- Motto: Ordem e Progresso (Order and Progress)
- Capital: Brasília
- Largest City: São Paulo
- Independent since: 1822
- Area: 8,515,767 km2 (5th biggest country)
- Population: 201,032,714 (5th most populated country)
- Language: Portuguese (not Brazilian!)
- Religion: Majority Roman Catholicism
- Currency: Real (R$) (BRL)
- Time zone: (UTC−2 to −5)
- Calling Code: +55
More than 20.000 years ago, Brazil was inhabited by Indians. There were more than 2000 tribes which were divided in different ethnical groups. They lived in peace for a huge part of history, with occasional wars between tribes.
In the year 1500, Portuguese fleet commander-in-chief Pedro Álvares Cabral became the first European to discover Brazil. This special event happened on April 22nd. Although Cabral is widely accepted as Brazil’s discoverer, there are many theories stating Brazil was probably discovered before by another European. Anyhow, Brazil became a colony of Portugal and therefore the Portuguese language was introduced.
On November 29 1807, former Emperor of the French Napoleon Bonaparte invaded Portugal. This was part of his plan to seize control of Europe. The king of Portugal King João VI left the country on time and was on his way to Brazil. He returned to Portugal only in 1821 and his son Pedro took over in Brazil. A revolution started between the Portuguese and Brazilians, which eventually led Pedro to declare Brazil’s Independence from Portugal. This happened on September 7 1822. Brazil became a constitutional monarchy and Pedro took the role of emperor.
In the year 1831 Pedro, or Dom Pedro I went back to Portugal, leaving the country behind with his 6 years old son Emperor Pedro II. Many years later in 1889, a Republican military coup led by General Deodoro da Fonseca disposed of Pedro II. Deodoro da Fonseca became the first president of the Republic of Brazil. The Empire of Brazil was forever history. The country became a democracy under the presidency of Deodore da Fonseca, but he ended up resigning in 1891.
After Fonseca’s death in 1892, the presidency of the Republic was occupied by oligarchies. Future election processes knew lots of corruption as well. From the 1930s till the 1980s, Brazil would know 2 more military coups. The first of the two was in 1930 which ended the First Brazilian Republic. A military coup led by Getúlio Vargas took over the government and would rule till 1945 with the help of the Brazilian military. After his 2nd period of presidency, Juscelino Kubitschek took over from 1956 till 1961. He made the Brazilian economy booming again and created political stability. It was he who changed the capital city from Rio de Janeiro to Brasília. Till this day, Kubitschek is seen as the father of modern Brazil.
Jânio Quadros took over presidency in 1961, but not for long. Although it was the first time since Brazil became a Republic in 1889, that a government peacefully transferred power to an elected member of the opposition. Quadros was eventually only president for 7 months before he decided to resign. There are several theories regarding why he cited “terrible forces” as one of the reasons of his resignation. His decision eventually lead to a serious political crisis that resulted in another military coup in 1964. This time it was the military that took control. This military dictatorship would last for 21 years, ending only in 1985.
In 1985 the democracy came back again, and this time it was there to stay. José Sarney became the first president after the dictatorship. Fernando Collor de Mello became the first elected president that was elected directly by the people in December 1989. It would take 2 more presidents (Fernando Henrique Cardoso and Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva), before current president Dilma Rousseff took office on January 1 2011. She is the first woman to hold this position in Brazil.
There is a huge cultural mix in Brazil, which started to happen in the colonial period with mostly Native Brazilians, Portuguese and Africans. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries people from Europe such as Italian, German, Spanish, Ukrainians, Bulgarian and Polish immigrants settled in Brazil, but also Arab and Japanese immigrants. This migration is responsible for the creation of a multicultural population and multicultural society in the country.
Most of these immigrants settled in the South and Southeast part of Brazil. That is the reason why there are so many light skinned people in that part of Brazil! In the north of Brazil you find more descendants of black Africans. They were brought as slaves in the 16th and 17th century. In northern cities such as Bahia, there are still many African roots to be found in their culture such as in their cuisine, dance and language.
It is said that Brazilian Charles Miller introduced football to the Brazilians. However there is also a story stating that it was Scottish Thomas Donohue who developed the game. Thomas was born in Glasgow and was a football player. He went to city Bangu in Rio de Janeiro to work in a factory. There he requested a football and boots from Great Britain, and established a pitch near the factory. In 1894 the first football match was played, 6 months before Charles Miller started to play football.
The main story most people know, is that Charles Miller is considered as the father of Brazilian football. He was born in São Paulo, and is the son of a Scottish expatriate John Miller and a Brazilian mother of English descent. Charlea went to school in England and became a football player. In 1894 he returned to Brazil with 2 footballs and a rule book. With the equipment he taught the rules of the game to players of São Paulo.
Although football is not born in Brazil, there is no other country that shows so much passion for this wonderful sport. It is obviously the most popular sport in Brazil, which is reflected in their matches and play style on the field. With 5 World Cups wins, Brazil is one of the most feared countries in the history of the World Cup. There are many football records coming from Brazil such as:
- Brazilian Pelé is the best football player of all-time
- Pelé is the only player to have won 3 World Cups
- Brazil kept the Jules Rimet trophy after winning their 3rd World Cup
- Brazil won as the only country so far 5 World Cups
- Brazil is the only country which has participated in every World Cup
- Brazil was the first country to have won 2 consecutive World Cups
Dribbling is one of many skills Brazilian players are famous for. Players like Garrincha, Pelé, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and many many more are all famous dribblers. It is part of their play style which makes it very attractive to watch. Their style essentially is defined by the Brazilian culture. Their play is creative, rhythmic, attractive and entertaining. All these factors resulted in the term Joga Bonito (Play Beautifully).
Brazil hosted their first World Cup in 1950, but this ended in one of the greatest World Cup shocks ever. Brazil was clearly the favourite and the whole nation was already celebrating before the last match was played between Brazil and Uruguay. Against all odds, Brazil lost with 2-1 and the whole country became traumatized. This World Cup shock is named Maracanazo, and is one of the reasons why it is so important for Brazil to win the 2014 World Cup on home soil.
Football is practically a religion in Brazil, people take it very serious and people normally take collective breaks to watch Brazil play. Organisations temporary close in order for employees to witness Brazil playing important matches. Playing football is one of the most favourite pastimes of Brazilian kids and youngsters. Football is a sport which helps many children to create a positive attitude and confidence. Especially for children living in the favelas (Brazilian slums), futebol (football) is a way out of the misery and criminality. Futebol gives the children hope in all the beautiful things life has to offer.
10 years ago many people would not know what Capoeira exactly was. Now if you talk about Capoeira, it sounds very familiar to many people. Capoeira is a unique martial art that includes elements of dance. It was developed in the 16th century by the African slaves in Brazil. A Capoeira sessions includes a Roda created by the capoeiristas. The capoeiristas who form the roda, sing, clap and make music while 2 capoeiristas dance/fight against each other in the centre. They use the ginga move as their basic move which initiates every other move. One important aspect though, is the fact that they don’t actually hurt each other! Or to be more specific, you can touch each other, but nobody is out to hurt each other! A jogo should always remain fun without any mean intentions. The clapping, singing and sounds of the instruments Berimbau, atabaque, pandeiros and agogô create a unique energy which improves the skills and play of the 2 capoeiristas.
When slavery was over in Brazil, the former slaves didn’t have any stability in life. What happened was that capoeristas found their new adventure as bodyguards and hitmen for criminals. Capoeiristias received a bad name because of this, and resulted in Capoeira becoming prohibited by the Brazilian Republic in 1890.
30 years later the rules weren’t as strict anymore, and was the first Capoeira school a fact. The days that Capoeira was only played in the streets were over. The school Centro de Cultura Física e Luta Regional located in Bahia was founded in 1932 by famous Mestre Bimba. He focused on a style named Regional, which focuses on acrobatic skills, speed and agility. Slowly Capoeira’s image of being a sport ‘only for the low class’, changed into a respectable martial arts that can be practiced by the high class of society as well. In 1940 Capoeira was officially legalised again.
In 1941 another Capoeira school was founded by Vicente Ferreira Pastinha which was named Centro Esportivo de Capoeira Angola. This school focused on the traditional style Angola. The style Angola is a more slow, intimate and ‘close to the ground’ style. It’s basically the opposite of the Regional style.
Since the 70s, capoeiristas and Capoeira masters started teaching this beautiful martial art outside South America. Capoeira started to feature in films (e.g. Bloodsport 2) and games (e.g. Tekken character Eddy Gordo), which expanded the awareness of Capoeira. Like football, Capoeira gives many children confidence, hope and a positive attitude towards their own lives and life in general. Capoeira is a true symbol of Brazilian culture. It’s a sport which contains joy, music, dance, singing, positive energy and unity: the features which represent the Brazilian culture.
Brazil is famous for its music genres. Although Samba is the most popular one around the world, there are many more which define the Brazilian culture perfectly. The carnival highly contributes to Samba’s popularity, which is the main genre that is played during the event. Samba was introduced in the early 20th century in Rio de Janeiro and is developed from a mixture of European and African music. Singer and dancer Carmen Miranda who was born in Portugal in 1909, popularized and introduced the Brazilian music and culture to a worldwide audience in the 30s, 40s and 50s. A famous outfit was the fruit hat outfit, which you still might see today somewhere in pop culture.
Samba of Brazilian Carnaval
Other popular music genres are:
Choro was introduced in the 19th century by artists who combined African rhythms with their interpretations of European genres like polka and the waltz.
Bossa Nova was introduced in the late 50s in Rio de Janeiro, and is evolved from samba. This relaxing music genre is one of the most famous Brazilian music genres abroad.
MPB (Música Popular Brasileira) is not really a music genre but more of a music trend. This trend started after the Bossa Nova boom, where typical Brazilian music was combined with foreign music genres like jazz and rock.
Sertanejo is currently the most popular Brazilian music genre in the country. The genre was developed in the Brazilian countryside in the 1920s, and has still country related musical influences.
Forró was developed in Northeastern Brazil. It is not difficult to distinguish Forró from the other music genres. The dance is not difficult learn, and the genre is still gaining popularity as we speak.
Frevo was developed in Pernambuco during the Carnaval. There are obvious Capoeira influences when it comes to Frevo’s dance style. The dance is a mix of Capoeira and street dance, and it’s the hardest dance to learn of all genres mentioned on this page!
Axé is a fusion of Afro-Carribean rhythms, and is associated with the Salvador Carnaval. The music genre is developed in Salvador and is therefore very popular in that area.
Pagode is originated in Rio de Janeiro, and is a subgenre of Samba. Pagode is a slower and more romantic version of Samba.
Movies and Series
Brazilian telenovelas (soap operas) are immensely popular in the country. They are relatively short in comparison to soap operas in other countries. It takes far lesser episodes (100-200) in order to finalize the complete story line. They are also one of Latin America’s most successful exports to places like East Europe, African countries and Portugal. These telenovelas are so popular, they are considered as a national identity factor that contributes to the Brazilian culture as a whole. Below you see a clip of the famous telenovela Amor à vida.
Next to their successful telenovelas, Brazil has made many excellent movies which received critical acclaim worldwide. According to famous movie website IMDb.com, the movie Cidade de Deus (City of God) by Fernando Meirelles is the best Brazilian movie ever. With a grade of 8.7, it marks the 21st spot of the best movies of all time.
Here are other great movies which deserve to be watched (after the World Cup):
Central Station (1998)
Bus 174 (2002)
Tropa de Elite (2007)
Tropa de Elite 2 – O Inimigo Agora É Outro (2010)
Brazilian food is in addition to being one of the greatest pleasures of life, also a cultural experience. Traditional food of a place tell us a bit of its history, its people, geography and local nature. Because of the country’s history, the cuisine has both European, Asian and African influences. This result in a cuisine with a unique flavor. From North to South, from East to West, each place has a particular and a special flavor. Learn more about the most typical Brazilian dishes (pratos), sweets (doces), snacks (salgados) and drinks (bebidas):
This is one of the most famous Brazilian delicacies around the world. The dish is prepared with: black beans, smoked pork ribs, sausage, bacon and jerked Beef. But, for the more traditional feijoada, less “refined” parts of the pig are included such as the foot, tail, nose and ear. All these ingredients are cooked together with white rice, chopped cabbage, fried cassava, farofa, orange slices, pepper sauce and pork rinds. It is one of Brazil’s favorite delicacies and anyone who will visit the country cannot leave without trying at least once!
This is a very popular dish from Northeast of Brazil and is originally from the state Pernambuco. The traditional recipe from Pernambuco states dried meat needs to be cooked in butter-in-a-bottle and cassava puree. The dish is finished when you put melted cheese on top of it. The dish is prepared in layers which are placed that way in the oven. By doing this, the flavours blend together and transform the dish in a delicious crispy crust.
Baião De Dois
This dish comes from the state Ceará. One of Baião De Dois’s most delicious versions is the combination of rice and beans. This dish is prepared with: white rice, cowpeas (known as green beans), fried dried meat in butter-in-a-bottle, cheese curds, onions, calabresa sausage and toucinho (fried fat of the pork) with many spices. The dish is accompanied by cassava flour and pepper.
This delicious indigenous stew is made of fish and there are 2 versions: the Bahia version and the Espírito Santo version. In Espírito Santo, the dish is prepared with fish (dogfish, whiting fish and golden fish are the most used ones), onions, tomatoes, peppers, olive oil, and coriander. In Bahia the dish contains all these ingredients as well, but there are more: coconut milk and palm oil. With both versions, the main side dishes are white rice and thickened gravy. Both of them are delicious, try both and decide which one you prefer!
Arroz de Carreteiro
This dish is originally from the state Rio Grande do Sul. The name comes from the ‘carreteiros’, who were people transporting food with a bullock cart. They also cooked for the troops who crossed the southern region of the country. The recipe is pretty simple but full of flavour. You need rice, jerked meat or pieces of meat, onion, garlic and condiments to prepare this dish.
Virado à Paulista
This typical dish from São Paulo is prepared with: white rice, tutu beans (sort of mashed beans with manioc flour), bacon, dried beef and chopped cabbage. It originates from the ‘Bandeirantes’ (Portuguese Brazilian fortune hunters and adventurers from the São Paulo region), who planted beans on their routes. They did this so the beans could be eaten by the Bandeirantes on their way back. Currently, it is common for the dish to be served with pork chops instead of dried beef and bacon.
Brazil also has excellent taste in desserts. The most famous one by far is the chocolate truffle Brigadeiro. Brigadeiro was created by supporters of Brigadier Eduardo Gomes’ presidential candidacy in 1946 and 1950. Back in those days, Brigadeiro was only made of milk, eggs, butter, sugar and chocolate. Nowadays the recipe knows many variations, such as the use of condensed milk, the exclusion of eggs and the exclusion of sugar. Although Brigadeiro is used as a dessert, it’s often served at (birthday) parties as well.
Beijinho (little kiss) is a typical Brazilian sweet served at birthday parties, like Brigadeiro. It originates from several experiments with condensed milk, milk, butter, and grated coconut.
Baba de moça
This dessert is a typical sweet of the Brazilian cuisine made with egg yolks, coconut milk and sugar syrup. You boil these ingredients together until it becomes a consistent cream. It is one of the most traditional and exquisite sweets of Brazil.
Bolo de Rolo
This is a typical Brazilian sweet from the state Pernambuco. The dough is made with flour, eggs, butter and sugar, and is normally rolled with goiabada filling on it.
Coixinhas are probably the most popular Brazilian snack. The in hot oil fried Coxinhas, are prepared with potato dough and are coated with very fine breadcrumbs and eggs. They are traditionally filled with cooked chicken and shredded chicken. It is also possible to fill Coxinhas with cream cheese that can be mixed together with the chicken. Coxinha means “little thigh”, which is the informal name for chicken legs in Brazil. The Coxinha snack is also shaped as a chicken thigh.
The Empada or Empadinha, is a typical popular salty snack in Brazil and Portugal. It normally consists of wheat flour dough with filling like chicken, palm hearts, cheese and beef. Normally when the dough is done, you put a lid on top of it. You then sit the dough in a cool place for at least an hour. Afterwards you include the filling and bake them in the oven.
Pastéis which are one of the best Brazilian’s snacks, need perfectly cooked dough and takes the form of an envelope. Although similar, the dough of a pastel is different than the one used for Empadas. First you prepare the dough with salt, flour, egg, margarine, water and even Cachaça if you want. After mixing the ingredients, you fill the pastel with beef or shrimp filling for example. Then you fry the dough in order for the pastel to become thin and crispy. It is one of the most common snacks in street cars and shopping centers around Brazil.
Bauru is a sandwich made with French bread, ham, melted cheese and tomato. You can compare the sandwich with the American BLT (Bacon, Lettuce, and Tomato) sandwich. The Bauru has this name because of the name Casimiro Pinto Neto (inventor of this sandwich), who was nicknamed “Bauru” in reference to his hometown.
The most typical drink of Brazil is a distilled spirit made of sugarcane or rum. You can find this highly appreciated drink anywhere in the country. Its popularity can be measured by the number of synonyms the Brazilian imagination gave to this drink, like aguardente, pinga and caninha. Don’t forget that Cachaça contains a high percentage of alcohol.
Caipirinha is an alcoholic beverage originated from São Paulo. It is one of the most internationally known Brazilian drinks. Caipirinha is made with cachaça, tahiti lime (not peeled) or other green lime, sugar and ice, crushed with a mortar and pestle. In Brazil, it is served in most bars and restaurants.
Guaraná Jesus is a Brazilian soft drink owned by the Coca-Cola Company. The drink is created in the state Maranhão, and distinguishes itself from other drinks due to its pink color. Its taste has a touch of cinnamon, and is the drink more popular than Coca-Cola in the state Maranhão.
Chimarrão e o Tererê
The Chimarrão of the state Rio Grande do Sul is like a tea made from roasted herbs and is served hot in a gourd. But Tererê from the state Mato Grosso do Sul, is made of dried green peas. You drink it cold in a guampa (container made of ox horn). Both Chimarrão and Tererê use the bomba, which is a metal straw with a closed round base and small holes which filter the peas).
World Cup Host Cities
17 Brazilian cities showed interest in becoming a 2014 World Cup host city. Initially only 10 cities were allowed by FIFA, but CBF (Brazilian Football confederation) requested permission to use at least 12. This was granted by FIFA, which meant 5 cities of the 17 would not make it on the list. The cities which eventually didn’t make it are Belém, Campo Grande, Florianópolis, Goiânia and Rio Branco. The following cities did make it:
Below are the posters of the host cities.
Brazilian are known for their friendliness, kindness, warm attitude and sharing. Brazilians don’t have a closed attitude that only opens up when proving you are a decent and trustworthy person. It’s the other way around. Brazilians are open and friendly from the beginning, and only ends when you abuse their trust. You will have a great time in Brazil, but don’t forget the following:
- Arrange your visa, if you have tickets you’ll get your temporary visa for free
- Check where the Fan areas and FIFA Fan Fests are, most World Cup fans will be there
- Brazil is huge, don’t try to see every city in one trip
- Don’t drive around or walk around too much, understand the public transportation system and taxis
- Change currency before your trip or use credit cards
- When using ATM’s, check the situation around you
- Don’t carry large sums of money
- Walk in groups and not alone
- Avoid wearing expensive jewelry, watches and clothes
- Learn important Portuguese words such ‘where is the..’ or ‘how to..’
- Keep mobile phones and cameras out of sight
- Leave your passport and valuables in a safe place
- Do carry ID like a driving licence with you at all times
- Be aware of World Cup protests
- Know your area, where you can walk and which places to avoid
- Hand over valuables in case you’re threatened, do not attempt to resist attackers
- Be aware of dramatic increases in the cost of accommodation, food etc.
- Be aware of the dengue fever which is spread by mosquitoes
- Be careful with Malaria and Yellow Fever spread by mosquitoes in host city Manaus
- If you go to Manaus, bring antimalarial tablets and get Yellow Fever vaccinations
- Be aware that the climate in Brazil varies between different areas
- Write these numbers down: 192 for Medical Emergencies, 193 for the Fire Service and 194 for the Federal Police
Did You Know
- 3 of the 12 host cities were the capital of Brazil: Salvador, Rio de Janeiro and Brasília
- The most World Cup matches will be played in Brasília (7), Rio de Janeiro (7), São Paulo (6), Fortaleza (6), Salvador (6) and Belo Horizonte (6)
- The most common surname in Brazil is Silva
- Brazil shares land borders with all South American countries except for Ecuador and Chile
- Portuguese is the 6th most spoken language in the world, most speakers are in Brazil
- Brazil is the only country in South America where its language and culture comes from Portugal
- Brazil is considered one of the most bio-diverse places in the world
- Before Brasília and Rio de Janeiro, it was Salvador that was the country’s first capital city
- More than 1,000 languages were spoken in Brazil at the time of the exploration and colonization, but around 180 of them are currently spoken
- Brazil is the largest country in South America, and the 5th largest country in the world
- Of the 20 most consumed fruits in Brazil, only 3 are from the country: the pineapple, guava and passion fruit
- Brazil is the world’s 4th largest cocoa producer, over 90% of Brazil’s cocoa is grown in the state Bahia
- Brazil’s most common agricultural exports are coffee, soybeans, wheat, rice, corn, sugarcane, cocoa, citrus and beef
- Brazil has the 2nd highest number of airports in the world
- Brazil is the number 1 country in the world with the most varieties of animals
- The state Acre was purchased from Bolivia
- The name Brazil comes from the word Brazilwood tree (in Portuguese pau-brasil) which was Brazil’s main export product in the time the name was established
- Flag colours: green represents the forests, yellow represents the mineral wealth and the blue circle and 28 stars represent sky over Rio de Janeiro (the stars represent the 27 states and the federal district)
- On the flag, Brazil’s motto “Ordem e Progresso” (Order and Progress), is written on a banner in the blue circle
- The first carnaval parade in Brazil occurred in 1855
- The Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro is one of the most famous attractions in Brazil, and attracts thousands of tourists each year