NEW YORK—Over 1.5 million people crowded the streets across sixth avenue Sunday to dance samba and celebrate Brazilian Independence Day.
New York City has seen a wave of Brazilian events from the Summerfest in July, a nine-day lineup of Brazilian concerts in pubs and parks, to this week’s Brazil week with a parade and street fair on Saturday and a six-hour two-stage concert on Sunday.
Brazilians and culture enthusiasts alike wore yellow and green T-shirts, many with the words “Ser brasileiro é simplesmente ser” on them, a saying that roughly translates to “to be Brazilian, simply be.”
For Leticia Carvalho, a 35-year-old finance worker, it’s the sense of being at home and the spirit of the event that drew her there.
“All the Brazilian fans, all the music, all the food. It’s like you feel at home at least one day of the year. It has this really high energy,” said Carvalho, who emigrated from Brazil to Connecticut 14 years ago.
Sunday was her first time celebrating Brazilian Day in Manhattan. “I heard so many good things about Brazilian Day here so I was like, I have to go there today. It’s exciting. When I get up there, I’ll be dancing samba, for sure.”
Whole hog, fresh sugarcane juice, caipirinha cocktails, and feijoada (stewed beans, beef, and pork) sold well at the food stands that offered a taste of Brazil.
Brazilian Day has its origins as a small festival on 46th Street in 1984, founded by Joao de Matos, who also started a Brazilian travel company, newspaper, and restaurant. It’s grown every year since, stretching across sixth avenue and spanning 25 blocks for its 30th anniversary this year.
Why They Come
Part of what has helped the festival grow, is the influx of non-Brazilians growing interested in the rich culture.
Patrick Garrity, 58, in IT, drove up from Connecticut to experience the passion of the people.
“The way they dance, it’s very expressive, you know?” said Garrity, adding, “I’m Irish, obviously. But I love their kind of joy of life. That’s why I come to these things.”
Capoeira demonstrations, a type of Brazilian martial arts that resembles dance, and travel information rounded off the other stands outside the concert stage.
Estevão Sollero, 25, also came for the energy. When asked what he most looked forward to, he replied: “The people.”
Sollero has been in America for two years, studying for his Master’s Degree in Industrial Engineering. He was also looking forward to seeing Ivete Sangalo, one of Brazil’s most famous singers, who debuted in Sollero’s hometown in Salvador, the capital city of Bahia, Brazil.
When the police let him into the fenced concert area, he planned to go up close, “to feel the energy.”
Security was tight on Sunday, with policemen directing everyone from the streets out of the special concert area and only letting in a few V.I.Ps.
Lucia Sousa, 62, who works as a nurse and lives only a block away from the day’s festivities, didn’t let her enthusiasm waver after a female cop told her to walk around the block to get in.
Sousa, who emigrated from Brazil 20-some years ago, had a message to everyone: “You can’t miss this. It’s wonderful.”
“When the samba comes, you’re going to feel it in your blood. So I can’t wait. You have to be here,” said Sousa, who noted that it’s her 25th time celebrating the holiday in Manhattan and that she has attended the festival every year, without fail.
Brazil Week closed with an after-party at B. B. King’s, the famous blues club in Times Square.