In Eastern South America, bordering the Atlantic Ocean and every South American country except Chile and Ecuador is the largest country on the continent – Brazil (map 1). It is the fifth biggest country in the world with a total area of 8,511,965 sq km. The coastline of Brazil is 7,491 km. The terrain is mostly flat to rolling lowlands in the north and towards the east there are some plains, hills, mountains and a narrow coastal belt. The climate is mainly tropical but temperate in the south.
Brazil is rich in natural resources. The Amazon basin, which traverses the country, is the area with the largest concentration of fresh water in the world. The country has bauxite, gold, iron, manganese, nickel, phosphates, platinum, tin, uranium, petroleum, hydropower and timber. The principal crops are coffee, fruit trees, maize, beans and sugar.
The total population in Brazil is 182,032,604 with an estimated growth rate of 1.15% for 2003. The birth rate is 17.67 births per 1000 population and the death rate is 6.13 per 1000 population. The migration rate is 0.03 migrants per 1000 population.
The biggest ethnic group is white – 55% of the population. They are mainly of Portuguese, German, Italian, Spanish and Polish origin. 38% are mixed white and black, 6% are black and 1% is of Japanese, Arab, Amerindian and other origins.
Roman Catholicism is the nominal religion and the languages are Portuguese, which is the official language, and Spanish, English and French. Brasilia is the capital of the Federal Republic of Brazil. The five regions of the country are North, Northeast, Southeast, East and West Central. The republic is divided into 26 administrative states and one federal district. President Luiz Inacio Zula Da Silva is the chief of state and head of government. He appoints the Cabinet.
After three centuries under the rule of Portugal, in 1822 Brazil became an independent nation. Now Brazil is the leading economic power and a regional leader of South America. It is widely using its natural resources and large labour pool. The agricultural, mining, manufacturing and service sectors are large and well developed in the country. The Gross Domestic Product composition by sector is 8% in agriculture, 36% in industry and 56% in services. The Purchasing Power Parity per capita is US$7,600.
Brazil exports transport equipment, iron ore, soybeans, footwear, coffee and automobiles. The import commodities are mainly machinery, electrical and transport equipment, chemical products and oil.
The currency in the Federal Republic is the Brazilian Real.
Although it is the largest and most populous country in South America, the people are not spread out equally in all the area of Brazil. As shown on map 2, the biggest part lives along the coastline. The most dense areas, with more than 100 people per sq km, are the biggest cities and states on the sea-coast, such as Sao Luis and Fortaleza, Natal, Recife and Salvador in the Northeast region; Vitoria, Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paolo and Belo Horizonte in the Southeast and Curitiba and Porto Alegre in the South region. The newly-built Capital Brasilia in the Centre-West region is also densely populated.
The vast area around the Amazon basin is the most sparsely populated with less than one person per sq km. Most of the people live in Belem, Macapa and Manaus, along the river where there are 10 to 49 people per sq km.
Population density of 1 to 9 people per sq km is seen in most of the Central-West, most of the North-East, going towards the interior and along the Amazon River in the North regions.
There are many factors affecting the population distribution in a country. The reasons for this in Brazil are historic and colonial, physical landscape and environment, economy, farming and industry, society and culture and political decisions. The pattern seen in the population density map of Brazil can be explained using those factors and the relation between them.
The first European settlers in these lands were the Portuguese who, led by the adventurous Pedro Cabral in 1500 began the colonial period. They found about 7 million native Indians who had limited agriculture and temporary dwellings. The Portuguese were not focused on conquering, controlling and developing the country. These mainly impoverished sailors were far more interested in profitable trade and subsistence agriculture. That is why the country’s interior remained unexplored whereas the coasts saw the establishment of many cities such as Salvador and Sao Paolo. The colonists started capturing and selling slaves. They discovered that the land and the climate along the coast were ideal for growing sugar cane. In the mid-1600s, men from Sao Paolo, usually born of Indian mothers in the interior, reached the peaks of the Peruvian Andes and secured the huge interior of South America for Portuguese Brazil.
During the 17th century the importation of African slaves started. They replaced the Indians on the plantations.
In the 1690s gold was discovered in the South-Central part and the movement of people from the coastal regions to the interior began. Many immigrants from Europe also arrived. This led to a demand for farmers to supply mining centres.
The invasion of Dutch and French armies in the North-East lasted throughout the 18h century.
In 1807, Napoleon’s army marched on Lisbon and soon he made Rio de Janeiro the capital and the Portuguese government was transferred there.
In the 19th century, coffee took the place of sugar as Brazil’s most important product. Its production brought a wave of almost a million European immigrants, mostly Italian.
Brazil is divided into three regions, based on broadly similar features. They are the North, Central-West, North-East, South-East and Southern Regions (map 4).
The North region is largely covered by lush, tropical rainforests. It is situated mostly within the Amazon basin where the Amazon River and the other rivers in the area form the place with the largest concentration of fresh water in the world.
The annual average temperature is 22ï¿½C to 26ï¿½C with very small seasonal variation. The most intense rain falls near upper Amazonia and Belem.
In any given square mile of Amazonia, up to 3000 species of plant life can be found, which makes it difficult to for people to live and even penetrate into the rain forest.
A region with sparse population is the Central-West. It is covered with extensive savannas and tropical grasslands. The landscapes are mainly hills and rivers. Well-distributed rainfall is seen in this area. Here is the Mato Grosso swampland which is the wildlife paradise.
The North-East region contains nearly 30% of Brazil’s population. The west stretches are chronically subject to drought. They are also called the polygon of drought. The inconsistent rainfall with its very high evaporation rate is due to the fact that this place below the equator is the hottest part of Brazil at 38ï¿½C. The mountains along the coastal area trigger rainfall from the Trade Winds. In the South of Salvador the lands are drier because the rain falls in the mountains. The predominant vegetation in the semi-arid North-East is a dry bush called the coatinga. This region sees a greater seasonal variation than in the North region.
About 44% of Brazil’s population lives in the South-East region. It is composed of two highlands: the Atlantic Plateau and the Meridianal Plateau with mountain regions.
This area, rich in minerals and natural resources, has the most advanced agriculture in the country. It has the second largest reserve of iron in Brazil. Calcium, zinc, gold and mineral water are also seen. Important production of cotton, soy, orange, coffee, banana, maize, potatoes and tomatoes is seen in Sï¿½o Paulo – the commercial centre of the country.
The South-East has mild climates averaging 19ï¿½C in the Plateau cities of Sï¿½o Paulo, Brasilia and Belo Horizonte. On the coast, Rio de Janeiro has warm climate, balanced by the constancy of the Trade Winds, normally 23ï¿½C to 27ï¿½C. Sao Paulo also sees heavy rainfall. This region has very nutritious soil.
Below the tropic of Capricorn is the South Region. It has a warm, temperate climate but on the coast distinct cooler seasons can produce frosts. The area is often affected by invasions of cold air from the Antarctic, but in summer the temperatures can rise to levels similar to the tropical regions. Towards the south, the Plateau drops to the wide plains called pampas. The South is home to one of the most beautiful natural wonders of the world – the Iguacu Falls. Here, on the Parana River is the largest hydroelectric dam in the world – Itaipu.
90% of the country is within the tropical zone, where 60% of the population lives on plateaus and mountains, along the coastline where the seas winds and polar front moderate the temperature. Mild climate averaging 19ï¿½C are seen in the Plateau cities such as Sï¿½o Paulo, Brazilia and Belo Horizonte. The Trade Winds balance constantly the warm climates of Rio de Janeiro, Recife and Salvador. Temperatures fall below freezing in the subtropical climate of southern Brazilian cities of Porto Alegre and Curitiba. Map 6 shows the average temperature in January. The summer lasts from December to February. The temperatures are over 30ï¿½C. The south is hot and humid. The North-East is drier with fresh tropical breezes.
The average temperature in July is shown in map 7. The winter season in Brazil lasts from June to August. In winter, only the southern states fall below 20C. The rest of the country has moderate temperatures.
The most intense rainfall is found around the mouth of the Amazon River (map 8). Belem is one of the wettest cities in the world. Another important region of heavy rainfall is the state of Sï¿½o Paulo, along the edge of the GrSeat Escarpment.
The undependable rainfall in the “Polygon of Drought” is a reason for the very high evaporation rate in the North-East. This makes it difficult to grow crops.
Along the coastline, near Recife, Sï¿½o Paulo and Brazilia are spread the arable lands which are suitable for growing crops. These places are very densely populated.
Coffee, cocoa, soybeans, sugarcane, wheat, rice, corn, citrus, beet and tobacco are the main agricultural products of Brazil. They are mainly exported to other countries, such as the US, Argentina, Germany, Netherlands and Japan.
Huge coffee plantations on the Southern coast were planted in the age of exploration in Brazil, around 1640-1650. Tobacco is raised in the Southern region. Map 9 clearly shows the arable lands spread along the coastline. Moving towards the interior, we can see that cattle are raised there. In the South-East, the three cities of Belo Horizonte, Rio de Janeiro and Sï¿½o Paulo form the biggest industrial area of Brazil called the “Industrial Triangle”. This supports almost all the industry of Brazil, resulting in population decrease elsewhere in this region.
Brazil’s main industries are textiles, shoes, cement, lumber, iron ore, tin, steel, aircraft, motor vehicles and parts, and other machinery and equipment. The development of technology in the country is poor there is a need to import many types of machinery and equipment. The country also imports chemicals, oil and electricity. The import partners of Brazil are he US, followed by Argentina and Germany.
Map 10 shows the areas with woods and forests where lands are most arable. Therefore these places are more sparsely populated because the industry is poor.
The population in Brazil since 1500 to 1900 has increased slowly from 5 to 17 million. After this it started to grow rapidly and in 1950 it was 50 million. Only 30 years later the number of people doubled and now, in 2003, it reached 172 million people.
In 1950, 37% of the population was living in towns and 66% in the countryside. The trends continued and in 1991, 70% were living in the towns and 30% in the countryside.
Back in the 16th century the Portuguese came and settled mostly along the east. The indigenous population lived in the forests in the North-West and along the rivers. In 1870 half of the population lived in the North along the fertile “Zona de Mata” where the sugar cane was planted.
The Royal Family of Brazil set up the court in Rio de Janeiro which allowed the immigrants to come. Many poor Europeans came to work in the coffee plantations. During the period between 1884 and 1973, 1.5 million Italians settled in Sï¿½o Paulo, 0.5 million Spanish came into the country and 0.2 million Germans set up their own farms in the South (South Cadomina, Rio Grande du Sul).
When the “gold rush” began in 1690, men from the North settled along the Amazon River with their families. This became the city of Manaus.
The main religion in Brazil is Catholicism. The influence of the Church on population rates is modest. The wealthier families have less children when it suits them and the rural poor have large families either because they want them or through lack of access to effective family planning.
In 1959, the president Juscelino Kubitschek established the Sudene in Brazil. This is the Superintendence for the Development of the Northeast. During military dictatorship the Sudene was continued by President Costa de Silva. He promoted industry in this region. The proportion of industry growth was: in 1960- 12% and in 1976- 30%. Now the president Lula de Silvera announced the reestablishment of Sudene (map 11).
Since 1960, Brasilia is the capital city of Brazil. It was built for a period of only 4 years, starting 1956 by President Juscelino Kubitschek. It was an inaugurated as Brazil’s capital in 1960. Lucio Costa won the national contest for design of the city, with a proposal for an aeroplane design. The master plan was for only 500 000 inhabitants but the population has seen its grow much higher than expected. That is why several satellite towns were created for the extra people. The population of Brazil is now 2 million people.
Built to reduce inequalities and develop inlands, Brasilia has all of the federal government buildings. It firmly established itself as a capital city during military dictatorship.
The population density of Brazil is mainly a consequence of the physical factors. The history, the economy and especially the farming and industry are all dependent on the geography, climate and soils which allow growing crops. The industry of a country forms in paces rich in minerals and natural resources. People tend to live near the mines and farms, so they can work and then sell and export their products.
The first settlers on the Brazilian land used its soils to grow coffee and sugar cane. Later when they discovered gold in the area more immigrants came for the “gold rush”. The tropical rain forests along the Amazon basin are hard to penetrate in. industry cannot be raised in these places.
These examples show that the physical factors are very important for the population distribution throughout the country. They are not the only important factors, but without them the others could not happen.