Brazil on the world map. Map of Brazil with cities
Map of Brazil with cities. Where Brazil is on the world map. The main geographical facts about Brazil - population, country area, capital, official language, religions, industry and culture.
Brazil Fact File
Official name Federative Republic of Brazil
Form of government Federal republic with two legislative bodies (Senate and Chamber of Deputies)
Area 8,511,965 sq km (3,286,470 sq miles)
Time zone GMT - 3/5 hours
Projected population 2015 201,393,000
Population density 20.7 per sq km (53.6 per sq mile)
Life expectancy 63.6
Infant mortality (per 1,000) 35.9
Official language Portuguese
Other languages More than 180 indigenous languages, Spanish, English, French
Literacy rate 83.3%
Religions Roman Catholic 89%, Protestant 7%, other 4 %
Ethnic groups European 55%, mixed European-African 38%, African 6%, other 1 %
Economy Services 55%, agriculture 29%, industry 16%
GNP per capita US$ 7,400
Climate Mainly tropical, but temperate in south
Highest point Pico da Neblina 3,014 m (9,888 ft)
Map reference Pages 450-51, 452-53, 454-55, 456-57
Brazil is the fifth largest country in the world and comprises nearly half of South America. Originally the home of numerous Amerindian tribes, Brazil was ruled by the Portuguese after their arrival in 1500. Political independence of a sort came in 1822, but a form of monarchy, sponsored by Portuguese royalty and featuring a self-styled Emperor of Brazil, existed until the first republic was declared in 1889.
Today the well-being of the Amazon Basin is a cause of international concern, yet for most of Brazil's history this huge region was virtually ignored. In the eyes of the first settlers the most valuable land was the fertile coastal strip from Recife to Rio de Janeiro. In the north of this area they established huge sugarcane plantations, brought 4 million African slaves to do the work, and became so dependent on slavery that it was only abolished in 1888. In the south, around Sao Paulo (now the world's third largest city), a huge coffee-growing industry became established. Ethnically mixed and rich in resources, Brazil has the potential to play a major role internationally.
Physical features and land use Brazil
Brazil has two major and several minor regions. In the north is the vast tropical area—once an inland sea—drained by the Amazon River and its more than 1,000 tributaries. Occupying the entire northern half of the country, this river system passes through vast regions of rainforest. A greater variety of plant species grows here than in any other habitat in the world and the forest is home to a phenomenal range of animals and birds. More than 1,000 bird species are found here and as many as 3,000 species of fish swim in the rivers, along with other animals such as caiman (alligator), freshwater dolphin, and the endangered manatee—a large herbivorous mammal.
At present it is estimated that the rainforest is being reduced at a rate of between 1.5 and four percent per year as a result of logging, mining, ranching, and the resettlement of Brazil's many landless peasants. In early 1998 forest fires raged through the the northern state of Roraima. Ignited partly by traditional Amerindian slash-and-burn horticulture, partly by settlers clearing land, and aggravated by unusually dry conditions, they caused great devastation.
The second main region, the Brazilian Highlands, lies in the center and south of the country. This is an extensive plateau of hard, ancient rock in which weathering has formed deep river valleys. Much of the interior is covered by savanna woodland, thinning to semi-deciduous scrub in the northeast. There are spectacular waterfalls on the Uruguay River on the southern side of the plateau and on the Parana River west of the coastal highlands.
The interior of the Nordeste (northeast) region is the most undeveloped and drought-stricken corner of Brazil, and it is from here that large numbers of subsistence farmers who can no longer make a living have emigrated to the industrial center of Sao Paulo, looking for work.
The swampy Pantanal, in the southwest, flooded for seven months of the year, is the largest area of wetland in the world and has a striking diversity of wildlife.
People and culture Brazil
As in the Caribbean countries, the sugar industry's demand for slaves strongly influenced the Rio de Janeiro, in Brazil (above). The Igacu Falls, from the Brazilian side (top). Llamas grazing on the plains at the foot of Mt Sajama, Bolivia (right page bottom).
ethnic composition of Brazil. But to a greater extent than in the slave-owning South of the USA, the result has been both economic and social integration. While Brazilian society shows extremes of wealth and poverty, the divisions are drawn along socio-economic rather than ethnic lines. Culturally, Brazil is a mixture of elements. This is particularly reflected in its religious life. Most people are Christian, mainly Roman Catholic. But a variety of African popular cults exist, such as candomble, which are often mixed with Christianity.
Brazil also has the largest population of Japanese outside Japan. Arriving as poor farmers in the 1920s, 2 million of them now live in Sao Paulo and are prominent in commercial life. In the upper reaches of the Xingu, Araguaia, and Tocantins Rivers small groups of Indians such as the Tapi-rape survive in forest refuges. Gold prospectors have driven off or killed Yanomami Indians in Roraima State who stood in their way.
Economy and resources Brazil
Traditional rural activities continue to be important, the rural sector employing 23 percent of the labor force. Brazil is the world's largest producer of coffee, but cocao, sugarcane, cotton, and maize are also major cash crops cultivated on large plantations. Brazilian livestock numbers are among the world's largest— mainly cattle and pigs—but trends show a steadily falling agricultural contribution to gross domestic product. Industry is increasing in importance, particularly manufacturing, with ninety percent of power coming from hydroelectric schemes. The enormous hydroelectric potential of the Amazon and Parana, however, remains untapped. Despite some development of domestic sources, gasoline is still imported. Brazil attempted to substitute ethanol made from sugar for gasoline during the 1980s but falling oil prices made this uneconomical in the 1990s. There are enormous resources: iron ore and manganese, zinc, nickel, gold, and diamonds. The main mining regions can be found in the eastern state of Minas Gerais.
With South America's largest gross domestic product, Brazil has the potential to play a leading international role. Yet it must still be considered a developing country as it does not have a fully modern economy. Some difficulties have arisen from heavy state borrowing for unproductive projects; others stem from runaway inflation in the 1980s. Fiscal reforms are difficult to carry through politically—many require constitutional amendments. However, these problems are being addressed (consumer prices rose by 23 percent in 1995 compared to more than 1,000 percent in 1994) and investor confidence is returning.