Of all the various Europeans who settled in Brazil, the Portuguese had the most significant impact on the formation of a Brazilian identity. For 322 years the region was colonized by Portugal. In 1808, the entire Portuguese court moved to Brazil with their urban culture and customs in tow.
The arrival of Portuguese immigrants didn’t end with Brazil’s independence and until the mid 20th century Portugal remained one of the main sources of immigrants.
The most obvious Portuguese legacies are the language and Catholic religion. Catholicism, deeply ingrained in Portugal, endowed Brazil with a calendar of religious traditions, celebrations and processions. Two of Brazil’s most important celebrations, carnival and the June festivals, were introduced by the Portuguese. Other events that reflect the major Portuguese influence include folkloric events such as bumba-meu-boi, fandango and farra de boi.
In popular folklore, the Portuguese introduced us to fantastic creatures, such as werewolves and bogies, in addition to many other folk legends and children’s games.
Numerous typical Brazilian dishes resulted from adapting traditional Portuguese recipes to the colonial conditions. One example is the feijoada, a black bean stew inspired by the Portuguese stew. Cachaça, a distillate produced from sugar cane, replaced the traditional Portuguese spirit made from grapes. Other Portuguese dishes were also incorporated into Brazilian cuisine, such as the bacalhoada, a codfish dish. The Portuguese also brought new plant species to the colony, including some that have become closely associated with Brazil, such as the jaca (jackfruit) and mango.
In a broader sense, Portuguese culture also introduced colonial Brazil to major European art movements, such as the Renaissance, Mannerism (late Renaissance), neo-classicism, baroque and rococo. Brazilian literature, art, sculpture, music and architecture reflects a strong Portuguese legacy, both in its popular and erudite art.