Brazil Up Close

      Up Close

By Brazzil Magazine

Chapter III/C/6


Bars in Brazil are open places where you can take your two-year-old kid to eat candy
and entertain the other clients by being cute while you drink your beer. You can always
get something good to eat with your drink in a Brazilian bar, or for your kid to eat or
drink. Women who care what people say about them do not frequent bars. Some bars are
dangerous in the sense that you might have to punch out a drunk who is bothering you, but
most bars are not because the owners pride themselves in the way they keep things under
control. You are supposed to be 18 to drink in a bar in Brazil, but as long as you can see
over the counter and look like you will behave yourself, this law is widely ignored.

This writer saw a sign over the cash register in a bar that said, "Go to Bars.
Bars are Culture", and this is true, because Brazilians in bars are great for
striking up conversations with perfect strangers about all sorts of different subjects,
and the exchanging of different points of view helps you to learn about humanity. The fact
that the participants are having a little drink with their culture does not make this any
less true.

You don’t pay when served in Brazilian bars. Just before you leave is when you pay the
bill. If you try to pay when served as you would in an American bar and keep on asking for
more, the bartender will think you are trying to irritate him. If you are in a Brazilian
bar and you see something that looks good to eat, eat it. Good food tastes better in
Brazilian bars.

Chapter III/C/9


Put identical bikinis on two identical, 18-year-old female twins—one raised from
infancy in the U.S.A. and the other one raised in Brazil—and any man of Latin descent
will be able to tell which twin is which. All the twins will have to do is just stand
there without moving for him to know, but, if we have them walk away, anyone in the world
in his right mind, male or female, will know which one is which. The way they move when
they walk away will be completely different; not only the way they move their legs and
hips but also the way in which they move their arms and hold their heads when they walk.

A man of Latin descent will know before they walk away because men of Latin descent
look at women in a special, quizzical way that men of non-Latin descent do not, and that
look will make the twin raised in Brazil put her chin up in a cocky way and dare the man
with her eyes. What she will be daring him to do, he might not know yet, but in that will
lie the magic of her dare. The man’s look won’t get any reaction at all from the twin
raised in the United States, other than a possible blush, because even if she perceives
the look she will try to pretend she didn’t.

Brazilian women are eye-catching. They know they have it and no one has to teach them
how to use it. Non-Brazilian, especially non-Brazilian Anglo-Saxon women—unless they
are prostitutes or some other kind of actresses—are pale by comparison. They are eggs
without salt. They don’t know how to make something out of nothing. They aren’t sultry.
The extreme cases aren’t even feminine.

As far as content goes, Brazilian women are no more full or empty than women of any
other nationality are. In other parts of the world, men may be truly concerned about
content, or may pretend to be so. In Brazil, content may help, it is not really necessary,
and no Brazilian man will make any bones about it, unless he is studying for some sort of
artsy major or going in for hairdressing. The object is the thing, and the objects, even
if they secretly object to being regarded as objects (which is doubtful), don’t let
anybody know about their objection.

Brazilian women will take you to the cleaners, just like women of other nationalities
will. They will give you the clap, just like other women will. They will get their own way
or pout when they don’t, but Brazilian women will certainly catch your eye. Some of the
ugly ones even will.

Ugly Brazilian girls act as if they were pretty because they think they are, which is a
pretty healthy philosophy. The prettier the ugly girl thinks she is, the sooner she will
find a man who agrees with her—or pretends to. In any case, sooner or later, the end
result of her positive thinking will be that she will get attention from a man. His
attention will keep her battery charged, and it might charge her other battery as well.

Most Brazilian women have wide hips, and any doctor will tell you that women with wide
hips are well equipped to bear children. It follows from this that women who are well
equipped to bear children should be well equipped to have sex, and that, being so, they
should be likely to do it well. The same doctor will give you the opposite opinion with
regard to thin-hipped women, so it would probably be safe to derive the opposite
conclusion regarding having sex with them. They might fake it to try to convince you that
what is happening is true, but it probably won’t be.

Wide-hipped women don’t have to fake it because it is their God-given nature. Brazilian
men are fond of saying that they like women with large buttocks, and they do; but if the
woman doesn’t have wide hips as well you can bet he will scratch her off his list. One
word of care for American males, who tend to prefer their women slim: many Brazilian women
who are a little chubby from the waist down will pour themselves into tight pants in order
to hold it all in and appear slim. In some cases it is an awful lot that is being held in.

When a group of Brazilian men in a bar realize they have a foreigner in their midst who
can speak their language, it won’t take them more than five minutes to start asking the
foreigner if Brazil isn’t the best place in the world to live. They will start asking the
foreigner because they believe his answer will be "yes", and they like to hear
foreigners saying nice things about Brazil. For anyone to whom gallivanting around with
women is the most important thing in life, the answer will be "yes", and if you
are a gallivanter, don’t waste your time looking around for a better place to do it in
than Brazil.

Chapter III/C/14


Don’t ever make in Brazil the sign that Americans make with the thumb and finger of one
hand to signify "Okay". In Brazil that same gesture signifies "Up
yours". Another Brazilian gesture that gets the same vulgar point across is to hold a
clenched fist up with the fingers turned toward the gesturer’s face. This gesture is made
even more emphatic if the hand connected to the other arm clutches the forearm connected
to the hand making the fist.

If you are in the company of one person and are talking about another person who is not
present and your companion makes the fist gesture in a secretive way without holding the
forearm with the fist in the hand of the other arm, he won’t be saying "up
yours" or up that of the person being talked about: he will be saying that the person
being talked about is tight fisted about money.

If you are talking about someone and your companion makes a long face and touches the
outside corner of his eye with one finger, he will be saying that you have to be careful
about the person being discussed and not trust him too far.

If you are talking about someone or something and your partner makes a gesture with one
arm as if he were trying to push something behind him, he means that he doesn’t even want
to know about the person or thing under discussion.

When a person clicks his fingers in any of the manners fingers can be clicked
(Brazilians usually do it by snapping the whole hand downward at the wrist), he is saying,
"hurry up!" The same thing can be said by making a chopping motion sideways with
either hand, inward and with the palm turned up.

A thumb up means the same thing as it does in the United States, as does a thumb down.
So do a raised eyebrow, a smile, or a frown. A finger to the lips also means to be quiet.
Two fists with the fingers turned toward the gesturer and brought suddenly toward him
simultaneously mean that he has had or would like to have sexual relations with the person
being discussed or observed.

To gesture "come here", Brazilians usually use all the fingers of the hand,
or even the whole arm.

A gesture as if he were reaching for invisible poker chips and raking them in with his
hand means that the person being discussed is either stealing or is subject to bribery.

A right fist with the fingers to the left, or a left fist with the fingers to the
right, patted several times on top with the fingers of the other hand, means that you, the
gesturer, or the person being discussed got screwed, is getting screwed, or is about to
get screwed, in the sense of being taken advantage of. The American "up yours"
gesture is sometimes used in this way, but you would be safer not to try to use it
yourself because you might spoil the timing and be gravely misunderstood.

If a Brazilian holds up a clenched fist in his "up yours" gesture, but then
pats or rubs the elbow of the arm with the clenched fist with his other hand, he means
that the person under discussion is envious about something.

Chapter III/E/1


Every year in February or March—depending on the date of an event in religious
history which is never the same date every year—Carnaval occurs. It always starts on
Saturday and ends at noon the following Wednesday. Only the Tuesday is officially a
holiday, but everything closes on Monday and Wednesday morning as well, except for
establishments that are going to make more money on those days because of Carnaval.

Beautiful formal and informal Carnaval parades are staged in many cities and towns in
Brazil, the most famous and elaborate ones being in Rio de Janeiro. Everyone should see at
least one evening of Carnaval parades in Rio de Janeiro before he dies. It’s dangerous and
a lot of trouble to get to the site of the parade. It’s dangerous to be there watching the
parade, and it’s dangerous and a lot of trouble to leave the site of the parade. But it’s
worth every bit of trouble to do it just one time before you die. The music and the
percussion are compelling, the costumes and the floats are breathtaking, and the
women—some of them completely naked—are the most beautiful women you will ever
see in your life. Take your camcorder, and make sure the zoom is working. If the zoom is
not working, buy another camcorder.

There are also formal and informal parties all over the country, some of them
consisting of nothing more than scantly-dressed people dancing in the streets, and others
involving elaborate costumes for which valued prizes are given and momentary fame is
attained. Provided that you show caution, you can take your wife to the parades in Rio
once in your life, but don’t take her to any of the parties unless you are prepared to
fight for her or you want to get rid of her.



Although in today’s Brazil it is possible to bet on some sort of legal government
lottery every day of the week, the illegal jogo do bicho still prospers as much
today as it did decades ago when there were not so many legal alternatives. O jogo do
bicho literally translates into "the animal game", but "the numbers
game" is a more accurate translation. Its very illegality is in itself the main
advantage this illegal game has over the legal ones because, being illegal, it gives
Brazilians the warm feeling that they are getting away with something when they bet on it.

Another advantage the flexible jogo do bicho has over the inflexible legal
lotteries is that Brazilians believe in their dreams and in the random thoughts that pass
through their heads during the day. Brazilians believe that their subconscious minds are
continually conspiring to help them come up with a winning number, but it is hard to
imagine a dream or a thought coming up with the required results of 13 different soccer
matches or the five—or six-digit numbers or sequences of numbers required to play the
legal lotteries. All you have to do to play the jogo do bicho is to say to the
bookie anywhere from one to five digits to win, place, or show, or to name in umpteen
different situations any one of the twenty-four participating animals.

The jogo do bicho lets the mind run wild. If your wife gives you pork chops for
dinner, you will have an excuse to bet your hard-earned money in umpteen different ways on
the pig. If you see a butterfly, you can run to the closest bar to bet in umpteen
different ways on that insect. If you are having a beer in a bar and are not inspired, you
will probably bet a routine bet such as the number on your car’s license plate or the
numbers involved in writing down your kid’s birthday with numbers. If you have an upset
stomach, it might be because some witch doctor is using monkey hair to hex you. If you
feel horny, it is probably because you are a bull. You can bet as much or as little as you
want, and you don’t have to wait long for the results because they are posted in all the
bars at the end of the day, every day of the year.

Anyone familiar with probability theory knows that the house’s share in the jogo do
bicho is much higher than is the government’s share in the legal lotteries, but even
mathematically-enlightened individuals believe that house’s rip-off is a small price to
pay for having such a flexible, imaginative game around to bet on.

Chapter III/E/6


If Brazil isn’t the best place in the world to dine out, it is at the least just as
good as anywhere else in the world, and it is usually—except when it is in the middle
of one of its frequent government economic packages—cheaper.

Even when prices are low, the restaurants are still making plenty of money. A recent
study compared prices at the source with prices at the restaurants (some examples had to
be derived in kind of a rough way) and came up with the following selling price divided by
cost multiples:

Beef tenderloin: 3.98 from the butcher to the restaurant menu

Chicken Breast: 18.44 from the farm to the restaurant menu

Orange Juice: 11.40 from the farm to the restaurant menu

Papaya: 23.90 from the farm to the restaurant menu

Pasta: 10.32 from the supermarket to the restaurant menu 

The restaurants weren’t getting all of this, except in the case of the beef tenderloin,
but they were getting plenty.

In São Paulo and Rio, you can get any nationality of food you want: German, French,
Italian, Chinese, Japanese, Arab, Nigerian—anything you want—and it will be just
as good as it would be in the country of origin because the people who will be making it
will probably be first-generation immigrants. In other parts of Brazil, you may be
restricted to Brazilian dishes, but they will still be excellent.

You can buy imported beverages, but you don’t really have to. Everything you could
possibly want is made locally—usually under license—and is just as good as the
original, except for the local whiskey, and even the local whiskey is drinkable.

Beer deserves special mention. Not only is the beer good (it is rather like Danish and
German beer in the sense that doesn’t lose its head quickly), but the Brazilians also are
experts at drinking it.

When the beer-drinking event about to be described occurred in 1969, the only alcoholic
beverage permitted in bars and restaurants in Lawrence, Kansas was 3.2% beer. Since 3.2%
beer is rather weak, it is easy to imagine that quite a lot of it was consumed at that
time, particularly when you consider that the town had a large population of thirsty
university students who frequently needed to lose their inhibitions. It naturally follows
from this that there were a great many excellent beer-guzzlers in that town.

This writer was thus surprised to learn from a bartender at a pizzeria, where, one
evening, he and his family had taken a Brazilian acquaintance and his family, in reply to
our question about a notice on the wall offering a free pizza and another pitcher of beer
to anyone who could down a pitcher of beer without ever lowering the liquid in the pitcher
from his mouth, that the only contestant who had ever accomplished this feat had
immediately afterward upchucked his hard-earned achievement onto the bathroom floor and
left the premises without even wanting to know about collecting his prize.

The Brazilian was even more surprised than this writer was, and he said he wanted to
try it. In spite of even his children’s attempts to dissuade him from ruining everyone’s
evening, the Brazilian was adamant, and he was soon gulping and belching at the business
end of a pitcher of beer. A crowd gathered. Once in a while the Brazilian would wink
reassuringly at your writer’s anguished face. Soon he had downed the contents of the
pitcher and was happily eating his free pizza and drinking his free pitcher of beer as if
nothing had happened, explaining happily that the burping part was to avoid the
accumulation of gas in the stomach, which would not allow space for the entire pitcher of
liquid. Both families finished their meals and their beer and went their separate ways.
The Brazilian did not die during the night nor did he die during the decade following his
feat, but, even if he had, his feat would not have been forgotten by the people at the
pizzeria that night, who had once thought that they were pretty good beer-guzzlers.

When you order a beer in Brazil, you will get a returnable bottle roughly twice the
size of a 12-ounce American bottle or can. Drinking beer is a social event in Brazil, and
the large bottle is meant to be shared.

Brazil’s national drink is pinga, alternatively called cachaça, aguardente,
branquinha, and numerous other names. It is distilled from fermented sugar cane
juice, unlike rum, which is a by-product of cane sugar production. There are good brands
of pinga and bad ones. The good brands are excellent and the bad brands are

The best brand easily encountered nearly everywhere is Ypioca, gold or silver label.
Silver Label Ypioca is dry and Gold Label Ypioca is slightly sweet. If you are lucky, you
will get a chance to try a good pinga de alambique, and, if you are really unlucky,
somebody will offer you a bad one. Pinga de alambique is white lightnin’ pinga
with no label. When it is made properly, it is one of the best hard liquors in the world
to drink straight up. It is sippin’ pinga. The cane has to be harvested at just the
right time in order for it to be really good.

To kill the taste of the ordinary, rot-gut pinga, the Brazilians invented the caipirinha,
Brazil’s most popular and virtually its only mixed drink. You peel a fresh lime, cut it
into several wedges, and crush them up with sugar in a glass with any blunt instrument.
After the sugar has melted, you add the pinga—preferably a dry one—and
shake vigorously. If you want to be "authentic", you dump the whole mess just
the way it is into a glass full of ice and filter the pieces of lime through your teeth as
you sip the drink; if you don’t, you strain the mess into the glass full of ice. If you
can’t get pinga, you can improvise with light rum, vodka, or gin.

Back in the days of slavery, whenever a Brazilian farmer would have a pig slaughtered
he would keep the choice cuts for himself and fling the rest on the ground for the slaves.
The slaves would gather up these "undesirable" ears, tails, feet, and so on of
the pig; dust them off; boil them a little; stew them with cheap black beans; and serve
them with collard greens, rice, and a little manioc flour sprinkled over everything to
soak up the juice. Thus was created what is now Brazil’s national dish, feijoada.
To suit the tastes of today’s sophisticates, choice cuts of pork have been added to the
recipe, but the undesirable ones still remain as well in order to satisfy the
traditionalists and to give the dish their peculiar flavor and their high fat content.

The days for feijoada at restaurants are Wednesdays and Saturdays; it is not
served on other days. Even on Wednesdays and Saturdays you can only get it at the noon
meal because Brazilians believe you shouldn’t go to bed at night with a bellyful of greasy
feijoada, and they are probably right.

Wednesdays and Saturdays for feijoada are sacred throughout Brazil, but in São
Paulo you have other days for other dishes. Mondays are for "Virado à
Paulista", a combination of sausage, pork chops, re-fried beans like the Mexicans
make, collard greens, rice, and a fried egg on top of it all. On Tuesdays, a restaurant
has the option of making ox tails or tripe, both of which are served with rice. Thursdays
will be any kind of pasta, and Fridays any kind of fish. The restaurants that cater to
this system are usually closed on Sundays.

The noon meal is the only big meal of the day for urban Brazilians, but rural
Brazilians have big evening meals and big breakfasts as well. Urban Brazilians will have
for dinner what most Americans have for lunch, but they will have nothing for breakfast
but a cup of coffee with hot milk in it.

Except at à la Carte restaurants, all big meals in Brazil must have two basic
elements: rice and beans. A big meal just isn’t a big meal unless rice and beans are
present. When a Brazilian say he hasn’t eaten "food" for a long time, he means
he hasn’t eaten rice and beans for a long time. Green beans, lima beans, navy beans and
kidney beans are not "beans" to a Brazilian. "Beans" are pinto beans,
unless it is Wednesday or Saturday and you are having black beans in your feijoada.

Very poor people will have only rice and beans for the big meal, but the higher you go
up the economic ladder, the fancier become the things that are added to the rice and
beans-separately, of course; because only the rice and beans can be mixed together on the
plate. Other things can be mixed with the rice and beans only inside the eater’s mouth. A
pork chop, a fish, an egg, a piece of roast; all of these are things that can give a meal
of rice and beans an added charm.

One big meal in which beans and rice are not included is charcoal-broiled meat meals.
Charcoal-broiled meat restaurants put a couple of side dishes on your table before they
start serving the charcoal-broiled meat, but most people ignore them so that they will
have more room for the meat. The way they serve the meat is to keep bringing different
whole cuts of charcoal-broiled beef, pork, goat, and lamb to your table on spits and
slicing pieces off these whole cuts onto your plate. Different pieces of charcoal-broiled
chicken are slid off the spit onto your plate. Several waiters keep serving this way until
you tell them to stop for a while so you can clean up your plate. They will only stop
serving for good when you tell them you have had enough. No matter how little or how much
you eat, the price is the same. Very small children usually eat for free, and larger
children usually pay half price.

Chapter III/E/9


Casinos are illegal in Brazil, but you can find an illegal casino in any of the big
cities if you know how to look for it. Illegal casinos anywhere in the world are much
better than legal ones because they are certain to be dishonest, and it is easier to win
at a dishonest casino—at least when you are playing roulette—than it is to win
at a legal one.

The way you win at roulette in a dishonest casino anywhere in the world is to bet a
small amount of money against the big money. If there is a lot of money on the black and
practically no money on the red, you bet just a little bit of money on the red. If there
is just as much money on the red as there is on the black, you don’t bet on either color
but check out the even and odd to see if there is an unbalanced situation there. If you
can’t find an unbalanced situation anywhere, don’t bet. If you have to, check out the
individual numbers themselves and place just one of your smallest chips on each of the
numbers that have peanuts on them. Always wait until the last moment to place your bet. If
you win any big chips, cash them in immediately on little chips lest you be tempted to bet

You can play all night this way and win a lot of money; not big money because it is the
dishonest, illegal house that is winning the big money all night by letting you win the
little money all night. If the house didn’t let you win the little money, it would lose
big money to the big betters. It doesn’t even matter if the house knows what you are doing
because it doesn’t care. The house might let you lose a few times during the course of the
night just to keep the big betters hooked, but it will only be a few times. All you have
to watch out for is losing your self-control and betting so large an amount that you swing
the unbalanced situation into balance, and drinking so much that you get confused.

Excerpted from Brazil and Brazilians: All You Need to Know by
Ernesto Twegen. Ernesto Twegen is a pen name for an American businessman who went to
Brazil and came back with a knowledge of the country in general and of how business is
done there. The writer lived and worked in Brazil for 27 years, first as a cotton
merchant, then as a seed merchant, and finally as CEO for a manufacturing operation. He
now lives in the U.S. with his second Brazilian wife and family. The author’s true name
will be revealed when his affairs no longer require him to travel to Brazil. You can
contact the author by e-mail (
and know more about the book at

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