Where does the name ‘Brazil’ come from?
The word brasil means “red like an ember” from the Portuguese brazil wood tree with its orange-red heartwood used to make bows for stringed instruments. That’s cool.
Brazil is the largest country in South America, and the fifth largest nation in the world. It has borders with every South American country except Chile and Ecuador and is nice and tropical. Good for a tropical holiday!
It is most well-known for the Amazon, the world’s largest jungle. But besides this jungle is also has dry grasslands, called pampas, rugged hills, pine forests, sprawling wetlands, huge plateaus and a long coastal plain.
The Amazon is not one river but hundreds of different waterways that stretch over 4,250 miles (6,840 kilometers), making it the longest river on Earth. Thousands of species live in the river, including the infamous piranha and the pink river dolphin. Now that would be a site to see.
Brazil has the greatest variety of animals in the world with over 600 mammal species, 1,500 fish species, 1,600 bird species, and 100,000 different types of insects. Whoa…who knows what you’ll come across?
In the flat, swampy area, called Pantanal, the world’s largest wetland you could see live giant anacondas, huge guinea pig relatives called capybaras, and fierce alligators called caimans. They certainly have their fair share of interesting animals.
For centuries people have exploited the jungles of Brazil, but since Europeans arrived about five centuries ago, forest destruction is widespread. Most of Brazil’s Atlantic rain forest has gone, and huge tracts of the Amazon disappear every year. That’s so sad.
Southeastern Brazil was once covered with dense forest but now houses 43% of its population in industrial cities. Brazil’s population was 199.24 million between 2004 and 2014. In 1940 less than one-in-three Brazilians lived in cities and towns. Today more than 83% live in urban areas.
By 9000 BC communities lived in the Amazon region. By 1500AD Portugal claimed the region and then it became independent in 1822 and a Republic in 1889. By the 1970s the Trans-Amazon Highway encouraged settlement in the Amazon and native species became endangered. By 1992 the first International Earth Summit met to discuss ways to protect the environment.
Most Brazilians descend from Amerindians, European settlers (mainly from Portugal) and Africans. In the 19th century, waves of immigrants from Europe, the Middle East, and even Japan arrived, making the culture rich and diverse. There is no official religion but Brazil has the largest Catholic population in the world. Many Brazilians embrace blended religions combining elements of Catholicism, West African religions or Amerindian religions.
Brazil is known for its music, especially the samba, carnivals, literature, theatre and filmmaking. For centuries music and dance were the central point to indigenous religious ceremonies, but today it is African rhythms and influences that are seen more.
Brazilians love soccer and produce some of the best players like Pelé and Ronaldo. They’ve won the World Cup soccer finals five times and they hosted it in 2014. The mixture of martial arts and dance called capoeira is uniquely Brazilian and regarded as a sport.
For years and years fishermen in south east Brazil have used dolphins to herd fish towards their waiting nets, even flicking their heads to show that the trap is ready. It’s been going on for so long, but only recently other people found out about it.