A truck carries fresh coconuts to Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro. Credit: Michelle Bauman / CNA.

A truck carries fresh coconuts to Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro. Credit: Michelle Bauman / CNA.

With World Youth Day activities well underway in Rio de Janeiro, young people from around the world are soaking in the local culture. Known for its beautiful beaches, vibrant music and friendly population, the South American country is welcoming swarms of visitors eager to experience the Brazilian way of life.

Among the first cultural elements many pilgrims are exposed to is the local cuisine. Churrasqueiras, or traditional Brazilian steakhouses, offer a rodizio-style service that has become popular in the United States. Feijoada, which contains beans and meat (either pork or beef) is considered the national dish of Brazil and is served at many restaurants. Italian dishes – particularly pizza and pasta – are also common in the country, due to high immigration rates from Italy.

Tropical fruits and juices are plentiful, and the country is particularly proud of its coffee. In addition, it is known for its national cocktail, the caipirinha, made by mixing cacha├ža – a local liquor known as Brazilian Rum – with lime and sugar.


As in many other Latin American countries, soccer is the most popular sport in Brazil, where many people are adamant fans. Soccer jerseys abound, and games among local children in the street are a common sight. The country has been chosen to host the 2014 World Cup, a fact that is already being advertised and drawing much excitement throughout Rio.

Religion is another prominent aspect of Brazilian culture. Although there have been declines in recent years, the country maintains its strong tradition of Catholicism. The vast majority of the nation is Catholic, and religious symbolism abounds, from the many churches throughout the city to the rosaries found in many taxis.

Analysts are already posing the question of whether Pope Francis’ visit will bring a renewed focus to the Catholic Church in the country, renewing it in both strength and numbers. The answer to that question is not yet clear, but what is already apparent is that the city of Rio is encountering a jubilant myriad of youth from around the world who can only be described as enthusiastic for their Catholic faith.