Brazil is the largest country in South America, occupying 8,515,770 square kilometers bordering the Atlantic Ocean on the East and all the countries in South America, except Ecuador and Chile, on its northern, western, and southern borders. It is the 5th largest country in the world, approximately the size of the 48 contiguous states in the USA.
About 208 million people live in Brazil. Almost half of the population is white, another 43 percent are mixed white and black, with the rest of the population made up of black, Asian, indigenous, or other mixed groups. While Portuguese is the official language, German, Italian, Japanese, Spanish, English, and several minor Amerindian languages are also spoken. Perhaps Brazil’s prominent population diversity contributes to the oft noted friendliness and openness of its people.
Brazil’s capital, Brasilia, is in the center of the country, the only large city not located on the coastal plains where most urban centers are found. Cities, such as Sao Paulo, with 21 million people, Rio de Janeiro, 13 million, Belo Horizonte, 6 million, Fortaleza, 4 million, and Recife, 4 million, account for about 85.7 percent of the country’s population.
The services sector makes up about 67% of Brazil’s economy, the eighth-largest in the world. The remaining 27.5% and 5.5% account for the industrial and agricultural sectors. The manufacture of automobiles, steel, petrochemicals, and aircraft are significant components of Brazil's industrial production. And while coffee is Brazil’s most important agricultural product, the country is also one of the world’s major producers of soybeans, wheat, rice, corn, sugarcane, and beef.
While the significant economic disparity in Brazil, principally between the urban and rural areas of the country, is of concern to social advocates, it must be noted that over the last decade, Brazil’s GINI coefficient has fallen to 50, a significant improvement over the 80's and 90's, when Brazil had one of the highest GINI coefficients in the world.
Even so, there is a substantial difference between the living conditions in the southern and coastal areas, where the largest cities are located, and the living standards of those living in the far North or Northeast. Significantly, the semi-arid region, that stretches across eight Northeastern states, known as the “semi-arido,” roughly the same area known as the Sertão, accounts for almost 60 percent of the country’s poverty. Because of the uneven and unpredictable rainfall, but mainly the disproportionate distribution of the land among its inhabitants, the Sertão is known for its “backward” or underdeveloped conditions. It is this region of Brazil where Promoting Hope is currently focusing its efforts.
58 Interesting Facts about Brazil