A Word About Brazilian Women

I’ve now been in Brazil for over a week. And after blogging (with photos) every day about history, culture, architecture, or nature, it’s time to mention the women.

Everyone knows they’re gorgeous, so let me say a little more than that.

For starters, Brazilians are a mix of three races: the indigenous Indians, European settlers, and African slaves. Over the last five centuries, the three races have blended continuously. Compared with the U.S. and other societies, there have been relatively few taboos about race-mixing, a process that only accelerated when slavery ended in 1888. Mixing races produces unique and therefore exotic-looking combinations of features. One is instinctively drawn to the mystery of miscegenation. And nobody here seems embarrassed or apologetic about it.

In fact, Brazil’s self-described founding national myth sits atop race mixing, and thus sexuality is embedded in the national DNA. Brazilians frankly describe their national character as both sensual and sexual, often contrasting it with their neighbors’. So neither the women nor the men here feel terribly compelled to feign less interest in sex than they actually have. This makes people pretty damn attractive.

Second, Brazilians breathe music and dance. Watching Carnival rehearsals up north in Olinda was spell-binding; the women move parts of their bodies that I didn’t realize could move in quite that way. They dance with their shoulders, their necks, their hips, followed by their feet. Their torso practically comes along for the ride. I’m certain I wasn’t the only observer reminded of sex.

And even more amazing was watching the six-year-olds samba. Ah, so that’s how adults are able to move like they do—they’ve been doing it since they were six. And while the kids’ movements were sensual and their costumes an echo of their sexy older sisters’, their dance scenes had integrity, an organic logic light years away from the phony tarting-up of the child “beauty” pageants in America. These Brazilian children were being themselves, faces beaming, enjoying their bodies.

It was almost too intimate to watch—and far too life-affirming to turn away from. So I watched. I was intrigued by my own hesitation to appreciate children’s bodies in a way that was, here in Brazil, culturally approved and wholesome.

Another compelling feature of Brazilian women is that when it comes to dancing, everyone is eligible. No woman is too large to participate, and when they do, they shake whatever they have. Often, that’s a considerable amount of shaking, and no one scolds them or turns away. Bodies are bodies, and in Brazil, bodies are good.

In fact, the large women in Brazil dress exactly the way their thinner sisters do: skimpy, tight, and colorful. There’s even a style of tank top that deliberately exposes the belly, inviting it to hang over their short shorts. In America most women would be horrified to expose what we delicately call “rolls of fat.” In Brazil that same flesh is called, um, flesh, and it’s not seen as a moral failing or aesthetic calamity. It’s part of a woman’s body, and they apparently don’t feel the desperate need to cover or disguise it. If it’s a woman’s body, there are plenty of men to celebrate it. As a result, there are Brazilian women of every size preening. And that’s attractive regardless of how a woman is constructed.

And did I mention that the Brazilian women are gorgeous?

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