Differently from many of the ethnic communities around the New York City area, expat Brazilians do not hold parades in celebration of their Independence Day, which takes place on September 7th. Curiously enough, there are military parades back home, even though the country has been a democracy for over 20 years.
Instead of marching down 5th Avenue, what happens is a huge party around the Little Brazil Street area where Brazilian TV celebrities and pop music stars are showcased at a large stage on Sixth Avenue.
The usual street vendors also populate the area, but on this day dollar Thai, falafel and Italian sausage stands will find fierce competition from vendors who peddle Brazilian delicacies such as acarajé, coxinha, feijoada and churrasco.
The Brazilian Day Festival, which has been happening regularly since 1982, congregates over a million people who party hard but also play nice. Many come from communities in Newark and Boston, and sometimes they even charter buses for the occasion.
Past New York Police Department numbers show a small number of summonses and arrests, despite the fact that the crowded neighborhood bars begin selling their caipirinhas (Brazilian margaritas) early on. The delis also make a healthy profit by selling beer out of coffee cups – the police generally ignore that, as long as people behave.
Critics of the festival have said that the festival does not reflect Brazilian culture, but I would disagree with them saying that the event has everything to do with Brazilians, their fun-loving nature, and the pride that they have of their land, even if they are thousands of miles away.
The event itself has become a bit overblown ever since Globo TV took over its musical direction, flying in stars from their roster but also guaranteeing A-list attractions for their simulcast on cable,
This year's musical lineup, which generally changes every year, includes rock band Jota Quest (whose name was inspired by the 1970s cartoon), Axé Music act Asa de íguia, who has scored a large number of hits in Brazil since the 1990s, and Bruno e Marrone, who recently were almost impossible to get off the airwaves with their "Nossa Senhora do Brasil," a tune they recorded with pop Catolic priest Marcelo Rossi.
Revelers who want to get a good place near the stage are advised to get there early. NYPD crowd-control officers are pretty strict when it comes to that. Open containers are against the law in New York City, and anyone who tries to defy that will receive at least a citation.
There are plenty of bars selling beer, caipirinhas and other drinks (at premium prices); the temperature is always hot, so keep hydrated. I have seen families with small kids sweating it out all day there. That is clearly not advisable, as crowds there can get rowdy and loud.
Local clubs are having several after-parties once the street celebration is over, in case you are still in the mood for that later.
On the following day, the Brazilian neighborhood of Astoria in the nearby borough of Queens, the local community will also be celebrating their heritage by joining a long-running fair that happens in the location.
They will be adding some of their color by including typical foods, dance, capoeira demonstrations and also presentations by local bands. It is – intentionally – something done in a much smaller scale, but organizers promise a cultural, family-friendly event suitable to the Brazilian presence in the area.
24th Brazilian Day
Sunday, September 2,
6th Avenue (at 40th street),
VIP area tickets available for US$ 150 via phone)
For more information visit http://www.brazilianday.com
Brazilian Street Festival
Monday, September 03 (Labor Day)
30th Avenue betw.29th and 41st Streets
For more information visit http://www.newyorkbrazil.com
Ernest Barteldes is a freelance writer based on Staten Island, New York. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.