Brazil is more than 7,000 miles away, a culture away, a language away.
But on Friday night, the spirit of the world’s fifth-largest country was smack in the middle of Mandalay Bay Events Center.
There was hat dancing — albeit with cowboy hats in place of sombreros — and passionate hugs and massive smiles.
With five of 10 Brazilian bull riders lasting eight seconds in the first round of the Professional Bull Riders World Finals, what started as a pressure-packed event turned into a "partidario."
And Renato Nunes started the party early.
The second rider of the night, Nunes rode Grey Dog to a 91.25-point score, collecting a check for $20,000. His ride set the tone for the rest of his countrymen, and the post-ride celebrations were a thing of beauty.
"You come from a third-world country, where people on average are making $100 a month in a sugar cane field," said three-time world champion Adriano Moraes, who scored 81.25 on Carney Man. "Then you come here and you’re riding in front of millions of people worldwide on TV. That’s all you can do, dance and enjoy."
After his ride, a cowboy would head back to the rider’s area to be greeted by his countrymen, Portuguese words of congratulations dancing through the air. The camaraderie begins early, in the locker room, set apart from the rest of the riders.
"We do everything together," Moraes said. "Even in the locker room we stay together. We get a little corner where we can joke. We’re loud, we tease a lot, we push each other. It gets really loud. Sometimes it’s not that pleasing to the other guys. But that’s the cultural difference."
It’s not a big change from Texas, where many Brazilian cowboys live. But Texas is not home. Home is back in Brazil, where families and friends and children and wives are.
Without the comfort of home, thrust into a new culture with a strange language and even stranger food, this set of riders has had to form a new family.
"That family we leave behind, that’s tough," Guilherme Marchi said through a translator, fellow rider Paulo Crimber. "All your friends, all your family is left behind. You don’t know anybody. That’s why we try to stick together with the new ones coming in. We want them to feel us as their family."
Leaving Brazil was not a tough decision for many cowboys. Life in Brazil for a bull rider can be hard, the money paling in comparison to the financial opportunities of the United States. But that’s if they win anything at all.
Crimber tells of the time he rode four bulls in a single night and walked home penniless. Moraes, a cowboy who’s won more than $3 million in his 14 years on the PBR circuit, once rode 20 straight bulls and won nothing.
"I put my knees down every night to thank God for this opportunity," Crimber said, a Texas twang taking over his native tongue. "I know a lot of guys who started riding with me didn’t have this chance. They’re still back there.
"All the Brazilians here think God picked each of us to be here. You just have to enjoy this opportunity."
And they are — with each other.