Brazil, also known by its formal names Federative Republic of Brazil and Repblica Federatival do Brasil, is a South American nation that makes up half of the continent's landmass. Despite having a larger area than the 48 contiguous states of the United States, it is the fifth-largest country in the world, behind only Russia, Canada, China, and the United States. With the exception of Chile and Ecuador, Brazil shares more than 9,750 miles (15,700 km) of inland borders with all other South American nations, including Uruguay to the south, Argentina, Paraguay, and Bolivia to the southwest, Peru to the west, Colombia to the northwest, and Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana to the north.
Brazil faces the Atlantic Ocean along its 4,600 miles (7,400 km) of coastline. Brazil is a large, irregular triangle that is around 2,700 miles (4,350 km) long from north to south and 4,350 km from east to west. It is home to a variety of tropical and subtropical environments, including wetlands, savannas, plateaus, and low mountains. The majority of the Amazon River basin, which possesses the largest river system and most intact rainforest in the entire planet, is located in Brazil. There are no desert, High Mountain, or arctic conditions in the nation.
Brazil has one-third of all people living in Latin America, making it the fifth most populous nation on the planet. Though its capital, Brasilia, is located further inland and more migrants are migrating there, the majority of Brazil's population is centered on the country's eastern seaboard. Many people around the world still view Rio de Janeiro as being the ultimate representation of Brazil. The country has one of the largest economies in the world thanks to its expanding cities, massive hydroelectric and industrial complexes, mines, and productive farmlands. But Brazil faces many challenges, including severe social inequality, deteriorating environmental conditions, sporadic financial crises, and even paralyzing political gridlock.
Brazil is exceptional in the Americas because, unlike British and Spanish territories in the area, it did not split apart after gaining independence from Portugal, maintaining its identity throughout the centuries and under numerous kinds of administration. Due to this hegemony, everyone speaks Portuguese except for the Indians of Brazil, particularly those who live in the more isolated regions of the Amazon basin. Brazilians celebrated the 500th anniversary of Portuguese contact at the beginning of the twenty-first century with a mix of public jubilation and mockery.
The Brazilian landscape is vast and intricate, with rivers, marshes, mountains, and plateaus that scatters the border and other prominent features. The states of Brazil have been divided into five significant geographic and statistical units known as the Major Regions (Grandes Regies):
North (Norte), Northeast (Nordeste), Central-West (Centro-Oeste), Southeast (Sudeste), and South (Sul). More than two-fifths of Brazilian territory is comprised of the tropical North, which includes the states of Acre, Rondônia, Amazonas, Pará, Tocantins, Roraima, and Amapá. The region contains the largest portion of the Amazon rainforest as well as parts of the Guiana and Brazilian highlands, but only makes up a small portion of the country's population and economic output.
Nearly one-fifth of Brazil's land area and more than one-fourth of its people are concentrated in the Northeast, which features some of the country's driest and warmest weather. The states of Maranho, Piau, Ceará, and Rio Grande do Norte, Paraba, Alagoas, Sergipe, Bahia, and Pernambuco are all included in it. Pernambuco also includes the island of Fernando de Noronha, which is located about 225 miles (360 km) off the coast of Brazil. The Portuguese originally created sugarcane plantations in the area in the 16th century, when they also built the oldest cities in the area.
One-fifth of the country's agricultural production is produced in the Northeast, but its industrial and service sectors are far behind those of the Southeast and South, and its unemployment rate is still high. Only 10% of Brazil's land is covered by the Southeast, which is also home to the majority of the country's industrial and agricultural activity. The region contains the populous coastal states of Esprito Santo and Rio de Janeiro as well as the landlocked Minas Gerais, which is known for its extensive mines and serves as the country's economic and population center.
Rio de Janeiro, which served as Brazil's capital from 1763 to 1960, is still the country's primary tourist and cultural hub. The states of Paraná, Santa Catarina, and Rio Grande do Sul are located in the region of the South that extends below the Tropic of Capricorn. Although it is the smallest region in Brazil, it covers a space that is almost as vast as the Isle of Britain. Strong manufacturing, agricultural, and service sectors make up its diverse economy. Approximately one-seventh of the country's population lives in the South, including a sizable population with European origin, especially from Germany and Italy.
The breathtaking Iguaçu Falls, which are located near the Argentine border, are a major source of tourism for the South. Goiás, Mato Grosso, and Mato Grosso do Sul, as well as the Federal District, which includes Brasilia, are included in the Central-West. The area, which includes forested valleys, semiarid mountains, and extensive marshes, makes up around one-fourth of Brazil. Although only a small fraction of the country's population resides there, more people are entering the area and expanding its agricultural horizons.
• Brazil is primarily a tropical country known for its vast Amazon lowlands, nonetheless, highlands make up the majority of the country's landmass. The Guiana Highlands in the North, the Amazon lowlands, the Pantanal in the Central-West, the Brazilian Highlands (including the broad coastal ranges), and the coastal lowlands can be used to categorize Brazil's physical features.
Highlands of Guyana
• The rough Guiana Highlands are shared by Brazil, Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana. The region is known for its forested mesas, mountain ranges, beautiful waterfalls, and white-water rivers. Neblina Peak, located in the Serra do Imeri and rising to a height of 9,888 feet (3,014 meters), is the highest peak in Brazil. Further east, near Mount Roraima, where the borders of Brazil, Guyana, and Venezuela converge, the Serra da Pacaraima rises to a height of 9,094 feet (2,772 meters). The Guianas are bordered by the less rugged Acara and Tumuc-Humac (Tumucumaque) mountains.
• The eastern base of the Andes is where the Amazon lowlands are the widest. The Brazilian Highlands to the south and the Guiana Highlands to the north are only divided by a thin band of annually flooded plains (várzeas) downstream of Manaus. As the watercourse gets closer to the Atlantic, the várzeas spread out once more, but there is no delta that extends into the water.
• The terra firme ("solid ground") hills, which are made of layers of alluvial soil that were deposited as much as 2.5 million years ago and then raised to positions above flood level, are the most prevalent topographical characteristics of the basin. The area is filled with wetlands and shallow oxbow lakes.
• It is one of the largest freshwater wetlands in the world, covering about 54,000 square miles, and is located in the states of Mato Grosso do Sul and southern Mato Grosso, as well as, to a lesser extent, northern Paraguay and eastern Bolivia. The vast Pantanal is a region of swamps and marshes that is an extension of the Gran Chaco plain (140,000 square km). The upper Paraguay River's effluents, which overflow during the rainy season and submerge all but the tops of sporadic levees and low hills, sever the Pantanal.
• Brazil is drained by several important river systems, including the Tocantins-Araguaia in the north, the Paraguay-Paraná-Plata in the south, and the So Francisco in the east and northeast, in addition to the Amazon River, the centerpiece of the largest river system in the world. The interior of Brazil has a large number of minor rivers and streams that flow directly east to the Atlantic, although the majority are short, have severe grades, and are neither dammed for hydroelectric facilities nor suited for waterborne trade. The Paranaba, which runs between the states of Piau and Maranho, and the Jacu in Rio Grande do Sul are the more navigable of this collection of rivers.
• A place in the Peruvian Andes, just 100 miles (160 km) from the Pacific Ocean, is where the Amazon River starts. From there, the river meanders 4,000 miles (6,400 km) to the Atlantic. It contributes up to one-fifth of all surface runoff from the continents into the ocean there. The Juruá, Purus, Madeira, Tapajós, and Xingu rivers are among the river's major tributaries. The Amazon River's yearly flow to the Atlantic is more than 10 times greater than that of the Mississippi River thanks to six tributaries that are longer than 1,000 miles (1,600 km) and several of which transport more water than the Mississippi River.
• Larger ships can travel upstream to Manaus, and smaller craft can travel to Iquitos in eastern Peru, which is about 2,300 miles (3,700 km) from the ocean. However, shipping on the Amazonian tributaries is restricted since none of the main effluents have been used to generate hydroelectric power, all of them are blocked by falls and rapids as they descend from the highlands.
• Second in size among Brazil's major river systems, the Paraguay-Paraná-Plata also drains a sizable portion of Bolivia, Paraguay, Argentina, and Uruguay. The Paraguay and Paraná rivers (or Alto Paraná, as it is sometimes referred to before the two rivers unite) make up the two sections of the system in Brazil, which rises in the highlands of the states of Mato Grosso, Goiás, and Minas Gerais. The Paraguay River's upper portions, which are part of the border between Brazil and Paraguay, pass through the Pantanal.
• The Paranaba (not to be confused with the Paranaba of the Northeast), Grande, Tietê, and Paranapanema are only a few of the tributaries that the Alto Paraná gathers from southeast Brazil. The Paraná proper, which eventually flows into the sea through the Ro de la Plata estuary, is created by the union of the Alto Paraná and Paraguay rivers southwest of Brazil, near the Argentina-Paraguay border. The Uruguay River, which empties into the Rio de la Plata, serves as the drainage system for the two most southern states of Brazil.
• These Brazilian rivers were only briefly navigable before being dredged in the 1990s. The Iguaçu, Paranapanema, Tietê, and Grande are just a few of the many rivers of the system where Brazilians have constructed hydroelectric complexes and reservoirs. The Goiás and Mato Grosso state highlands are the source of the Tocantins-Araguaia river system, which empties into the Pará River just south of the Amazon delta. Although it is commonly thought of as an Amazon tributary, the Tocantins is actually a different drainage system that covers over a tenth of Brazil's entire country, approximately 314,200 square miles (813,700 square kilometres).
• The enormous Bananal Island is created when the Araguaia River's middle course briefly splits into western and eastern branches in a wetland about 220 miles (350 km) northwest of Brasilia. The Araguaia travels another 600 miles north before joining the Tocantins (1,000 km). The Tucuru Dam was constructed on the lower Tocantins in the middle of the 1980s to provide hydroelectric electricity for much of Pará and Maranho as well as the surrounding Carajás mining complex and for a distance of around 120 miles (200 km) southwest of Belém.
• More over 249,000 square miles (645,000 square km) in eastern Brazil are covered by the So Francisco River basin. The river springs in the western Minas Gerais and southern Goiás mountains and travels more than 1,600 km (1,600 mi) north before turning east to reach the Atlantic. At the eastern end of the Sobradinho Reservoir, shallow-draft riverboats travel the waterways between Pirapora in Minas Gerais and Juzeiro in Bahia. Near the Paulo Afonso Falls and in Juzeiro, hydroelectric facilities use the river's energy. For oceangoing ships, only the waterway below the falls is navigable.