The Unity in Brazilian Families

“Trouble in marriage often begins when a man or woman gets so busy earning their salt, that they forgets their sugar” Anon

I stood on the sidewalk waiting for a ride to the church where our group was helping with construction. A car pulled up and family spilled out to immediately be surrounded by the folks where I was staying. There were also sorts of hugs and kisses exchanged and joyous greetings. Anything remarkable about that? Well yes, for the visitors were close relatives and they had been together just the previous day. This is so typical of Brazilian families. They maintain close relationship with parents, aunts and uncles, cousins, the wider extended family along with god-parents.

Traditionally the family has been the basis of the Brazilian social structure. Families in the past tended to be large with the expectation that a newly-wed couple would integrate quickly into the larger family structure. That is what I saw being played out on the sidewalk and I must say the warm family relationships touched me deeply.

The weddings I have attended there are a great time for socializing, with lots of commotion and good food. Such a wedding would no doubt stretch the budget of the parents for a long time for they include those I might describe as “shirttail relatives.” Those connections are considered valuable. The owners of businesses feel confident in hiring their kin for they trust the honesty of family members.

Though hiring family is widely approved yet when corruption occurs, because of those connections it can be a disaster. Friends may also be a part of the wider connection and that can lead to corruption. Recently that has happened on a vast scale in Brazil with billions pilfered from Petrobras.

In days past families were run by the father. He was the patriarch and his word was law. I recall the situation of a family when we lived in the interior. Mr. G and family came to church with all of them being baptized. But the father would not allow his wife to step outside the front door unless family was with her. And I recall riding on a street car and being made fun of because I might be one of those strange foreigners that washed dishes and changed diapers. The assumption was that men should not do women’s work.

At the same time the lady of the home was the glue that held the family together. That happened though most women had a minimum of education and were relegated to domestic duties. But there have been significant changes in family values from the time we lived there. To-day one may find two working spouses and the number of single parent families has jumped. In a way family culture in Brazil is changing to mimic our own bringing on all the problems that our culture experiences.

Though the family structures have experienced change, yet family closeness remains important. It not uncommon for three generations to be living in the same home though it would be strange for this to happen in our land. Grandparents and older parents are seldom put into a senior’s residence or a nursing home. And I’ve seen those families function beautifully.

When children marry they do their best to live near their parents. The children are considered part of the family group and accept duties and responsibilities. They help the family to function. Those same children are often included in family activities.

Though changes are happening in the family structure in Brazil, close-knit relationships are valued. In all of this the children who get an education move at times far away to find work. In the huge city of São Paulo, even across the city is a long way–at least in travel time.

The different religions in Brazil generally foster family unity: true at least of the branches of the Christian faith. When we peruse the Bible we find the close and important link between family and faith. And that is something I’ll deal with in the next posting pointing up some unknown statistics.

Until later…



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