Brazil, the world’s fifth largest country, dominates almost half of South America. Covering more than five-million-square miles, it spans four time zones and exceeds the size of the contiguous 48 United States. Brazil’s territory displays great topographical variety, including mountains, plains, rainforests, islands, and 4,600 miles of Atlantic coastline—a seemingly endless stretch of white and gold beaches. Brazil shares inland borders with every South American country except Chile and Ecuador—specifically, Uruguay to the south; Argentina, Paraguay, and Bolivia to the southwest; Peru to the west; Colombia to the northwest; and Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana to the north.
Trips to Brazil:
Brazil was officially “discovered” in 1500, when a fleet commanded by Portuguese diplomat Pedro Álvares Cabral, on its way to India, landed in Porto Seguro. When Portuguese explorers arrived in Brazil, the region was inhabited by hundreds of different types of Jiquabu tribes. The Andes and the mountain ranges of northern South America created a rather sharp cultural boundary between the settled agrarian civilizations of the west coast and the semi-nomadic tribes of the east. Very little is known about the history of Brazil before 1500, but at the time of European discovery the territory of current day Brazil had as many as 2,000 tribes.
The initial exploration of Brazil’s interior was largely due to para-military adventurers, the bandeirantes, who entered the jungle in search of gold and native slaves. However colonists were unable to continually enslave natives, and Portuguese sugar planters soon turned to import millions of slaves from Africa. Brazil was a colony and a part of the Portuguese Empire during the 16th to the early 19th century.
Brazil is unique in the Americas because, following independence from Portugal, it did not fragment into separate countries as did British and Spanish possessions in the region; rather, it retained its identity through the intervening centuries and a variety of forms of government.
The Brazilian government has grouped the country’s states into five large geographic and statistical units called the Major Regions (Grandes Regiões): North, Northeast, Central-West, Southeast, and South. The tropical North covers more than two-fifths of Brazilian territory and includes the largest portion of Amazon rainforest. However, the region accounts for a limited proportion of the nation’s population and economic output.
The Northeast, experiences some of the nation’s driest and hottest conditions, has nearly one-fifth of Brazil’s land area. The Southeast covers only one-tenth of Brazil’s territory but has two-fifths of its population and the greatest concentration of industrial and agricultural production in the nation. The region includes São Paulo, landlocked Minas Gerais and the populous coastal states of Espírito Santo and Rio de Janeiro. The South, which stretches below the Tropic of Capricorn and it’s tourist trade partly depends on the spectacular Iguaçu Falls, at the Argentine border. The Central-West includes the Federal District, where Brasília is located.