|AP Photo/Matt Slocum via Newscred|
by Chris Moss, The Daily Telegraph, August 02, 2016
Anyone who holidays in Rio goes through a dark night of the inferiority complex. The seeming swagger, beauty and easy grace of cariocas – Rio’s six million-odd residents – is at once desirable, enviable and, for your average British holidaymaker, as unreachable as the fingertips of Christ the Redeemer.
But as the Olympics rolls round, you might want to have a go. As anthropologist Luiz Eduardo Soares concedes in his recent book, Rio de Janeiro: Extreme City: “No one throws a genuine Rio party quite like the tourists, because they have the motivation and the opportunity to aim for the most idealised image of what a genuine Rio party should be.”
So if you’re unable to jet over to Rio to watch the Games and soak up the sizzling streetlife, you can still throw an idealised party of your own and forget about the Zika virus, Russian cheats and no‑show millionaire golfers for a few hours.
First off, unless you live in a brutalist metropolis like, say, Milton Keynes – the Brasilia of Bucks – you should think about home improvements. Create a carioca vibe with some Campana Brothers favela-inspired furniture made from scrap – or, if that’s too expensive, move into your shed, throw some naive art on the walls and get a potted palm. Stock up on cachaça to toast the gold medals and build a makeshift barbecue in the garden – to grill the half-cows that are the mainstay of “ Brazilian cuisine ”.
Clothing, or unclothing, is next. It’s taken as read that you already own the classic mustard-coloured football shirt. How we all love that strip. It calls to mind an age of innocence and glamour, the beautiful game, Pele, Jairzinho and Carlos Alberto’s 1970 wonder goal, and has endured notwithstanding the washout of a team that wore it while making an early exit from its own World Cup in 2014.
The Oscar-nominated 2002 film City of God is tinted with the same warm early evening hue. I think the secret might be that this yellow kit captures the quality of the subtropical light around Rio, filtered by fair-weather cloud, bouncing off golden sands. Whatever you do, put away your insipid Three Lions gear.
Footwear is easy – Havaianas have been around since 1962, and show no sign of flip-flopping off into the sunset.
That’s exteriors sorted. But what about your soul? Music is said to be one of the keys to Brazilian culture – and dance too. Perhaps you can jig your way into character?
The annual 20-second broadcast from Rio’s carnival suggests it’s all about loud drumming, the studied bottom vibration known as whisking (not to be confused with vulgar “twerking”) and wearing 10ft-long feathery headdresses. But this is typical only of the Bahian Samba de Roda from which Rio’s carnival parade is derived. The Rio-based Sixties scene, known as Tropicália, gave rise to a sophisticated sound that mixed rock ’n’ roll with Brazilian rhythms and started the careers of superstars like Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil.
It also introduced self-analysis and ennui to Brazilian popular culture. In his song A Luz de Tieta, Veloso ruminates: “Every day is the same day, life is so small… Carnival and football. Nothing changes.”
Samba, lambada, frevo, maxixe and other Brazilian dances are technical, liable to trip up non-Brazilians. Cheer up, though, for from northern Brazil comes frivolous, life-loving forró music. The dance is like a drunken, sped-up waltz. Download some Luiz Gonzaga and shimmy till you – and your buttocks – collapse.
For all of the above, you’re probably going to need a tan. It’s been a patchy summer, but we’ve had a few 25-plus days recently so you will have hopefully made some progress at acquiring that deep, patchy, almost dirty – and downright sexy – tan that cariocas so assuredly display.
Well, to really get it you’re going to have to acquire new parents. Brazil is a mixed-up, mesmerisingly multi-ethnic nation that has been sleeping around for five centuries. A 1976 sociological survey of Brazilian identity found that Brazilians identify not only with race but with colour, and self-defined using no fewer than 136 shades, from acastanhada (somewhat chestnut-coloured) to morena-canelada (dark in a cinnamon-hued way) to café com leite (milky coffee). So any hue will do, except, perhaps, alva rosada – pinkish white.
To enshrine the Olympic ideal, you’re going to have to think about sport. Frescobol is the classic Rio beach game. You might not know the name, but you’ll have seen it being played – two people holding wooden racquets, perhaps 25 to 30 feet apart, belting a rubber ball in an eternal rally that turns them into a sort of human metronome.
Other garden-sized sports are volleyball – which you can “Brazil” up by playing in a sandpit, in underwear and in front of leching neighbours – and capoeira, the Afro-Brazilian martial art-cum-dance that involves spinning on one leg while holding out your erect foot and narrowly missing your partners head – which might be a bit dangerous.
Finally, the word Brazilian has, in recent years, become intimately associated with depilation. A “full Brazilian” is not, sadly, a breakfast of black beans, scrambled egg and fried banana, of course, but the complete removal of hair from the private parts. In fact, Brazilian waxing was never a homespun (if you can spin such a thing) product, but was invented in 1987 at the New York salon J Sisters, which was run by seven Brazilian sisters (their names, incidentally, were Jocely, Jonice, Janea, Joyce, Juracy, Jussara and Judeseia).
They sold the concept on the back of Brazil’s beach culture, claiming on the website: “In Brazil, waxing is part of our culture because bikinis are so small… We thought it was an important service to add because personal care is no longer a luxury, it’s a necessity.”
Mmm, perhaps not much of a necessity in Rocinha, Rio’s biggest slum. Or, indeed, in a British suburban back garden, where women are more likely to be sporting a vintage full-body cozzy these days, not least due to health and safety reasons.
As for males, submitting to a Brazilian, the tanga – tiny Speedo-style swimming trunks – fell out of favour here in the Seventies (thank deus!). So there’s absolutely no need to deforest your delicate areas.
Which brings us to the final question – what is it about Rio and beauty? On the beaches, you can try all you like but you won’t be able to ignore the besmuscled men in longish shorts or those tiny trunks, oozing machismo even while sucking on a coconut. Or the divinely shaped, immaculately bronzed women in otiose bikinis, who come out of the roiling surf with their waist-length locks still coiffed to perfection.
The message seems to be – we’d actually be naked if it wasn’t for our Roman Catholicism – and that big statue on the hill.
But I don’t believe it. Being a perfect Brazilian requires a huge amount of effort. Wealthy “European” cariocas invest a lot of time and money having bits of their body enlarged and other bits cut off. The rest of the time they’re fretting about clothes, decorum, image and status.
They’re not really as beautiful or cool or even as shimmeringly sexy as they, and we, like to think. Proof one: the men knot their sweaters round their necks. Proof two: the women all own poodles and Yorkshire terriers.
Fortunately, there’s a whole other mode of being Brazilian. You can study it at the bars along Copacabana, in the favelas, in the vast interior – in fact anywhere outside the upper-middle-class enclaves of the megacities.
Yes, you’ve got it. Let that belly relax. Loosen your waistband. Put on an old bossa nova vinyl – Girl from Ipanema, why not? – string up your hammock, open an ice-cool beer and lie down and imagine you’re in the cidade maravilhosa… Dancing? Sports? Posing? Waxing? Não, obrigado.
This article was written by Chris Moss from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.