By Desiree Hamuche
When most New Yorkers think of popular ethnic neighborhoods, Chinatown and Little Italy probably come to mind first.
Don’t forget, there is also Little Brazil. As a Brazilian, I can tell you the neighborhood may be small, but it’s as authentic as the country itself.
The cuisine is exotic, the people speak Portuguese and at night, the samba music comes alive and echoes throughout the restaurant.
Little Brazil is located on West 46th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues and the people’s pride is everywhere. The yellow, blue and green Brazilian flags are everywhere, standing right next to the American flag.
But there is more than just eating and drinking in Little Brazil. It’s also a commercial center with small stores, selling everything Brazilian – food, clothes and gifts that reminds you of the country.
Brazil is famous for its ‘churrascarias,’ which is a steak house that serves different kinds of meats and caipirinhas – a popular Brazilian cocktail made with fresh limes, sugar and the famous Cachaca, (a type of alcohol that is only sold in Brazil).
Little Brazil is more than a destination. As a Brazilian, it’s easy to meet people in Little Brazil, and you don’t have to be Brazilian. Everyone is open to teaching you Portuguese, or just making friendly conversation. I think that’s what makes Little Brazil different from other cultural neighborhoods. In Little Brazil, you will find warm people who truly want to make friends.
It’s even easier to make friends on Brazilian Independence Day. The festival is held in the heart of Little Brazil on West 46th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues. Brazilian bands play throughout the day. Tents are set up where people buy Brazilian food or drinks along the street. (This year, Brazilian Independence Day falls on September 2nd.
However, the pulse of true Brazil is in Astoria, where every day is Brazilian Day. These Brazilian communities are located in Astoria around 36th Avenue and 30th Street, Queens. The Portuguese spills into the streets. You can feel that you are in a place that everybody knows each other, with people very friendly and not cold at all.
It’s like they brought a part of their country with them and transplanted it into Queens. Visiting this area you can see many restaurants, bars, markets, stores and sense how the real Brazilian community interacts with other immigrant groups like Mexicans and Greeks. The diversity makes for a very interesting linguistic neighborhood.