Covering almost half of South America, Brazil is the site of the world’s largest and ecologically most important rain- forest. The country has immense natural and economic resources.
Geography: Rain-forest grows around the massive Amazon River and its delta, covering almost half of Brazil’s total land area. Apart from the basin of the River Plate to the south, the rest of the country consists of high lands. The mountainous east is part-forested and part-desert. The coastal plain in the southeast has swampy areas. The Atlantic coastline is 1240 miles (2000 km) long.
Climate: Brazil’s share of the Amazon Basin has a model tropical equatorial climate, with high temperatures and rainfall all year round. The Brazilian plateau has far greater seasonal variation. The dry northeast suffers frequent droughts, though coastal regions are occasionally flooded by bouts of torrential rain. The south has hot summers and cool winters.
People and Society: Diverse population includes Amerindians, black people of African descent, European immigrants, and those of mixed race. Amerindians suffer prejudice from most other groups. Shanty towns in the cities attract poor migrants from the northeast. Urban crime, violent land disputes, and unchecked development in Amazonia tarnish Brazil’s image as a modern nation. Catholicism and the family unit remain strong.
The Economy: Dominant regional economy. Huge potential for growth based on abundant natural resources. A leading exporter of coffee, sugar, and orange juice. Social tension threatens stability. Infrastructure needs investment.
Insight: Since 1900, a third of Brazil’s indigenous Amerindian groups have become extinct due to disease, starvation, or the forceful taking of land by miners, loggers, and settlers
Official Name: Federative Rep. of Brazil
Date of Formation: 1822
Population: 194 million
Total Area: 3,286,470 sq. miles (8,511,965 sq. km)
Density: 59 people per sq. mile
Languages: Portuguese*, German, Italian, Spanish, Polish, Japanese, other
Religions: Roman Catholic 74%, Protestant 15%, atheist 7%, other 4%
Ethnic Mix: White 54%, Mixed race 38%, Black 6%, other 2%
Government: Presidential system
Currency: Real = 100 centavos