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Brazil facts and history in brief

Map of Brazil

Brazil occupies almost half of South America and has a population larger than all the other countries of the continent combined (Over 50%).
The world's fifth largest in area (8,511,999 square kilometre) and population, with a very varied landscape, from the tropical rainforest of the sprawling, mighty Amazon to towering mountains.
The central and southern plains are fertile farmlands, but the country's vast interior remains little developed.
The world's largest rain forest the Amazon is largely in Brazil, with a very large and unique animal and over 40,000 varieties of plants.
The Amazon river, the world's second longest, only after the Nile is longer is Brazil largest.
Ocean going ships can travel on the Amazon's entire length within Brazil.
Brazil is the only Portuguese speaking country in South America.
In 1494, the treaty of Tordesillas divided the Americas between Spain and Portugal (Line of Demarcation).
Portugal claimed possession of Brazil on April 22, 1500, as Pedro Alvares Cabral the Portuguese fleet commander landed on the coast.
The name comes from trees with glowing ember colour, brazilwoods (Brasa in Portuguese).
Most of the Brazilians live in big cities and towns that lie on or near the Atlantic coast, except Brasilia, the nation's capital, that was built about 1,000 kilometres from the coast to help draw Brazilians inland.
Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro are Brazil's two largest cities and in the world in terms of population.
They are also the fastest growing cities in the world.
This modern, fast-paced city is Brazil's chief commercial and industrial centre.
About 60 per cent of the country's population are of European ancestry, German, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish.
Afro-Brazilians make up about 7 per cent and Amerindians, the original Brazilians, form less than 1 per cent of Brazil's people.
Many Brazilians have mixed ancestry.
Brazil has many natural resources such as iron ore, manganese, and many other minerals and a wide range of agricultural products, such as coffee, bananas, cacao beans, cattle, cotton, horses, lemons, maize, oranges, pineapples, rice, sheep, soybeans, sugar cane, nuts, timber, and tobacco, that helped make Brazil a growing economic power.
Power plants on its rivers generate a great amount of electricity.
In spite of Brazil's great wealth there's also great poverty around. Most Brazilians are very poor.
Brazil was a Portuguese colony from 1500 to 1822 and is the only Portuguese-speaking country in Latin America.
The early Portuguese colonists also brought Roman Catholicism to Brazil.
Today, Brazil has more Catholics than any other nation.
Brazil has been a republic since 1889, with a strong national government, but had periods of dictatorial rule as well.
It has 26 states and 1 federal district of Brasilia, the capital.
As most republics, Brazil's federal government has three branches, the executive branch headed by a president, a legislative branch called the Congress, and a judicial branch, or court system.
Brazil has universal suffrage with some minor exceptions, electing the resident, Vice President and Congress, also the local bodies as well.
The 1988 Constitution transferred most powers to the legislative Congress, of an 81-member Senate and a 503-member Chamber of Deputies.
The 26 states and the federal district send 3 Senators and a number of Deputies, depending on population to Congress.
Almost all of Brazil's people speak Portuguese, the nation's official language.
Amerindian groups in the Amazon area still use their own languages.
In general, the people in rich, industrialised southern Brazil have a higher standard of living than the people in the more rural Northeast and the largely undeveloped Amazon forest area.
Due to the rapid urban drift many new comers to the cities lack experience and qualification and are unemployed and live in slums, called favelas, made of cardboard, metal, or wood and lack sewers and running water. The Brazilian government has torn down a number of favelas and replaced them with low-cost public housing.
Feijoada, is Brazil's national dish, combines black beans, dried beef, and pork.
Coffee is Brazil's chief drink.
Brazilians also like batidas (sweet fruit beverages made with rum) and a tea-like drink called mate.
Soccer is Brazil's favourite sport.
Some games attract over 200,000 supporters Maracana Stadium to the world's largest stadium in Rio de Janeiro's.
A number of colourful festivals also brighten life in Brazil.
One of the best known is the Carnival of Rio de Janeiro, just before Christmas in year with thousands of richly costumed people dance to the rhythms of the samba and ride magnificent floats to compete for prizes while huge crowds lining the streets.
Brazil has a free state primary and secondary school system, children from 7 to 14 must attend school.
Brazil has about 65 colleges and universities.
The Catholic Church runs many secondary schools.
Most Brazilians can read and write.
Brazil's farms, forests, and mines have long produced an enormous amount of valuable exports.
But today, factories and service industries contribute the most to Brazil's gross domestic product Brazil's GDP is the highest in Latin America and one of the highest in the world.
Brazil's economy is based on private enterprise.
But the government controls many basic industries, including the oil, petrochemical, and steel industries.
Brazil also faces major economic problems, including inflation and unemployment.
In 1807, Prince John, of Portugal's ruler, fled to Rio de Janeiro with his family, when Napoleon invaded Portugal for supporting Great Britain in their war.
In 1808, Rio became capital of the Portuguese Empire.
In 1815, Brazil was made a kingdom.
In 1821, John returned to Portugal with his family and left his son Pedro to rule Brazil.
In 1822, Pedro declared Brazil independent and soon became emperor, Pedro I.
He granted Brazil a constitution in 1824.
In 1828, Brazil lost a war against Argentina and gave up the territory that is now the nation of Uruguay.
Pedro I was unpopular and soon his young son Pedro II succeeded him.
In the War of the triple Alliance (1865-1870), Brazil joined Argentina and Uruguay in defeating Paraguay.
In 1888, a law abolished slavery in Brazil and freed about 750,000 slaves.
In 1889, Brazil became a republic and soon adopted a constitution similar to the United States.
Brazil has enormous resources, and the economy flourishing at times, but inflation and unemployment also returns in regular cycles.
Brazil has a democratic government at present, but military rule figured at times during the 20th Century.
Brasilia, the capital since 1960 with a population of about 2 million people.
Designed by the Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer, about 1,000 kilometres from the coast to help draw Brazilians inland, built in the shape of an aeroplane, with the many impressive buildings, in an unpopulated region, on a site at the geographical centre of the country.

Soon after our arrival at the Airport we were accosted by one of the agents (Bayardo Hornos) of Four Tourist travel and a very attractive picture of our sightseeing trip was presented to us. We were promised everything until we paid up.
In reality we ended up very unhappy and feeling fiddled, cheated and short-changed.
These sales people have wide knowledge of various countries visitors are likely to come from.
They endear themselves to you by praising your country and call you by the nickname of your country, (Kiwis in our case) also rattling off numbers of people they dealt with from your country etc.

Now the promises and the unkept promises.
We were very interested to take the trip, after all that's what we came for, and the sales talk and promises sound very good, but very soon we got our first disappointment, he would not accept our Visa (Cost too much commission and rampant inflation, he claimed).
As New Zealanders we have to buy U.S. dollars of which we only had a limited supply, to last another 6 weeks.
We were to go on a jungle safari, a boat ride up to the falls, (We did get these two and thoroughly enjoyed it too) then we were to be transferred to a regular free boat to go to the island where another boat would have taken us to the Devil's Throat.
Arriving at the landing we were promised a video of our boat trip, to be delivered to our hotel but we never received that and we were told the free boat to the island was not running, neither did the boat to the Devil's Throat.
From the landing site now we had to walk to catch a little train to take us near the walkway over the falls.
We got lost because the people promised to meet us at arranged places just weren't there.
Our walk over the falls was terrific, thoroughly enjoyable.
Next day the continuation of our tour was just as troublesome.
I desperately wanted to explore Foz do Iguacu, the Brazilian Iguazu town, but our driver only give us a glimpse of it, claiming we had no time, but we had to spend 5 hours at the Airport waiting for our plane.
Iguazu town, our Hotel the Los Helechos (Telefax(03757)4-20338, was reasonably priced and quiet adequate) and the spectacle of the falls were terrific.

Please be careful with the choice of tour companies, the many unkept promises can be expensive and disappointing.

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