History of Brazil
Following more than three centuries under Portuguese rule, Brazil gained its independence in 1822, maintaining a monarchical system of government until the abolition of slavery in 1888 and the subsequent proclamation of a republic by the military in 1889. Brazilian coffee exporters politically dominated the country until populist leader Getulio Vargas rose to power in 1930.
By far the largest and most populous country in South America, Brazil underwent more than half a century of populist and military government until 1985, when the military regime peacefully ceded power to civilian rulers.
Brazil continues to pursue industrial and agricultural growth and development of its interior. Exploiting vast natural resources and a large labor pool, it is today South America’s leading economic power and a regional leader, one of the first in the area to begin an economic recovery. Highly unequal income distribution and crime remain pressing problems.
In January 2010, Brazil assumed a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council for the 2010-11 term.
Location: Eastern South America, bordering the Atlantic Ocean.
Area: 3,287,612 square miles (8,514,877 square kilometers)
Population: 201,009,622 (July 2013 est.)
Geography: Mostly flat to rolling lowlands in north; some plains, hills, mountains, and narrow coastal belt. The largest country in South America, Brazil shares common boundaries with every South American country except Chile and Ecuador.
Climate: Mostly tropical, but temperate in south.
Government: Federal republic
Head of State & Government: President Dilma Rousseff (since 1 January 2011);
Language: Portuguese (official and most widely spoken language). Less common languages include Spanish (border areas and schools), German, Italian, Japanese, English, and a large number of minor Amerindian languages.
Religion: Roman Catholic (nominal) 73.6%, Protestant 15.4%, Spiritualist 1.3%, Bantu/voodoo 0.3%, other 1.8%, unspecified 0.2%, none 7.4% (2000 census)
Time Zone: UTC-3 (2 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time).
Note: Brazil is divided into three time zones, including one for the Fernando de Noronha Island.
Electricity: Brazil is one of the few countries that uses both 110 and 220 volts for household current, depending on where you are. The voltage can be different from one area to the next, even within the same state. Generally speaking though, the Northeast will be mostly 220 volts, while the 110-volt service is mainly in the south.
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