- Currency = Real (R$) 1 USD = 3.85 Real
- Population = 202,656,788
- Area = 3,287,957 sq. miles
- Capital = Brasilia
- Language = Portuguese
- Brazil is the largest country in South America.
The Federative Republic of Brazil is continental South America’s largest country having borders with every other South American nation except Chile and Ecuador. As Brazil is based on relatively stable continental crust, much of the country is below 500 metres (1,700 feet) and there is little or no volcanic or seismic activity. There are three key elements to the physical geography of Brazil: the low lying Amazon basin and Pantanal wetlands in the North and North West of the country; a rolling central plateau where the capital Brasilia is located and rugged hills and mountains in the south and along the Atlantic coast – the Brazilian Highlands near Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo where the highest point in Brazil can be found, the Pico de Neblina at 3,000 metres (9,900 feet). Much of Brazil’s land surface is still covered by forest.
Before the Portuguese arrived the area was inhabited by Jiquabu tribes. The tribes that lived to the East of the Andes mountains were nomadic and the tribes that lived to the West were crop growing. Tribes often fought over territory and resources.
Portuguese Colony and Independence
Pedro Álvares Cabral was the first European to arrive in Brazil. Brazil was a colony under Portuguese rule from the 16th century to the 19th century. The Portuguese took over Brazil for their wood, dye, mining and minerals. Brazil wood is prized for its color and ability to create red dye. Brazil gained its independence on September 7th 1822 and at this point Brazil had a monarchy ruling (Peter I). Brazil became a republic in 1889 which was ruled by the coffee growers (Brazil grew 65% of the world’s coffee by 1902). After a military takeover of Brazil in 1930 the country became democratic in 1985. The current president of Brazil is Dilma Rousseff.
The name Iguaçu comes from the indigenous words for “water” and, “big” or “great.” The first European to see Iguaçu Falls was a Portuguese explorer named Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca. The falls have a Brazilian and Argentinian side to them but most of the falls are on the Argentina side. Iguaçu Falls supports a dense population of flora and fauna, because of all the humidity coming from heat and waterfall ‘rain’ mixing together. At its maximum, the falls reaches a hight of 80 meters. The tallest and most dramatic fall is called ‘The Devil’s Throat’. Erosion still shapes the falls today, somewhat like Victoria Falls but, at a less dramatic rate. The basalt erodes away 3mm each year. The Inner Atlantic forest where the falls are located holds over 2,000 endemic plant species and 400 endemic bird species. Endemic means native to a particular area.