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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.
For every meal in Brazil the people eat beans and rice. The members will often feed the missionaries for lunch. For dinner missionaries are on their own and will usually eat food from street vendors or cook in their apartment.
Both missionaries and locals typically get around by foot or public transportation.
Missionaries often live in nice houses or apartments, which are very safe. The crime rate in the city can be relatively high, so it’s recommended that missionaries use good judgement, follow the mission rules, and carry only small amounts of money when walking around.
The people in the Santa Maria Mission are loving people. Many times they will kiss on the cheek as a greeting. The people in Brazil hate saying no to anyone; therefore, many times they will commit to an appointment but not show up.
It is recommended to bring good shoes because it is very hard to buy shoes there. Deodorant is also hard to come by so be sure to stock up before leaving.
When sending packages, be smart and do not send anything illegal in the box. They will confiscate any drugs even if they are prescription. Some say it helps to put a picture of Christ or the Virgin Mary on the package to deter theft.
Rua Alberto Pascualine, 121 Sala 403
97015-970 Santa Maria – RS
Straight from the Brazil Santa Maria Mission:
*What items were hard to get or not available?
*What did you eat the most of?
“Rice and beans, meat”
*What is the craziest thing you ate?
*What was most surprising about the culture?
*What advice would you give to someone going to the Brazil Santa Maria Mission?
*What do you wish you had known before you served?