Population: 198,739,269 (2009 estimate)
Official Name: Federative Republic of Brazil
Important Cities: São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Salvador
Area: 3,287,612 square miles (8,514,877 sq km)
Coastline: 4,655 miles (7,491 km)
Highest Point: Pico da Neblina 9,888 feet (3,014 m)
Brazil is the largest country in South America and covers nearly half (47%) of the South American continent. It is currently the fifth largest economy in the world, is home to the Amazon Rainforest and is a popular location for tourism. Brazil is also rich in natural resources and active in world issues such as climate change, giving it significance on a worldwide scale.
The following is a list of the fifteen most important things to know about Brazil:
1) Brazil was given to Portugal as part of the Treaty of Tordesillas in 1494 and the first person to officially claim Brazil for Portugal was Pedro Álvares Cabral.
2) The official language of Brazil is Portuguese; however, there are more than 180 native languages spoken in the country. It is also important to note that Brazil is the only country in South America whose dominant language and culture comes from Portugal.
3) The name Brazil comes from an Amerindian word Brasil, which describes a dark rosewood type common in the country. At a time, the wood was Brazil's main export and thus gave the country its name. Since 1968 however, the export of Brazilian rosewood has been banned.
4) Brazil has 13 cities with over one million residents.
5) Brazil's literacy rate is 86.4% which is the lowest of all South American countries. It falls just behind Bolivia and Peru at 87.2% and 87.7%, respectively.
6) Brazil is a diverse country with ethnic groups including: 54% European, 39% mixed European-African, 6% Africa, 1% other.
7) Today, Brazil has one of the largest economies in the Americas and is the largest in South America.
8) Brazil's most common agricultural exports today are coffee, soybeans, wheat, rice, corn, sugarcane, cocoa, citrus and beef.
9) Brazil has a plethora of natural resources which include: iron ore, tin, aluminum, gold, phosphate, platinum, uranium, manganese, copper and coal.
10) After the end of the Brazilian Empire in 1889, it was determined that the country would have a new capital and shortly thereafter, the site of present-day Brasilia was chosen in an effort to promote development there. Growth did not occur until 1956 and Brasilia did not officially replace Rio de Janeiro as Brazil's capital until 1960.
11) One of the most famous mountains in the world is the Corcovado located in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It is known worldwide for its 98 foot (30 m) high statue of the city's emblem, Christ the Redeemer, which has been on its summit since 1931.
12) Brazil's climate is considered mainly tropical, but it is temperate in the south.
13) Brazil is considered one of the most biodiverse places in the world because its rainforests are home to more than 1,000 bird species, 3,000 fish species and many mammals and reptiles such as alligators, freshwater dolphins and manatees.
14) The rainforests in Brazil are being cut at a rate of up to four percent per year due to logging, ranching and slash and burn agriculture. Pollution of the Amazon River and its tributaries is also a threat to the rainforests.
15) The Rio Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro is one of the most famous attractions in Brazil. It attracts thousands of tourists yearly, but it is also a tradition for Brazilians who often spend the year prior to the Carnaval preparing for it.
To learn more about Brazil, read the Geography of Brazil on this site and to see photos of Brazil visit the Images of Brazil page on South America Travel at About.com.
Central Intelligence Agency. (2010, April 1). CIA - The World Factbook -- Brazil. Retrieved from: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/br.html
Infoplease.com. (n.d.). Brazil: History, Geography, Government, and Culture - Infoplease.com. Retrieved from: http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0107357.html
United States Department of State. (2010, February). Brazil (02/10). Retrieved from: http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/35640.htm
Wikipedia. (2010, April 22). Brazil - Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brazil