In Portuguese, Brasil; its citizens are Brasileiros or Brasileiras depending on gender. A year later, Italian navigator Amerigo Vespucci sailed to Brazil on a voyage commissioned by the Portuguese crown and returned home with a cargo of hard, reddish wood.
The wood was similar to an East Indian variety called pau brasil, which was then popular in Europe for making cabinets and violin bows. Pau brasil brazilwood , the first product to be exploited by the Portuguese in this new territory, is the origin of the country's name, Brazil. Because of its size and diversity, Brazil is one of the nations most deserving of the name "land of contrasts. These divisions are used for administrative purposes such as the national Brazilian census and they roughly correspond to geographic, demographic, economic, and cultural variation within this sprawling nation.
The Northeast has the greatest proportion of people of African descent, the South and Southeast are home to the bulk of Brazilians of European and Japanese ancestry, while indigenous peoples live largely in the North and Central-West.
Still, regional migration and extensive miscegenation racial inter-breeding has made Brazil one of the most racially diverse nations on earth. Aside from the official fivefold regional division of Brazil, a simpler economic distinction is made between the poor, underdeveloped North and the wealthier, more industrialized South.
This distinction is sometimes referred to as the "two Brazils" or "Belindia," with the wealthy South being compared to Belgium and the poor North to India.
Urban, middle-class Brazilians are generally unfamiliar with the interior of their own country and misrepresent it as a region of unrelenting poverty and backwardness—a stark place of few creature comforts that is best avoided. One consequence of this attitude is that middle-class and wealthy Brazilians are more likely to have visited Miami, Orlando, or New York than to have traveled to tourist destinations in their own country. One is a nordestino northeasterner or a mineiro native of the state of Minas Gerais or a carioca native of the city of Rio de Janeiro.
Nevertheless, Brazilians share a national culture—making Brazil a true case of unity in diversity. The legacy of the Portuguese in language, religion, and law serves to unify this vast land and its people. Until the mid-twentieth century almost all Brazilians were— at least nominally—Catholic and today, virtually all speak Portuguese and identify with the dominant Brazilian culture.
Brazil, the world's fifth largest country in geographical expanse and the Brazil largest nation in Latin America, comprises slightly under half the land mass of the South American continent and shares a border with every South American country except Chile and Ecuador.
It is the size of the continental United States excluding Alaska. Brazil's physical environment and climate vary greatly from the tropical North to the temperate South. The landscape is dominated by a central highland region known as the Planalto Central Brazilian Highlands, or Plateau of Brazil and by the vast AmazonBasin which occupies overone-third of the country. The central plateau juts into theseaina few areas along Brazil's 4,mile-long, 7,kilometer-long coast, but it more often runs parallel to the ocean, creating a fertile, lowland area.
Brazil is a land rich in natural resources, principally iron ore, bauxite, manganese, nickel, uranium, gold, gemstones, oil, and timber. The physical environment in each region determined the types of crops grown or the resources extracted and this, in turn, influenced the populations that settled there and the social and economic systems that developed.
Brazil's economic history, in fact, has been marked by a succession of cycles, each one based on the exploitation of a single export commodity: Brazil's northeast coast with its rich soils became the most prosperous region early on as vast sugar plantations were created to supply a growing demand for that product in Europe. Beginning in the seventeenth century, African slaves were imported to provide labor for these plantations. This is why even today the Northeast is the region with the strongest African influence.
The Southeast also received large numbers of African slaves during the gold boom of the eighteenth century and the coffee boom beginning in the nineteenth century.
This region also attracted new immigrants from Europe, the Middle East, and Japan who established family farms and eventually urban businesses.
In contrast, the South—with a climate unsuited to either coffee or sugar—became the destination of many German and Italian immigrants who raised cattle and grew a variety of crops.
The heritage of the Northeast coast, based on slave labor and a plantation economy, was distinct from that of the South and Southeast, where plantations existed along with small family farms. Such historical differences partly account for contemporary contrasts between these regions. Another regional distinction, that between litoral coast and interior inland , arises from the fact that settlement in Brazil has always been concentrated near the coast. To say that someone is from the "interior" usually implies that he or she is from a rural area, even though there are large cities located far from the coast.
Brazil is probably best known as the land of the Amazon, the world's largest river in area drained and volume of water and second only to the Nile in length. The Amazon forest contains the world's largest single reserve of biological organisms, and while no one knows how many species actually exist there, scientists estimate the number could be as high as five million, amounting to 15 to 30 percent of all species on earth.
Although now a focus of Brazilian and international media attention because of the negative ecological consequences of development, the Amazon region had long been isolated from national culture. Still, early in colonial times Jesuit missionaries traversed the Amazon River and its major tributaries and established settlements at Manaus and Belem.
Both became thriving urban centers during the rubber boom of the late s and early s. The population of Brazil was about million in , the sixth largest in the world after China, India, the United States, Indonesia, and the Russian Federation. Despite its large population, Brazil's demographic density is relatively low. Although there has been significant population movement into the interior in recent decades, about 80 percent of all Brazilians still live within two hundred miles of the Atlantic coast.
Fertility rates have dropped dramatically in Brazil in the last three or four decades of the twentieth century, with the completed fertility rate at the turn of the twenty-first century down to an average of 2. Nevertheless, the population will continue to grow in the first twenty or thirty years of the twenty-first century because of the nation's current youthful age structure. The Brazilian population has three major components. Divided into many different cultures with distinct institutions, Brazilian Indians spoke a large number of languages.
Today they comprise only about. Their numbers fell rapidly as a result of displacement, warfare and, most importantly, the introduction of European diseases against which they had no immunity. By , only , Brazilian Indians were left and they were thought to be on the road to extinction. This downward trend has been reversed, however.
Their numbers are now increasing owing to improved health care, lower incidence of disease, declining infant mortality, and a higher fertility rate. Contemporary estimates of the indigenous population range from , to ,; the population may reach , early in the new millennium. Afro-Brazilians, the descendants of millions of slaves brought primarily from West Africa to Brazil over a three-hundred-year period, are the second major component of the national population.
Afro-Brazilians and people of mixed racial ancestry account for at least 45 percent of the Brazilian population at the end of the twentieth century. Brazil also has a large population of mixed European, mainly Portuguese, descent. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries Brazil was the destination of many immigrants from Italy, Germany, and Spain. During the same era smaller numbers of immigrants arrived from Eastern Europe and the Middle East.
Rounding out the demographic picture are, Japanese-Brazilians, descendants of Japanese who came to Brazil in the first decades of the 20th century, and Koreans who began arriving in the s. Still, Brazil is among the most racially heterogeneous countries on earth and these distinct categories are somewhat misleading in that many, perhaps most, Brazilians are of mixed ancestry. Nearly all Brazilians speak Portuguese, a Romance language, belonging to the Indo-European language family.
The Portuguese language was introduced to Brazil by the Portuguese in the early sixteenth century. Prior to the arrival of the Portuguese, the native population spoke languages belonging to at least four major language families: Tupi-Guarani—which was spoken by coastal Indians, the first to come into extensive contact with the Portuguese—served as the basis for lingua geral, a language developed by the Jesuits for their missionary work with the Indian population.
Aside from a small number of recently contacted indigenous peoples, all Brazilians speak Portuguese. Brazilian Portuguese differs somewhat in grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation from the language of Portugal. Brazilian Portuguese contains a large number of indigenous terms, particularly Tupi-Guarani words for native plants, animals, and place-names that are not found in continental Portuguese. While regional accents exist in Brazil, they are not very pronounced and native Portuguese speakers from one region have no difficulty understanding those from other regions.
The vast majority of Brazilians are monolingual in Portuguese, although many middle-class and elite Brazilians study English and to a lesser extent Spanish, French, and German. Brazilians are very proud of their linguistic heritage and resent that many foreigners, particularly North Americans, think Brazilians speak Spanish.
Most Brazilians would agree that the symbols that best characterize their nation are the exuberant revelry of the pre-Lenten celebration of carnival and the wildly popular sport of soccer, called futebol in Brazil. Carnival is a four-day extravaganza marked by parades of costumed dancers and musicians, formal balls, street dancing, and musical contests, a truly national party during which Brazilians briefly forget what they call the "hard realities of life.
The key to carnival's popularity is its break with and reversal of the everyday reality. Through the use of costume—notably called fantasia in Portuguese—anyone can become anybody at carnival time.
Class hierarchies based on wealth and power are briefly set aside, poverty is forgotten, men may dress as women, leisure supplants work, and the disparate components of Brazilian society blend in a dizzying blaze of color and music. Brazilians are also passionate about soccer and are rated among the best players of the sport in the world.
Every four years when the world's best teams vie for the World Cup championship, Brazil virtually shuts down as the nation's collective attention turns to the action on the playing field. And when Brazil wins the World Cup—as it has on more occasions than any other country—the delirium of the populace is palpable. Brazilian flags are hoisted aloft, everyone wears green and yellow the national colors , and thousands of Brazilians, seemingly intoxicated with pride, take to the streets in revelry.
History and Ethnic Relations Emergence of the Nation. In the Portuguese began to colonize the new land of Brazil, but during the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries their hold on this vast territory remained tenuous as they struggled with an unfamiliar environment, indigenous peoples, and with French and later Dutch attempts to undermine Portuguese control.
People harvesting sugar cane in Salvador. Northeast Brazil has the most African cultural influence, due to early plantation labor. A useful exercise is to compare the early colonization of the United States and Brazil since it sheds light on the ensuing differences between the two modern nations.
Both countries imported large numbers of African slaves, but in Brazil the practice began earlier, lasted longer, and involved the importation of two to three times more slaves than in the United States. Estimates range from three to four million Africans forcibly taken to Brazil. Moreover, in contrast to the large number of families who came to settle in the North American colonies, the Portuguese colonists were more often single males.
Thus, in the early s, when the importation of slaves into North America was just beginning, the proportion of Africans to Europeans was much smaller in the United States than in Brazil, where the slave trade had been operating for more than a century. The smaller ratio of Portuguese colonists to slave and indigenous peoples in Brazil and the resultant tendency of single men to take African or indigenous women as concubines or wives led to the great racial mix that characterizes Brazilian society today.
Extensive miscegenation occurred in Brazil among Africans, Portuguese, and indigenous peoples during colonial times, and later with the arrival of new immigrants from Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. While many people today see Brazil's racial and cultural diversity as one of the nation's strengths, foreign visitors and Brazilians themselves have at times drawn a connection between extensive racial mixing and Brazil's "backwardness. Nineteenth century government-sponsored colonization schemes, for example, hoped to attract white immigrants, especially northern Europeans.
And, in the early twentieth century, when theories of eugenics were popular in many parts of the world, Brazilian elites were straightforward about their desire to "whiten" the country so that it would develop economically. Others dissented from this view. In the s well-known Brazilian anthropologist, Gilberto Freyre, argued that the richness of Brazilian society lay precisely in its mixed racial heritage.
The Portuguese, he argued, had laid the foundation for a "new world in the tropics," a blending of African, Indian, and European elements that made Brazilian culture unique. While later criticized as a conservative romantic who downplayed the harsh realities of life for people of color in Brazil, Freyre nevertheless was instrumental in recasting discussions of the nation's multiracial heritage, making it a source of pride, rather than shame.
Historically the emergence of Brazilian national identity followed a pattern common to many other European colonial territories. During the colonial period — , individuals born in Brazil were subject to rules and taxes that were decided in distant Portugal and most of the top posts in colonial administration were held by those born in the mother country. The relative lack of power over their own affairs encouraged the creation of a distinct identity among native-born Brazilians, albeit one made up of diverse elements.