Buenos Aries

The name Brazil comes from Pau Brasil. There are around 145 million people living in Brazil, most of them near the coast. The population is growing rapidly and half of all Brazilians are under the age of 20. By the end of the century, it is estimated that Brazil's population will have reached 180 million. Brazil borders on ten other Latin American countries. Most of the northern part of Brazil is low-lying and veined by the mighty Amazon River and its tributaries. The Amazon is the largest river in the world. The native peoples of Brazil lived in the forests and along the rivers, hunting, fishing, and gathering fruits and nuts. When the Portuguese arrived early in the 16th century, it is estimated that there were between 1 and 2 million native Amerindian people. They were used as slaves, and many thousands died from diseases brought by the Europeans. Recently Amerindians have been exploited and killed as land speculators and highways go farther into the rain forest. There are probably less than 150,000 Indians now.

Portuguese settlers developed vast sugarcane estates in the Bahia region, and for 150 years these estates were in the world's main source of sugar. To work the estates, the owners used salves from Africa. Today there is still an African tradition in Brazil.

Modern immigration began early in the 19th century. Only about 4.5 million foreigners, mostly from Europe, settled in Brazil after then. Most were Italians and Portuguese, but there were also Spaniards and Germans, and later Slavs from Poland, Russia, and the Ukraine, and Arabs from the Middle East. In this century the most significant immigrants have been Japanese. They have become the most prosperous ethnic group in Brazil, growing a fifth of the coffee, a third of the cotton, and all the tea. Traditionally the majority of Brazilians settled near the coast, but in the last 30 years the rapid movement from rural areas to urban centers has led to a very uneven distribution of the population. In parts of the interior there is an average of just two people per square mile. More than 75 percent of the people live in towns. Half of these are in just two cities. Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.

People have moved from rural areas to the towns to seek work and better medical and educational facilities for their families. But the reality has been very different. Tens of thousands of people now live in shantytowns or Favelas, on the outskirts of the cities, with little hope of ever getting a decent job. One of the features of Brazil is that many different races and peoples intermarry, making Brazilians one of the most varied peoples in the world. The average Brazilian has a fascinating family tree which may include a Portuguese great-grandfather, a native Indian grandmother, a slave grandfather, a German father, and so on.

Family ties are strong in Brazil. Three generations, including grandparents and young married couples, often live together in one house. Poorer families are frequently large, with five or six children, and grandparents look after the very young while the rest of the family work.

There is a wide gap between rich and poor. The wealthy live in luxury mansions or on vast estates, employ maids and gardeners, and enjoy the same consumer goods as any family in the developed world. Homes for the poor are shacks of cardboard and corrugated iron, furnished with the barest essentials and mostly without water, light, or sanitation.

The extreme poverty in the urban slums, the high unemployment, and the increasing numbers leaving rural areas for the cities have led to serious problems. The poorest people suffer most because the state cannot provide for them, but children who About 90 percent of Brazil's population belong to the Roman Catholic Church. The Catholic Church has gone through a great transformation in the last 20 years. Most young Catholic priests and many bishops are "progressives." They believe that society should be more like Christ himself wanted it to be. The great injustices that exist in Brazil have made many Catholic priests and bishops ally themselves with the poor. Many have been persecuted and murdered for this, especially for defending the poor squatter farmers. Although Brazilian Christians are traditionally Roman Catholics, the religion that is growing fastest is the Pentecostal branch of Protestantism. These days, often the first church