Geography: Brazil covers nearly half of South America and is the continent's largest nation. It extends 2,965 mi (4,772 km) north-south, 2,691 mi (4,331 km) east-west, and borders every nation on the continent except Chile and Ecuador. Brazil may be divided into the Brazilian Highlands, or plateau, in the south and the Amazon River Basin in the north.
Over a third of Brazil is drained by the Amazon and its more than 200 tributaries. The Amazon is navigable for ocean steamers to Iquitos, Peru, 2,300 mi (3,700 km) upstream. Southern Brazil is drained by the Plata system—the Paraguay, Uruguay, and Paraná rivers.
Government: Federal republic.
History: Brazil is the only Latin American nation that derives its language and culture from Portugal. The native inhabitants mostly consisted of the nomadic Tupí-Guaraní Indians. Adm. Pedro Alvares Cabral claimed the territory for Portugal in 1500. The early explorers brought back a wood that produced a red dye, pau-brasil, from which the land received its name. Portugal began colonization in 1532 and made the area a royal colony in 1549.
During the Napoleonic Wars, King João VI, fearing the advancing French armies, fled Portugal in 1808 and set up his court in Rio de Janeiro. João was drawn home in 1820 by a revolution, leaving his son as regent. When Portugal tried to reimpose colonial rule, the prince declared Brazil's independence on Sept. 7, 1822, becoming Pedro I, emperor of Brazil.
Harassed by his parliament, Pedro I abdicated in 1831 in favor of his five-year-old son, who became emperor in 1840 (Pedro II). The son was a popular monarch, but discontent built up, and in 1889, following a military revolt, he abdicated. Although a republic was proclaimed, Brazil was ruled by military dictatorships until a revolt permitted a gradual return to stability under civilian presidents.
President Wenceslau Braz cooperated with the Allies and declared war on Germany during World War I. In World War II, Brazil again cooperated with the Allies, welcoming Allied air bases, patrolling the South Atlantic, and joining the invasion of Italy after declaring war on the Axis powers.
After a military coup in 1964, Brazil had a series of military governments. Gen. João Baptista de Oliveira Figueiredo became president in 1979 and pledged a return to democracy in 1985. The election of Tancredo Neves on Jan. 15, 1985, the first civilian president since 1964, brought a nationwide wave of optimism, but when Neves died several months later, Vice President José Sarney became president. Collor de Mello won the election of late 1989, pledging to lower hyperinflation with free-market economics. When Collor faced impeachment by Congress because of a corruption scandal in Dec. 1992 and resigned, Vice President Itamar Franco assumed the presidency.
A former finance minister, Fernando Cardoso, won the presidency in the Oct. 1994 election with 54% of the vote. Cardoso sold off inefficient government-owned monopolies in the telecommunications, electrical power, port, mining, railway, and banking industries.
In Jan. 1999, the Asian economic crisis spread to Brazil. Rather than prop up the currency through financial markets, Brazil opted to let the currency float, which sent the real plummeting—at one time as much as 40%. Cardoso was highly praised by the international community for quickly turning around his country's economic crisis. Despite his efforts, however, the economy continued to slow throughout 2001, and the country also faced an energy crisis. The IMF offered Brazil an additional aid package in Aug. 2001. And in Aug. 2002, to ensure that Brazil would not be dragged down by neighboring Argentina's catastrophic economic problems, the IMF agreed to lend Brazil a phenomenal $30 billion over fifteen months.
In Jan. 2003, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, a former trade union leader and factory worker widely known by the name Lula, became Brazil's first working-class president. As leader of Brazil's only Socialist party, the Workers' Party, Lula pledged to increase social services and improve the lot of the poor. But he also recognized that a distinctly nonsocialist program of fiscal austerity was needed to rescue the economy. The president's first major legislative success was a plan to reform the country's debt-ridden pension system, which operated under an annual $20 billion deficit. Civil servants staged massive strikes opposing this and other reforms. Although public debt and inflation remained a problem in 2004, Brazil's economy showed signs of growth and unemployment was down. Polls in Aug. 2004 demonstrated that the majority of Brazilians supported Lula's tough economic reform efforts. He combined his conservative fiscal policies with ambitious antipoverty programs, raising the country's minimum wage by 25% and introducing an ambitious social welfare program, Bolsa Familia, which has pulled 36 million people (20% of the population) out of deep poverty.
In 2005, an unfolding bribery scandal weakened Lula's administration and led to the resignation of several high government officials. Lula issued a televised apology in August, promising drastic measures to reform the political system. By the following year, his popularity had rebounded as he continued a successful balancing act between fiscal responsibility and a strong social welfare system. But after another corruption scandal surfaced right before the Oct. 2006 election, Lula won only 48.6% of the vote, forcing a runoff election on Oct. 29 in which Lula garnered 60.8% of the vote, retaining his office.
Location: Eastern South America, bordering the Atlantic Ocean.
Geographic Cordinates: 10,00 S, 55,00 W.
Climate: Mostly tropical, but temperate in South.
Terrain: Mostly flat to rolling lowlands in north; some plains, hills, mountains, and narrow coastal belt.
Chief Of State: President Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva (since January 1, 2003).
Vice President: Jose Alencar (since January 1, 2003).
National Anthem: The placid banks of the Ipiranga heard
the resounding cry of heroic people
and brilliant beams from the sun of liberty
shone in our homeland's skies at that very moment.
If we have fulfilled the promise
of equality by our mighty arms,
in thy bosom, O freedom,
our brave breast shall defy death itself!
O beloved, idolized homeland,
Brazil, an intense dream, a vivid ray
of love and hope descends to earth
if in thy lovely, smiling and clear skies
the image of the (Southern) Cross shines resplendently.
A giant by thine own nature,
thou art a beautiful, strong and intrepid colossus,
and thy future mirrors thy greatness.
amongst a thousand others
art thou, Brazil,
O beloved homeland!
To the sons of this land
thou art a gentle mother,
Eternally lying in a splendid cradle,
by the sound of the sea and the light of the deep sky,
thou shinest, O Brazil, garland of America,
illuminated by the sun of the New World!
Thy smiling, lovely fields have more flowers
than the most elegant land abroad,
"Our woods have more life,
"our life" in thy bosom "more love."
O beloved, idolized homeland,
Brazil, let the star-spangled banner thou showest forth
be the symbol of eternal love,
and let the laurel-green of thy pennant proclaim
'Peace in the future and glory in the past.'
But if thou raisest the strong gavel of Justice,
thou wilt see that a son of thine flees not from battle,
nor does he who loves thee fear death itself.
amongst a thousand others
art thou, Brazil,
O beloved homeland!
To the sons of this land
thou art a gentle mother,
Largest City: São Paulo.
Official Languages: Portuguese.
President: Luiz Inácio Lula Da Silva.
Vice President: José Alencar Gomes Da Silva.
Brazilian Food: Brazilian cuisine is creative and tasteful, yet simple, and generally not spicy. The dishes are well seasoned, and mainly based on garlic, onions, parsley and salt.
Perhaps Brazil's greatest treasures is her bounty of fruits. Many varieties of tropical fruit are not cultivated but grow freely in the wetland areas or in the uplands. Some are palm fruits. Even today, some of these exotic fruits are only known in the region in which they grow. To the tourist, the sheer variety of new and unusual types can be an overwhelming experience. A beverage made from the fruit called Guarana is the nation's favorite.
An assortment of amazing fish tempt the palate. Menus in the north feature the mammoth pirarucu, whose delicous flesh is quite meaty, almost like chicken; and the tasty tambaqui, a fruit and seed-eating fish equipped with powerful, molar-like teeth adapted for crushing its food. Other noteable fish are the salmon-like dourado in the center-west and the tucunare, the beautifully-colored peacock bass.
Meat reigns in the south. One must experience the popular churrasco, a showy orgy featurong grilled meats of all kinds. In certain resturaunts, the Cariocas (inhabitants of the city of Rio De Janeiro) have adopted it as a specialty of their own. For pork, the southeast features delicious roast suckling pig and cracklings of fried pork skin.
Vegestables and edible tubers abound, but leafy green lag in popularity. Menus feature yams, sweet potatoes, squash, peppers, beans and peanuts, to name a few. A hot, red pepper named malagueta is one of three characteristic ingredients of Bahian cookery in the northeast. The other two are coconut milk and a palm oil called Dende. Manioc (cassava), however is the main staple, both as a vegestable and as a condiment.
In the breads and rolls category, an outstanding entry is pao de queijo, cheese rolls made with tapioca starch and grated cheese. They are especially popular in the center-west, southeast and south.
A rich Portuguese heritage is evident in desserts characterized by lavish use of eggs and sugar. The slaves in the colonial sugar plantation mansions often modified them by adding indigenous ingredients. A representative confection is the irresistible egg and grated coconut upside-down dessert knows as quindim.
There is an infinite variety of fruit juices. Try them all, and if you like, mix in some Brazilian brandy, or cachaca, made from sugar cane to make a batida. If you mix some crushed lemon, they're small, green and tart like our limes, you have the caipirinha, Brazil's national cocktail.
The cuisine of Brazil, like Brazil itself, varies greatly by region. This diversity reflects the country's mix of native Amerindians, Portuguese, Africans, Italians, Spaniards, Germans, Syrians, Lebanese and Japanese among others. This has created a national cooking style marked by the preservation of regional differences.
Acre, Amazonas, Amapa. Para, Rondonia, Roraima and Tocantins the region is known as Amazonia for it includes a large part of the rain forest, and tributaries flowing into the Amazon River. Culturally, the Amazon basin is heavily populated by native Indians or people of mixed Inian and Portuguese ancestry who live in a diet of fish, root vegestables such as manioc, yams, and peanuts, plus plam or tropical fruit. TP The cuisine of this region is heavily influenced by indigenous cuisine. Popular dishes include Picadinho de Jacare (a meal made from alligator meat), Tacaca and Acai.
Seal: The seal is called "Coat Of Arms".
Customs: Brazilians are outgoing, fun-loving people. Friends and acquaintances are greeted with kisses, more kisses and big hugs.
While Brazilians eat a light breakfast, the customary complimentary one in hotels for tourists often is an elaborate spread: several varieties of fruits and fruit juices, cheeses, breads, cereals, cakes, eggs and meat. In restaurants, breakfast, or cafe da manha, generally is served from 7 to 10 AM.
The main meal of the day is lunch, or almoco, which is served from about 11:30 AM to 3 PM. Dinner, or jantar, is served from 7 to 11 PM. In metropolitan areas Brazilian dine late. If you arrive much before 10 PM on the weekends, you'll probably be in the company of other tourists.
Festivals & Feasts:
The Festa De Sao Benedito, or Festival of St. Benedict, is featured in the center-west. Traditional dances and foods such as little balls, or bolinhos, of deep fried rice or cheese mark to this celebration.
In full leather regalia, cattlemen of the northeast gather to celebrate a special outdoor Cowboy's Mass, or Missa do Vaqueiro, in the Pernambuco back lands, remaining on their horses during the ceremony. Included in the blessings are some that are specifically said for the cowboys' gear, their hats, saddles and saddlebags containing foods they brought to share, Manioc (Cassava) meal, Queijo Do Sertao, a popular hard cheese made of mostly goat's milk, and Rapadura, hard chunks of raw brown sugar eaten as candy.
In the city of Belem in the north, the two week celebration called Cirio De Nazare begins with a parade to transport the statue of the virgin of Nazare from the cathedral to the basilica. It ends with her return to the cathedral. The traditional feast on the first day of the festival includes Pati Ao Tucupi, or roast duck marinated in olive oil, lemon juice and garlic, then boiled in Tucupi, a seasoned sauce made with the juice extracted from Manioc (Cassava) root.
~New Years Eve/Day~
Candomble worshippers gather at the beaches to pay homage to Iemanja, godess of the sea. In hope of recieving blessings for the coming year, offerings of fruits, rice and flowers are set out to sea.
Festas Juninas are the joyous midwinter festival days when the feasts of St. John, St. Anthony and St. Peter are celebrated throughout Brazil with traditional foods, games and dances. While these customs originated with the Portuguese, the foods associated with these holidays are based obn native preparations such as baked sweet potatoes and corn-based dishes.
A popular folk celebrations in the northeast, apparently originating as a pagan festival, is part of the repertoire of these winter festival days. It is the burlesque pantomime called bumba-meu-boi, or "hit my bull." Its performances are traced to colonial times when it served as a diversion for the slaves on the cattle estates. As is typical with folklore, the tale has many versions. The general theme is a satire pitting the oppressive master against a black slave, or sometimes a lowly worker, who gets into mischief that causes the death or disfiguration of the master's prize bull and finishes joyfully with the bull's miraculous resuscitation.
Carnival, the pre-Lenten celebration that consumes Brazil, is world famous and needs no further explanation.
The region around the city of Parati in the southeast is known for its production of cachaca, or pinga, Brazil's brandy made from cane sugar. The Pinga Festival celebrates this enormously popular alcohol.
In the south, Octoberfest is celebrated in Blumenau. It is based on the Bavarian harvest festival and involves much merrymaking, beer drinking and sausage eating.
Tribes: There are many tribes in Brazil. Some of them are quite isolated from other people where as others are very visible and active in urban society. The most known of these tribes are the Kayapo and the Yanomami.
The Kayapo people are found in eastern Amazon region. Most Kayapo live along the Xingu River near Para. The government has shown an interest in this area because they want to create dams on the Xingu river. The Kayapo are opposed to this as these actions would threaten their traditional way of life and the existence of the Rain Forest. The Kayapo have become very involved with the media and are very active in social action projects that threaten the Amazon Rainforest and their culture.
The Yanomami people live in a region along the Brazilian Venezuelan boarder. They live in small villages. Sometimes they settle in an area or move around. These people are both nomadic and sedentary. They have had many negative experiences with the government wanting to take their land away for dam building or road construction. The Yanomami are being put on reserves in order for the government to work around them. The Yanomami are very unhappy as they are giving up almost 70% of the land rights they used to have.