It’s a common misjudgement about Brazilians, especially about women, to be liberal maybe even sexually liberal. I understand how this misunderstanding comes to exist, because often Brazil is portrayed outside of the country with images of endless beaches with the famous beach beauties – gorgeous women wearing their next-to-nothing string bikinis (which the Brazilians call “dental floss”) or the bare-breasted almost naked women dancing Samba at the carnival. And while both of these images represent a small part of the Brazilian culture, reality is quite different and much more complex. But to reflect the simplicity of these images, let me just say, that Brazilians tend not only to be overweight instead of skinny and sexy, but also conservative and quite religious.
It is a country of many coexisting religions, be it the lesser known Santo Jaime religion or the well known Candomblé to name only two. But most of all, Brazil is a very catholic country with two thirds of the Brazilian population defining themselves as catholic. You can observe this every day while surfing the public television with it’s many religious TV stations. And Brazil is also a conservative country where abortion is still illegal and being gay can result in crazy discrimination! Just look at Marina Silva, she is not only the most prominent presidential candidate for the upcoming election besides elected president Dilma Rousseff, she is also considered a liberal – coming from the green party – an anti-establishment figure and a fervent evangelical Christian who is trying hard not to comment on the topic of abortion, because it simply is too controversial.
Just how religious this country is can easily be seen on one of the numerous holidays, honoring local patron saints, like “Nossa Senhora de Monte Serrat”, which is the patron of Santos. Every year in the end of august, a statue is taken in a big procession from the small church on top of the characteristic hill with the amazing view over Santos. People chanting and walking down the hill behind a statue of the saint, carried on the shoulders of a group of soldiers (Youtube).
The statue is then brought to a big open-air mass and later to the cathedral, where it is on display for about two weeks until September 8th, the holiday of Nossa Senhora de Monte Serrat, when the statue is carried up the hill again. Hundreds of people are having a big party in the historic center (Youtube) for this event and they will later follow the soldiers carrying the statue again, some of them take the more than 400 steps up the hill on their knees, like hard-core sinners. It is a day of happiness and love for many religious Santistas – at least that is what the governor says – and it is a fact about living in Brazil which should not be forgotten. Next time you see pictures of an amazing wonderful Brazilian beach with the happy bikini girls on them, just remember that these girls are either married or living with their parents and that beach wear is as normal as the morning cup of coffee on the Brazilian coast.