What Should I Know About Brazil?

Soccer is the most popular sport in Brazil.
Brazil regularly produces the best soccer players in the world.
Diamond mines found in Brazil helped pay off Portugal's debt in the 1700s.
Brazil is the fifth-largest country in the world.
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  • Written By: Rebecca Partington
  • Edited By: Lucy Oppenheimer
  • Last Modified Date: 14 December 2014
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The Federative Republic of Brazil, referred to simply as Brazil, is a country in the north eastern portion of South America. It is the fifth-largest country in the world, contains the fifth-largest population (over 190 million as of 2007), and is the fourth-largest democracy. It borders the Atlantic Ocean on the east and shares borders with Venezuela, Suriname, Guyana, French Guiana, Uruguay, Argentina, Paraguay, Bolivia, Peru and Colombia. Its capital is Brasília, and its largest city is São Paulo. The official language is Portuguese.


Brazil was first colonized by the Portuguese in the early 1500s who developed an economy based on the exportation of agricultural products such as sugar. In the 1700s, gold and diamond deposits were discovered and mined to pay off the Portuguese Royal Court's debts. In 1822, the Brazilians declared independence and Dom Pedro was crowned as the first Emperor of Brazil. Pedro ruled using a constitution that was modeled on those of Portugal and France, with legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government moderated by a fourth branch that was controlled by the Emperor.

In 1889, Pedro's son stepped down as Emperor and the country was then declared a republic. The government remained generally stable, although the military took power from 1930-1954 and again from 1964-1985. Democracy was reestablished in 1988, when the now-current Federal Constitution was enacted, and Fernando Collor de Mello became president in 1990. The current president is Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.


Geography and Climate

The geography of Brazil is diverse, with parts of the Amazon Rainforest in the north and small hills and low mountains in the south. More mountain ranges lie along the Atlantic coast. Most of the nation is contained within the tropics because the Equator crosses the northern part of the country, but the southern area of Brazil is temperate.


Major export products include aircraft, coffee, ethanol, soybeans, and textiles. The agricultural, mining, manufacturing, and service sectors are large and developed, and Brazil also commands a large labor pool.


The Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics classifies the population in five categories: black, white, pardo (brown), yellow (Asian) and Indigenous. There are currently an estimated 93.1 million Whites (49.7%), 79.8 million Browns (42.6%), 12.9 million Blacks (6.9%), 919,000 Asians (0.5%) and 519,000 Amerindians (0.3%). Portuguese is the official language, and is spoken by nearly all inhabitants.


Brazil's culture has been heavily influenced by its Portuguese colonization. The musical genres of Bossa Nova and Música Popular Brasileira have been important contributions to the worldwide musical stage. The most popular religion is Roman Catholicism, with Protestantism following as second the second largest, but a few citizens are Muslims or Buddhists. Soccer is the most popular sport, and the Brazilian soccer team has won the World Cup tournament five times.


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