Glossary

Glossary

Amazon
If you don’t know that the Amazon is the name of a river in Brazil you’re probably George W. Bush or Dan Quayle. Most people also know that the Amazons are a race of women warriors in Greek mythology. Read more…

Amigos dos Amigos (ADA)
In 1998 the two traditional Rio de Janeiro crime factions Comando Vermelho and Terceiro Comando were joined by a third Amigos dos Amigos. After it was robbed of its leaders it joined forces with the Terceiro Comando.

ARENA (Aliança Renovadora Nacional)
In 1965 the military government abolished the multi-party system and replaced it by a two party system. ARENA which was the government party and the MDB for the entire opposition. The majority of the politicians who joined ARENA had belonged to the UDN and an almost equal number came from the PSD .

Boi tata
Mythical fire-breathing ox which is known by various names in various parts of Brazil (South: Baitatá, Batatá, Bitatá. Northeast: Batatão e Biatatá. Among indians: Mbaê-Tata.) The details of his appearance and behviour vary as much as its name. But there is consent that it is a snake like creature, with large flaming eyes.

Bossa Nova
When bossa nova was invented in the 1950´s, the democratic nature of Brazilian music was challenged. Bossa nova was modern and intellectual and became internationally popular. The middle class stopped listening to the old interpretations of samba and other regional music like the forro of the Northeast.

Café com Leite
The phrase coffee and milk is a metaphor for a political alliance between the coffee producing state of Sao Paolo and the milk producing state of Minas Gerais, which ran national politics during the First Republic (1889-1930). Among other things they agreed to try to take turns in holding the presidency.

Candomblé
Candomblé is the most orthodox of the many cults that were brought to Brazil by the African slaves. Candomblé is an African word denoting a dance in honor of the Gods, is a general term for the cult in Bahia.

Carioca
Native of, pertaining to, Rio de Janeiro. Nickname given by the indians to the first white men who came to live in Rio de Janeiro.

Comando Vermelho
The first organized crime faction in Rio de Janeiro (excluding jogo do bicho). Formed in 1979 by political guerrillas and common criminals held captive in a prison on Ilha Grande.

Eight o´clock novela (novela das oito)
Doesn´t start at eight, but after the 8 o´clock news, a little before 9. Traditionally this is the most important telenovela with the biggest stars, most media coverage and the most viewers. The current one is Senhora do Destino.

Favela
Slums. The word used to have a romantic hint but this is now completely replaced by an image of violence and drugs trafficking. Rio´s biggest favela Rocinha is becoming increasingly popular as destination of an organized tour. Read more…

FHC
Abbreviation of former presidents Fernando Henrique Cardoso´s name. Almost all major politicians have a nickname or abbreviation. Lula made his part of his official name.

Forró
The most important of the Northeastern regional music styles is forró, a lively, syncopated music centered on the accordion and the zabumba (an African drum). Though a few artists such as Luiz Gonzaga and Jackson do Pandeiro achieved national status, forró was long disdained as hick by the urbane inhabitants of Brazil’s more southerly cities – as is neatly encapsulated by the title of one good compilation available internationally, Forró: Music for Maids and Taxi Drivers.

Funk (pronounced funky)
Funk is the latest musical import to Rio de Janeiro. It´s the music of the favela´s but is becoming popular in other areas as well. It´s raw music where the bass is the most important element.

Gafiera
Traditional dancehall. They originated 70 years ago in Rio de Janeiro. The poor tried to imitate the chique clubs of the rich, but made many blunders (gafes).

In this time dancing was associated with prostitution. To keep a good repuatation the rules in the gafieras were very strict. Shorts, sleeveless shirts and hats were not allowed. Screaming, drunkenness and provocative dancing were also banned.

Garimpeiro
Gold or precious stone seeker. The rumour of any of these can still lead to a goldrush. In the Amazon there are frequent fights between indians and garimpeiros about rights to extract gold or precious stones.

Itamaraty
The official name is Ministério das Relações Exteriores but usually the press refer to Itamaraty if they mean the Foreign Office. Read more…

Jogo do Bicho
Translated it means Animal Game. It is an illegal lottery that is immensily popular. Samba schools are often funded by lottery bosses. Read more…

Maracanazo
The word Argentinians use to describe the loss of Brazil in the 1950 World Cup Final against Uruguay in the Maracana stadium. Formed by pulling together Maracana and the spanish word matanza (=slaughter). Although Brazil has won five world cups since, this loss is still an open wound with Brazilian football fans. The lost final has led to various books and ruined the life of the goalkeeper. Personally I think it more to like a loose tooth they like to play with, to accentuate the dominant position they have reached in world football.

MPB
It was in the late Sixties and early Seventies that Bossa Nova and the newer sounds of ‘Tropicalismo’ began to be labelled under the new catch all title of MPB (Musica Popular Brasileira).

O fico
Fico means I stay and is the term used to describe Dom Pedro I?s decision to stay in Brazil and not return to Portugal as requested by the Portuguese parliament. Pronounced on the 9th of January 1822 it is an important step in the indepence process of Brazil proclaimed formally 10 months later at Ipiranga.

Pagode
Informal, backyard-party samba. The kind of music that can be made by a small four-string cavaquinho guitar along with a few beer cans and tables to bang on. Read more…

Para Inglés ver
To do something for appearance sake (for the English to see). Originated with the anti-slavery law of 1831 that was a dead letter, just to show the English that action was being undertaken.

PCC (Primeiro Comando do Capital)
The Sao Paolo equivalent of Rio’s crime factions Comando Vermelho and Terceiro Comando. It started out as a prison football team and is responsible for the biggest prison uprising to date, in February 2001, taking over 29 prisons. It is linked with the Comando Vermelho.

PDS (Partido Democrático Social)
In 1965 the military government abolished the multi-party system and replaced it by a two party system. ARENA which was the government party and the MDB for the entire opposition. The majority of the politicians who joined ARENA had belonged to the UDN and an almost equal number came from the PSD . Read more…

Pelego
Nickname for a union boss. A pelego is a sheepskin or cloth placed on a saddle to cushion the jolts on the rider?s body. The word methaphorically came to mean a union boss who, as the union’s director, acted more in his own interests and in the state’s interest than on behalf of the workers. Read more…

Petista
Nickname for members of the ruling workers party (PT).

PFL (Partido da Frente Liberal)
In 1965 the military government abolished the multi-party system and replaced it by a two party system. ARENA which was the government party and the MDB for the entire opposition. The majority of the politicians who joined ARENA had belonged to the UDN and an almost equal number came from the PSD . Read more…

Plano Real
Brazilian economists call the 1980s the Lost Decade. Wild boom-and-bust cycles decimated the country?s economy. Inflation ran over 100% for most of the decade, and at times exceeded 10,000%. Until 1994, the only certainty in the economy was uncertainty. Then came the Plano Real devised by the then finance minister Fernando Henrique Cardoso.

PMDB (Partido do Movimento Democrático Brasileiro)
In 1965 the military government abolished the multi-party system and replaced it by a two party system. ARENA which was the government party and the MDB for the entire opposition. The MDB was formed by people from the PTB and, to a lesser extent , from the PSD.

Polaca
Nickname for the constitution that formed the basis for the Estado Novo. Almost all power was concentrated in the head of state i.e. Get?lio Vargas. It was based on the fascist Polish Bill of 1935. At the same time the nickname expressed contempt because polaca also means European prostitute in Brazilian slang.

Positivism
Name for the theory of French philosopher and sociologist Auguste Comte, who claimed he had discovered the secrets of progress. His theory had ample influence in Latin American, in countries such as Mexico, Chili, Argentina and Brazil. It seemed to offer an orderly, scientific solution for the political and social impasses that oligarchical liberalism had brought about. Its reverence for technical innovations and industry attracted the emerging elites, who criticized the formalism typical of the law school graduates.

PSD (Partido Social Democrático)
At the end of the Estado Novo in 1945, the three principal parties of the next two decades came forth. The PSD was formed within the state political machine owing to the initiative of bureaucrats, appointed governors in different states and Getlio Vargas himself.

PSDB (Partido da Social Democracia Brasileira)
A splinter group from the PMDB . which rose to power with Fernado Henrique Cardoso. And has been one of the leading parties in Brazil ever since. Its origins lie on the left, but the execution of power brought it to the centre. Read more…

PT (Partido dos Trabalhadores)
The workers party sprang forth from a coalition of rural and urban union members, factions within the Catholic Church, and the professional middle class. The PT sought to represent the interests of the wide body of wage earners in Brazil. Read more…

PTB (Partido Trabalhista Brasileiro)
At the end of the Estado Novo in 1945, the three principal parties of the next two decades came forth. Like the PSD the PTB was inspired by Get?lio Vargas, with the Ministry of Labor and the labor union bureaucracy. Its objective was to bring the working masses together under the Vargas banner.

Racial Democracy
Name for the theory according to which there is no racial discrimination in Brazil. Most famously expressed in the classic and influential book Casa Grande & Senzala by Gilberto Freyre. Read more…

Rocinha
Rio’s biggest favela. Synonymous with violence and drugs trafficking. Yet also popular as destination of a Favela Tour which show the brighter side of Favela life by visiting private houses a school and a medical center. Situated between Leblon and Barra de Tijuca overlooking two expensive resort hotels. The official population is 56,000.

Sambódromo
A tired street designed for the yearly samba parades of the Rio de Janeiro Carnaval by Oscar Niemeyer and completed in 1984. It is also known as Sapuca? After the street that runs through it.

Samba
This most popular Brazilian rhythm originated among black Bahians in Rio de Janeiro and is generally considered to have been first performed at the Rio Carnaval in 1917, though its roots go back much further. Read more…

Samba do Enredo
The Enredo is the central theme of the Samba school. The Samba do Enredo is the samba that goes with it. Themes vary tremendously.

Santa Casa de Misericordia (Holy House of Mercy)
The most famous of the brotherhoods in colonial Brazil. A charitable institution primarily concerned with the relief of orphans, widows, prisoners, and the sick. The Misericordia maintained hospitals in many towns, and often provided food and drink for prisoners who otherwise would have perished in the noisome and ill-found jails.

Terceiro Comando
The Terceiro Comando (Third Command) started as a splinter group from Rio?s main organized crime faction Comando Vermelho and became its main contender for control of Rio?s drugs trafficking.

There are separate prisons for members of the Terceiro Comando and its main rival Comando Vermelho.

Treaty of Tordesillas
A treaty signed in 1494 in which Portugal and Spain divide the New World. An imaginary line is drawn at 370 leagues from the Cape Verdes. All land west of this line is apportioned to Spain, the eastern part to Portugal. Read more…

Tucano
Nickname for members of the political party PSDB (center-right). Derived from the Toucan bird that is the party symbol. Read more…

UDN (Unio Democrática Nacional)
At the end of the Estado Novo in 1945, the three principal parties of the next two decades came forth. The old liberal opposition, the heirs to the state democratic parties and foes of the Estado Novo, formed the UDN. In the beginning the UDN took in the small group of democratic socialists and a few Communists.

UDR (Unio Democrática Ruralista)
The UDR started as a radical right-wing lobby group after the generals allowed the first steps towards the redemocratization of the country to be taken, in 1984.

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