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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.
The first mission in Brazil was created in 1935, and now there are 27 missions in Brazil. One-third of all the missions in South America are in Brazil–the Church is thriving there.
In all of Brazil there are over a million members of the Church, 1,941 congregations, 6 temples, and 315 family history centers.
There isn’t a temple in Minas Gerais that you will be able to attend on the mission, but the opportunity is there. The members are helpful with missionary work and with keeping recent converts active. There are several districts that are trying to become stakes and are close to achieving it.
Brazilian cuisine has European and African influences. It varies greatly by region, since the country has a large mix of native and immigrant populations. They eat mandioca (a potato-like root vegetable), acai, mango, papaya, passion fruit, and pineapple. The national dish is considered to be feijoada (beans with pork or beef), but they also eat polenta and fish dishes.
The best-known dish in Minas Gerais is pao de queijo, which is a small baked roll made with cheese and mandioca flour.
The members sign up each day to feed you lunch, which is the main meal of the day. Sometimes the members will just give you money so you can go and buy lunch somewhere, or so you can buy ingredients to make your own meal.
The Belo Horizonte Mission is a walking mission. None of the missionaries use cars or bikes. There is public transportation to take you long distances, though.
The state of Minas Gerais is the second-most-populous state in Brazil. The metropolitan area of Belo Horizonte is the third largest in Brazil, and is a major urban and financial center in Latin America. Sometimes called “Deep Brazil”, Minas Gerais has a distinctly more native flavor than cities like Sao Paulo or Rio de Janeiro. The people there speak with a distinct accent that sets them apart from fellow Brazilians. They are considered reserved, yet friendly and family-focused.
An interesting fact about Minas Gerais is that they love cheese. Their cheese is renowned worldwide as the distinct Brazilian cheese.
Brazil is the only South American country that speaks Portuguese, which has a strong influence on the national culture and sets it apart from its Spanish-speaking neighbors. In addition, there are around 180 other languages spoken by immigrants and their descendants.
Make sure to follow the supplies list provided by the mission. You won’t need many long-sleeved shirts, and light clothing is recommended. Since it rains quite a bit, you’ll want to bring a good umbrella (this will also be useful for keeping out of the sun in the summer months), and a waterproof jacket.
With a tropical savanna climate, the weather is generally temperate, but it depends on the areas in which you serve. Up north in the mission, it gets very hot. Most areas don’t really get cold. The coldest month is July, with lows of 36 degrees Fahrenheit. The hottest month is January, with the highest recorded temperature of 96 degrees Fahrenheit. Winter is dry, while summer is rainy. Annual rainfall is 58 inches.
Mail is fairly reliable in Brazil. Expect packages to take around 4 to 12 weeks to reach you. To prevent anyone tampering with packages, some missionaries put religious stickers on packages to ward off superstitious thieves.
Rua São Paulo, 1781 10º Andar
Ed 17 de Maio, Sala 1001, Lourdes
30170-132 Belo Horizonte – MG