Live and Work in Brazil
Brazil is a massive country with lots going for it: a rich history, colourful culture and stunning scenery. What a place . . .
Brazil is the fifth largest country in the world, after (in order) Russia, Canada, China and the USA. It has a land area of 8.5 million square kilometres and a population of 188 million people. It was ‘discovered’ by Portuguese explorers, headed by Pedro Alvares Cabral in 1500. Before this its population comprised Amerindians. It was gradually colonized by the Portuguese and exploited originally for its hardwoods and later for sugar cane and coffee.Mining for gold and precious stones, including diamonds was important. Precious stones are still mined in the state of Minais Gerais (meaning ‘general mines’), especially emerald, aquamarine, topaz (including precious imperial topaz) and tourmaline.
The country’s wealth was built on the enslavement of the indigenous population and, later, of Africans. Slavery was officially abolished (late) in 1888, as a result of a law called the Golden Law of Princess Isabel, of whom there is a statue (presumably in gratitude) just opposite the former Meridian Hotel (now the Iberostar) in Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro. This law was enforced with help from the British Navy which blockaded the ports, particularly in theNorth East where, as Peter Robb tells us in A Death in Brazil, the importation of slaves clandestinely continued for a while; the ‘imports’ being called ‘chickens’.
At first Brazil was simply a colony of the Portuguese. The official language is Brazilian Portuguese,which differs from European Portuguese much as American English differs from the Queen’s English. There are language courses and CDs that offer an opportunity to learn each version of the language. Minority languages are spoken as a first language amongst some small residual pockets of the original population.These include Tupi,Guarani,Kaingang,Caraja,Caribe,Tucano,Arara, Terena, Bororo, Apalai, Canela, and Nadeb. There is also German (spoken by 1.5m), Italian (spoken by 0.5m), Japanese (spoken by 0.4m) and Korean (spoken by 37,000).
After the Brazilian empire of the Portuguese, there was an independent Brazilian empire, but still under a member of the ruling Portuguese royal family, the House of Braganza.On 15th November 1881, amilitary coup imposed a federal republic. Because of its great natural riches, many immigrants from Europe, the Middle East, Japan and Asia swelled a population that had already become genetically mixed by interbreeding, between the indigenous population, the Portuguese and Africans.
As well as their language, the Portuguese brought with themtheir religion: Roman Catholicism. Brazil is said to have the largest Roman Catholic population of any country. However, there is a twist on this because there is a growing evangelical Christian church movement, which is attracting numbers of people who are, anyway, often caught between the strict doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church and their own inclinations. Many Brazilians are also caught up in the voodoo practices of their African ancestors
The Brazilian personality is difficult for‘westerners’ to fathom.The people seem friendly and happy – and they are, but this is not the end of the story because they also seem to see things only from one, restricted point of view. If you happen to be bamboozled into a hard bargain by a mixture of desperate importunity, sob-story and vast over-valuation of the goods on offer (whichmay or may not be genuine, in any event),don’t say that you have not been warned. In a similar vein,do not buy jewellery or precious or semi-precious stones from a man with a box or a stall in the street.
If you have travelled in some parts of Asia you might well have encountered one type of ‘con’ trick phenomenon already – a helpful ‘driver’ appearing at the hotel steps, asking only that you pay his petrol, with an offer of visiting gem ‘museums’ – where, lo and behold the exhibits are for sale! Sales are pressed, at prices set according to your nationality; where you are staying; what you are wearing; where you have been eating and any obvious give-aways like precious stones already on fingers: presumably the actual market value of the item figures somewhere in the calculation but, often, it is difficult to discern where.
Another thing to watch out for is being‘introduced’ to shops and tradesmen by people helpfully masquerading as good Samaritans who ‘just want to be your friend’. In fact what they are up to is delivering a Gringo, in return for a kickback commission – which will be written into the cost of the goods or services that you purchase (which may well, in any event, be overpriced). The amount of this commission will be at least the amount of discount (a vista) allowed for cash payments (as opposed to instalment payments) which would normally be given to the money lender.
It is necessary to watch your possessions and yourselves in Brazil. In big cities, the threat of violence is notoriously omnipresent, but if you go about carefully, it can usually be avoided.
It is plainly bad form for immigrants to criticise a host country or its people (after all, if you don’t like them, leave!).The purpose of these warnings here in this book is not to criticise, nor to urge reform, but just to advise and warn newcomers against common forms of naked exploitation.
Moreover, if you get into a scrape or dispute with a Brazilian, it will be a most extraordinary Brazilian who will not, as a matter of course, be inclined to support his countryman; although such people, especially amongst themore educated and those who have travelled outside Brazil, do exist.
There is not somuch racial discrimination here – not least because there is such a mixture of races within the Brazilian people – but there is an open bias against gringos – except when striking deals.There’s also, a scarcely concealed resentment of foreigners shown by some people.
GEOGRAPHY AND CLIMATE
Brazil is easily the biggest country in South America and borders all of the others, except Chile and Ecuador. It stretches from the equator to just over 30° south (at its longest point, 2,731 miles) and (at its widest point, 2,684 miles) nearly 35° east to about 75° west.
There are five climatic regions in Brazil:
Plateau cities such as São Paulo, Brasília, and Bello Horizonte have milder climates, averaging 17°C. The average annual temperature in the Amazonian rainforests is around 27°C and temperatures over 32°C are rare. Rio de Janeiro, Recife and Salvador on the coast have warm climates, balanced by the constancy of the Trade Winds.
In the south of Brazil (around Porto Alegre), the climate is sub-tropical and frost is not unknown. Here the seasons are more noticeable. In addition there are mountain ranges where snow and frost are often found.The hottest part of Brazil is the North East where, between May and November (the dry season), temperatures of 40°C have been recorded. Along the coast from Recife to Rio de Janeiro mean annual temperatures range from 23°C to 27°C.
The seasons in Brazil are the reverse of those in the northern hemisphere.Spring is from September 22nd to December 21st, summer from December 22nd to March 21st, autumn from March 22nd to June 21st and winter runs from June 22nd to September 21st.
The Amazon is the world’s largest river in terms of volume of water and second longest (3,115 miles long), after the Nile. Of this 2,246 miles are in Brazil.