What is love for Brazilians? A wide range of mental associations may come to the mind of a Brazilian woman or man when they hear the word “amor.”

These can be various feelings, emotions, images, thoughts, beliefs, attitudes, and actions in which they experience “amor.” These can be in multiple family relationships, social connections, sexual encounters, and emotional relations.

Generally, love is a topic of great value for Brazilians in various sorts and forms of social relationships. Brazilian love begins with the vital importance of family love. Love for them is a bunch of various interpersonal connections in the extended family that is implied in Portuguese “parentela”, which means “relations” and can also mean “family.” Their feeling of self-identity is in a familial group. Affective bonds and emotional support permeate their close family connection.

Brazilian romantic and marital relationships are intertwined.

As for heterosexual relationships, romances, and marriages, the distinction between “paixao” and “amor” arises as of special importance. The personal experiences of paixao and amor can be related and overlapped. The Portuguese word “paixo” characterizes the key feelings associated with passionate love, such as obsessive infatuation, strong sexual attraction, and joyous passionate emotions. The Portuguese word “amor” characterizes the key feelings associated with companionate love, such as a calmer, more stable, and deeper experience of love. They frequently can’t tell which of those emotional complexes represents their true love.

The two sorts of love emotions are somewhat interwoven in the beginning and early period of an evolving relationship. The joyful rhythms of Brazilian carnivals, music beats, songs, dances, and cheerful erotic outfits seem to predispose men and women to love. Their lives are embraced by the passionate romantic love they feel.

Passionate Brazilians

Brazilians are widely known as cheerful, passionate, erotic, and expressive Latin Americans. Their warm climate and the fact that they evolved as a mixture of Native Americans, Iberians (especially those of Portuguese descent), Italians, and Africans could have made them more extraverted and outgoing people. This may be why Brazilian love emotions are passionate, erotic, and openly expressive. From their behavioral appearance, Brazilians may look like classical Latin lovers, in contrast with reserved Nordic lovers. This cultural image of Brazilians resembles the old-fashioned anthropological stereotypes of South Americans and Polynesians as expressed in the frequent quote:

“There is no sin below the equator.”

The Brazilian way of courtship

This cultural stereotype, however, can be misleading for an understanding of Brazilian love. The Catholic beliefs of Brazilians may have a counterbalancing effect on the real nature of true love in society. For many people in Brazil, like other countries in Latin America, Catholic religious values shape their culture, relationships, and emotions. So, moral conservatism and religious marriage traditions have an influence on the real relationships between men and women.

These gender relations, however, vary in the big cities, in rural areas, and in small towns. In urban regions of the country, men and women can participate in the relatively free ways of courtship. Families in rural areas, on the other hand, can still have control over traditional chaperoned courtship. For example, the courting couples go out in groups with their siblings and cousins. Occasional moments of glances and smiles are the major means of courtship. In rural settings, only couples who are officially engaged go out on dates alone. Premarital sexual relationships are restricted. Honor and chastity remain important cultural values.

Nowadays, the modernization of Brazilian society transforms the ways of courtship, especially in urban settings. Dating for young people is easier and freer than before. For many young women and men, their interpersonal attraction and love feelings guide them on their way to marriage.

Nevertheless, men and women continue to take into account practical considerations, family interests, and traditional gender roles when they decide to marry and create their own family. Traditional gender stereotypes persist. Men in their “machos” roles still have more freedom in their relationships than women. Men are frequently able to pursue their physical, sexual, and emotional desires. Women need to adhere to their “marianismo” roles and values.

The new ideals of romantic love, however, come to life more and more often than before. Young women and men understand that their love-marriages can be idealistic dreams, vulnerable to mistakes because of inequities in social arrangements, the psychological shortcomings of partners, and faulty behaviors. They understand that they can still make the wrong choices and mistakes. They can underestimate the repercussions of their actions. They may “lament their failures in love, nursing their hurts and snarling their angers, in the end they still strive for love. In their own way they achieve it” (Rebhun, 1995, p.260).

Many young men and women are disillusioned by their experiences, while others believe that one day they will find real love and ideal unity. Therefore, they try to talk openly about their thoughts, emotions, difficult interpersonal relations, challenging situations, and various circumstances. They strive to figure out how they feel, what they should do, and what the effects of their actions will be.


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