BrazilCopyright:  James Harrison 123rf.com

Brazil

Capital: Brasilia
Currency: Real (R$)
Language: Portuguese
Listen to the national anthem

There is evidence that humans have lived in the region for some 11,000 years and the earliest pieces of pottery to be found in the southern hemisphere were dated to 6,000 BC. Warring tribes continually fought each other and the prisoners were eaten by the victors as a symbol of power and dominance.

Brazil is the largest country in South America and was so named after a tree called Brazil wood which was a very common tree along the coast. In 1500, Portugal claimed the region as its own and in 1822 Brazil gained its independence.

The Amazon Rainforest covers a vast area, some 5.5 million km2 (3.4 million miles2) but as has been witnessed in the last century it is not an endless resource. Exotic wildlife is being forced into ever smaller pockets which can only lead to extinction. It is not just wildlife that is threatened with extinction but it has been estimated that as many as 90 indigenous tribes have been wiped out since 1900. Much of this is due to de-forestation, cutting down the rainforest to make charcoal for the power industries and to make way for areas to grow crops. It is estimated, based on current rates, that the Amazon rainforest could disappear for good within the next 50 - 75 years!

Although Brasilia is the country's capital it is not the largest. São Paulo is Brazil's largest city and it is said that it took only 41 months to build! São Vicente near Sao Paulo is the oldest area and is believed to have been founded in 1532.

Interestingly Brazil's highest peak, Pico da Neblina which means Mist Peak, was not discovered until the 1950's, 12 years after the discovery of Mount Everest. As the name suggests, the peak is continuously shrouded in cloud.

Rio de Janiero is probably the most well known city in Brazil, made more so by the 2014 FIFA World Cup. England supporters who stayed in Rio were fore-warned about the favela's or slums of the city.

FavelaCopyright: Maciej Błędowski

The Favela's are areas that are rife with drugs, guns and prostitution. Favela's were originally built by ex soldiers and were in some cases the remains of slave villages. The warren of narrow streets made it a haven for criminals, a place where there are regular gun battles with the police.

Tourism remains a high source of income for Brazil and one that is constantly growing, another pressure on the Rainforest.

On 12th October 1931, a magnificent statue was completed. The Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer) is 30m (98ft) tall, 28m (92ft) wide standing on an 8m (26ft) pedestal. The total weight of the impressive structure is 635,000kg (700 tonnes).

Cristo RedentorCopyright:  Dmitry Islentyev 123rf.com

Made of reinforced concrete and soapstone, the statue was built upon the 700m Corcovado mountain overlooking Rio de Janeiro. On February 10th 2008, the statue was struck by lightning in a ferocious storm that damaged parts of the head and some fingers. Repairs were carried out and some lightning rods were fitted. On 17th January the statue was again struck by lightning and a finger on the right hand was dislodged. Strong winds, lightning and erosion demands that the statue needs almost constant attention.

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