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Brazil is a huge country encompassing nearly half of South America and is the fifth largest country in the world. Around nine-tenths of the country is situated between the Equator and the Tropic of Capricorn. Bathed by the Atlantic Ocean, Brazil has 12,000km of borders with Spanish speaking countries (all south American countries except for Chili and Equador). The relief is dominated by the Brazilian Plateau, which unfolds after the mountain ranges that closely follow the coastline from Porto Alegre in the South to Natal in the Northeast. The major lowland areas are the Pantanal, the Amazonian plains and the coastal region. The highest point of the country is "Pico de Neblina" 3,014m high, located in the extreme North of the Amazon region.

Despite of the enormous area of Brazil it's one of the most urbanized countries of the world. Of the ten biggest metropolises in the world two of them are situated in Brazil; São Paulo (more than 17 million people) and Rio de Janeiro (more than 7 million). Nearly the whole of the immense Brazilian territory is inaccessible, as well as extremely abundant in mineral resources. Brazil has the largest tropical forest and oxygen reserve in the world, which is the Amazon jungle and more than 8.000 kilometers of coastline with many unspoilt beaches and tropical islands.

8.514.215,3 km2

Pedro Álvares Cabral claimed Brazil for the Portuguese on landing in 1500. Brazil remained their colony until independence and the establishment of a monarchy in 1822. Brazil was one of the last nations to abolish slavery in 1888. The decision was unpopular with wealthy landowners who relied on slave labour. Dom Pedro II abdicated in 1889 after the Republican Army challenged the monarchy.

A military coup ended the Republic when in 1930, economic depression and regional disputes allowed dictator Getulio Vargas to take power. He ruled with the army’s support until 1945, concentrating on industrial growth at the expense of social reform. This set a trend of widening the gap between rich and poor. The military took over government again in 1964, following civil unrest amongst workers and further economic problems. Successive regimes of leaders like Castello Branco brought the economy under control but repressed the people.

Military rule ended in 1985, and in 1989 Fernando Collor became Brazil’s first democratically-elected president for 25 years. Brazil’s poverty, and corruption charges saw Collor replaced by Vice–President Franco in 1992. Following the successful launch of his currency plan for the ‘Real’, Fernando Henrique Cardoso was enthusiastically elected in 1994 and again in 1998. In 2002, a former shoeshine boy Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva - known as Lula - became the first left-wing president of Brazil in four decades.

Brazil's present population is approximately 173 million inhabitants, which makes Brazil the 6th most populous country in the world. The demographic density comes to just over 19,2 people per square kilometer, but the distribution is highly irregular, with the majority of the population concentrated in a comparatively narrow lowland strip along the coast, and 81% lives in urban areas.


Brazil can be divided into five regions; North, Northeast, Central West, Southeast and the South.

The North: the largest region in Brazil and is made up of the states: Amazonas (AM), Pará (PA), Acre (AC), Rondonia (RO), Roraima (RR), Amapa (AP) and Tocantins (TO). The immense Amazon Rainforest covers almost this whole region. As a result of this dense rainforest this region is sparsely populated. The main cities of this region are Belém and Manaus.

The Northeast: called a paradise because of the cultural and the historical richness and the magnificient beaches. The region is made up of the following states: Bahia (BA), Sergipe (SE), Alagoas (AL), Pernambuco (PE), Paraiba (PB), Rio Grande do Norte (RN), Ceará (CE), Piaui (PI) and Maranhão (MA). Almost 60% of the total area consists of desert-like "Sertões" (backlands). The major cities in this region are Salvador, Natal, Recife and Fortaleza.

The Central West: made up of the following three states: Mato Grosso (MT), Mato Grosso do Sul (MS), Goiás (GO) and Distrito Federal (DF). This region is famous for the Pantanal wetlands in the states of Mato Grosso and Mato Grosso do Sul. Furthermore for the capital of Brazil, Brasilia, which is situated in the Distrito Federal. Other major cities in this region are Campo Grande, Cuiabá and Goiânia.

The Southeast: the most densely populated region and the main gateway to Brazil. The region consist of the following states: São Paulo (SP), Rio de Janeiro (RJ), Espirito Santo (ES) and Minas Gerais (MG). This region is the pounding heart of Brazil, it's the economic center of whole Brazil. Famous cities as Rio de Janeiro (7 million) and São Paulo (18 million) are the landmarks for this region and for whole Brazil.

The South: the most European region of Brazil. This region has an 'European' climate, with four seasons, as well as an European culture, brought here by the immigrants from the European continent in the 19th century. The region is made up of Rio Grande do Sul (RS), Santa Catarina (SC) and Paraná (PR). Major cities in this region are Porto Alegre, Florianópolis and Curitiba.

Distribution of the Brazilian population per region (in %):

North: 7,2 %
Northeast : 28,5 %
Central West: 6,7 %
Southeast: 42,7 %
South: 15 %

The climate varies according to latitude and altitude. The seasons are the exact reverse of those in Europe and the US. Brazil is marked by highly varied climates, ranging from the humidity of the Amazon region, the dry heat of the Northeastern region and the permanently pleasant warm weather of most of the costal area, to cool evening temperatures in many parts of the plateau and a temperate climate in the South, where snow and frost can occur in the winter months.

Although 90 percent of the country is within the tropical zone, more than 60 percent of the population live in areas where altitude, sea winds, or cold polar fronts moderate the temperature. There are five climatic regions in Brazil: equatorial, tropical, semi-arid, highland tropical, and subtropical. Plateau cities such as São Paulo, Brasília, and Belo Horizonte have very mild climates averaging 19°C (66°F). Rio deJaneiro, Recife, and Salvador on the coast have warm climates balanced by the constancy of the Trade Winds. In the southern Brazilian cities of Porto Alegre and Curitiba, the subtropical climate is similar to parts of the U.S. and Europe with frosts occurring with some frequency. In this region temperatures in winter can fall below zero degrees.

Despite the popular image of the Amazon as a region of blistering heat, temperatures of more than 32°C (90°F) are rarely experienced there. In fact, the annual average temperature in the Amazon region is in the range of 22-26°C (72-79°F), with only a very small seasonal variation between the warmest and the coldest months. The hottest part of Brazil is the northeast where, during the dry season, between May and November, temperatures of more than 38°C (100 °F) are recorded frequently. The northeast has greater seasonal variation in temperatures than the Amazon region has. Along the Atlantic coast from Recife to Rio de Janeiro, mean temperatures range from 23 to 27°C (73°F-81°F). Inland, on higher ground, temperatures are lower, ranging from 18 to 21°C (64°F-70°F). South of Rio, the seasons are more noticeable and the annual range of temperature greater. The average temperature for this part of the country ranges between 17 to 19°C (63°F-66°F).

The time in most of Brazil is three hours behind Greenwich Mean Time. This is true for Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Brasilía, Bahia, Minas Gerais, etc. Amazonas, Roraima, Rondônia, Pará, Mato Grosso and Mato Grosso do Sul are a further one hour behind Brazilian standard time while Acre is two hours behind. Fernando de Noronha and other oceanic islands (Trindade, Martin Vaz, etc.) are one hour in front.

In 1985 Brazil introduced "summer time" to help save energy and this measure has been repeated ever since. Brazilian summer time comes into effect in October and ends in early February. During the period of daylight saving time, Brazil's clocks go forward one hour in most of the Brazilian southeast. This, at a time when most of the Northern Hemisphere, such as for example the United Kingdom, are putting their clocks back one hour and coming off summer time. Therefore, the time difference swing is two hours and not just one.

For example, when Brazil is on normal time and the UK is on summer time, the time difference between Rio and London will be four hours, but drops to just two hours when Brazil goes on summer time and the UK comes off.
Brazil will put its clocks forward one hour on 18 October to begin summer time. The clocks will go back one hour on 28 February 2004, the weekend after Carnival.

* Portuguese is the official language of the country.

* In the bigger cities with a good infrastructure for tourism, English and Spanish is spoken in hotels, travel agencies and airports.

* In the southern part of the country many Brazilians speak German or Italian, as a consequence of the colonialization..

Officially, Brazil is a Catholic country and claims the largest Catholic population of any country in the world. However, Brazil is also noted for the diversity and syncretism of its many sects and religions, which offer great flexibility to their followers. For example, without much difficulty you can find people with Catholic backgrounds who frequent the church and have no conflict appealing for help at a "terreio de umbanda", the house of one of the Afro-Brazilian cults. Candomblé is the most orthodox of the cults brought from Africa.

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