Religion plays a big role in Brazilian culture today. Holidays, traditions, celebrations, hisotry, foods, and even dances center around religion. “Recent censuses have revealed that around 90% of the Brazilian population subscribe to some religious ideal.” Christianity was first introduced when European and Portuguese settlers colonized the region in the 16th century. The church played an important aspect in Brazilian culture and everyday life. People were required to pay taxes to the Roman Catholic Church and take part in attendance and other events. Priests had a large influence over matters and often carried a lot of power throughout the region. It was not until 1824 where freedom of religion was declared after the country reached independence. However, Roman Catholicism was “declared the official state religion.”
Roman Catholicism still plays a large aspect in Brazilian culture today. Brazil has the largest percentage of Roman Catholics in the world but in the past few years, the numbers have been declining. While the people are baptized and married in the church, the number of attendees in mass have declined because there are not many who are practicing members. Catholicism is practiced more among women and the elderly. There is a decline of participants among the youth. The decline in percentage of Catholicism can also be attributed to the growing influence of other religions.
There is also a small percentage of Afro-Brazilian religions that have remained over time. In addition, Spiritism is also practice among indigenous tribes. Afro-Brazilian religions have combined with Roman Catholicism over the years and created religions like umbanda and candomble. These religions are practiced in more urban areas “such as Rio in the north or Sao Paulo in the south.” These religions involve chanting, dancing, and praising the gods. These religions were suppressed prior to the country’s independence, as it was seen as a pagan and satanic ritual.
Religion is a part of Brazil’s identity and nature. It is incorporated into holidays, festivals, and other cultural traditions. Festivals like the “Cirio de Nazare in Belem and the pilgrimage to the National Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida” are often attended by hundreds of people. Holidays, like the “Festo do Divino (Feast of the Holy Ghost)” are also largely popularized throughout the region. The feast takes place about a month and a half after Easter and lasts to a week. Food is distributed to the locals and the poor and the children receive candy.
Brazil’s religion has also influenced political, social, and religious policies and laws. Prior to 1977, it was illegal to get a divorce (highly influenced by Catholicism) even if you pertained to another religion. Monuments, like the “Christ the Redeemer,” are also religious symbols that represent the importance of religion in Brazil. Christ the Redeemer underwent construction throughout the 1920s and was finished in 1929. The 635 tonne statue stands 98 feet tall and “is the largest art deco statue in the world.” The landmark can be found on top of the Corcovado Mountain in Rio de Janeiro.
Furthermore religion plays a significant role in the lives of many Brazilians. “The social and cultural behaviors are reflective of the influence that the various religions have on it.” 90% of the population consider themselves to be part of a religion though not everyone practices it.