That’s definitely wrong. Brazilian wine is almost universally terrible, and even the bottles imported from the wine-neighbors Argentina and Chile are apparently left out to bake in the sun for a few years at the border before being brought into the country.

Brazilians who see you drinking wine will appreciate your effort to look classy/snobby, but probably also ask you something like, “but arent you thirsty?” They will often offer you ice and/or sugar to make the wine more drinkable, and in a boteco you may get something foul from a bottle that’s been sitting open for a few months, served in a coffee cup. You don’t really want to go through all this, do you? Opt for a caipirinha.

Advanced gringo partiers may wish to check out our sites full coverage of Brazilian kissing,beer rules, debauchery hacking, and a vast array of other other Brazilian craziness.

Aside his work at, Mose Hayward (Twitter) has written for several Time Out guides and a comedy program on Spains TVE network.


By Chip Kishel
January 6, 2015

A story of a young American boy and his family living in Brazil from 1962 to 1964.

During the writing of my story some long lost family stereo 3D slides were found at my late father’s home in Strongsville, Ohio. By the grace of higher powers, the new owners gave them to his next door neighbor, an elderly lady who knew the family. Alas, my childhood memories are with me in the form of three dimensional stereo slides.

I spent hour upon hour gazing into the past that I’ve been writing about. The timing of receiving the lost slides while writing this story remains a mystery.

Mid- 1963 to Mid-1964 went by fast. Once I felt at home in Brazil the clock seemed to tick faster. Finally knowing the language and venturing out on my bike made all the difference. I learned a lot about new things for a young boy. Some things like seeing friendly women lined up along the avenue, talking to just anybody and sometimes getting in cars seemed odd until my older brother explained they were prostitutes. Of course he had to explain what prostitutes meant.

The streetcar rails were nearby and I ventured out to ride them from end to end. I discovered the ease of buying fireworks
during the festivities of St. John. Our neighborhood had a mix of American and Brazilian kids, some friendly and some not. I remember well fighting with the Brazilian Moleques.

Just before Christmas of 1963, President Kennedy was assassinated. I feel that the world changed from that point on. The communists in Sao Paulo were elated. I still remember my father confining our family in our home. Upstairs under the front windows were steamer trunks. On top of the trunks were hand guns for each of us. My father’s worked for USAID and felt we needed protection. Being that he was also a master gunsmith and taught all of us how to shoot, I imagine how surprised an intruder would have been to find a family fully armed and ready to shoot. I’m glad it did not come to that.

We got a call that a new baby had arrived. My sisters second child. She called us from the USA. In 1963 a long distance phone call took 3 days to set up. Live operators made the connection at a cost of US$17 per minute. I remember the rush of home sickness seeing my mother cry at the news of the new baby being named after her.

The final day arrived in July 1964. It was time to go home. Our furniture was crated up, except for the Queen Anne Piano which stayed with Mrs. Beebe. We stayed our final night at a hotel in Sao Paulo. I remember being sad and it rained hard that night. The next day we were driven to Santos by The Professor and his family. We boarded the ship HMS Aragon to sail to Europe before returning to the States. I remember crying. Funny, I cried when I arrived and I cried when I left.

Six weeks later I arrived home. School had started. I recall being quiet on the school bus. A yellow bus filled full of the chatter of children. After all I experienced in Brazil, I was twelve going on twenty one and the kids around me, well they were just… kids.
Iwould like to thank those who have followed my story. I thought of returning to Sao Paulo one day, but the Sao Paulo I remember is gone. I used Google Earth and found the Guido Bloch house still standing. The Beebe house is gone and replaced by a gas station. The streetcar tracks have been replaced by roads.

I guess I will keep the memories as they were. I can return home anytime by putting some 3D slides into the stereo viewer.

Chip Kishel and his wife Agnes reside in the small town of Sylvania, Georgia. Chip works for Houghton International as a contract Site Manager for Koyo Needle Bearing LLC. Chips hobbies include custom vintage Honda Motorcycle Restoration and his wife is an accomplished equestrian trainer specializing in dressage, cross country and stadium jumping.

Previous articles by Chip:

Brazil: 50 Years Past Part 4
Brazil: 50 Years Past Part 3
Brazil: 50 Years Past Part 2
Brazil: 50 Years Past Part 1