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BRASIL » Fact File
Name: Federative Republic of Brazil
The country was named after an ember-coloured wood, the pau-brasil, nowadays hardly found. Discovered in the year 1500, Brazil was "born" in Bahia. Its baptism took place at the beach of Porto Seguro [Safe Port], so named by the Portuguese Captain Pedro Álvares Cabral. The early navigators were fascinated by the exuberant wildlife and the Indians’ beauty - the original inhabitants. Originally colonised along the coastline, Brazil started to move eastwards in the 17th century. When gold was discovered, in the 18th century, the then continental territory consolidated around Minas Gerais. As of 1763, Rio de Janeiro became the country’s capital. By the end of the 19th century, in 1889 to be precise, what was then an Empire was turned into a Federate Republic. In l961 the capital was transferred to Brasília, in the country’s very Central Plateau, geodesic central point of what is certain to become, in the future, the tropical landmark of a unique civilisation.
A planned city built in 2,000 days, Brasilia was inaugurated on April 21, 1960 and stands out as a world landmark in modern architecture. Brasilia is the outcome of a long-lived dream. Back in 1823 its name was submitted to the General Constituency Assembly of the Empire which was considering moving the capital to the inlands. It is also said that its creation was inspired by the prophecy of a saint, who in 1883 revealed that a new civilization would emerge in the center of Brazil, somewhere between the 15th and 20th parallels.
National language: Portuguese
Portuguese is the single official language of Brazil, which is the only Portuguese speaking country in Latin America. Spanish, and to a much lesser extent English, will help you get around.
Area: 3,286,470 sq. miles
Brazil is by far the largest country in Latin America. Its total area is larger than the contiguous 48 American States. Brazil's territory accounts for about 21% of all the Americas and 47.7% of South America.
Geographical location: South America
Brazil is located between parallels 5° 16' 20" north latitude and 33° 44' 32" south latitude, and between meridiens 34° 47' 30" and 73° 59' 32 west of Greenwich. The Equator cuts through the Northern region of Brazil. Most of the country (90%) lies between the Equator and the Tropic of Capricorn. Brazil shares its borders 10 South American countries: to the South, Uruguay and Argentina; to the West, Paraguay, Bolivia, and Peru; to the North, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Surinam, and French Guyana. Ecuador and Chile are the only two South American countries that shore no borders with Brazil. To the East the Atlantic Ocean extends along 4,578 miles of coast.
Prominent features :
• 78.03% of the land stands below 500 meters; only 0.54% surpasses 1,200 meters; the Pico da Neblina ("Fog Peak"), close to the border with Venezuela, is Brazil's highest mountain with 9,888 feet.
• a vast river network with 31,042 miles of navigable waterways, including the Amazon Basin which is the largest river system in the world.
• the Amazonian Plain: a lowland basin with 1,544,400 sq. miles
• the Central Highlands: a plateau with altitudes varying from 984 feet to 1,640 feet
• the Coastal Escarpment: a network of high mountain ranges between the narrow coastal and the inlands
Because of its geographical location, seasons in Brazil are in the reverse period of the year compared to the United States (spring - September 22 to December 21; summer - December 22 to March 21; autumn - March 22 to June 21; winter - June 22 to September 21). Because of its geographical location, the Brazilian climate is predominantly tropical. Equatorial climate dominates the Northern region of Brazil, while the Southern region's climate is temperate and subtropical. Altitude, coastal influence or, inversely, continentality, as well as air masses account for subclimatic variations. Plateau cities such as São Paulo, Belo Horizonte, and Brasília have mild climates averaging 66ºF. Coastal cities such as Rio de Janeiro and Salvador have tropical climates with warm temperatures offset by the constant sea breeze; the average temperature is in the eighties. While most of the country experiences no significant seasonal variation because it lies within the tropics, in the Southern region temperatures during winter can drop below freezing. Temperatures in the Amazon region ranges in the mid-seventies, while rainfalls total more than 118 inches a year.
Population: (over) 180 million inhabitants
Current population is over 180 million. Inhabitants are distributed among the 26 states forming Brazil’s five great regions (Northern, North-Western, Mid-west, Southern and South-Eastern). The most crowded city is São Paulo, where some 10 million people live. Rio de Janeiro, the second largest city, has approximately six million inhabitants. Brasília, the Federal Capital, a Heritage of Mankind, is inhabited by over 1.6 million citizens. By regions, Brazil’s population is distributed as follows: in the South-East there are over 64 million inhabitants; in the North-East, over 44 million; in the North, over 12 million; in the South, over 24 million, and in the Mid-west, over 14 million. From the overall amount, around 79 million are female. Men represent over 76 million. As to age, the largest contingent is formed by children aged between five and nine, estimated to be some 17 million by the end of this year. Statistics for the year 2000 foresee the largest age group as belonging to the 15 and 19 years olds, who will total over 17 million people.
Made up of 26 States and the Federal Capital, Brasília, Brazil is a democratic Federal Republic. The political system is supported by an institutional tripod, which comprises the Executive, the Legislative and the Judicial Powers. The President of the Republic is elected for a 4-year term, and, as yet, is not eligible for re-election. Among his powers, is that to veto decisions made by the Congress. The Legislative branch, represented by a two-chamber Congress which houses the Federal Senate and the House of Federal Deputies. The states are independent, and their highest dignitaries, the governors, are elected every four years. The Judicial Power is made up of the Supreme Court, the Superior Justice Court, the Regional Courts, Labor Courts, Electoral Courts, Military Courts and State-level Courts.
Created in 1994, the Plan of the Real gave birth to Brazil’s present monetary unit: the Real (R$). The currency value is controlled by the Central Bank. R$ 1.00 is roughly around US$ 2.80. Bills exist with the following values: 1, 5, 10, 50 and 100 Reals. Coins are available for 1 Real, 1, 5, 10, 25 and 50 cents.
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Brasil: Carnaval do Rio deJaneiro
Brasil: Carnaval da Bahia
Brasil: Carnaval de Sao Paulo 2011
The world famous festival takes place throughout Brazil. A traditional pre-Lenten celebration which ends on Ash Wednesday, it is a moveable feast that is tied to the religious Calendar. Carnival activities around Brazil normally take place from the Friday prior to Ash Wednesday and continue up to and including Ash Wednesday itself. In some cities the celebrations will spill over through the entire week and include the following weekend. Most Brazilian offices and business will close for the week of Carnival in much the same way companies in many parts of the world close between Christmas and the New Year. One of the traditional highlights of carnival in Rio de Janeiro is the parade of the top samba schools which take place on the Sunday and Monday nights of carnival along the purpose built Passarela do Samba (Sambódromo), located on Avenida Marques de Sapucaí, close to the city centre. The winners’ parade, featuring the top samba schools from all the divisions, take place on the following Saturday.