• Population: 196.6 million
• Area: 8.55 million sq km (3.3 million sq miles)
• Capital city of Brazil: Brasília
• Official language: Portuguese
• State religion: Catholicism
• Head of state and/or prime minister: President Dilma Rousseff
• Time zone: archipelago of Fernando de Noronha GMT -2; northern state of Amapá and entire southern region (including Rio, São Paulo, Belém and Brasília) GMT -3; Pantanal states and most of the north GMT -4; far western state of Acre and westernmost Amazonas GMT -5. In addition to this, daylight-saving time is used in parts of Brazil.
• Currency: 1 real (R$1) = 100 centavos
• Country code: +55
• Emergency numbers: Ambulance 192; Police 190; Fire 193; Civil Defense 199.
Since its colonization by the Portuguese in the 16th century, Brazil has held a constant fascination for foreigners. First it was gold, then rubber and coffee, and more recently, the exotic sights and sounds of the nation. For Brazilians, too, it is an intriguing land. There is a feeling that, hidden in some far corner of this great nation, there may be an immense treasure just waiting to be discovered. The main problem lies in identifying the corner.
Brazilians and foreigners alike have been gradually occupying the enormous empty spaces of this continent-sized country ever since the 16th century. They have populated them with some 193 million souls, composing one of the world’s most heterogeneous populations.
They live amid modern splendor in sprawling cities and in squalid deprivation in rural backwaters. They work in high-tech industries and push wooden plows behind laboring beasts. Within the confines of this country live indigenous people in near Stone Age conditions, semi-feudal peasants and landlords, pioneers hacking out jungle settlements, and wealthy entrepreneurs and business people.
Perhaps nowhere on earth is the process of development as tangible as in Brazil. The dynamism of the country is its greatest achievement. Even in periods of stagnation, Brazilians continue to get on with the process of nation-building, and can now look forward to the responsibility of hosting the world at the FIFA World Cup in 2014 and the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2016.
Brazilians are united by a common language, Portuguese; a common religion, Catholicism (though mixed with indigenous faiths); and a common dream that Brazil will be a great nation. Despite enormous social and economic difficulties, Brazilians are a remarkably spontaneous, enthusiastic, and high-spirited people, who tend to live in the moment. After all, at any moment, you may just find treasure.
Read more about Brazil in Insight Guides: Brazil
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