AskDefine | Define Brazil

Dictionary Definition



1 the largest Latin American country and the largest Portuguese speaking country in the world; located in the central and northeastern part of South America; world's leading coffee exporter [syn: Federative Republic of Brazil, Brasil]
2 three-sided tropical American nut with white oily meat and hard brown shell [syn: brazil nut]

User Contributed Dictionary



  • [brəˈzɪl]

Proper noun

  1. Portuguese-speaking country in South America. Official name: Federative Republic of Brazil (República Federativa do Brasil).


Portuguese-speaking country in South America


Proper noun

  1. Brazil


Proper noun



Proper noun

  1. Brasil


Proper noun

(Roman spelling: Бразил)

Extensive Definition

Brazil (), officially the Federative Republic of Brazil ( or , listen), is a country in South America. It is the fifth-largest country by geographical area, the fifth most populous country, and the fourth most populous democracy in the world. The official language is Portuguese.
Brazil is crossed by both the Equator and Tropic of Capricorn, and as such is home to a vast array of flora and fauna, natural environments, and extensive natural resources. Its region within the tropics is, by far, the largest of any country; about twice as large as that of Australia. The Brazilian population is concentrated along the coastline and in a few large urban centers in the interior. While Brazil is one of the most populous nations in the world, population density drops dramatically as one moves inland.
Brazil was a colony of Portugal from the landing of Pedro Álvares Cabral in 1500 until its independence in 1822. Initially independent as the Brazilian Empire, the country has been a republic since 1889, although the bicameral legislature (now called Congress) dates back to 1824, when the first constitution was ratified. Its current Constitution defines Brazil as a Federal Republic. The Federation is formed by the union of the States, the Federal District, and the Municipalities.
One of the ten largest economies in the world, the country has a diversified middle-income economy with wide variations in development levels and mature manufacturing, mining and agriculture sectors. Technology and services also play an important role and are growing rapidly. Brazil is a net exporter, having gone through free trade and privatization reforms in the 1990s.



Within Brazil's current borders, most native tribes who were living in the land by the year 1500 are thought to have descended from the first wave of migrants from North Asia (Siberia), who are believed to have crossed the so-called Bering Land Bridge at the end of the last Ice Age, around 9000 BC. At the time of European discovery, the territory of modern Brazil had as many as 2,000 nations and tribes, an estimated total population of nearly 3,000,000 Amerindians. A somewhat dated linguistic survey found 188 living indigenous languages with 155,000 total speakers. On 18 January 2007, Fundação Nacional do Índio reported that it had confirmed the presence of 67 different uncontacted tribes in Brazil, up from 40 in 2005. With this addition Brazil has now overtaken the island of New Guinea as the country having the largest number of uncontacted peoples. When the Portuguese arrived in 1500, the Indians were mostly semi-nomadic tribes, living mainly on the coast and along the banks of major rivers.
Unlike Christopher Columbus, who thought he had reached the East Indies, the Portuguese, most notably by Vasco da Gama, had already reached India via the Indian Ocean route when they reached Brazil. Nevertheless the word índios ("Indians"), was by then established to designate the peoples of the New World and stuck being used today in the Portuguese language to designate these peoples, while the people of India, Asia are called indianos in order to distinguish the two peoples. Initially, the Europeans saw the natives as noble savages, and miscegenation of the population began right away. Tribal warfare, cannibalism and the pursuit of brazilwood for its treasured red dye convinced the Portuguese that they should civilise the Indians.


Initially Portugal had little interest in Brazil, mainly because of high profits gained through commerce with Indochina. After 1530, the Portuguese Crown devised the Hereditary Captaincies system to effectively occupy its new colony, and later took direct control of the failed captaincies. Although temporary trading posts were established earlier to collect brazilwood, used as a dye, with permanent settlement came the establishment of the sugar cane industry and its intensive labor. Several early settlements were founded across the coast, among them the colonial capital, Salvador, established in 1549 at the Bay of All Saints in the north, and the city of Rio de Janeiro on March 1567, in the south. The Portuguese colonists adopted an economy based on the production of agricultural goods that were exported to Europe. Sugar became by far the most important Brazilian colonial product until the early 18th century. Even though Brazilian sugar was reputed as being of high quality, the industry faced a crisis during the 17th and 18th centuries when the Dutch and the French started producing sugar in the Antilles, located much closer to Europe, causing sugar prices to fall.
During the 18th century, private explorers who called themselves the Bandeirantes found gold and diamond deposits in the state of Minas Gerais. The exploration of these mines were mostly used to finance the Portuguese Royal Court's expenditure with both the preservation of its Global Empire and the support of its luxury lifestyle at mainland. The way in which such deposits were exploited by the Portuguese Crown and the powerful local elites, however, burdened colonial Brazil with excessive taxes. Some popular movements supporting independence came about against the taxes established by the colonial government, such as the Tiradentes in 1789, but the secessionist movements were often dismissed by the authorities of the ruling colonial regime. Gold production declined towards the end of the 18th century, starting a period of relative stagnation of the Brazilian hinterland. Both Amerindian and African slaves' man power were largely used in Brazil's colonial economy.
In contrast to the neighbouring Spanish possessions in South America, the Portuguese colony of Brazil kept its territorial, political and linguistic integrity due to the action of the Portuguese administrative effort. Although the colony was threatened by other nations across the Portuguese rule era, in particular by Dutch and French powers, the authorities and the people ultimately managed to protect its borders from foreign attacks. Portugal had even to send bullion to Brazil, a spectacular reversal of the colonial trend, in order to protect the integrity of the colony.


In 1808, the Portuguese court, fleeing from Napoleon’s troops who had invaded Portugal, established themselves in the city of Rio de Janeiro, which thus became the seat of government of Portugal and the entire Portuguese Empire, even though being located outside of Europe. Rio de Janeiro was the capital of the Portuguese empire from 1808 to 1815. After then the United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil and the Algarves (1815-1825) was created with Lisbon as its capital. After João VI returned to Portugal in 1821, his heir-apparent Pedro became regent of the Kingdom of Brazil, within the United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil and the Algarves. Following a series of political incidents and disputes, Brazil achieved its independence from Portugal on September 7 1822. On October 12 1822, Dom Pedro became the first Emperor of Brazil, being crowned on December 1 1822. Portugal would recognize Brazil as an independent country in 1825.
In 1824, Pedro closed the Constituent Assembly, stating that the body was "endangering liberty". Pedro then produced a constitution modeled on that of Portugal (1822) and France (1814). It specified indirect elections and created the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government; however, it also added a fourth branch, the "moderating power", to be held by the Emperor. Pedro's government was considered economically and administratively inefficient. Political pressures eventually made the Emperor step down on April 7, 1831. He returned to Portugal leaving behind his five-year-old son Pedro II. Until Pedro II reached maturity, Brazil was governed by regents from 1831 to 1840. The regency period was turbulent and marked by numerous local revolts including the Male Revolt, the largest urban slave rebellion in the Americas, which took place in Bahia in 1835.
On July 23 1840, Pedro II was crowned Emperor. His government was marked by a substantial rise in coffee exports, the War of the Triple Alliance, and the end of slave trade from Africa in 1865, although slavery in Brazilian territory would only be abolished in 1888. Brazil stopped trading slaves from Africa in 1850, with the Eusébio de Queirós law, and abandoned slavery altogether in 1888, thus becoming the last country of the Americas to ban slavery. When slavery was finally abolished, a large influx of European immigrants took place. By the 1870s, the Emperor's control of domestic politics had started to deteriorate in face of crises with the Catholic Church, the Army and the slaveholders. The Republican movement slowly gained strength. In the end, the empire fell due to a military coup d'etat and because the dominant classes no longer needed it to protect their interests and deeply resented the abolition of slavery. Indeed, imperial centralization ran counter to their desire for local autonomy. By 1889 Pedro II had stepped down and the Republican system had been adopted to Brazil.


Pedro II was deposed on November 15, 1889 by a Republican military coup led by general Deodoro da Fonseca, who became the country’s first de facto president through military ascension. The country’s name became the Republic of the United States of Brazil. From 1889 to 1930, the dominant states of São Paulo and Minas Gerais alternated control of the presidency. A military junta took control in 1930. Getúlio Vargas took office soon after, and would remain as dictatorial ruler (with a brief democratic period in between), until 1945. He was re-elected in 1951 and stayed in office until his suicide in 1954. After 1930, successive governments continued industrial and agricultural growth and the development of the vast interior of Brazil. Juscelino Kubitschek's office years (1956-1961) were marked by the political campaign motto of plunging "50 anos em 5" (English: fifty years of development in five).
The military took office in Brazil in a coup d'état in 1964, and remained in power until March 1985, when it fell from grace because of political struggles between the regime and the Brazilian elites. In 1967 the name of the country was changed to Federative Republic of Brazil. Just as the Brazilian regime changes of 1889, 1930, and 1945 unleashed competing political forces and caused divisions within the military, so too did the 1964 regime change. Democracy was re-established in 1988 when the current Federal Constitution was enacted. Fernando Collor de Mello was the first president truly elected by popular vote after the military regime. Collor took office in March 1990. In September 1992, the National Congress voted for Collor's impeachment after a sequence of scandals were uncovered by the media. The vice-president, Itamar Franco, assumed the presidency. Assisted by the Minister of Finance at that time, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Itamar Franco's administration implemented the Plano Real economic package, Judges and other judicial officials are appointed after passing entry exams. and re-elected on October 29, 2006. The President appoints the Ministers of State, who assist in governing. Thus, civil law concepts prevail over common law practices. Most of Brazilian law is codified, although non-codified statutes also represent a substantial part of the system, playing a complementary role. Court decisions set out interpretive guidelines; however, they are not binding on other specific cases except in a few situations. Doctrinal works and the works of academic jurists have strong influence in law creation and in law cases. The legal system is based on the Federal Constitution, which was promulgated on October 5, 1988, and is the fundamental law of Brazil. All other legislation and court decisions must conform to its rules. As of April 2007, it has been through 53 Amendments. States adopt their own Constitutions, but they must also not contradict the Federal Constitution. Municipalities and the Federal District do not have their own Constitutions; instead, they adopt "organic laws" (). Legislative entities are the main source of statutes, although in certain matters judiciary and executive bodies may enact legal norms.

Foreign relations and the military

Brazil is a political and economic leader in Latin America. However, social and economic problems prevent it from becoming an effective global power. Between World War II and 1990, both democratic and military governments sought to expand Brazil's influence in the world by pursuing a state-led industrial policy and an independent foreign policy. More recently, the country has aimed to strengthen ties with other South American countries, engage in multilateral diplomacy through the United Nations and the Organization of American States. Brazil's current foreign policy is based on the country's position as a regional power in Latin America, a leader among developing countries, and an emerging world power. Brazilian foreign policy has generally reflected multilateralism, peaceful dispute settlement, and nonintervention in the affairs of other countries. The Brazilian Constitution also determines the country shall seek the economic, political, social and cultural integration of the nations of Latin America.
The Armed forces of Brazil comprise the Brazilian Army, the Brazilian Navy, and the Brazilian Air Force. The Brazilian Navy is responsible for naval operations and for guarding Brazilian territorial waters. It is the oldest of the Brazilian Armed forces and the only navy in Latin America that operates an aircraft carrier, the NAeL São Paulo (formerly FS Foch of the French Navy). Finally, the Brazilian Army is responsible for land-based military operations, with a strength of approximately 190,000 soldiers.


Politically, Brazil is a Federation of 26 states () and one federal district () which contains the capital city, Brasília. The states are subdivided into municipalities. States are based on historical, conventional borders and have developed throughout the centuries; though some boundaries are arbitrary. The federal district is not a state on its right, but shares some characteristics of a state and some of a municipality. The national territory was divided in 1969 by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), for demographic and statistical purposes, into five main regions: North, Northeast, Central-West, Southeast and South.
In 1943, with the entrance of Brazil into the Second World War, the Vargas regime detached seven strategic territories from the border of the country in order to administrate them directly: Amapá, Rio Branco, Acre, Guaporé, Ponta Porã, Iguaçu and the archipelago of Fernando de Noronha. After the war, the first three territories were retained as states, with Rio Branco and Guaporé being renamed Roraima and Rondônia, respectively. Ponta Porã and Iguaçu resorted to territorial status. In 1988, Fernando de Noronha became part of Pernambuco.
In 1960, the square-shaped Distrito Federal was carved out of Goiás in preparation for the new capital, Brasília. The previous federal district became the state of Guanabara until in 1975 it was merged with the state of Rio de Janeiro, becoming the municipality of Rio de Janeiro.
In 1977, Mato Grosso was split into two states. The northern area retained the name Mato Grosso while the southern area became the state of Mato Grosso do Sul, with Campo Grande as its capital. The new Mato Grosso do Sul incorporated the territory of Ponta Porã and the northern part of Iguaçu. Central Iguaçu went to Paraná, and southern Iguaçu went to Santa Catarina. In 1988, the northern portion of Goiás became the state of Tocantins, with Palmas as its capital.


The North region covers 45.27% of the surface of Brazil, and has the lowest number of inhabitants. With the exception of Manaus, which hosts a tax-free industrial zone, and Belém, the biggest metropolitan area of the region, it is fairly unindustrialized and undeveloped. It accommodates most of the rainforest vegetation of the world and many indigenous tribes. The Northeast region is inhabited by about 30% of Brazil's population. It is culturally diverse, with roots set in the Portuguese colonial period, and in Amerindian and Afro-Brazilian elements. It is also the poorest region of Brazil, and suffers from long periods of dry climate. The Central-West region has low demographic density when compared to the other regions, mostly because a part of its territory is covered by the world's largest marshlands area, the Pantanal as well as a small part of the Amazon Rainforest in the northwest. However, much of the region is also covered by Cerrado, the largest savanna in the world. The central-west region contributes significantly towards agriculture.
The Southeast region is the richest and most densely populated. It is also the coldest region of Brazil, with occasional occurrences of frost and snow in some of the higher altitude areas. It has been settled mainly by European immigrants, mostly of Italian, German and Portuguese ancestry, being clearly influenced by these cultures.


The Equatorial line cuts through the state of Amapá, in the North, the Tropic of Capricorn line cuts through the state of São Paulo. Rio Grande do Sul, the southernmost Brazilian state, for comparison: the entire European continent is further to the north than Rio Grande do Sul is to the south. Acre is in the far west side of the country, covered by the Amazon forest; Paraíba is the most oriental state of Brazil; Cabo Branco, in the city of João Pessoa, is the easternmost point of Brazil and Americas. Along with Paraná and Rio Grande do Sul, Santa Catarina is a state in temperate climate.
São Paulo is the economic center of Brazil. Agriculture, industry, commerce and services are the most diversified of Brazil; although a large proportion is exported to other states and other countries, the consumer market of the state is also the biggest in the country. Differently from other states, where settlement started in the coast and moved inwards, in São Paulo the center of the economy was in a non-coastal city.
The state of Rio de Janeiro has as capital the city of Rio de Janeiro, the most well known Brazilian city, with famous landmarks. Old books may still bring references to the state of Guanabara: after the Federal District (capital of the Republic) was moved to Brasília, in 1960, the city of Rio de Janeiro was elevated to the condition of state of Guanabara (name of the large bay which washes the city or Rio); however, in 1975, Guanabara was incorporated to the state of Rio, and returned to the condition of municipality, with the old name of city of Rio de Janeiro.


Brazil occupies roughly half of South America, bordering the Atlantic Ocean. Brazil covers a total area of 8,514,215 km² (3,287,357 sq mi) which includes 8,456,510 km² (3,265,076 sq mi) of land and 55,455 km² (21,411 sq mi) of water. Brazil is bordered by the countries of Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, French Guiana, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay and Venezuela. It spans four time zones, the westernmost of which, in Acre State, is the same as Eastern Standard Time in the United States. The time zone of the capital (Brasília) and of the most populated part of Brazil along the east coast is two hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time, except when it is on its own daylight saving time, from October to February. The Atlantic islands are in the easternmost time zone.
Brazil has one of the world's most extensive river systems, with eight major drainage basins, all of which drain into the Atlantic Ocean. Major rivers include the Amazon, the largest river in terms of volume of water, and the second-longest in the world; the Paraná and its major tributary, the Iguaçu River, where the Iguaçu Falls are located; the Negro, São Francisco, Xingu, Madeira and the Tapajós rivers. Several small islands and atolls in the Atlantic Ocean are part of Brazil: Abrolhos, Atol das Rocas, Penedos de São Pedro e São Paulo, and Trindade and Martim Vaz.
Brazilian topography is diverse, including hills, mountains, plains, highlands, scrublands, savannas, rainforests, and a long coastline. The extensive low-lying Amazon Rainforest covers most of Brazil’s terrain in the North, whereas small hills and low mountains occupy the South. Along the Atlantic coast there are several mountain ranges, with a highest altitude of roughly 2,900 meters (). The highest peak is the Pico da Neblina (Peak of Mist/Fog or Misty Peak) in Guiana's highlands.


Brazil's climate has little seasonal variation since most of the country is located within the tropics. However, although 90% of the country is located within the tropical zone, year-long climate varies considerably from the mostly tropical North (the equator traverses the mouth of the Amazon) to temperate zones below the Tropic of Capricorn (23°27' S latitude), which crosses the country at the latitude of the city of São Paulo. Brazil has five climatic regions: equatorial, tropical, semiarid, highland tropical, and subtropical.
Temperatures along the equator are high, with averages above , and occasionally reaching the summer extremes of up to in the temperate zones. Southern Brazil has a subtropical temperate weather, normally experiencing frost in the winter (June–August), and snowfall in the mountainous areas, such as Rio Grande do Sul and Santa Catarina. Precipitation levels vary widely. They are higher in the humid Amazon Basin, and lower in the somewhat arid landscapes of the northeast. Most of Brazil has moderate rainfall of 1,000 to 1,500 millimeters a year, with most of the rain falling in the summer (between December and April), south of the Equator. The Amazon region is notoriously humid, with rainfall generally of more than 2,000 millimeters per year, getting as high as 3,000 millimeters in parts of the western Amazon and near Belém. Despite high annual precipitation, the Amazon rain forest has a three-to-five-month dry season, the timing of which varies according to location north or south of the equator.


Brazil's large area comprises different ecosystems, such as Amazon Rainforest, Atlantic Forest and Cerrado, which together sustain some of the world's greatest biodiversity. Because of the country's intense economic and demographic growth, Brazil's ability to protect its environmental habitats has increasingly come under threat. Extensive logging in the nation's forests, particularly the Amazon, both official and unofficial, destroys areas the size of a small country each year, and potentially a diverse variety of plants and animals. Brazil's environment is under threat because of the rapid economic and demographic rise. Extensive legal and illegal logging destroys forests the size of a small country per year, and with it a diverse series of species through habitat destruction and habitat fragmentation. Between 2002 and 2006, an area of the Amazon Rainforest equivalent in size to the State of South Carolina was completely deforested for the purposes of raising cattle and woodlogging. By 2020, at least 50% of the species resident in Brazil may become extinct. the highest number of mammals, many of them living in threatened habitats such as the Atlantic Forest.


Brazil's GDP (PPP and Nominal) is the highest of Latin America with large and developed agricultural, mining, manufacturing, and service sectors, as well as a large labor pool. The country has been expanding its presence in international financial and commodities markets, and is regarded as one of the group of four emerging economies called BRIC. Major export products include aircraft, coffee, automobiles, soybean, iron ore, orange juice, steel, ethanol, textiles, footwear, corned beef and electrical equipment. Brazil has a diversified middle income economy with wide variations in development levels. Most large industry is agglomerated in the Southern and South East states. The Northeast is the poorest region of Brazil, but it has attracted new investments in infrastructure for the tourism sector and intensive agricultural schemes. According to the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, Brazil has the ninth largest economy in the world by purchasing power parity (PPP) and tenth largest at market exchange rates. Brazil had pegged its currency, the real, to the U.S. dollar in 1994. However, after the East Asian financial crisis, the Russian default in 1998 and the series of adverse financial events that followed it, the Brazilian central bank has temporarily changed its monetary policy to a managed-float scheme while undergoing a currency crisis, until definitively changing the exchange regime to free-float in January 1999.
Brazil received an IMF rescue package in mid-2002 in the amount of $30.4 billion, a record sum at that time. The IMF loan was paid off early by Brazil's central bank in 2005 (the due date was scheduled for 2006). One of the issues the Brazilian central bank is currently dealing with is the excess of speculative short-term capital inflows to the country in the past few months, which might explain in part the recent downfall of the U.S. dollar against the real in the period. Nonetheless, foreign direct investment (FDI), related to long-term, less speculative investment in production, is estimated to be $193.8 billion for 2007. Inflation monitoring and control currently plays a major role in Brazil's Central Bank activity in setting out short-term interest rates as a monetary policy measure.

Energy policy

Brazil is the 10th largest energy consumer in the world and the largest in Latin America. Simultaneously, it is also a large oil and gas producer in the region and the world's largest ethanol producer. Because of its ethanol fuel production Brazil has been sometimes described as a bio-energy superpower. Brazil's ethanol fuel is produced from sugar cane, the world's largest crop in both production and export tonnage.
With the 1973 oil crisis the Brazilian government initiated in 1975 the Pró-Álcool program. The Pró-Álcool or Programa Nacional do Álcool (National Alcohol Program) was a nation-wide program financed by the government to replace automobile fuels derived from fossil fuels in favor of ethanol. The program successfully reduced the number of cars running on gasoline in Brazil by 10 million, thereby reducing the country's dependence on oil imports. Brazil's production and consumption of biodiesel relative to its energy matrix is expected to reach to 2% of diesel fuel in 2008 and 5% in 2013. Brazil is the third largest hydroelectricity producer in the world after the People's Republic of China and Canada. In 2004 hydropower accounted 83% of Brazil power production. Also in 2004, Brazil produced 321 TWh of hydropower, which was the third largest hydropower production in the world. The installed capacity is 69 GW.

Science and technology

Brazilian science effectively began in the first decades of the 19th century, when the Portuguese Royal Family, headed by John VI, arrived in Rio de Janeiro, escaping from the Napoleon's army invasion of Portugal in 1807. Until then, Brazil was a Portuguese colony, without universities, and a lack of cultural and scientific organizations, in stark contrast to the former American colonies of the Spanish Empire, which although having a largely illiterate population like Brazil and Portugal, had, however, a number of universities since the 16th century.
Technological research in Brazil is largely carried out in public universities and research institutes. Nonetheless, more than 73% of funding for basic research still comes from government sources. Some of Brazil's most notables technological hubs are the Oswaldo Cruz Institute, the Butantan Institute, the Air Force's Aerospace Technical Center, the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation and the INPE. Brazil has the most advanced space program in Latin America, with significant capabilities to launch vehicles, launch sites and satellite manufacturing. On October 14, 1997, the Brazilian Space Agency signed an agreement with NASA to provide parts for the ISS. Uranium is enriched at the Resende Nuclear Fuel Factory to fuel the country's energy demands. Plans are on the way to build the country's first nuclear submarine. Brazil is one of the two countries in Latin America with an operational Synchrotron Laboratory, a research facility on physics, chemistry, material science and life sciences.


Brazil's population comprises many racial groups and ethnic groups. The last PNAD (National Research for Sample of Domiciles) census revealed the following numbers: 93.096 million White people (49.7%), 79.782 million Pardo people (42.6%), 12.908 million Black people (6.9%), 919,000 Asian people (0.5%) and 519,000 Amerindian people (0.4%).
Most Brazilians can trace their ancestry to the country's indigenous peoples, Portuguese colonists and African slaves. Since 1500, with the arrival of the Portuguese, miscegenation between these three peoples took place. During over three centuries of Portuguese colonization, Brazil received more than 700,000 Portuguese settlers and 4 million African slaves.
Starting in the late 19th century, Brazil opened its doors to immigration: people of over 60 nationalities immigrated to Brazil. About 5 million European and Asian immigrants arrived from 1870 to 1953, most of them from Southern Europe (Italy, Portugal and Spain) and from Germany. In the early 20th century, people from Japan and the Middle-East also arrived. The immigrants and their descendants had an important impact in the ethnic composition of the Brazilian population and many diasporas are present in the country. Brazil has the largest population of Italian origin outside of Italy, with over 25 million Italian Brazilians, the largest Japanese population outside of Japan, with 1.6 million Japanese Brazilians, as well the second largest German population outside of Germany, with 12 million German Brazilians. A characteristic of Brazil is the race mixing. Genetically, most Brazilians have some degree of European, African and Amerindian ancestry. All the population can be considered a single "Brazilian" ethnic group, with highly varied racial types and backgrounds, but without clear ethnic sub-divisions.
The largest metropolitan areas in Brazil are São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Belo Horizonte, respectively with 19.7, 11.4, and 5.4 million inhabitants. Almost all capitals are the largest city in their corresponding state, except for Vitória, the capital of Espírito Santo, and Florianópolis, the capital of Santa Catarina. There are also non-capital metropolitan areas in the states of São Paulo (Campinas, Santos and the Paraíba Valley), Minas Gerais (Steel Valley), Rio Grande do Sul (Sinos Valley), and Santa Catarina (Itajaí Valley).
Poverty in Brazil is most visually represented by the various favelas, slums in the country's metropolitan areas and remote upcountry regions that suffer with economic underdevelopment and below-par standards of living. An attempt to mitigate these problems is the "Fome Zero" hunger-eradication program implemented by President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. Part of this is "Bolsa Família", a major anti-poverty program that gives money directly to impoverished families. São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte and Recife have serious problem with crime in Brazil especially with homicides rates. In response to the crime, Brazil established in June 2004 the National Public Security Force, to act in situations in the emergency, in times of crisis.

Education and health

The Federal Constitution and the 1996 General Law of Education in Brazil (LDB) determine how the Federal Government, States, Federal District, and Municipalities will manage and organize their respective education systems. Each of these public educational systems is responsible for its own maintenance, which manages funds as well as mechanisms and sources for financial resources. The new Constitution reserves 25% of state and municipal taxes and 18% of federal taxes for education. Private school programs are available to complement the public school system. In 2003, the literacy rate was 88% of the population, and the youth literacy rate (ages 15–19) was 93.2%. Higher education starts with undergraduate or sequential courses, which may offer different specialist choices such as academic or vocational paths. Depending on choice, students may improve their educational background with Stricto Sensu or Lato Sensu postgraduate courses.
The public health system is managed and provided by all levels of government, whilst private healthcare fulfills a complementary role.


Portuguese is the only official language of Brazil. It is spoken by nearly the entire population and is virtually the only language used in schools, newspapers, radio, TV and for all business and administrative purposes. Moreover, Brazil is the only Portuguese-speaking nation in the Americas, making the language an important part of Brazilian national identity, giving it a national culture distinct from its Spanish-speaking neighbors.
However, many minority languages are spoken daily throughout the vast national territory of Brazil. Some of these are spoken by indigenous peoples. 180 Amerindian languages are spoken in remote areas. Others are spoken by immigrants and their descendants. Brazilian Portuguese has had its own development, influenced by the Amerindian and African languages.
Due to this, the language is somewhat different from that spoken in Portugal and other Portuguese-speaking countries, mainly for phonological and orthographic differences, similar to the difference between American English and British English. There are important communities of speakers of German (mostly the Hunsrückisch, part of the High German languages) and Italian (mostly the Talian dialect, of Venetian origin) in the south of the country, both largely influenced by the Portuguese language.


A wide variety of elements influenced Brazilian culture. Its major early influence derived from Portuguese culture, because of strong colonial ties with the Portuguese empire. Among other inheritances, the Portuguese introduced the Portuguese language, the Catholic religion and the colonial architectural styles. Other aspects of Brazilian culture are contributions of European and Asian immigrants, Native South American people (such as the Tupi), and African slaves. Thus, Brazil is a multicultural and multiethnic society. Italian, German and other European immigrants came in large numbers and their influences are felt closer to the Southeast and South of Brazil. Amerindian peoples influenced Brazil's language and cuisine and the Africans, brought to Brazil as slaves, influenced Brazil's music, dance, cuisine, religion and language.
Brazil's cultural tradition extends to its music styles which include samba, bossa nova, forró, frevo , pagode and many others. Brazil has also contributed to classical music, which can be seen in the works of many composers. Brazilian Carnival (lang-pt Carnaval) is an annual celebration held 40 days before Easter and marks the beginning of Lent. Brazilian Carnival has distinct regional characteristics. Other regional festivals include the Boi Bumbá and Festa Junina (June Festivals).


The most popular religion in Brazil is Roman Catholicism and the country has the largest Catholic population in the world. Adepts of Protestantism are rising in number. Until 1970, the majority of Brazilian Protestants were members of "traditional churches", mostly Lutherans, Presbyterians and Baptists. Since then, numbers of Pentecostal and Neopentecostal members have increased significantly. Although Islam was first practiced by African slaves, the Muslim population of Brazil is comprised mostly by Arab immigrants. However, a new trend has been the increase in conversions to Islam among non-Arab citizens; only 27,000 Muslims live in Brazil as of 2000. The largest population of Buddhists in Latin America lives in Brazil, mostly because the country has the largest Japanese population outside Japan.
The latest IBGE census presents the following numbers: 74% of the population is Catholic (about 139 million); 15.4% is Protestant (about 28 million), including Jehovah's Witnesses (1,100,000) and the Latter-day Saints (600,000), ; 7.4% considers itself agnostics or atheists or without a religion (about 12 million); 1.3% follows Spiritism (about 2.2 million); 0.3% follows African traditional religions such as Candomblé and Umbanda and 1.7% are members of other religions. Some of these are Buddhists (215,000), Jews (150,000), Islamic (27,000) and some practice a mixture of different religions. The Brazilian national football team (Seleção) is currently ranked second in the world according to the FIFA World Rankings. They have been victorious in the World Cup tournament a record five times, in 1958, 1962, 1970, 1994 and 2002. Basketball, volleyball, auto racing, and martial arts also attract large audiences. Though not as regularly followed or practiced as the previously mentioned sports, tennis, team handball, swimming, and gymnastics have found a growing number of enthusiasts over the last decades. In auto racing, Brazilian drivers have won the Formula 1 world championship eight times: Emerson Fittipaldi (1972 and 1974), Nelson Piquet (1981, 1983 and 1987) and Ayrton Senna (1988, 1990 and 1991). The circuit located in São Paulo, Autódromo José Carlos Pace, hosts the annual Grand Prix of Brazil. Some sport variations have their origins in Brazil. Beach football, futsal (official version of indoor football) and footvolley emerged in the country as variations of football. In martial arts, Brazilians have developed Capoeira, Vale tudo, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
Brazil has undertaken the organization of large-scale sporting events: the country organized and hosted the 1950 FIFA World Cup and is chosen to host the 2014 FIFA World Cup event. São Paulo organized the IV Pan American Games in 1963 and Rio de Janeiro hosted the XV Pan American Games in 2007. Brazil also tried for the fourth time to host the Summer Olympics with Rio de Janeiro in 2016.


Further reading

  • State and Opposition in Military Brazil
  • The Illusion of Stability: The Brazilian Economy under Cardoso
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  • Futebol: The Brazilian Way of Life
  • Colonial Brazil
  • A History of Ideas in Brazil
  • A Concise History of Brazil
  • The Economic Growth of Brazil: A Survey from Colonial to Modern Times
  • Building Democracy in Brazil: The Politics of Constitutional Change
  • Brazil: Life, Blood, Soul
  • The Colonial Background of Modern Brazil
  • Brazil: Culture and Politics in a New Economic Powerhouse
  • Black Into White: Race and Nationality in Brazilian Thought
  • An Introduction to Brazil
  • The World Almanac and Book of Facts: Brazil
  • Coronelismo: The Municipality and Representative Government in Brazil

External links

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