Drinking habits in Dutch Brazil


A new article (PT) in Revista de História recounts the drunkenness of the Dutch during their occupation of Pernambuco. Below I’ll translate select paragraphs and paraphrase others.


“Dutch Recife was “a town of drunks. People of the best social standing were found drunk on the streets. The very Dutch observers of the era found themselves shocked by the contrast between their people and the Luso-Brazilians”, as Gilberto Freyre mentioned. This characteristic of the invaders can be seen from the start of their conquest in Pernambuco.”

[Paraphrasing] For three days, they sacked the city of Olinda, drinking all the wine they could get their hands on, and if any sort of rebellion against them were to have occurred during this time, the Dutch would have lost due to being in such poor condition. The actions during those three days were by no means unique, for the Dutch were lovers of alcohol and demonstrated this during the entire 24-year occupation.

“This distance among the alcoholic practices had ancient origins, separating two cultural areas since the times of the Greeks and Romans. On one side, Mediterranean people, wine drinkers, who associated drinking with food and tended to valorize moderation. On the other side, the Nordic people of Europe, inheritors of Celtic and Germanic cultures, beer drinkers, who valorized drunkenness as a noble act and worthy of the biggest heroes, like Beowolf, and gods, like Thor and Odin. It isn’t by chance these people were the first to popularize the use of new distilled drinks, like cognac and gin, starting in the Middle Ages.”


“The role of women in the banquets was one of the main reasons for the Luso-Brazilians being repulsed by the strange customs, revealing a striking difference in the social role exercised by women in both societies. While in the Nordic countries the women had an active presence in the extra-domestic world, participating in street parties, going to taverns and receiving people at home, the Portuguese women were quite segregated and separated from public matters.”


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