Brazil's African Heritage
As the U.N.-proclaimed “2011, International Year for People of African Descent” enters its second half, efforts are intensifying to educate African-Americans about the 150 million or so people of African descent scattered throughout Latin America, some of whom have migrated to the United States. One such effort is the website www.Afro-Brazilian.com, launched in April by Lagrant Communications, a Los Angeles-based marketing communications firm that specializes in the African-American and Hispanic consumer markets. Lagrant says the move is part of its commitment to enriching the understanding of the diversity of the Latino and African-American culture.
“Our goal is to educate and encourage African-Americans to establish a brotherhood and explore the rich African influences in Brazil. Many do not know that Brazil has the largest population of African descendants outside of Africa,” says Kim L. Hunter, Lagrant’s president and CEO. “Brazil will remain in the international spotlight for many years to come, so understanding the Brazilian people, specifically Afro-Brazilians, is crucial to any American planning to travel and explore business opportunities in Brazil.”
Using original content, Afro-Brazilian.com will highlight the history, culture and historical struggles of Afro-Brazilians. It will feature facts on Afro-Brazilians; Brazilian events taking place in the U.S. and Brazil; updates on Brazilian politics and on the World Cup and the Olympic Games that Brazil will host in 2014 and 2016, respectively; as well as articles from noted Brazilian and African-American reporters. “Although Afro-Brazilians have a significant and influential presence in Brazil, they are grossly underrepresented by the media,” says Paulo P. Lima, editor-at-large of Afro-Brazilian.com. “The website was created to raise awareness of the unique and rich Afro-Brazilian culture and the historical parallels it shares with the African-American community.”
Afro-Brazilian.com will also provide partnership opportunities for companies interested in reaching the Brazilian market, Lagrant says.
Afro-Brazilians represent the largest ethnic group in Brazil, making up more than 49 percent of the population. Their influence on Brazilian culture as a whole is significant, spanning cuisine, literature, sports, art, religion, dance rhythms and more. “The influence of African culture is tremendous in everything in Brazil, in all parts,” Rodrigo Pederneiras, principal choreographer for the world-renowned Brazilian dance troupe Grupo Corpo, said in a recent interview with the Los Angeles Times.
Little known facts about Afro-Brazilians include:
In Brazil, people of African descent are categorized through several groups, mainly pardo, Black and mulatto;
Afro-Brazilian ancestry is traced to the Yoruba, Ewe, Fanti-Ashanti, Ga-Adangbe, Igbo, Fon and Mandinka
peoples of West Africa and to other groups in Angola, Congo, Zimbabwe and Mozambique;
As of 2007, the largest Afro-Brazilian metropolitan area is Salvador, Bahia;
Afro-Brazilians are mainly Catholics, but many also practice the African-based religions Candomblé and Umbanda;
Capoeira, one of the most iconic symbols of Brazilian culture, was developed by enslaved Africans from Angola and Mozambique. It is an art form that combines elements martial arts, sports and music;
Many influential Brazilian authors are of African descent, including Machado de Assis, Lima Barreto and João da Cruz e Sousa;
Brazil’s staple dish, feijoada — a stew of beans with beef and pork — was developed by African slaves. The same dish is found in Angola and Mozambique;
In 1996, Taís Araujo was the first and only Black actress to be featured as a protagonist in a telenovela;
The International Federation of Football History & Statistics Player of the Century lists 15 Afro-Brazilian players among their 20 best Brazilian players list.