Brazil: So hot right now

Brazilian culture is gaining popularity in the United States with everything from theater to video games. But its image isn't always positive or accurate.

• A version of this post ran on the author's blog, Riogringa. The views expressed are the author's own.

Brazilian culture is enjoying growing popularity in the United States, with everything from music to video games, from Neymar to cachaça. In some cases, they aren't positive or accurate visions of Brazilian culture, so it's something of a mixed blessing to see Brazil becoming increasingly visible stateside.

Beginning in May, Max Payne 3 brought gritty visions of São Paulo to gamers in the US and all over the world. While it glorifies the violence often featured in other forms of entertainment about Brazil, it also had a surprising attention to detail, ranging from loads of Portuguese with native speakers to real Brazilian designer furniture in a penthouse scene.

The same month, Macy's began a huge Brazil campaign nationwide, featuring both Brazilian products and designers as well as Brazil-inspired products from international brands. Apex, Brazil's export promotion agency, partnered with Macy's on the project. The flagship store in New York designed parts of the store to "look like" Brazil, including a Rio-style calcadão. Stores sold everything from cashews and Guaraná to Natura hand creams and fitas do Bomfim. Lots of products and clothes featured bright colors with "tropical" themes, and language around the campaign used words like "sensual" and "exotic." Nevertheless, the campaign put Brazil in the spotlight in one of the biggest retail chains in the country, and for the past few months, Brazil-themed Macy's shopping bags were ubiquitous throughout New York.

Indeed, Brazil is especially big in New York this summer. The Brazilian national soccer team played Argentina at the Metlife Stadium in June to a nearly sold-out crowd. In a single week in July, the New York Times featured two separate stories on Brazilian culture: a profile on soccer star Neymar and a feature on cachaça. In July, there was even a Broadway musical about Rio featured at a local festival, as well as a Nelson Rodrigues play for a short run. Everywhere you look, Brazilian keratin and blowout treatments are popping up around the city.

Brazilian music in particular has had a good run this summer. This month, an annual music festival at Lincoln Center dedicated a night to two forró bands, which were also featured in the New York Times. The event brought Brazilians, Brazilophiles, and curious New Yorkers alike to dance to the Northeastern beats. Brasil Summerfest returned for a second year, with a week of Brazilian shows including a big performance by Criolo in Central Park. And Michel Teló is now in the top 10 of the top 25 Latin songs in the US, with "Ai se eu te pego" continuing to spread among all audiences.

Rachel Glickhouse is the author of the blog Riogringa.com.

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