Black men, white women in Brazil: Although common, still a taboo

black Brazilian women
Soccer player Robinho and wife Vivian Junes

Research shows how prejudice manifests itself in interracial relationships

The basis of this article is an interpolation of a piece by Martha Mendonça

Although anyone who has ever been to Brazil could tell you that interracial marriage is much more common in that country than in the US, what people probably don’t report or admit is that prejudice against these types of couples is also very common. Although couples ultimately decide if and when they will marry, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the family will accept the union. In November of 2001, television showed one of the most explicit public displays of racism ever seen in Brazil – where the bias is often hidden, only moving forward in the shadows. The former model Cláudia Lúcia, 36, one of three participants from No Limite 3, a reality show aired by Globo TV on Sundays, revealed her opinions about the black race. “I would not want my daughter to date a black man. I keep imagining my grandchildren, all sararás (1), and having to put henna (2) (in their hair),” she said, going beyond the boundaries of common sense.  Cláudia commented on the romance that a black man, Fábio Meirelles, a model of 23 years, was having on the program with the blonde Tatiana, 24.

“If we were not isolated from the world, when is that Fábio would have a chance of dating a pretty blonde with blue eyes?”, asked Cláudia Lúcia. Her remarks ended up causing more repercussion than the nude pictures she took for a men’s magazine in 1984.

Fábio Meirelles and Tatiana Welikson from the show No Limite 3

The reaction was immediate. In Rio de Janeiro, the lawyer Pena Aderlan Crespo went to the state prosecutor and asked for an institutional inquiry. In commemoration of the day of Black Consciousness, on November 20, in Central do Brasil (3), appeared a sign of protest with photos of the former model. In Campo Grande, in the western region of ​​the city, Fábio’s mother, Rejane, said she was sick of hearing the nonsense. His sister, Christiane, was indignant: “Fabio has had many girlfriends. Black, mulatto and blondes.”

Far from being an exception, what Cláudia Lúcia stated for all to hear on TV is a feeling that Brazil whispers in the corners. Interracial marriage is a major taboo of racism in the country. Many Brazilians often boast of the ethnic miscegenation in this morena land. But seeing a black man and white woman come hand in hand in a restaurant, will attract a look, hidden or overt, whether there is negative comment made or not, one will experience at least a slight feeling of uneasiness. Anthropologist Laura Moutinho completed her doctoral thesis, which is the first study of how prejudice manifests itself in relationships. She drew behavioral profiles that detail the peculiar way in which racism was installed in the Brazilian character.

Actor Nill Marcondes and his wife Maria Pose

Moutinho researched rich and poor areas of Rio de Janeiro and demonstrated that interracial relationships are surrounded by a stigma that the anthropologist calls “utilitarian syndrome.” In common sense, only marriages between persons of the same color would be seen as relationships based on love or an equitable interest. By the look of prejudice, couples of different colors only exist because of a “currency swap”: prestige, money, social mobility or myths of sexual superiority. When one of these a couples is formed, society tends to speculate on what the two are getting out of the union.

“A black Samba musician or soccer player that is experiencing social ascension and dating a blonde, for example, generate the classic conclusion: in the trade, he would bring the prestige and money, she, would bring the socio-cultural superiority of white skin,” says the anthropologist. The former soccer player Cláudio Adão, 46, felt first hand Laura’s theories. For 20 years, at the peak of his career as a striker on the soccer field, he met his wife, Paula Barreto, daughter of film producers Lucy and Luiz Carlos Barreto. “My mother, from a traditional family from Minas Gerais, did not allow dating,” says Paula. “When I announced the marriage, she asked: ‘Did you ever think that you would have mulatto children?'”

Soccer player Adriano with wife Danielle and children

The actress Arlete Salles, 62, gets emotional when recalling her courtship of six years with actor/singer Tony Tornado, in the 70s. It was common to find two tickets on the windshield of the car with phrases like “Dirty white woman, why are you with this black?” Currently, Arlete has been seen with her dance teacher, also black. “Maybe today there is less aggressiveness about it, but I don’t believe that people really accept relationships like this.” For his part, Tornado once revealed that the Brazilian media banned interracial couples from being shown on television. 

Now in her second marriage with a black man, actress Rosane Goffman, 44, recalls that one of the worst experiences of prejudice that she ever saw had happened at a wedding party that she attended with her first husband. “As we entered, we were greeted by frowns and raised eyebrows of a few friends. It was as if we were doing something wrong or wearing something inappropriate”, she says. When she goes through situations like that, she reacts: “We hold hands, hug and kiss each other a lot.” The journalist Janine Louven, white, aged 26, married for five years with a black musician, Maurício Almeida, she is already tired of going through such situations. Therefore, she recently made a point of taking her daughter Mary, age 4, to the Museu Imperial, in Petrópolis (4), where she spoke to the girl about Princess Isabel (5). “I explained that if it were not for her, mom and dad could not be married.”

Gilberto Freyre, author of Casa-Grande & Senzala (1933), wrote that all Brazilians have “in the soul, if not in soul and the body, the shadow or the mark of the Indian or the negro.” However, studies show that if Freyre was right, it’s more for traces of the mixed race individual of the soul than the body. 21% of the country’s marriages are interracial, a significant number when compared to the U.S. (4%) but much lower than assumed by common sense. The data was collected in 1988 by the demographer Elza Berquó, the starting point of the thesis of Laura Moutinho.

Singer Thiaguinho and girlfriend Fernanda Souza

Elza’s research transformed a myth enshrined in common sense: that interracial relationships generally occur between white men and black or mulatto women, a legacy of the relations between the Portuguese and their slaves. Today miscegenation goes in the opposite direction. There is a strong predominance of marriages of black men with lighter women. “It shows the evolution of the woman, who with their emancipation, began to make choices,” says Ana Lúcia Valente, PhD in anthropology from the Federal University of Mato Grosso do Sul. The women have notably less racist attitudes that the men.

Laura Moutinho shows that what has helped this trend is the recent appreciation of the black man as a sex symbol. Claudemiro Dias, 29, is one of the most sought after models in the agency L’Equipe in São Paulo. “The harassment is too much. I have a friend that has dreadlocks that is not even cute, but all of the blonds want a piece of him,” says the model, who assumes the stage name of Cláudio Negrão.

In Motinho’s research, black and white women are unanimous in saying that the white man has a lower sexual appetite – although he is more romantic. On the black man, they say they have a more beautiful body, bigger penis, “fleshy ass” and “kisses with more passion”. “Consecrated in the cultural tradition is the idea that the white man is synonymous with reason and civility, the black man, to nature and the primitive, therefore, eroticism,” says Moutinho.

The idea of ​​sexual superiority  favors black men but it is detrimental to women. “In the history of Brazil, black women were seen for pleasure, not for the conjugal,” says Moutinho. Hence the association is often made between a black woman dating white man and prostitution. Especially when they are foreigners.

The demographics of Elza Berquó revealed that among whites, there are more women than men. Among blacks and mulattos, the opposite occurs. This surplus of black men in the “affectionate/sexual market”, as Moutinho calls it, directs itself at the white woman. One consequence is that the percentage of single black and mulatto women today is higher than it is for white women. Solitude became a bigger problem for them, especially for those who have acquired some upward social mobility.

Former model and owner of a restaurant in Belo Horizonte, Zora Santos, a black woman of 48 years, has never been married. The three children are the result of “passing relationships” with black men. “Many black women have trouble finding a mate and this limitation is the result of the trap that racism created in Brazil: that white is more beautiful,” she critiques. Mylene Pereira Ramos, 36, judge of the 61st Jurisdiction of the Labor Court of São Paulo, is part of the singles list. She hasn’t had a boyfriend since 1999 and believes the very problem is the lack of self-esteem of black women. “For the values disseminated ​​in the society, many think of themselves as inferior and less beautiful than white women,” she says.

Among the artists, there are many examples that illustrate this thesis. Soccer legend Pelé says that it’s “nothing more than coincidence” that he has married two brunette white women and dates blondes like TV host, Xuxa. “I also dated Deise Nunes (6), who is mulatto. My first girlfriend, in Bauru (7), was Japanese,” he points out. The singer Alexandre Pires, 25, does not hide his preference for blondes – especially those of the group É o Tchan (8). After Carla Perez, he has also dated Sheila Mello. Carla married Xanddy, the mulatto singer and sex symbol. But the anthropologist Laura Moutinho dismisses the union as an example. “Carla Perez’s father is mulatto. In the United States, he would be considered black. There, it goes by (racial) origin. In Brazil, it goes by appearance.”

Aware of the Brazilian tendency to overlook or deliberately conceal racial origin, the anthropologist interviewed couples who only saw themselves as examples of miscegenation. The actress Susana Werner, who lived with the soccer player Ronaldo for three years, asked ÉPOCA magazine for a moment to respond if the two were an interracial couple. After half an hour, she responded: “I had never thought about the subject. I know that Ronaldo’s father is black, but we’re both so light (skinned), right?”

Moutinho’s thesis also exposes the difficulty of some victims of prejudice to admit that friends or relatives are racist. “A black guy that was not accepted by his white girlfriend’s father justified the attitude saying that days before the man had been assaulted by a black man,” says the anthropologist.

Advisor of the researcher, anthropologist Peter Fry argues that, while discussions about racism are limited to black groups, nothing will change. “The Brazilian middle class has always accepted miscegenation, as long as it doesn’t knock at their door,” he says. There is much evidence to support this statement. In his groundbreaking work on race relations in Brazil in the 1960s, The Negro in Brazil Society, sociologist Florestan Fernandes found that nearly 90% of white Brazilians would not like to see someone in their family marry someone black. In a study from 2002, José Jorge de Carvalho, professor of anthropology at the Universidade de Brasília wrote that:


“The white Brazilian middle class of today produces its color and prestige associated with it by means of a constant effort of whitening, of severe mechanisms of control over its members and the systematic forgetting of its non-white ancestral components.”



The actress Ana Paula Tabalipa and musician João Vianna, now married, experienced similar situations in childhood, despite differences in color. João, son of singer Djavan, has always been one of the few blacks in the private schools he attended. Ana Paula studied in public schools, where she was almost always the only white girl in the room. “My nickname was Gasparzinho (little Casper). I was discriminated against”, he says. The couple doesn’t see themselves in any of the cases raised by the thesis. “We are a married man and a woman. That’s it”, says João. They look at each other and smile, hand in hand. In the baby stroller, the little Lui, 9 months old, releases a burst of laughter.

1 – Another Brazilian term for describing a certain phenotype. A person described as sarará is usually very fair-skinned, with loosely curled, afro-textured hair (color could be light brown, blond or even red), sometimes with freckles but facial features that still denote African ancestry. Cultural critic Michaela Angela Davis would be a good example of what a Brazilian would call sarará
2 – Product used to straighten hair
3 – Important train station in Rio de Janeiro
4 – City in the state of Rio de Janeiro, about 40 miles from the city of Rio de Janeiro
5 – On May 13, 1888, Princesa Isabel signed the Lei Áurea (Golden Law) which abolished slavery in Brazil
6 – Brazil’s first and only woman of African descent to be crowned Miss Brasil in 1986. 
7 – City in the midwestern region of the state of São Paulo
8 – Popular musical group from Salvador, Bahia, Brazil, debuting in 1992.

About Marques Travae 2897 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.

17 Comments

  1. The biggest problem In my opinion is not the racism, we have taught to live and co exist with it. The biggest problem is the millions of dollars that go back to the white community courtesy of the successful black man that marry white women. Is a painful reminder of the black athletes and entrepreneurs in America not just African American, but Dominicans, Cubans , Puerto Rican etc., They reach the top and claim a trophy wife, usually white often blond and now they are completed as men and as individuals, what a shame.

  2. I am glad that you posted this because I have been wondering if this was as common in Brasil as I thought it was. I was noticing that Brasilian football player abroad were marrying white women and I tried to give them the benefit of the doubt since they were probably surrounded by mostly whites. But gosh, it's the same story as the black celebrities in America, but different country.

  3. Is this true? I mean I live in Salvador, Bahia – Brazil and I am a Black American. If you live in Brazil then you must know that race here isn't so black and white. Many of the so-called white women in those pictures are not actually white – from a genetic standpoint. Their own fathers, mothers, or grandparents may look like their "black" boyfriend or husband. I'm saying this from what I see with my own eyes. I see people of all complesions here in Bahia refer to themselves as "negro". That's the truth.www.mooraboutbahia.com

  4. What is the point of your post!!!!! Are you promoting interracial dating? And if so, this is not the right blog for promoting your agenda. If that is your preference it's ok but not here. There are many blogs promoting interracial dating I suggest you find one. Your posting on this blog shows divide and conquer blatantly, and that's extremely disrespectful. I would never go to an interracial website and post black men for black women. You could only write this in comfort of your own home. Writing or expressing this in public would only bring public backlash, that's what you fear. Keep hiding Gareth Director

  5. When all the black women are not giving brothers chance .. None of them want to suffer with you, and you don't expect to be rip what you didn't plant.. White woman don't care what brothers have or discriminate them.. I mean some black women would tell you straight up they cant date you because you not driving Lexus or BMW Or Benz.

  6. If its common its not a taboo you fucking racist americans who dont know a thing about Brasil! Interracial marriage is very common in Brazil and YOU CANT CHANGE THAT! Now stay in the US being a racist prick and leave Brasil alone!

  7. To "Anonymous", whoever you are: I have read the following comment: "If its common its not a taboo you fucking racist americans who dont know a thing about Brasil! Interracial marriage is very common in Brazil and YOU CANT CHANGE THAT! Now stay in the US being a racist prick and leave Brasil alone!"Number one: If you continue to post aggressive comments on this blog, I will remove them. We have nothing against debate here, but aggressive, disrespectful comments WILL NOT BE TOLERATED!Number two: The point of this article is that interracial marriage is common in Brazil EVEN THOUGH there are many stories of Brazilians who say that have received hateful comments, bad treatment or rejection from family members. Number three: In regards to your comment, "If its common its not a taboo you fucking racist americans who dont know a thing about Brasil!"This article is a DIRECT translation from a Brazilian article as are the vast majority of the articles posted on this site. If you check the sources at the bottom of the page you will see this. Thus, the articles ARE NOT FROM AMERICANS "who don't know a thing about Brasil."

  8. I am from The United States of America. I love all people. I think people should marry a person not a color. You see it alot in the USA. But what I don't like is when people get mad at Black women for wanting a better life. We want to be in a relationship for the good times and bad. Through thick and thin.But alot of times we get label"Gold Digger". I know for a fact. Any Woman. Any color. Does Not want to marry a man with no goals,and stable livelihood for his wife and future children.Black men of the world marry who you love. But Please don't for get. "It was a Black woman that gave birth to you. And raised you".

  9. It's true…I'm white and lived in Brazil together with a black man with whom I have a child. I used to get a lot of derogatory comments from people asking me what on earth I was doing with him. Again, I used to get a lot of catty remarks from other women,including people calling me 'whitey' and saying I'd get old quicker, wasn't plump enough for him etc., and in the end, was forced to break up with him and ended up leaving the country. It's very difficult to cope with all the gossip and comments over there, when you're dating or living with someone, and if they're a different skin color, worse still. I couldn't take it.

  10. I thought I would just add my 2 cents on this article and issue. As an (dark skinned) African American one who is fluent in Portuguese and has traveled to Brazil many times, my first being in 1981, I can honestly say that Brazil (more specifically white Brazilians) is as racist, if not more, than the US! What becomes immediately conspicuous to any astute visitor to Brazil is the ubiquitous chromatic hierarchy where whiteness is prominently poised at the apex and blackness firmly entrenched at its nadir. This reality, which is prevalent not only throughout Brazil but also in the Americas, Asia, The Middle East and unfortunately even Africa, invariably calls into question whether any type of relationship, between a man and woman who find themselves at the extreme polls of this hierarchy, can thoroughly extricate itself from the incessant societal pressure predicated upon the reification of the humanity and virtue of white people at the expense of those of African ancestry. I would submit for anyone's approval that the sheer level and quantity of psychological hostility geared towards Afro-Brazilians in Brazilian society on a quotidian basis is, without a doubt, unbearable and, ultimately, unsustainable. In terms of the view that most Brazilians hold toward interracial relationships, unfortunately, little has changed since 1981 and I suspect, 30 years hence, this insidious chromatic hierarchy will still be as obvious as it is today and this topic will still resonate with generations to come.

  11. Who writes these stories? I am black (dark skin of Jamaican Decent) I live in Rio de Janeiro with my husband (who is Brazilian and only dated black women). He is considered white in Brazil but in reality he is biracial. We haven't experienced any raised eye brows or looks. If anything, interracial relationships are normal in Brazil. Especially amongst the people in the lower social economic class. Racism in Brazil is connected to social economics more than actual skin colour as it is in the US. In the US, there seems to be a hatred for the skin colour itself. In Brazil, once a person becomes rich, no one sees colour. Money makes a lot of people colour blind in Brazil.Brazil is very elitist. People of darker skin, tend to be poor. Therefore, they are discriminated against. The hostility is against class.(I really hate it when Americans talk about race relations in Brazil because they tend to look at the issue at an American point of view. The one drop rule only exist in American and is not the standard in every country in the world. In most countries, skin colour is based on actual skin tone. African Americans tend to be overly sensitive when it come to race (with reason). Americans have a tendency to think that their way is the only way. Black people in Canada and the UK have better opportunities than Black Americans. To a Canadian or British citizen of African decent, the US is very racist.) Brazilians have a stronger connection to their African heritage than Americans. My white in-laws practice Candomblé and Umbanda. Many Brazilian have a connect to their African roots, this is evident in January when everyone gives offerings to the Yemanja. There are people in Brazil who are blond with blue eyes and have afro-textured hair. There are people with coffee coloured skin with bone straight hair (like my step son).There is a preference for Scandinavian looking women in Brazil. However, there a just as many men who prefer morenas(dark women). Not all soccer players have blonde wives. Most don't. I will agree that there is a lack of self-esteem of Black women in Brazil, but there is a similar lack of self esteem in the US. The women in the US spent hundreds of dollars getting weaves and straightening their hair in order at assimilate. They criticize other women who choose to wear their hair natural. I wear my hair natural. Whenever I go to the US I am asked, "Your hair is so long. Have you every thought about strengthening your hair?" I usually say, "the reason why my hair is so long is because I don't straighten it". I never get asked that question in Brazil. Brazilians prefer a natural look regardless of hair texture.Men in Brazil are very macho. They don't like it when women make more money than them or have a higher profile jobs. Many successful women in Brazil regardless or race are single. The men in Brazil prefer young women who are subservient to them. I have lived in Brazil since 2000 and I am fluent in Portuguese and I work for a Brazilian company. Brazil has change drastically since they enacted affirmative action. In 2000 if you went to a government office or hotel, you wouldn't see a single black person. Now, at least 40% of the employees are black. I went to a public hospital in Copacabana where 60% of the employees were black. Black people are beginning to filter up the ranks.There is more overt racism in the US than Brazil. Racism is actually a crime in Brazil and being called a racist can result in you being put in jail without bail. As a Black foreigner living in Brazil, I have not experienced any issues but foreigners are in a class of their own.

  12. I'm in Senegal and no the white skin is not the apex here. Black people love being black and love black and white skin is just that. White women come looking for love in Gambia just next door and they get men looking for visas. Sad. If white people weren't so damned racist, I don't think there would be a problem because their genes are recessive.

  13. I live in the us , some people here feel the need to have the money and love comes later if it comes at all. What I see here is that a Brazilian women has a better understanding of being a unit or did I not read all the facts . My name Is Daniel Taylor

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