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Snapshot of Brazil – The official language of Brazil is Portuguese, making it distinct from the rest of South America. The Brazilian people are mostly descended from a mix of European, African, and indigenous ancestry, though this varies from region to region. The Roman Catholic Church is Brazil’s dominant religion, particularly in areas such as Teresina, Florianópolis, and Fortaleza. However, the Roman Catholic church has been decreasing in popularity in recent years as various Protestant and Evangelical churches have been growing rapidly. Other religious traditions are also practiced in various parts of the country, such as traditional indigenous beliefs in the north of the country, or Afro-Brazilian religions such as Candomblé and Umbanda that are concentrated in Salvador, Recife, and Rio de Janeiro. There has been some conflict between these different religious groups. While Brazil’s culture as a whole is influenced by Portuguese, African, indigenous, and Roman Catholic traditions, there is great variation from region to region. The south of the country is more strongly influenced by German and Italian culture. Brazil has a strong history in literature, architecture, and film. Brazil is also home to many unique musical styles, such as samba, pagode, and funk (especially popular in Rio de Janeiro and Bahia), forró and frevo (popular in the northeast), and sertanejo (popular in Mato Grosso and Paraná). The yearly festival Carnaval (held each year forty-six days before Easter) is a major event, celebrated by parades, dancing, and music contests. The holiday is especially popular in Rio de Janeiro and Bahia, to the point that missionary work is sometimes restricted during the week of Carnaval. Television is especially popular in modern Brazilian culture, especially novelas (Brazilian soap operas). Soccer is by far the most popular sport in Brazil, though volleyball, basketball, and several forms of martial arts (such as Capoeira and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu) are also popular. Food in Brazil also varies from region to region, but there are some similarities throughout the country. Lunch is generally the main meal of the day, and rice and beans are eaten at almost every meal. The meals usually involve some type of meat as well as a small salad. Popular dishes include feijoada (a thick stew typically made with black beans and pork), pasta, and potatoes. Southern Brazil is famous for its churrascos (Brazilian-style grilled meat) and chimmarrão (a hot drink made using herba mate). Salgados (fried snacks similar to Spanish tapas) and the pastel (pastry envelopes filled with meat or cheese) are popular snack items. Pizza buffets are also popular, with many different types of pizza available, though Brazilian pizza generally does not have sauce. Rather, people add either ketchup or mustard to their pizza. Other restaurants sell meals buffet-style where the consumer pays for food by weight (per kilo). Many types of tropical fruit are also available in Brazil, and drinks made from fruit such as açai and guaraná are quite popular.
Brazil is a predominantly Catholic; traits inherited by its European roots. However, recently the Brazilian people have been losing preference towards the Catholicism as other Evangelical and Protestant churches find increasing success.
The LDS church has over a million members in Brazil and six current temples. The first recorded member of the LDS church arrived in 1913 and it took 27 additional years to establish the first branch in Joinville. The first mission, Sao Paulo was established in 1935 and originally missionaries only taught in German.
The church is still young in the Belém mission. There are many small branches, which have a high inactivity rate
The main food in Brazil is rice and beans, which is found at nearly every meal. Brazilians also learn to utilize parts of animals that may not popular food items in the United States. Items like this include chicken feet, cow tongue and pig shins.
Often, missionaries are fed by members of the church for lunch, the principal meal of the deal.
In many cities vans serve as a principal mode of transportation on the main streets. They stop, open the side-door and passengers usually find some bumpy standing room inside. Most residents own a motorcycle if they can afford one.
In some areas in Belém, where the area is not spread too far apart, missionaries walk as their main form of transportation. When walking, be sure to follow mission rules to avoid dangerous areas after nightfall.
Water from the faucet is typically non-potable. Sandals are always to be worn in the shower. Missionaries are required to carry with them small sums of money to surrender in case of robbery.
Proper food preparation is also very important. To avoid consuming parasites that are common in some of the meat of produce in Brazil it is advised not to take chances on questionable foods.
Women greet each other by kissing one another’s cheek. Brazilians also have a custom to eat a very large lunch and take a subsequent nap for several hours afterwards.
“Bacana!” – Awesome! “Di Rocha” – it’s done with, set in stone
When sending mail to missionaries in the Belém mission, it is advisable to address letters and packages to the mission home address to avoid lost mail. There are restrictions to the content of packages that customs will be likely to remove from the package or even to confiscate it. These restrictions include things like food stuffs with animal bases (like beef jerky) and cash. Visit the USPS website here, http://pe.usps.com/text/imm/ab_028.htm, for a complete list of restrictions and regulations.
Av. Nazaré, 532 Sala 412 4º Andar
Nazaré Royal Trade Center
66035-170 Belém – PA
What items were hard to get or not available?
“Peanut Butter, Maple Syrup, Root Beer and other distinctly American food items”
What did you eat the most of?
“Rice and Beans”
What is the craziest thing you ate?
“Alligator, pig shins, bull’s heart and an entire chicken.”
What was most surprising about the culture?
“Even though the country is very poor, they all have pretty nice cell phones and TVs.”
“Everyone that can afford one, owns a motorcycle. I once saw six people riding on one motorcycle.”
What advice would you give to someone going to this Mission?
What do you wish you had known before you served?
“How hard it is!”