Carnival is coming up at the beginning of March, and no place on earth does Carnival like Rio de Janeiro, so we thought this would be a great opportunity to devote an issue to Brazil.

Carnival, for those who don’t know its meaning, is a celebration common in predominantly Catholic countries. It is a festival in preparation for Lent, the period before Easter when Catholics traditionally gave up eating meat as an act of penitence. In fact, the word “carnival” derives from Latin words meaning, approximately, “Goodbye, meat.” The origins of the celebration, however, long pre-date Christianity.

In many places the celebration is limited to Mardi Gras (Shrove Tuesday), the day right before Ash Wednesday when Lent begins. But in Rio, the festivities start on the Saturday before Ash Wednesday and continue through the following Tuesday. This year it runs from March 5 through March 8.

But before we tell you more about Carnival (“Carnaval” in Portuguese), let’s look a little more at Brazil and the reasons that it is included, along with Russia, India and China, in the grouping known as the BRIC countries—countries considered to emerging economic powers.

Brazil, the emerging power

Brazil is the fifth largest country in the world, both by population and by land mass, and has long represented a potentially great economy. It currently has the eighth largest economy in the world with an average annual growth rate of close to 4%.* Businesses everywhere are attracted by the prospects for Brazil as a consumer market. It is already the world’s fourth largest market for automobiles, and foreign investment in domestic automobile production is growing along with imports. On the export side, agricultural products, such as sugar, coffee, beef and soybeans, remain very important, constituting 36% of exports; but Brazil also has a very advanced industrial sector and is a regional leader in technology, especially in areas related to energy and agriculture.

One sign of Brazil’s new status – a status that Brazilians are only just getting used to – is the fact that it will play host to both the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics.

Although the official language of Brazil is Portuguese, its population is very diverse, mixing descendants of indigenous tribes, Portuguese settlers, and former African slaves with those of immigrants from all over the world. And Brazil’s large area is as varied as its population, with large cities, coastal beaches, the bulk of the huge Amazon rain forest, and some of the most breathtaking waterfalls in the world.

Carnival (cont.)

But back to Carnival: Rio’s celebration goes back to 1840, when its first masked ball was held. By the mid-1800s, street parades were introduced. The samba, “a mix of Angolan semba, European polka, African batuques, with touches of Cuban habanera and other styles,” didn’t make its first appearance until 1917. Today, it is the sound of Carnival. In fact, Carnival is now organized by the samba schools, neighborhood associations that often provide much more than just music. The schools choose themes and compete to outdo each other with elaborate costumes and floats – something Philadelphians are familiar with from the Mummers’ Parade.

If you can’t make it to Rio for Carnival, you can get a wonderful taste of it through the photos of the 2007 celebration on Sergio Luiz’s Flickr album, or sample some of the “most over the top moments” from 2010 in the Huffington Post.

Or, to get a broader taste of the country, take a virtual tour of the Amazon jungle or of the world-famous Iguassu Falls.

And, if you’re doing business, or thinking of doing business, with Brazil, don’t forget to contact us to discuss how we help you with your language needs.

*Note added Feb 19 2014: At the end of 2012, according to the World Bank, Brazil ranked as the seventh largest economy in the world as measured by GDP, but it’s economy has been troubled in recent years. After a dip due to the world economic recession in 2008, the growth rate soared to 7.5% in 2010 but was only 2.7% and 0.9% respectively in 2011 and 2012. Projections are that final numbers for 2013 will show growth of about 2.3%. Brazil predicts the same rate of growth for next year but economists predict a growth rate below 2%.

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