By Evandro Monteiro, Luana Schommer and Vanessa Eschiletti
"Then one Saturday we went to his village to visit, and his mother showed us a beautifully patterned basket made of dyed raffia that his brother had made. I was startled. It had not occurred to me that anybody in his family could actually make something. All I had heard about them was how poor they were, so that it had become impossible for me to see them as anything else but poor. Their poverty was my single story of them." - This is a short excerpt of Chimamanda Adichie speech, a Nigerian writer. Just like she had a single story about this family, people have single stories about Brazil.
Usually, foreigners think that Brazil is just Carnival, samba, Football, beautiful women and Caipirinha. But this is only one side of the story. We have much more to offer. For example, they think all our music has a fast, happy and funny beat, however Brazil has many different rhythms.
Brazil is one of the countries that suffer with the stereotypes. Foreigners have a set image of Brazil, a general vision of who a Brazilian is. But Brazil’s population exceeds 193 million people, and it’s not possible that 193 million people like to listen to the same music, to dress the same clothes, and to eat the same food. People look forward to coming to Brazil to see carnival and football, and they really are part of our culture, but of a small part. Moreover, only because carnival and football are part of our culture it does not meaning that here we are all about these things. The big problem is generalization.
There are many countries in the world, each one with its own culture, and even each culture has its own diversities. We cannot say that every Brazilian is sexy, likes samba, and is funny all the time. Even at the time of the dictatorship or during the wars in the middle of the last century, not all people thought alike. Diversity has always existed and will always exist.
We, Brazilian students of the English language, interviewed, in our University, mobility students from China, Taiwan, Japan and South Korea, and some of them think Brazilians are happy people, and they knew Brazilian music for samba and bossa nova. But we did not know much about their countries either. We were able to show some of our culture, and to demonstrate that we do not have only happy music with fast rhythms, among other things. The foreigners could show some aspects of their cultures too, and we both could deconstruct some stereotypes.
When we differentiate a group of people by characteristics we think that what the members of this group have in common is probably a stereotype. We believe stereotypes are always prejudiced, even if it is not what people intend. When a foreigner says that Brazilians are happy and communicative persons, they think it is a good point of our country, but when someone characterizes a Brazilian like this, this person is excluding all Brazilians that do not have these characteristics.
Maybe we feel more comfortable if the Brazilian stereotype is that all Brazilians love rock, are smart and hardworking people, and that they are all very shy. But even if we are known for other characteristics, they won’t be able to represent all Brazilians. A stereotype is always very dangerous, once we can be prejudiced without realizing it.