By Lindenberg Junior
There was once a time when our delicious Brazilian coffee, corn starch, palm oil and dried beef, among many other imports, were considered luxury products and had to be requested from family members and friends that were coming to the US from Brazil. However, since the year of 2000 this situation has begun to change. Today there are a great number of Brazilian and Latino markets to supply the American commerce with the specialized Brazilian products. From Carniceira Argentina in North Hollywood and Brasil Mania Market in Torrance; to Latimex in Chino, El Mambi in Glendale, and Hi Brazil in Redondo Beach, just to mention a few, you can find an extensive list of Brazilian products. More recently, even the Armenian/American supermarket chain Jon’s has also begun to introduce some Brazilian products into their stores.
In terms of careers, the great variety and diversification of Brazilian professionals has become more and more noticeable. Besides the good numbers of Brazilian babysitters and valets (parking), you can find hair stylists, personal trainers, event promoters, realtors, travel and insurance agents, lawyers, psychologists, dentists, doctors and therapists, as well as a great number of professionals dealing with the arts, from actors and singers to filmmakers and producers. There are also many younger American/ Brazilians talents that born in L.A and should help to spread the “brand” Brazil in the future. All of them are striking expressions of Brazilian culture. Noticing this shift, Soul Brasil decided to find out what Brazilians think about Los Angeles and what they are doing to make the “American Dream” come true. We also researched important historic places and events that marked the presence of Brazilian culture in the capital of cinema.
Years ago, I had a conversation with the former Brazilian ambassador in L.A, Ms. Theresa Maria M. Quintella in her office at the Brazilian Consulate. The ambassador talk about her consular experiences in London, Moscow, and her beloved city of Rio, as well as her job here in L.A. Mrs. Quintella mentioned with enthusiasm the positive image of Brazil among Americans in Los Angeles. She says “I see a great reaction from Americans when someone mentions to be a Brazilian”. She adds “I think that Los Angeles is a city with a growing demand in search of Brazil and its culture, and actually it would be a good idea for airlines to offer more options of direct flights connecting this city to our country”. We also asked the ambassador what she thought to be the best and worst aspects of living in Los Angeles. “The best is to live in a city that is arranged mainly with houses instead of buildings. It fascinates me! The worst is that we have to deal with a chaotic traffic on a daily bases”. Ambassador Quintella was the person who idealized and made efforts to the creation of the annual “Brazilian Day in L.A” in September.
As soccer is a Brazilian “Mania”, we would like to mention an interesting fact. With the intention of relieving stress and having some fun, a group of Brazilians initiated a weekly soccer game on Saturdays in the Glendale College in 1979. After 6 years the game moved to the Pasadena High School. During this time Brazilian soccer celebrities as Pele, Jairzinho, Marinho Chagas, Paulo Cesar Caju and Junior, all them, former professional soccer players and Brazilian stars, visited this Brazilian gathering while they were in L.A, emphasizing its growing importance. In 92, this tradition moved to the Alhambra City Recreational Park, and more recently, since 2012, to a new recreational park in Culver City. Mostly of this players, such as Almir Santer, have been play every Saturday since the 80’s. The fun just finishes, as tradition, after the “Feijoada” or “Brazilian BBQ” that follows after the game.
The Capoeira is a strong expression of our culture and in L.A could not be different. Many of its techniques can be seen in the movie “Catwoman”, where actress Halle Berry learned some traditional capoeira movements in order to perform some the most electrifying scenes in the movie. Master Boneco from the group Capoeira Brasil in Culver City, who was Berry’s private trainer, states that: “It is very exciting to see capoeira flowing into the American culture”. Among the most traditional capoeira groups in L.A are the group of Capoeira Batuque in Culver City. The founder of the group, master Amen Santo, was the pioneer in L.A and was one of the first to open up relations with Hollywood. In the movie “Only the Strong” with Jean Claude Van Damme, Master Amen’s involvement served as a representation of both capoeira and Brazil. Currently, there are several groups of Capoeira around L.A, including the Capoeira Besouro of master Batata in Santa Monica, also, a longtime established group in L.A area.
In Brazil, creativity and sports often go hand in hand, and a good example of this phenomenon can be seen in Jiu-Jitsu. An art that has been around for ages, Jiu-Jitsu originated in India, was later practiced in China, then brought to Brazil and adapted to our culture. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu was made famous worldwide by the Gracie family, who were among the first to bring its techniques to North America. Hollywood producers realized the potential of the sport, and used many of its technique to choreograph fight movies such as the final scene in “Lethal Weapon” with Mel Gibson.
Many Hollywood celebrities practice Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, including Chuck Norris, Vin Diesel and Guy Ritchie. There are many Jiu-Jitsu academies spread throughout the city and the Museum of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, inside the Gracie Academy in Torrance, founded by Rorion Gracie, son of legendary master helio Gracie. What most Brazilians like about L.A. is the desert climate – hot days and cool evenings, and the beach life. “I love to run in Venice Beach to keep my body healthy and in shape”, said the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu instructor Mauricio Costa
Brazilians also enjoy swimming, foot-volley, frisbee, and of course, relaxing and getting a tan. Many Brazilians get together in Redondo Beach in front of Eighth Street or between Marina del Rey and Venice Beach Pier. Surf and Skateboard is also a passion for many Brazilians, and for sure, some of the most famous Brazilian professionals and entrepreneurs in these fields, living all along the South Coast in places such as Huntington Beach and Malibu.
Brazilian music in L.A has found its outlet through two radio shows, both hosted by Sergio Mielniczenko. On Saturdays he hosts the show “Brazilian Hour” on KPFQ and on Fridays the show “Global Village” on KXLU, both shows, featuring songs of the great masters of Brazilian music and interesting chats with celebrities involved with Brazilian culture. There are also many popular Brazilian musicians who live for many years in LA, like the percussionist Airto Moreira and his wife Flora Purim, and Sergio Mendes. Moreira says: “with the heavy traffic, everything is too far away and seems that I’m always late”. For this musician of international recognition, the enchantments of the city are in the different canyons that cross the Valley to the coast and the natural beauty that the scenery offers.
If we talk about music, there are so many Brazilian talented musician in L.A that should be necessary extra pages in this issue for do it. For mention just a few, I will list some of the oldest “Angelinos” residents such as singers Katia Moraes, Sonia Santos, Ana Gazola, Nei Rios, Fabio Jahgun, Flavio Ribeiro, Reni Flores and Andrea Ferraz; percussionists Zé Bruno, Carlinhos “gold tambourine”, Gibi (who plays with Sergio Mendes), Lula Almeida and master Badaró (from Viver Brasil Dance Company); and the bassists Fernando Raio (Six Foot Halo) and master Santana. If you like to learn samba, have fun, just improve your skills or a simply desire to be introduced to the pleasure of the Brazilian rhythm, there are many good options to choose from. Just as example, dancers/choreographers Jonia McClenney and Aninha Laidly offer great classes at Brasil Brasil Cultural Center in Culver City.
A good part of the expression of our culture comes from the strong religious sentiments of our people. And just as God is great… there are a great number of religious communities located all over the city, including evangelistic churches; among them, Baptist, Methodist, Assembly of God and Adventist; as well as spiritualist centers in the Allan Kardec line. The important idea is that all of them are contributing to the well being and comfort of our people, who find in these communities a way of socializing and extending their spheres of friendship. These communities serve to reduce feelings of cultural isolation and loneliness as well as to improve spiritual bonds.
And as the nature of Brazilians is such a colorful one… the Brazilian Consulate years ago decided to open its doors to Brazilian artists in the field of folk and visual arts. Just as example, Rose Lobo was one of those artists’ years ago. The intention of the Brazilian Consulate Gallery (“BCG”) is to offer the exchange of information, education and culture between Brazilian artists and the public. Talking about art, we asked the artist Bakari Santos, one of the most actives “cultural ambassador” of Brazil in L.A, what he thinks about this city. “L.A can pleasant everybody because it’s very cosmopolitan. It presents different kinds of natural beauty as mountains, waterfalls, beaches and snow – during the winter, as well as a wonderful climate!” – said Bakari. When one thinks about Brazil, many think of carnival, and L.A presents some many options during the Mardi Gras (or Carnaval!) season. During the months of February and March, you can find at least two Brazilian Carnaval Bowls to join. The locations usually change year by year, but there were remarkable Brazilian carnivals at the Palladium in Hollywood and at the Queen Mary in Long Beach.
The diversity in Brazilian culture can be also appreciated in the cuisine. There are so many different Brazilian restaurants to choose from, but the predominance is for sure the Brazilian Steakhouses. There are the pioneer By Brazil in Torrance; the Green Field in Pasadena, Azusa and Long Beach; M Grill in Koreantown, Samba in Redondo Beach and Universal City; Gaucho Village in Glendale, and Fogo do Chao in Beverly Hills just to mention a few in the ‘All You Can Eat” style. But if we talk about Brazilian cuisine, we must to mention the “a la cart” style Brazilian restaurant pioneer in town: the charm and cozy Café Brasil – www.cafe-brasil.com. Opened its doors in January of 1991 on Venice Blvd, it quickly became an important point of reference for all things green and yellow in LA. Most recently, they opened a second restaurant at Washington Blvd, also in Culver City. Others good options “a la cart” is the Tropicalia Brazilian Grill in Los Feliz – www.tropicaliabraziliangrill.com presenting a modern twist and the style of the “Tropicalia” movement, and Silvio’s Brazilian BBQ in Hermosa Beach – www.silviosbbq.com presenting a “Surf Style” decoration and just a few meters of the Hermosa beach pier, and featuring its famous “Carnvival Plate”.
Talking about “pioneer”, the Pampas Grill – www.pampas-grill.com, inside the landmark Farmer Market has established the “paid by the pound” BBQ style and with the success, few years later, opened it’s second location in Culver City. The Pampas presents a fast food style service with a wide variety in the buffet and meat cut to perfection. In an unexpected talk with one of the owners – Francisco Carvalho, we asked what he thought the reason was for the recent growth in popularity of Brazilian restaurants, especially churrascarias. The answer was an insightful one: “The difference of style, the abundance of a desired and expensive product like meat in America, our special seasoning allied with good music like chorinho and Bossa Nova are some of the reasons”.
* To buy authentic Brazilian products in the Los Angeles area and inclusive, offering the best prices in town, we suggest you to check “El Mambi” Market located at 328 E. Chevy Chase Dr in Glandale (818)246-6016, Carniceria Argentina located at 11740 Victory Blvd in North Hollywood (818)762-9977, and the LatiMex located at 11742 Central Ave in Chino (909)628-8215