Brazil’s swimming ethos, then and now

[Reposting this now, just for fun.]

Brazil a century ago:

Sarah Bernhardt [the French actress] in 1886 … shocked [Brazilian] society with her daring swimsuit and alarmed the city’s inhabitants by entering the water … . At the time, Brazilians had believed a quick dip in the sea had some medical efficacy, but only around dawn before the sun became too strong and only if prescribed by a doctor. The elite cultivated their whiteness to set themselves apart from the darker-skinned lower classes. To actually sit in the sun was considered déclassé and a serious breach of social decorum.

“In 1917 the city established strict regulations to govern seaside conduct. Bathing in the sea was allowed only from five to eight in the morning and from five to seven in the evening … the law permitted an extra hour on Sundays and holidays … . Noise and shouting on the beach, or bathing during prohibited hours, brought a stiff fine or five days in jail.”[1]

Brazil now: Plus ça change, plus ça change (or however one says that in Portuguese).

[1] Colin MacLachlan, A History of Modern Brazil: The Past Against the Future (2003).

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