Longing for the slavery era? Restaurant seeks Tia Anastácia (ie ‘Aunt Jemina’) type to greet customers at the entrance

Divino Fogão e a saudade da escravidão (capa)
Divino Fogão: Racism typical of the farm

Note from BW of Brazil: Last week we brought you an article that presented research demonstrating how Brazilian society still has a “nostalgic feeling about slavery”. The ideas of race, social status and “place” are still quite obvious in ways that Afro-Brazilians are treated when it is believed they are outside of positions or areas that are traditionally associated with them. In today’s piece, we see another example of this. Divino Fogão (featured in a previous post) is pretty good Brazilian restaurant that offers “down-home” styled cooking in a market that is increasingly dominated by fast food restaurants. But according to one of its marketing schemes, it seems that Fogão has a bit of nostalgia for a period that lasted about 350 years in which millions of people were held in bondage. The marketing seems to actually be from 2012 and I admit, I’ve never seen any women playing the roles described in the piece below, but just the fact that someone came up with such a promotion is very revealing. 

Divino Fogão and the longing for slavery

By Jarid Arraes

Divino Fogão restaurant
Divino Fogão restaurant

Brazilian racism is so bold that it no shame in its face. The company Divino Fogão (meaning Divine Stove), a restaurant chain which also publishes a magazine, seems to have the intention of reclaiming the podium among those who most feel nostalgia for slavery.

In the company magazine, which can be accessed online, it is possible to meet the “mascot” of the brand: a black woman, dressed in cooking clothes and, according to the explanation of Divino Fogão, must be over 50 years old. The “mascots” should be friendly and welcoming, to make customers feel themselves savoring real food from the farm. To complete the slapstick, the name of the mascot is “Sinhá”.

Can it be that those responsible for the Divino Fogão network have the illusion that no one understands the context? The name “Sinhá” refers to the period of slavery, it was used to describe white women slave owners; ironically, the same term is being assigned to black women uniformed as servants. The impression is that the company aims to bring customers back to the “colonial” climate of the farm, complete with the option of having domestic slaves passively serving.

In the same document, they still have the audacity to complain about the difficulty of getting “professionals” for the colonial theater. Maybe if they hired black women to senior positions, with clothing and posture of management, who knows if perhaps more candidates would not appear to fill the vacancy. But the idea that Divino Fogão has of the black woman is to be a submissive and smiling cook, the very figure of Tia Anastácia (Aunt Anastácia), a subordinate of the rich white family.

Whatever the lame excuse, Divino Fogão needs to understand, once and for all, that this kind of cordial racism will not pass by quietly.

Divino Fogão e a saudade da escravidão

Divino Fogão invests in professionals that transmit the welcoming tone of the chain

The Sinhá has an important role of playing the lead and providing evidence of the affection of the brand with person that passes through the restaurant.

As the saying goes ‘the first impression is the one that lasts’. If this applies to personal relationships, it also applies to companies in the moment of relating to the general public. This is the first contact that the customer needs in order to have a good impression of the brand and know their attributes and values. But how does one communicate them?

The chain of Divino Fogão restaurants, which has its own unique recipes, and relies on food typical of the farm, bets on the figure of Sinhá as the official representative of the brand. Friendly ladies, standing in front of the buffet serving customers arriving at the restaurant is the hallmark of the company. They are women over 50 years of age, a welcoming smile, which welcomes and clarifies the doubts of consumers in relation to food, preparation, seasoning, etc.

The option, unconventional for restaurants – that looks for predefined profiles of beauty for the first contact with the customer – took into account the positioning of the brand. “They give the welcoming tone we want people to feel when arriving at our restaurants. This is a food court, but there’s no need to be impersonal and robotic. We want to ensure that people feel unique and savoring the true food typical of the food,” said Reinaldo Marques Varela, founder. “In addition to serving the public in front of the store, they are present in our advertisements and in all marketing activities,” he adds.

“Our intention is to have sinhás in all Divino Fogão locations, but oddly enough, we are having difficulty finding people for the job,” said Varela. About 15% of the locations still don’t have the figure. “We decided to bet on this profile because it represents the features of the Brazilian people,” he adds.

Founded in 1984, the Divino Fogão started expansion into franchise 18 years ago. Today it has 117 locations and will open another 24 stores later in 2012. And new sinhás are coming!

Source: Portal Revista Fórum, Ato Z Comunicação

About Marques Travae 3747 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.

1 Comment

  1. I understand your point. But this is a bit hard. If the picture was of a blond eye white woman, wouldn’t you complain it does not represent the Brazilian population? Wouldn’t that be considered another obsession with whiteness?

    I agree you have a point, but I didn’t think of slavery when I saw the picture. What comes to mind is a warm aunt that makes good food and I think this was the original intention, even if they have failed.

    Bu it’s hard because of the whole maid stereotype black women have in Brazil, I agree..

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