With all of Brazil’s awe inspiring natural beauty and rich cultural wealth, it should come as no surprise that the Brazilians themselves are also fabulously diverse. The indigenous peoples were rapidly outnumbered by influxes of settlers from Europe, as well as millions of slaves transported from Africa. The stereotype hedonistic, football-mad, body-beautiful Brazilian is no doubt based on Rio’s native Carioca. But there are also blonde blue-eyed gauchos with German roots in the south, Lebanese merchants in the Amazon, and the world’s biggest Japanese population outside of Japan.
Preparing to host the World Cup in 2014, and the 2016 Olympics coming to Rio, the largest country in South America is gearing up to take centre stage. Whether you’re strolling down orderly São Paulo avenues, or kicking back in the chic coastal resort of Búzios, you’ll discover a Brazil that is confidently rising to the challenge.
Prices are steadily increasing, so even the simplest Brazilian holidays don’t come cheap. Crime does happen, especially in the cities, but those who keep their wits about them and avoid certain areas are highly likely to have an incident-free trip.
|Languages spoken||Portuguese (official)|
Sports and natureOne of the most popular sports in Brazil is football, and it has come to be recognised as part of the national identity.
NightlifeArco do Teles (Rio de Janeiro): Tucked away in an alley just off the Praça XV, the Arco de Teles reveals perfectly preserved colonial buildings set on narrow cobblestone streets, lined with restaurants and cafes. With over 15 bars and botequins it doesn't matter which one you pick; walk around and see what's doing. If you get there after 10pm you'll be lucky to find a seat at all.
Culture and historyThe Portuguese were the first European settlers to arrive in the area, led by adventurous Pedro Cabral, who began the colonial period in 1500. The Portuguese reportedly found native Indians numbering around seven million. Most tribes were peripatetic, with only limited agriculture and temporary dwellings, although villages often had as many as 5000 inhabitants. Cultural life appears to have been richly developed, although both tribal warfare and cannibalism were ubiquitous. The few remaining traces of Brazil's Indian tribes reveal little of their lifestyle, unlike the evidence from other Andean tribes. Today, fewer than 200,000 of Brazil's indigenous people survive, most of whom inhabit the jungle areas. Other Portuguese explorers followed Cabral, in search of valuable goods for European trade but also for unsettled land and the opportunity to escape poverty in Portugal itself. The only item of value they discovered was the pau do brasil (brazil wood tree) from which they created red dye. Unlike the colonizing philosophy of the Spanish, the Portuguese in Brazil were much less focused at first on conquering, controlling, and developing the country. Most wereBrazil History impoverished sailors, who were far more interested in profitable trade and subsistence agriculture than in territorial expansion. The country's interior remained unexplored. Nonetheless, sugar soon came to Brazil, and with it came imported slaves. To a degree unequaled in most of the American colonies, the Portuguese settlers frequently intermarried with both the Indians and the African slaves, and there were also mixed marriages between the Africans and Indians. As a result, Brazil's population is intermingled to a degree that is unseen elsewhere. Most Brazilians possess some combination of European, African, Amerindian, Asian, and Middle Eastern lineage,and this multiplicity of cultural legacies is a notable feature of current Brazilian culture. The move to open the country's interior coincided with the discovery in the 1690s of gold in the south-central part of the country. The country's gold deposits didn't pan out, however, and by the close of the 18th century the country's focus had returned to the coastal agricultural regions. In 1807, as Napoleon Bonaparte closed in on Portugal's capital city of Lisbon, the Prince Regent shipped himself off to Brazil. Once there, Dom Joao established the colony as the capital of his empire. By 1821 things in Europe had cooled down sufficiently that Dom Joao could return to Lisbon, and he left his son Dom Pedro I in charge of Brazil. When the king attempted the following year to return Brazil to subordinate status as a colony, Dom Pedro flourished his sword and declared the country's independence from Portugal (and his own independence from his father). In the 19th century coffee took the place of sugar as Brazil's most important product. The boom in coffee production brought a wave of almost one million European immigrants, mostly Italians, and also brought about the Brazilian republic. In 1889, the wealthy coffee magnates backed a military coup, the emperor fled, and Brazil was no more an imperial country. The coffee planters virtually owned the country and the government for the next thirty years, until the worldwide depression evaporated coffee demand. For the next half century Brazil struggled with governmental instability, military coups, and a fragile economy. In 1989, the country enjoyed its first democratic election in almost three decades. Unfortunately, the Brazilians made the mistake of electing Fernando Collor de Mello. Mello's corruption did nothing to help the economy, but his peaceful removal from office indicated at least that the country's political and governmental structures are stable. Bra23.jpg (23645 bytes)Brazil has the sixth largest population in the world--about 148 million people--which has doubled in the past 30 years. Because of its size, there are only 15 people per sq. km, concentrated mainly along the coast and in the major cities, where two-thirds of the people now live: over 19 million in greater Sao Paulo and 10 million in greater Rio. The immigrant Portuguese language was greatly influenced by the numerous Indian and African dialects they encountered, but it remains the dominant language in Brazil today. In fact, the Brazilian dialect has become the dominant influence in the development of the Portuguese language, for the simple reason that Brazil has 15 times the population of Portugal and a much more dynamic linguistic environment.
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