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Brazil is Many Countries

Brazil is Many Countries

Describing Brazil in a few words is a magnanimous challenge as it is a deliciously complex and extensive country. Brazil is certainly carnival, football, samba, beaches, beautiful people, exotic fruit and sumptuous dishes. Additionally, it is ecosystems, mountains, rivers, canyons, rain forests, jungles, swamplands and waterfalls. Above all, Brazil is arguably the world´s greatest melting pot of cultures. Brazil is many countries, landscapes, cultures, ideologies, histories and stories. One finds strong traces of European, African, Asian, modern North American and indigenous Indian heritage.

Vast, with large regional disparities and yet a strong sense of unity and common identity, Brazil is the South American giant. A country firmly rooted in the present and with its eyes on the future, where memory is easily lost and always rewritten. Over millennia of human endeavor and five centuries of European colonization, Brazil has, in a very singular way, assimilated and blended the various cultures and peoples that created the country and transformed them into distinctly Brazilian features. Today this culture is characterized by its uniqueness and its richness and variety across the country. Borrowing here from Joaquim Nabuco’s “contradictory sentiment”, slavery has played such an important role in Brazilian life that a long time and much effort will still be necessary to undo its legacy. Brazil is still being confronted by major difficulties, especially at social, economic, political and racial levels. Yet Brazil is changing, and sometimes at a speed the ‘old’ Europe has long forgotten.

The fifth largest country in the world, both in land area and population, it occupies more than half of the South American continent and borders almost all of its countries, with the exception of Ecuador and Chile.

Furthermore, Brazil and its more than 165 million people share:

– the largest rainforest in the world, the Amazon
– the world´s richest swampland ecosystem, the Pantanal
– the spectacular waterfalls of Iguassu Falls
– the island archipelago and diving paradise of Fernando de Noronha
– the culturally and historically rich states of Bahia and Pernambuco
– the world´s most sensual cosmopolitan destination, Rio de Janeiro
– the 4th largest city in the world and Latin American financial hub, São Paulo
– the surfers’ paradises and also the lands of the Brazilian cowboys in the milder southern part of the country and much, much more.

Although 90% of the country is within the tropical zone, more than 60% of the population lives in areas with a more moderate climate. The seasons in Brazil are the reverse of those in Europe and North America.

Natural & Cultural Wonders

Predominantly a tropical country, Brazil has 134 natural parks, including seven natural World Heritage Sites and the immense Amazon jungle, home to the largest biodiversity on the planet.
Brazil also has more than a thousand listed historical and heritage sites, of which ten are inscribed by UNESCO as Heritage of Mankind.

Economy & Industry

Brazil has large and well-developed agricultural, mining, manufacturing, and service sectors and its economy outweighs that of all other South American countries. In 2004, Brazil was the eleventh largest economy in the world (at purchasing power parity). It has a diversified middle income economy with wide variations in levels of development. With the increased economic stability provided by the Plano Real in 1994, Brazilian and multinational businesses have invested heavily in new equipment and technology, a large proportion of which has been purchased from U.S. firms.

Long-standing barriers against international trade have been dismantled by recent governments, opening the doors to foreign investment. Many Brazilian industrial sectors have gone through, or are entering, major phases of restructuring with the aim of competing both at home and abroad. Even though some of these sectors still have a way to go to match their global counterparts, many others, such as internet businesses, are actually in many respects more advanced than those in some “first world” countries.

Ethnic Groups

Three basic ethnic groups are usually identified as being at the roots of the Brazilian people: the native Indians, successive waves of Europeans (mainly Portuguese) and Africans who came mostly from the sub-Saharan West Coast. At the end of the 19th century increasing numbers of immigrants arrived in Brazil from countries as diverse as Portugal, Italy and Lebanon and these were followed by a second wave in the first half of the 20th century from Western, Central and Eastern Europe as well as Japan.

Today, Brazil likes to see itself as a truly multicultural society, but while this is true to a certain extent, economic and social inequalities tend to demonstrate the opposite.


Brazil has undergone a dramatic demographic transformation since 1970. The recent population flow has been towards the less inhabited central-western and northern regions, reversing the previous migratory movement from rural to urban areas and from Northeast to Southeast, a trend that was largely due to massive urbanization and economic modernization. Today, 77% of Brazil’s population lives in cities. Despite being the world’s fifth most populous nation, Brazil’s nationwide population density is low and the population is concentrated along the Atlantic coast.

Modern and sophisticated city centers, similar to those of the “first world”, are surrounded by favelas (shantytowns), inhabited mostly by black and dark-skinned people. An estimated 60 million people, 35% of Brazil’s population, live without proper sanitation or clean water.

Administrative Division

Brazil has three levels of government:
– Federal: This is the Federal Republic of Brazil. Also called ‘O União’ (the Union).
– State: There are 26 states and one federal district in Brazil.
– Municipal: This is the city government. The City Council is called ‘Prefeitura’ (Prefecture).

Regions – Brazil is also divided into five regions that are only geo-political divisions:

– North (States of Amazonas, Pará, Acre, Rondônia, Roraima, Amapá, Tocantins): The North lies mostly within the Amazon basin, and is still threatened by deforestation.

– Northeast (States of Maranhão, Piauí, Ceará, Rio Grande do Norte, Paraíba, Pernambuco, Bahia, Alagoas, and Sergipe): The Northeast contains nearly 30% of the Brazilian population. Special attention has been given to the region by recent federal governments, with large resources being successfully allocated to improvements. Four large cities stretch along the coastline: Salvador, Recife (both state capitals, and the first major centers of colonial Brazil), Fortaleza and Belém.

– Southeast (States of Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Minas Gerais, Espírito Santo): In the Southeast, the highly industrialized areas around the cities of São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Belo Horizonte form the economic hub of Brazil. The region contains the majority of the country’s population.

– South (States of Paraná, Santa Catarina, and Rio Grande do Sul): The South is also highly developed, with a good balance between the rural (agriculture and cattle ranching) and the manufacturing sectors. Due to immigration, European influence is strong here. Towards the south of the region are the pampas (extensive grassland plains) where one can find the gaúchos (the Brazilian cowboys).

– Central West (States of Mato Grosso, Mato Grosso do Sul, Goiás, and the Federal District called Distrito Federal): The Central West region, once one of the more isolated areas of the country, has undergone rapid expansion and established new industries. The federal capital, Brasília, is located in this region, as well as the wildlife paradise, Pantanal.

Brazil’s Key Historical Dates

– 10000-5000 BC First humans appear in Brazil.
– 7000-4000 BC People move down from the inland ‘planalto’ region to the coasts.
– 100-200 BC People settle in structured, fixed communities.
– 500-700 AD Appearance of the Tupi-Guarani people on the Atlantic coast and rivers and of the Tupinambá people spreading from the Amazon mouth to the São Paulo state.
– 1494 Treaty of Tordesillas under which the New World was divided between Portugal and Spain.
– 1500 Pedro Alvares Cabral lands on the Brazilian coast.
– 1549 Salvador becomes the first capital of Brazil.
– 1568 Probable start of the regular slave trade to the North-East of Brazil.
– 1630 The Dutch seize Pernambuco.
– 1630-1694 Quilombo dos Palmares, main community of runaway slaves, resists.
– 1695 Gold is discovered inland in Minas Gerais, Mato Grosso and other areas.
– 1763 Brazil is elevated to the status of Vice-Kingdom. Transfer of the capital to Rio de Janeiro.
– 1788-1789 Inconfidência Mineira’s plot.
– 1808 Arrival in Brazil of the Prince Regent Dom João VI, with more than 15,000 people.
– 1815 Brazil becomes a United Kingdom to Portugal and Algarves.
– 1630-1694 Quilombo dos Palmares, main community of runaway slaves, resists.
– 1695 Gold is discovered inland in Minas Gerais, Mato Grosso and other areas.
– 1763 Brazil is elevated to the status of Vice-Kingdom. Transfer of the capital to Rio de Janeiro.
– 1788-1789 Inconfidência Mineira’s plot.
– 1808 Arrival in Brazil of the Prince Regent Dom João VI, with more than 15,000 people.
– 1815 Brazil becomes a United Kingdom to Portugal and Algarves.
– 1822 Declaration of independence of Brazil on the 7th of September. Rio de Janeiro is chosen as capital of the Empire.
– 1840 Start of the Second Empire.
– 1850 Second prohibition by parliament of trade slave to Brazil.
– 1888 Promulgation of the Lei de Terras (Lands law).
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