Naturism in Brazil

I’ve had the opportunity to meet several naturist leaders in Brazil and visit a couple of naturist sites there. In a nutshell, here’s what I’ve learned about Brazilian naturism:

Besides the US and Canada, Brazil is the only other country in the Americas that has a national naturist federation. Its sites and groups range from Colina do Sol–a large naturist community in the southernmost state of Rio Grande do Sul–to Graúna, a non-landed group that is the only naturist community in the vast northern Amazonian area. In between there are a dozen or more beaches and parks also affiliated with the FBRN or Brazilian Naturist Federation. A website associated with the FBRN, Brasil Naturista, claims to be the largest and most popular naturist site on the net. They also produce Latin America’s only print naturist magazine, Brasil Naturista.

In Brazil a national naturism day is observed on February 21, the birthday of the woman regarded as the country’s naturist pioneer. Born Dora Vivacqua in 1917, she became known by her stage name Luz del Fuego. She was an exotic dancer, famous for her pet snakes, and she managed to earn enough to set up her own naturist retreat on an island right in Guanabara Bay in Rio de Janeiro. She called it Ilha do Sol (Sun Island) and its famous visitors included Errol Flynn, Lana Turner, Brigitte Bardot, Ava Gardner, Tyrone Power, Glenn Ford, and Steve McQueen. Luz del Fuego fulminated against society’s hypocrisies regarding the body in her 1950 text A Verdade Nua (The Naked Truth). She was murdered on the island in 1967.

Luz del Fuego (Dora Vivacqua, 1917-1967)

Contemporary Brazilian naturist leaders include Jorge Bandeira, founder and organizer of the above-mentioned Graúna group in Amazonas state and also playwright, actor and activist who has written a biography of Luz del Fuego in verse, the reference work Naturismo de A a Z, and staged NUances, a performance event based on the writings and illustrations of Khalil Gibran; Paulo Pereira, longtime activist and author of Corpos Nus (Nude Bodies), a history of naturism in Brazil; and Pedro Ribeiro, founder of the Praia do Abricó (Abricó Beach) group, activist for its use as a nude beach within the Rio city limits, and editor of the online journal Olho Nu (Naked Eye), a publication also affiliated with FBRN. Currently the FBRN leadership is making an effort to visit all Brazilian naturist sites along with several others in Latin America and Europe. The Brasil Naturista group’s young leaders have been doing an excellent job of incorporating a younger generation into the practice of naturism.

Even though Brazil is often perceived as a “sexy” country, undisturbed by nudity during its world-famous Carnival or on its beaches, the reality is that there is most often a fine line between what is accepted and what can be prosecuted–about as thin of a line as the popular “fio dental” (dental floss) G-string bathing bottoms! Competing carnival groups are docked points by judges for nudity–for example if a dancer is not wearing, or has lost, her “dental floss” and pasties. And although Brazil is one of the world’s leaders in plastic surgery, including breast augmentation, the practice of being “topless” at public beaches is not at all common. Much like the rest of the Western world, and even in spite of a strong tradition of nudity among the nation’s indigenous populations, Brazilian society harbors mixed messages about social nudity. Brazil’s broadcast media, famously liberal in the 70s and 80s, are now just as likely to “pixelize” as the media of other Western nations.

But Brazilian naturist groups are in an enviable position, with a growing and youthful demographic. A proposed law that would establish norms for naturism in Brazil, named after former representative Fernando Gabeira, has been tabled several times but may yet come to fruition. In the meantime, the number of landed sites or traveling clubs affiliated with the FBRN continues to grow, and the website claims a new high of 500,000 naturists in Brazil.

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