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The history & society of Brazil

Early history of Brazil

Portuguese explorer Pedro Alvares Cabrel set sail for India in 1500 but instead came across Brazil.  He recognized the potential of the land and climate and for the next three centuries Brazil became the center of the Atlantic sugarcane and slave trade, utilising the 2 to 6 million indigenous Indians for labor.

African slaves descended on Brazil in the 16th and 17th centuries, and the offspring of African/Portuguese descent resulted in the infusion of African flavor and taste in the culture.

Brazil became independent from Portugal in 1822 without any bloodshed (Portugal were too weak to protest).  The ruler of the time (Pedro II) was a reformer, responsible for the abolishment of slavery in 1887, among other things.  However unrest amongst planters, the military and republicans resulted in a military coup in 1889 and Brazil became a republic.  The powerful coffee aristocracy supported military rule and coffee became the main exported product.

Republic of Brazil
Order and progress was the name of the game for the republic of Brazil.  The new republic gave rise to the Rubber boom in the Amazon rainforest, which lasted through until 1912 when thousands of saplings were smuggled out of the country, and rubber became a lot cheaper.

The capital was moved to Brasilia and the city was built in only three years.  Yet by the 1960s the economy was battered by inflation, due to the high costs of building the city.  The fragile democracy was overthrown by a second coup in 1964 and the economy went from strength to strength, averaging 10 percent growth rate every year between 1968 and 1973.  The military handed power back to a civilian government in 1985 with an economy that ranked 10th in the world.

Brazil's recent history
Fernando Collor came to power in 1989 but was indicted for charges of corruption in 1992.  His successor Itamar Franco, introduced the new currency, the real, and this stabilised the economy.  Work was done to decrease the divide between rich and poor - education, police officers and street lighting.

Culture and society of Brazil

Brazil is a melting pot of cultures encompassing indigenous people, descendants of African slaves and the offspring of European immigrants.  The first 500 or so immigrants from Japan arrived in Brazil in 1908, to be followed by another quarter of a million over the next sixty years. It is a little-known fact that today Brazil contains the largest number of people of Japanese ancestry outside Japan, most of whom live in São Paulo state or the south of the country.

This variety of inhabitants is reflected in the architecture, music, food and culture of Brazil, making the country an unforgettable place to visit.

While there’s no official religion in Brazil, most of the population are Roman Catholic.  Protestantism, Judaism and Evangelism.  Afro-Brazilian religions such as Macumba, Candomble and Umbanda also exist in Brazil.

*The Small Print
We’ve tried to make this destination guide as accurate as possible but please double check the essentials like visas, health and safety, airport information etc with the relevant authorities before you travel.  STA Travel takes no responsibility for loss, injury or inconvenience caused as a result of this guide.  All prices listed are in the currency of the destination, unless otherwise stated.

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