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Angola, Brazil: A culture shock divide

Polychromed woodcarving of an Orixá by Luiz Paulino da Cunha. Photo by Children At Risk Foundation

Angola and Brazil have a special relationship towards each other, partially because of their common language and their shared colonial past – both countries were part of the Portuguese Empire – and the cultural ties that stem from this shared history. Since 2000, commerce between the two countries has started to grow and it is now booming. According to the Association of Brazilian Companies in Angola (AEBRAN), trade between the two countries has risen six-fold since 2002.

With the increase in trade, the presence of Brazilian companies in Angola has also grown. Consequently, immigration from Brazil to Angola has increased too, 70 percent over the last five years. There are an estimated 5,000 Brazilians registered in Angola, mainly working for construction, mining and agribusiness companies. This new development in Angolan history, a country which was more accustomed to immigration to the other side of the Atlantic, leads to an unavoidable culture shock for both Brazilians and Angolans alike.

Below are two entire blog posts showing different perspectives of one people towards the other, raising issues of immigration, racism, ethnicity and mutual respect. Above all, they illustrate the complex and diverse relationship – with all of the inevitable similarities and differences – of siblings growing up an ocean apart.

Polychromed woodcarving of a slave by Luiz Paulino da Cunha. Photo by Children At Risk Foundation

Migas [pt], a Brazilian living in Luanda, says the following:

Sempre vi as eleições em Setembro de forma positiva. Optimista de que os episódios de violência do passado não voltarão a acontecer. Qualquer um é unânime em concordar que o país precisa de paz para prosseguir com o crescimento económico, desenvolvimento, qualidade de vida dos cidadãos. Talvez este último seja o objectivo mais “esquecido”. Contudo, o acontecimento aproxima-se. 5 de Setembro foi a data escolhida e qualquer um está com muita expectativa. Angolano ou estrangeiro.

I have always seen the September elections in a positive way. I'm optimistic that the episodes of violence of the past will no longer happen. Everyone is unanimous in agreeing that the country needs peace to pursue economic growth, development, quality of life. Maybe the latter is the most “forgotten” goal. However, the event is approaching. September 5 is the date chosen and everyone awaits it with great expectation be they Angolans or foreigners.

Vivo num condomínio em que sou a única estrangeira. Todos os outros vizinhos são negros, pertencentes a uma classe que eu não consigo identificar. Não são ricos nem pobres. Mas também não são classe média. Eu diria que são mais pobres do que ricos, segundo os meus padrões. Mas, são ricos o suficiente para terem água nos reservatórios, gerador, carros e comida na mesa. Num dos últimos fins-de-semana, houve festa numa das casas do condomínio. Ao que parece, um aniversário. Arrependi-me da minha opção em ficar em casa, nessa noite de Sábado.

I live on an estate where I am the only foreigner. All other neighbors are black, belonging to a class that I can not identify. They are neither rich or poor. But they are not middle class either. I would say they are poorer than rich, according to my standards. However, they are rich enough to have water in their reservoirs, power generators, cars and food on the table. On one of the past weekends, there was a celebration in one of the other houses on the estate. Apparently, a birthday party. I regret my choice to stay at home on that Saturday night.

A festa prolongou-se até de madrugada com o DJ a esmerar-se na escolha das músicas. Para meu desespero já que tinha decidido ficar em casa para dormir cedo. Depois de chegar das compras, por volta das 10h da noite, vi que no meu lugar de estacionamento tinha outro carro. Não pedi para tirarem mas antes, para darem um “jeitinho” (à boa maneira do Norte) para que pudessem ficar os dois. O meu e o do convidado. O convidado, nitidamente bêbado, mandou-me esperar e voltou à festa, supostamente em busca da chave. Minutos depois, tinha-se esquecido do meu pedido e já dançava junto com os outros.

The party lasted up to dawn with the DJ's bright choices of music. To my despair I had already decided to stay at home to sleep early. After arriving from shopping, around 10pm, I saw that another car was in my car parking space. I didn't ask them to take it away but to find a “quick fix” (in the good, Northern way) so that both [cars] could be there. Mine and the guest's [car]. The guest, clearly drunk, left me waiting and returned to party, allegedly in search of the car keys. Minutes later, he had forgotten my request and was dancing with the others.

Consegui resolver a questão de outra forma mas, confesso que não gostei da atitude. Esta história ilustra a minha verdadeira preocupação. Não tenho dúvidas que as eleições vão dar lugar a muita bebedeira, festa, comportamentos exagerados. E isso preocupa-me. Se até agora nunca tinha sentido desconforto por morar num local onde a minha casa é a única de “brancos”, nessa noite percebi que as “biricocas” podem desencadear episódios desconfortáveis mesmo em locais onde nos sentimos bem.

I managed to sort the issue out somehow, but I confess I did not like the attitude. This story illustrates my real concerns. I have no doubt that the elections will lead to much drunkenness, parties, unreasonable behavior. And that worries me. If up to now I had never had a sense of discomfort for living in a place where my home is the only “white” person's, I realized that night that the “drink fueled parties” may trigger uncomfortable episodes, even in places where we feel good.

12-year old Naomi Leonardo de Queiros
, photo by Children At Risk Foundation

Below is a different perspective, on another party and the whole new immigration scenario, by Gil Gonçalves [pt], an Angolan citizen:

Em Luanda, as empresas brasileiras praticam o subimperialismo americano. O Brasil é uma colónia dos EUA. Muitos… mas mesmo muitos brasileiros chegaram, chegam a Luanda, como sardinhas enlatadas.

In Luanda, Brazilian companies engage in American sub-imperialism. Brazil is a USA colony. Many, really too many, Brazilians have arrived and still arrive in Luanda like canned sardines.

Na Movicel, empresa de telecomunicações onde detêm as garras no marketing, mandam vir os seus irmãos e irmãs, como técnicos altamente especializados. Os luandenses ensinam-nos a trabalhar, pois os pobres chegam aqui analfabetos. No Brasil parece não existirem universidades, ou então as existentes não funcionam. Ganham milhares de dólares, com direito a milhares de mordomias. E os luandenses míseros dólares. Há que manter o legado colonial.

At Movicel, a telecommunications company where they hold tight to the marketing department, they bring their brothers and sisters as highly skilled technicians. The Luandaners teach them to work, because those poor people arrive here illiterate. In Brazil it seems that there are no universities or the existing ones do not work. They earn thousands of dollars, and have the right to thousands of luxuries. And Luandaners earn meager dollars. The colonial legacy must be kept.

Brasileiros e brasileiras infestaram um hotel, é só deles e delas. Elas fumam bwe, parecem vulcões em permanente actividade. De vez em quando dão festa no terraço. Como bons analfabetos sociais imprimem desalmado som musical que permite aos colonizados luandenses não dormirem. Eles e elas não sabem, fingem não saberem, que em Luanda poluição sonora é crime. Estrangeiros que não respeitam as leis do país de acolhimento tem direito à expulsão. Mas como isto é deles e de alguns amigos luandenses…

Brazilian men and women have infested a hotel, it belongs to only them. They smoke a lot, they look like volcanoes in constant activity. From time to time, they throw a party on the terrace. As good social illiterate people they play wicked music that allows no colonized Luandaners to sleep. They do not know, they pretend not to know, that in Luanda noise pollution is a crime. Foreigners who do not respect the host country's laws deserve to be expelled. But as it [the hotel] belongs to them and some of their friends from Luanda…

O espanto nisto tudo é que eles e elas “brasileirada” são todos… brancos e brancas. Cadê os negros? As negras? Fugiram para o quilombo do Zumbi dos Palmares? Foram deportados para um campo de concentração nazi? Esconderam-nos na floresta do Amazonas? Exterminaram-nos? Estão proscritos? Enfeitam algum jardim zoológico? Deitaram-nos ao mar?

The surprise in all this is that the Brazilians… are all white. Where are the black men? The black women? Have they run away from Zumbi quilombo? Were they deported to a Nazi concentration camp? Are they hiding in the Amazon jungle? Have they been exterminated? Are they outlawed? Ornamenting a zoo? Thrown into the sea?

Porque não tem a coragem de afirmar publicamente que negro brasileiro não existe no Brasil!

Why not have the courage to state publicly that there are no black Brazilians in Brazil!

The pictures that illustrate this piece are from the Symbols and Symbolism Flickr photo set by the Children At Risk Foundation and used under a Creative Commons license. They portray the 300-year history of enslavement in Brazil and its impact on that country, such as the Candomblé legacy. Below is their caption:

The Negro was uprooted from his land and sold as merchandise, enslaved. In Brazil he arrived as slave, object; from his land he departed as a free man. During the journey, the slave traffic, he lost his personality, but his culture, his history, his landscape, his experiences; they came with him.

300-year history of Negro enslavement in Brazil has made an impact on this country. Candomblé is one such impact, a religion filled with many secrets, symbols and rituals known only to initiates but it is also a vital part of cultural expression in Brazil. There are no definitive numbers on how many people in Brazil follow Candomblé. The government estimates, conservatively, that there are more than 300,000 centers of worship for Brazil's Afro-Brazilian religions, which include Candomblé. Those participating in these faiths are thought to make-up at least one-third of Brazil's near 170 million inhabitants. Many practice both Catholicism and Candomblé.

Bahia, the state with the largest percentage of Blacks, is the capital of this religion, which closely follows its African roots and traditions among the Yoruba people of Nigeria and the Bantu people of Angola and the Congo. Yoruban traditions, including the most commonly used names of the Orixás (gods of the African pantheon), predominate.
Today Candomblé is officially recognized and protected by the government of Brazil. However, during the period of slavery and for many decades following its abolition in Brazil in 1888, Candomblé practices were banned by the government and by the Catholic church, and its practitioners were severely punished.


  • […] com esse post, que me lembrou desse outro post que tinha lido recentemente. Combinados, renderam esse artigo, ainda sem tradução, que aborda questões como imigração e racismo entre o Brasil e a […]

  • Amazing post – and amazing choice of photos.

  • Kunle

    thanks for the post and links

  • Angola “exportou”, embora de uma forma não deliberada a sua cultura para o Brasil. O Samba, a capoeira, o gingar da mulata, e alguns comportamentos são reflexos disso. Infelizmente, nota-se no negro brasileiro, o mesmo que se verifica na maioria dos angolanos. Certa apatia e complexo de inferioridade em relação aos de pele mais clara. Nota-se também que os negros em Angola são muito submissos e que quando atingem posições mais elevadas na sua carreira profissional tendem em marginalizar ou desdenhar a sua própria cultura e os indivíduos de tom de pele mais escura. Nisso, as semelhanças com o brasileiro é mais do que evidente. Alguns dirão que não existe racismo tanto em Angola como no Brasil. A verdade é que em ambos os países o racismo é superiormente camuflado. Existe um apartheid económico e social evidente. Nos Bancos e empresas de grandes dimensões os negros geralmente ocupam posições mais baixas ainda que tenham habilitações superiores aos seus compatriotas de pele mais clara. GERALMENTE, as escolhas são feitas consoante o tom de pele. DOI, MAS INFELIZMENTE É A VERDADE! Para muitos angolanos de pele mais escura Deus é branco e o Diabo é preto.

    Sou preto, angolano, kimbundu e com muito orgulho nas minhas raízes. Luto contra todo o tipo de preconceito, discriminação e submissão. “Kana Ku Baka Oh Wemba Mu Dikano Dia Mukweno”
    i.e. “Não guarde o mel na boca do outro”

    GVO Translation:

    Angola “exported”, but in a non deliberate way, their culture to Brazil. Samba, capoeira, the sway of the mulatto women, and some behaviors are reflections of that. Unfortunately, in black Brazilian there is the same as in most Angolans. A certain apathy and inferiority complex in relation to the lighter skin. It is also noted that the blacks in Angola are very submissive and when they reach higher positions in their careers they tend to marginalize or scorn their own culture and those of a darker skin. In this, the similarities with Brazilians are more than evident. Some will say that there isn’t racism neither in Angola or Brazil. The truth is that in both countries racism is mostly disguised. There is an obvious social and economic apartheid. In the banks and in large corporations, blacks generally occupy lower positions even when they have higher qualifications than those of their compatriots of lighter skin. GENERALLY, choices are made according to the tone of skin. It hurts, but unfortunately THIS IS THE TRUTH! For many darker-skinned Angolans, God is white and the devil is black.

    I am black, Angolan, Kimbundu and very proud of my roots. I fight against all kinds of prejudice, discrimination and subjugation. “Kana Ku Baka Oh Wemba Mu Dikan Dia Mukweno”
    i.e. “Do not store honey in the others’ mouth”

  • Most of African American heritage in North America comes from Angola.Even though,Brazil has a geographical,cultural and colonial past.Slavery was a lucrative trade from so many tribes and Kings of the time.There is no ancestral heritage between Africans in Angola and Africans in Brazil.The pattern,slave routes were interlaced with so many actors.Angola is benefiting from global surge of oil.The Angola is moving forward.We have had cases of racism by Portuguese-speaking Africans in Brazil institutions of higher learning
    What does Brazil bring to the Angolan populace? Is it an exclusive club of expatriate Brazilians in Angola?
    Brazil has a diverse culture and its economy is modeled on European style.
    Brazil is a Euro centric.Angola is Afro-centric.There is going to be culture shock

  • good historical background.keep it up

  • The cenario will soon change. The angolanization process is taking place. Very soon very senior and mid management in angola will be held by angolans. Some of these guys have spent most of their lives in the UK and USA where racism is crime, and obsviously both black and whites will benefit from their experience. There is no doubt that Brazilians and Angolans alike have a lot to learn from other cultures where many races have learnt to live together in peace and unity in the last few decades. As an angolan going back to his country with a job contract in my hands i will impartially figth racism and prejudice whenever i can, specially at my work place. I have studied and workerd in England for 16 years. 70% of my mates are whites , because i live in a white dominated ( i mean numerically) country, and so far as i am concerned, when it cames to brains, atitudes and manners, all races and social extracts have their ups and downs. I have worked with clever and not so clever people of all races, and to think that someone is inferior just because of his(her) skin colour is unjust and shows a lack of knowledge about the human race. Europeans living in africa, come with a lot of misconceptions about blacks. The blacks resent the way the are viewed by those and in these circunstances peace cannot exist. I have seen Brazilians in London cleanning the streets, cleanning buildings, working in restaurants, and doing jobs lots of blacks from Nigeria, Ghana, Zambia or Angola would never do. But that didn’t make them inferior. They were never looked down. People always appreciated their work. It is important for the brazilians in Angola to understand that they are visitors and as such good behaviour is important in someone elses home. In Brazil they would NEVER have the chance to get as good money as they get in Angola. As far as I am concerned the portuguese because of their atittude are facing the wrath of the angolan people, with working visas being delayed and in some cases honest and hard working people losing the chance to work and live in one of the fastest growing economies in the world, because of the way they looked down on angolans throughout the centuries. Let the brazilians not make the same mistake.

  • Cara Senhora,

    O que aconteceu consigo, não foi por causa da sua cor de pele. Bebados não escolhem suas vitimas baseadas no cor a pele. Sou angolano, negro e já por v’arias vezes passei por situações identicas. Por outro lado se esta é a primeira vez que fizeram-lhe sempre branca num pais de negros é porque nós estamos bem, porque no Brazil um negro sente que o é ao chegar no aeroporto.

    GVO Translation

    Dear lady

    What happened to you was not because of the color of your skin. Drunk people do not choose their victims according to their skin color. I am Angolan and many times I faced exact the same situation. On the other hand, if this was the first time that you felt like a white people in a country of blacks it is a good sign because in Brazil a black person feels what they are when landing in the airport.

  • Rodriguez-Feo

    The increase in commerce at the turn of the century also represents cultural importations to Angola from Brazil. In my dissertation I have a chapter outlining the significance of these importations on Angolan national identity. There appears to be a love-hate relationship with Brazil but upon further analysis, reactions to the imports from Brazil are related to larger political and social issues in the local context.

    There is a longer-standing relationship between the two countries in various arenas including music and film/television program. Historian Marissa Moorman has explored some of those in terms of the creation of an Angolan national identity.

  • Nego Furioso

    aja Angolano mas besta que este? Nao tem Negro no Brazil!? Este filho da pute deve se calar em vez de ficar falando merda sem sentido,

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