Independence Day, Brazil.

Sete de Setembro.

On September 7th, 1822, the Portuguese colonies in Brazil declared independence from the Portuguese crown. In fact, in a very unique fashion, the Portuguese royal family had been living in Brazil. Having fled from Napoleon during his invasion of Portugal, the royal family established Rio de Janeiro as the capital of the Portuguese empire. This raised Brazil’s status from “colony” to “equal”.

After the King returned to Portugal, his son Prince Pedro stayed to run Brazilian affairs and take care of the government. Eventually Dom Pedro would declare Brazil’s independence from the Portuguese government/constitution. There was little fuss over cities like São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, however there were battles fought between the Brazilians and Portuguese armies in other parts of Brazil. After about 6,000 lives were lost, Portuguese armies left in 1824 and a treaty was signed in 1825 giving Brazil official independence.

Now, I don’t know much about the Independence War or the events leading up to it. But, I did notice that when I wished people a “Happy Independence Day” they looked shocked and confused. The difference in patriotism between Brazil and the U.S. is notable. Both countries have pride in themselves. The Brazilian flag may not be flown from every building, like the US flag, but the flag finds its way onto jerseys, shirts, and it isn’t just worn by tourists.

I couldn’t explain why these people would be so confused. They didn’t go around shouting “Happy 7th of September” to one another. It was a four day weekend, but it felt like some places didn’t stop at all (except for businesses for the day). In the U.S. there are professional fireworks for two days, BBQs, parades, among other events. In Brazil, it all seemed a little more familial and laid back. There were BBQs and people found excuses to travel to visit family and friends, especially if that involved the beach. But, no one wore green, blue, and yellow. No one painted their face with the Brazilian flag. No one wished each other a “Happy Independence Day”.

Perhaps it is because September is the end of Brazilian winter and beginning of Brazilian spring. Perhaps it is because the US Revolutionary War lasted longer and had more casualties. Perhaps it is because the US has been a huge world power ever since and US citizens have grown up in a culture of country pride at that as if the Revolutionary War was the beginning of their great empire. Perhaps it is because the US has been ruled in the same way, by the same Constitution and government type since the beginnings of its independence and Brazil has passed through imperialism, military dictatorship (recently), and democratic government.

Either way, it was fascinating this year to experience an independence day in Brazil where I understood the language and could observe in a less “new to Brazil, wowed by culture” manner.