Giovani Coppini and Rafaela Rocha
Stereotypes. We all have been there. Because we are tall or too short, chubby or thin; because we wear glasses or have blond hair. At least once in your life you have been labeled under some concept that does not even scratch the truth. The same goes for nationalities: Russian and their vodka, Japanese and their brains, Canadians and their hockey, Indians and their gold. Stereotypes come for good and evil. They may say something about a people and their culture, but we have to bear in mind they are not the ultimate nor the most adequate definition. As Brazilians, some of us have faced some of these generalizations ourselves and they all involve Carnaval, samba, soccer, and the Amazon forest. But we are way more than that.
It is common opinion abroad that Brazilians are very passionate, happy, and kind people. That may be our Latin blood screaming, but we certainly like to have a good time. Some of the most famous images of Brazil and its people – which have been spread by the media and also by ourselves – divide opinions when broadcast as “the truth” about us: not everyone loves Carnaval and some of us look rather ridiculous trying to samba; not everyone has a gift for soccer (honestly, a good number of us are born with two left feet); and yeah, it may be hard to remember that we are the only country in Latin America which speaks Portuguese. Brazil is such an immense, richly diverse country that it is hard to define whatever we are under one single image. It is interesting to point out, though, that due to Brazil’s recent emergency in the international scenario some of these stereotypes tend to be deconstructed as the world gets to know us a little better.
Case in point is that foreigners seem to agree that we are very gentle and helpful towards them. Our friendliness apparently impresses visitors, and most of them think that this is a natural feature of our personalities. That, added to the fact that Brazil has been thriving in times of worldwide economic crisis, attracts foreigners to live here. Interestingly enough, according to a research led by Ipsos Mori*, 41% of the Brazilian interviewees think that there are too many immigrants here. It is quite controversial, tough, that 49% of the interviewees also think that Brazil becomes a more interesting place with immigrants around.
Despite this love and hate relationship, it is the Brazilian love for new and fresh things that keeps us going. The world may be getting to know us, and soon they will learn that yes, we have Carnaval, but we also have Bumba-meu-boi, Parintins, and our own version of Oktoberfest; we have samba, but we also have forró, frevo, and chula; we may have great soccer players, but we also play peteca, footvolley, and capoeira. We are not made of only one story, and neither is anyone. It is very likely that the known stereotypes about Brazil are indeed our own fault, for several reasons, but above all is the underdog syndrome from which we suffer. We may wear a brave and laidback front, but we are dying to fit in and to be taken seriously. Maybe it is time for Brazil to leave its inferiority complex behind and focus on all the great things we have to offer the world, much beyond reductionist images and labels.
* 1 The research is available online at Ipsos Mori official website: http://www.ipsos-mori.com/researchpublications/researcharchive/2833/Too-Many-Immigrants.aspx