Life in Brazil and
in Rio, in particular, tends to be more focused
on the family than in the United States. The child is made to feel
an important part of a larger unit. Brazilian parents find less
occasion to discipline, and the families tend to be less authoritarian.
Teenagers rarely rebel against their parents like they do in the US.
Why do Carioca (Rio de Janeiro
resident) parents give their children such long names?
The identity of most Brazilian
young people consists of a first name, a middle name, the last name of their
mother, followed by the last name of their father.
minor’s full name might look something like this: Eduardo Jazon
Borgerth da Silva. However, the child or teen usually goes only
by his first name and one of the last names. No rule determines
if the surname of the mother or that of the father is used.
However, since Rio is
a male dominated society, the father’s is more common. When a boy’s name is
the same as his grandfather’s, the word Neto (grandson) appears after
his last name. When a boy has been christened after his father, the
word Filho (son) or Júnior (junior) follows.
What about nicknames?
young person has a nickname. They are usually a play on, or
shortened version, of their first name. For example, Ronaldo
is known as Naldo.
Zinho or inho,
signifying ‘little’, may also be added to the first name. Paulinho
would mean ‘little Paulo’.
Who raises the children?
In wealthy families, children
are raised by nannies who are usually distinguished from the other household
employees who cook or clean. Mothers are in charge of the household, which
includes childcare. While fathers love their children, they usually maintain
a distance in the children’s actual upbringing.
Up until 1979 divorce
was illegal in Brazil. Since then, more single mothers are raising their children,
with or without the help of a nanny. In cases where the mother is both working
and without a nanny, the extended family often pitches in.
In the favelas
(shantytowns), it is common to see children watched over by their siblings,
other relatives, or neighbors. In other cases, they may be forced out into
the streets due to the lack of money necessary to support them.
Are parents very strict?
In general, life in Rio
tends to be more focused on the family than in the United States. The child
is made to feel an important part of a larger unit. Because of this, parents
find less occasion to discipline, and the families tend to be less authoritarian
in nature. Teenagers rarely rebel against their parents in the manner in which
they do in the United States.
What’s all the noise
and adults are very open and enthusiastic in their expressions of life. The
behavior of these children is less restricted. Young people play in the streets,
dance at evangelical church services, are lively participants at the dinner
Running up and down in
restaurants or airplane aisles is viewed as an expression of childhood. However,
scenes in public places are often short lived due to manners training. Spanking
is reserved for true naughtiness.
While the culture seems
somewhat indulgent, it is understood that the young person is to respect his
elders and act in a manner which speaks well of the family.
In general, Rio’s families
spend more time and attention in training children on how to behave in various
types of public situations than do those in the United States.
To have to be removed
from a social gathering, due to poor conduct, is a great source of embarrassment
and disgrace in the mind of the young person. Thus, he strives to behave accordingly
How close is the relationship
between family members?
Families remain close
throughout life and several generations may find themselves all living together
under one roof. This gives young people the opportunity to know grandparents
and other relatives on a closer basis.
Retirement homes are almost
unknown in Rio. If a grandparent is not living in the home of one of their
children, they often reside near by so the family can keep an eye on them.
Are the beliefs of
family members formed from the Catholic religion?
In a country which claims
to be 70% Catholic, it is surprising to learn that currently only about 15%
of Rio’s Catholic families take their religion seriously.
However, even if they
are not observant , many parents still continue to celebrate religious holidays
and practice the traditions
How are Catholic Carioca
are brought up with a reverence for the church. Baptism is a major event.
At this time parents ask a friend, relative, or even an employer to become
The obligation of being
a godparent does not end with the ceremony, but remains ongoing. The godparent
presents the child with gifts at birthdays, and has a continual role in their
godchild’s education and upbringing.
The Catholic rites of
First Communion and Confirmation become benchmarks in the child’s life.
What is it like to
grow up Catholic in Rio?
Until recently, when Catholicism
underwent a evangelical movement, many families did not own a Bible. The emphasis
instead was on sacrament and superstition This was partly due to Christianity
having been forced upon the slaves when they arrived from Africa.
Rather than give up their
original gods, the new arrivals combined the worship of the Catholic saints
and those of the orixás from their home country. The Orixás,
African spirits who possess personality characteristics analogous to Greek
mythological gods and goddesses, were soon accepted by the priests and allowed
to be part of the religion. African demonic spirits, Exus, fit in well
with the concept of the devil and Christian demons.
Modern Brazilian Catholics
still consider ritual and superstition a part of their religion There are
religious shops throughout the city which carry statues of Catholic saints
and Orixás , votive candles, and African herbal potions. From
early on, children are taught the significance of the prayers and rituals
which accompany these objects.
children ever raised in other religions?
Rio has an open attitude
towards other Christian denominations. The Pentecostal branch of protestant
Christianity has become extremely popular as evidenced by their huge worship
halls and fiery preachers on television.
Many young people seem
to like the Pentecostal services where hymns are played on electric guitars
to which the older children and teens dance freely.
There are also families
who raise their children solely in the traditions of African Spiritualism
in which they must appease the Orixás. Early on, the children
are taught which potions are used during Candomblé and Umbanda
entails having a medium call forth the spirits of the dead to perform acts
of mercy or vengeance. Umbanda combines the African beliefs with practices
which came from part of a French spiritual movement active during the 1800’s.
The festive rites are designed to heal the body and free up the soul.
Others adhere to a religious
philosophy, called Kardecism, which approaches spirituality from a
metaphysical point of view.
Though clearly in the
minority, members of Jewish and other faiths are accepted. All religions are
allowed places to worship.
How do Carioca
young people dress?
Cotton T-shirts, jeans,
sleeveless shirts, open toed or tennis shoes, and other casual wear are the
norms in a climate where it is warm year round. Cariocas are very hygiene
conscious and often take between two and four showers a day. Though they dress
casually, clothes are always clean and ironed. Shoes are polished. Those,
whose circumstances allow, wear the latest styles which are often imported
may wear clothing which has been distributed by nonprofit organizations. Their
wardrobe may also include attire handed down to their parents by a wealthy
patron who employs the parent as a domestic helper..
What books do Carioca
young people like to read?
Books are not as widely
published in Brazil as they are in the United States. This means that there
is a smaller selection to choose from. Many favela young people have
only basic reading skills. This makes it easier for them to watch TV or listen
For the children who do
read, there are many juvenile favorites by Brazilian authors such as Rio native,
Millôr Fernandes, whose estórias infantis (short fables)
teach many valuable moral and practical life lessons.
Many publishers offer
books which contain contos (short stories), which deal with the realities
of daily life in a way that causes children to reflect on and examine their
own circumstances. There are also books on virtues and manners.
Teens like other contos
which delve into romance and emotion. Others are currently popular in
outside countries and have been translated into Portuguese. Examples include
the Harry Potter series, as well as timeless stories loved the world over
such as The Little Prince and The Velveteen Rabbit. Disney tales and comic
books are additional favorites.
Do children in Rio
like fairy tales?
Rio’s children grow up
hearing fairy tales which come from old legends told by the Tupi-Guarani,
native Indians from Brazil’s northern Amazon region. Sometimes, rather
than being read, fairy tales are told from generation to generation.
Many involve animals,
nature and mythical figures. Two examples are Curupira, the forest
spirit who protects the forest and its animals as he lures hunters into its
depths until they are lost, and Boiuna (Cobra Grande _ Big Snake)
who lurks in the depths of rivers to scare and kill fishermen.
Some of the characters
are similar to those found in European fairy tales, but take different forms.
For example, the River Dolphin is comparable to that of the Mermaid except
he tempts women instead of men.
There are mischievous
characters like Saci Pererê, who slips through the hole in door
locks at night in order to play pranks such as blowing out the fire in stoves
and the light in lanterns.
Others are tragic like
the maiden who lives on the moon and causes her reflection to fall upon the
water of the river so that young men throw themselves into its depths to catch
What is the favorite
team sport in which Carioca young people like to compete?
Rio’s children and teens
love to play futebol ( soccer) no matter which economic class they
are from. Many favela youth imagine becoming a great soccer star, like
Pelé, in order to escape the drudgery of their lives, but lack
of knowledgeable coaches and organized play impede their dream.
Fortunately, some of the
nonprofit organizations are attempting to address this need through charitable
soccer programs. Wealthier youngsters also have hopes of becoming futebol
stars. The difference is that they have access to the organized clubs and
Which is the national
martial art form practiced by many children and teenagers?
The martial art of capoeira,
which takes form as an acrobatic dance, is fashionable among both youth
and adults who aspire to become graceful and adept at the maneuvers. Teenage
boys often see the sport as a means to assert their masculinity.
Where did capoeira
Capoeira was introduced
by slaves who had developed the moves back in Africa in an effort to evade
capture by traders. Upon arrival in Brazil, it allowed them to defend themselves
at times in which their hands were tied behind their backs. It also served
to disguise fights from plantation owners who were sure to punish them at
any sign of dissension.
Once outlawed in Rio,
due to the fighting among favela criminal gangs, capoeira has
now become legalized and adopted as Brazil’s national sport.
How is Capoeira
In modern times, players
form a ring with the two combatants in the middle. Some on the circle play
percussion and other instruments of African origin. At the same time, others
chant and clap as the two fighters handstand, cartwheel and somersault using
movements which attempt to out maneuver each other.
After a few minutes of
displaying their skill, the two fighters rejoin the outer ring. Two new combatants
step from the circle to replace them. Like many other martial arts, capoeira
is about movements, rather than fighting. Thus, there’s no actual physical
contact in these ‘fights’.
What about beach activities?
Being a year-round beach
city, water sports are extremely prevalent in Rio and many young people practically
grow up at the beach. Swimming clubs encourage competition.
Surfers can be found contending
for crowded waves. Diving, fishing and sailing are other common pastimes.
Of course, sailing is a group activity which includes adults, many of which
belong to the Rio Yacht club.
Volleyball is another
noted beach activity for all ages. The traditional game, played with the hands,
has gained Cariocas international recognition.
(volley soccer), where use of the hands is not allowed to get the ball over
the net, has been increasing in popularity. Though having first made its debut
on Rio’s beaches, this new volleyball version has made some inroads in the
United States. Americans know it as footvolley.
What are some of the
other outdoor games Carioca children enjoy?
Jump rope, hide and seek,
and capture the flag are as well known in Rio as they are in the United States.
What differentiates them from one country to the other are the jingles which
Brazilians love music
and song, making the chants as an important part of the game as the play.
This is especially true in various brincadeiras de roda, where the
games are played in a circle.
Among young girls, patty
cake is a standard. Two players face each other and bat their palms against
each other’s in various patterns.
Truth or consequences
is played by spinning a bottle to designate which adolescent victim must either
tell the truth or accept a dare.
a combination of jump rope and cat’s cradle as competitors form geometric
patterns with their hands and waist while jumping into and out of a circular
stretch band held by two others in a manner similar to jump rope.
Somewhat violent, jogo
do garrafão seeks to reenact the sufferings of Christ as a gang
of boys prey upon a victim, beating on him with twigs while jeering at him.
What about indoor games?
Dominos, checkers, and
card games, such as relancinho, help pass time inside the home. Billiards
and table tennis are played by older children and teens while attending some
of the clubs their parents belong to. Electronic games are fewer in Rio, but
equally as popular.
Do the children toss
pennies or pick straws when trying to make a decision?
Instead of tossing pennies
or picking straws, the game of par ou ímpar (even or odd) is
played. Both participants place one hand behind their back. A player calls
out either par or ímpar. Then both of them simultaneously
bring forth their hand with however many fingers they chose extended.
The number of fingers
from the two hands is totaled to reveal an odd or even number. Based on the
outcome, a winner is declared and his or her decision is followed.
What types of toys
do Carioca children like to play with?
favorites such as tops, kites, balls and jump ropes head the list. Girls play
with plastic or rubber dolls. Boys love battery operated motorized cars. Getting
a first bike is a milestone event.
It is important to remember
that there is not near the selection of toys in Rio that there is in the United
States. Children are very creative in their play using fewer playthings. Favela
youngsters are often satisfied to receive something as basic as drawing paper
Do young people from
Rio want to get to know their peers from America?
The majority of Carioca
young people are sociable, curious, and friendly. They mix well with others
and are interested in meeting and getting to know someone who is different.
Americans have become
less popular in Brazil in recent years, but Brazilians are still interested
in befriending them. This is partly due to the fact that many artists and
creative works from the United States in music, television and movies are
well-known in Rio. As a result, young people are eager to talk to Americans
about their culture.
The text above was excerpted from Rio de Janeiro: The City, the Life,
and the Kids, a work aimed at grades 5 through high school level. The
author, Jennifer Grant, is currently seeking a publisher for this book.
Comments and contacts in English and Portuguese are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please reference the book title or Brazzil in subject line.
Grant wishes to
thank Jazon da Silva Santos for his comments and editing work on some of
the chapters contained in the book. She has authored previous articles in
Brazzil magazine, as well as an article on the children in the favelas
for Faces Magazine, which is used in United States schools.
Her interests include
promoting awareness of the needs of the favelados and the organizations
and individuals which are willing to help them through both the written
word and by making presentations at churches and schools.