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Hi! I'm Brazilian. "Negro" may refer to black people. Example: Ele é negro = He is black, Ela é negra = She is black Or refers to something dark: The dark side of the Force = O lado negro da força "Preto/Preta" refers to the "black" color. If you call someone a "preto" is offensive, as if he were not brown, but really being the black color.
Wildernerd, there's been a lot of discussion here about "preto" vs "negro" and their appropriateness in different situations in Brazil. Some commentators (including native Brazilians it appears) have advocated the use of the word "negro" when referring to people. While this IS correct in a technical sense, generally, Brazilians generally avoid referring to individuals by race. It would be very offensive to call a black Brazilian "preto". However, it would also be offensive to call a black Brazilian "negro" unless there is a particular need to do so. The context is very important.
An American might say, "That nice black man gave me directions to the park." While the Brazilian would say, "Aquele homem agradável me deu instruções para o parque" without reference to skin color or race. It's a cultural thing. To over-simplify the mental constructs. In Brazil (excluding south Brazil): one culture, many colors. While in the USA: two races, two cultures (three if you include Hispanics or Latinos). I.e., black Americans are generally comfortable identifying themselves as black and being described as such. Brazilians prefer to identify themselves primarily as Brazilian not "black Brazilian" or "white Brazilian". Of course, Brazilians use a variety of terms to describe a persons color. Moreno/a, Loiro/a are generally not offensive, although "mulato/a" could be depending on the situation.
It's a little complicated, but hope this helps. Note: this post was vetted by my Brazilian wife.
Since many original comments are deleted, please, can anyone specify the difference between "negro", "preto" and "escuro"? I understand it like this, please correct me, if I'm wrong. "My shirt is black" (color black) = "Minha camisa é preto" "My shirt is dark" (like dark red or dark blue or dark gray, exact color not specified etc.) = "Minha camisa é preto/negro" "My shirt is dark blue" = "Minha camisa é azul escuro" "My shirt is dark" (like metaphore for "I am on the dark side) = "Minha camisa é negro" "My shirt is dark" (like metaphore for hiding in shadows, being shadowy person, having "shirt from shadows") = "Minha camisa é escuro"? The use with people's skin colours was already discussed, please DO NOT post in answer anything on this matter. Thanks!