The National Psyche
Despite the country's social and economic woes, Brazilians take much pride in their country. The gorgeous landscape is a favorite topic, and although every Brazilian has a different notion of where to find paradise on earth, it will almost certainly be located within the country's borders. Soccer is another source of pride - less the national pastime than a countrywide narcotic to which every Brazilian seems to be addicted.
Famed for their Carnaval, Brazilians love to celebrate, and parties happen year round. But it isn't all samba and beaches in the land of the tropics. At times, Brazilians suffer from saudade, a nostalgic, often deeply melancholic longing for something. The idea appears in many works by Jobim, Moraes and other great songwriters, and it manifests itself in many forms - from the dull ache of homesickness to the deep regret over past mistakes.
When Brazilians aren't dancing the samba or drowning in sorrow, they're often helping each other out. Kindness is both commonplace and expected, and even a casual introduction can lead to deeper friendships. This altruism comes in handy in a country noted for its bureaucracy and long lines. There's the official way of doing things, then there's the jeitinho, or the little way around it, and a little kindness - and a few friends - can go a long way. One need only have patience, something Brazilians seem to have no shortage of.
Although Brazil has the world's eighth largest economy, with abundant resources and developed infrastructure, the standard of living varies wildly. More than for its GDP, Brazil is known for having one of the world's widest income gaps between rich and poor.
Since the mass urban migration in the mid- 19th century, the poorest have lived in favelas (urban slums) that surround every city. Many dwellings consist of little more than a few boards pounded together, and access to clean water, sewage, schools and healthcare are luxuries few favelas enjoy. Drug lords rule the streets, and crime is rampant.
The rich often live just a stone's throw away, sometimes separated by nothing more than a highway. Many live in modern fortresses, with security walls and armed guards, enjoying a lifestyle not unlike the upper classes in Europe and America .
Carnaval brings the two together - albeit in different ways. The favelas take center stage, parading through the streets, while the rich enjoy the spectacle; and everyone wracks up a few sins before Lent brings it all to a close.
In Brazil the diversity of the landscape matches that of the people inhabiting it. Officially, 55% of the population is white, 6% black, 38% mixed and 1% other, but the numbers little represent the many shades and types of Brazil 's rich melting pot. Indians, Portuguese, Africans (brought to Brazil as slaves), and their mixed-blood offspring made up the population until the late 19th century. Since then there have been waves of immigration by Italians, Spaniards, Germans, Japanese, Russians, Lebanese and others.
Immigration is only part of the picture when considering Brazil 's diversity. Brazilians are more prone to mention regional types when speaking of the racial collage. Caboclos, who are descendents of the Indians, live along the rivers in the Amazon region and keep alive the traditions and stories of their ancestors. Gauchos (herdsmen) populate Rio Grande do Sul, speak a Spanish-inflected Portuguese and can't quite shake the reputation for being rough-edged cowboys. By contrast, Baianos, descendents of the first Africans in Brazil , are stereotyped for being the most extroverted and celebratory of Brazilians. And let's not forget Cariocas (residents of Rio ), Paulistanos (who inhabit Rio 's rival city, Sao Paolo), Mineiros (who come from the colonial towns of Minas Gerais), and Sertanejos (denizens of the droughtstricken sertdo). These groups represent but a handful of the many types that make up the kindhearted (but complicated, mind you) Brazilian soul.