When Learning History Hurts: Brazil & Slavery

I have always said that you cannot change history, no matter how painful it is. However, history is sanitized all the time, especially in schools. One notable example of history being sanitized is that of Brazil. When people think of Brazil, people often think of bikini clad, ambiguous, Adriana Lima looking women. They think of cocktails, beaches, hotels, soccer and all the finer things in life.

People seldom think of the brutal history of slavery that shaped Brazil into the country that it is known as today. I remember when I worked at my summer job, I was talking with my abusive Nigerian coworker about travel. I told him that I wanted to visit Senegal and other west african countries. He told me that he wanted to visit Brazil so that he could “look at those brown, caramel women.” He then told me how “exotic,” Brazilian women were and how they have a reputation for being “hot.” These were not stereotypes that  I hadn’t heard before.

There was a documentary on YouTube called “Don’t Blame It on Rio,” where basically Black men go on sex trips to Brazil just to make love to the local, mixed Brazilian and white Brazilian women. I knew that Brazil had a reputation for beautiful women, but I also know that you can find beautiful women in every country.

So what really appealed to him was the so-called “Exotic,” factor. So, I responded by telling him…well you know the reason some of them are “brown and exotic,” looking is because they’re mixed Africans. I told him that outside of Nigeria (coincidentally) Brazil had the highest percentage of African-descended people in the world and most of the mixture came from Portuguese men having sexual relationships, sometimes forced, with African slave women, as well as the Amerindian women who resided in Brazil at the time.

For example, Adrian Lima is an Afro-brazilian from Bahia, many Bahians are descendants of slaves and many of them look “exotic,” to other people because they are not used to seeing mixed-looking women. Of course exotic is subjective and to a mixed Brazilian, women like Adriana Lima may not seem exotic at all. (See Abagond’s post on exotic women)

nevertheless I showed my brother a documentary on Brazil called An inconvenient History. It was all about slavery in Brazil, but I didn’t tell him that at the time.

I assumed when I told him it was a Brazilian history documentary that he knew slavery would be a part of it. I said before we go to Brazil, you should learn something about the history.

Side Note: Oh yeah did I mention, next Friday I am leaving to go to Salvador, Brazil. I am going from 11/3- 11/17. I’m quite nervous, but my brother is coming with me for one week.  Please just pray for me or think positive thoughts if you don’t pray because I’m excited, but afraid of flying.

Anyway , when I showed him the documentary he was surprised that it was about slavery and I sensed that it upset him a bit. I asked him if he knew that about Brazil and he said that he didn’t. Like many other American men, he had the image of Brazil as the bikini-clad, laid back, party women environment. He even told some of his friends jokingly that he was going to Brazil…and some of them would say “take condoms.”

When he saw the documentary, I think it shocked him a bit because it gives a whole different perspective on why Brazil is the way it is and the innocent things like sex trips and the ambiguous looking women are no longer innocent. But when you look at history, you begin to ask WHY things are the way they are and when you ask why, sometimes the truth can hurt more than your fantasy.

I fault myself because I shouldn’t have assumed that my brother knew about Brazilian history of slavery. I should have WARNED him beforehand so he could make the decision about whether or not he wanted to watch the documentary. He probably thought it was going to be a promo or tourist video and it wasn’t. So, I feel pretty bad about that. I do want him to enjoy his time in Salvador because I appreciate him coming and the last thing I want is to make him upset during the trip.

The lesson I learned was that I need to be more sensitive and warn people before showing things like that.

Just like US slavery, Brazilian slavery was a painful part of their history and it’s been sanitized. However, without Brazilian slavery, the outcome of the country would be very different, as it would be for the US.

Any way, I am going to Salvador, Brazil next week, so so nervous about the flight. I am praying and stuff. But I am going to be doing some volunteer work at a shelter for elderly people.  I am also going to be doing a lot of tourist visits because we only volunteer for 3-4 hours in the morning and the rest of the day is ours more or less. No one speaks English there, so I’ve had to learn what I can of Brazilian portuguese.  I will probably be saying nao falo portugues…voce fala ingles the whole time…lol

I can introduce myself thou

Eu sou Peanut

eu sou Americana

Eu sou negra mulher- I am a Black woman…or should that be mulher negra??

Este e meu irmao, ele e Americano tambem.

onde voce mora? – where do u live

onde voce trabalha?- where do u work?

I haven’t learned the last two responses yet, but I got some time…needless to say, I have a lot of studying to do. I am not even sure I said that stuff above right lol. I still need to learn a lot of verbs and how to conjugate them in the present tense. The past tenses and stuff I might have to learn when I get there lol.

Salvador is in Bahia, it’s afro-brazilian…so there will be a lot of Black and mixed people there. So, we’ll see how it goes.


Check out the video below-

3 thoughts on “When Learning History Hurts: Brazil & Slavery”

  1. “I was talking with my abusive Nigerian coworker about travel…He then told me how ‘exotic,’ Brazilian women were and how they have a reputation for being ‘hot’…I responded by telling him…well you know the reason some of them are ‘brown and exotic,’ looking is because they’re mixed Africans.”

    What was the reaction of your Nigerian coworker when you told him that?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s