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Brazil - A Country as Rich in Culture as It Is in Geography
Brazil - A brief History
According to historians and scientists, the earliest inhabitants lived in Brazil as far back as 8,000 years ago. They arrived in search of the abundance of food. It is believed that they migrated from regions of Asia and that they were the first to inhabit Brazil before the arrival of the Portuguese. To get to North America, it is believed that they had to cross the Bering Land Bridge from Siberia.
Before Brazil was officially recognized as a country, there were several countries, besides Portugal, which made attempts at colonizing the land. At the time, Portugal's interests were of other countries. This lack of security allowed other countries to invade the land. It was for this reason that Portugal invented a system of occupying the country without paying its share, but turned out to be non-effective in guaranteeing absolute occupation over the land.
The discovery and agriculture of sugarcane in the 1700's brought about Brazil's economy in the early days of occupation. It was during this period of Brazil's history that the early Portuguese settlers used slaves from Africa to work the sugarcane fields - slavery in Brazil finally ended in 1888. Originally, the country was divided into two sections. One for Portugal and the other for Spain.
This division was mandated under the Papel Bull and the Treaty of Tordesillas. However, it did not prevent attempts by other countries to establish their presence. France landed in the region of Rio de Janeiro in 1555 and São Luís in 1612 to colonize those areas. It was the influence of the Jesuit Priests who occupied the area of São Paulo that helped expelled France from Brazil.
Other attempts at the colonization of Brazil included the Dutch. They occupied mostly the North Eastern coast of Brazil. Their occupation lasted from about 1630 to 1654. They withdrew in 1661 after several years of war.
There were two societies from these early native inhabitants. One group traversed the land in search of adequate water and food. And the other cultivated the land for its agricultural benefits. Neither of these societies created any significant form of infrastructure nor historical records. So, very little is known about these indigenous peoples.
The first of the Portuguese to arrive in Brazil found it necessary to civilize these ethnic groups because of the fact that they were into cannibalism and tribal warfare. They mingled with the female indigenous tribesman and populated Brazil with their offspring adding a mixture of culture to the country. Before the arrival of the first Portuguese, there were estimated to be at least 2,000 tribes living off Brazil.
But the Portuguese brought diseases with them, which all but annihilated the native population. The Portuguese arrived to Brazil in April of 1500 led by Pedro Álvares Cabral. The Portuguese colonized Brazil in the hopes of improving their economy through the use of trades and the cultivation of the land, since Portugal's economy was not good at the time.
Brazil's Government - Past to Present
On about 1822, Dom Pedro I led the country until 1831 when he was determined incompatible as leader by his critics. He was thought of as either too liberal or not liberal enough for Brazil. He left for Portugal leaving behind his 5 year old son (Dom Pedro II) in his stead. The country was ruled by regents from the period of 1831 to 1840. In 1889, Pedro II was forced out of office by a military coup. After this, Brazil's name changed to the Republic of the United States of Brazil.
It underwent years of military dictatorship until 1985. Brazil saw its first elected president by popular vote in 1985. By the year 2002, 1 out of every 4 Brazilians had been living off less than $1 USD per day. This helped elect president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva into office. President Lula would remain president of Brazil until the 2010 Brazil elections in which Dilma Rouseff would become the first woman president of Brazil.
Hands down one of the most popular of the festivities is the "Carnaval". Think of it as Brazil's version of Mardi Gras of New Orléans. It happens every year with festivities in every major city in the country lasting as long as four days. The biggest, of course, in Rio. People dress in wildly colorful clad and dance the "Samba". Brazilians really go crazy for this festivity. Every Brazilian knows how to dance to the Samba. So, they know how to "strut their stuff". It's not just an event known to Brazilians. People from all over the world come to see this festival of dance and exotic costume. An estimated 1.2 million tourists recorded during Brazil's 2013 Carnaval.
Bumba Meu Boi
This is an event that occurs every year in North and Northeastern Brazil. It is a theatrical festival about a reenactment involving a bull that died and came back to life. Participants dress in elaborate costumes with the main cast consisting of the bull, Catirina - an ugly pregnant woman usually played by a dude in drag, a cowboy who is the caretaker of the bull - and ultimately responsible for his death and a priest (who is the owner of the bull).
Bumba Meu Boi
This particular event borders on the same principle as Brazil's Carnaval. It usually begins in the month of June. It is said to have originated with the early Portuguese settlers and the Catholic Church. Festa Junina varies from region to region. In the Northeast of the country, Brazilians give homage to the three Holy Catholics: São João, São Pedro and Santo Antônio.
Because the region is so dry and drought is such a serious problem, Festa Junina of the Northeast gives the locals a reason to celebrate this event. Since corn represents this festivity best, it is a typical ingredient of some of the foods served during this event such as: corn bread and corn on the cop. One interesting belief about the customs surrounding this tradition is that, they say if single women wish to marry, then during this festivity they must partake of the Bread of Saint Antônio.
Brazil's Geographical Wonders
One of nature's best displays of power and beauty. Iguazu (Iguaço) Falls lies between Brazil and Argentina where the falls meets with the Paraná plateau. Approximatley 61,660 cubic feet of water flow into Iguazu Falls every year. Its highest waterfall measures 269 feet high. It measures 2.7 kilometers (1.7 miles) in width. An equal to Niagara Falls, it is a Brazilian attraction that must be added to your list of "must see". For those eager nature seeking travelers, there is an international airport situated, Foz do Iguaço International Airport (IGU), close to Iguazu Falls. How convenient!
The Beaches of Fortaleza
I have been to many of the beaches at and near the city of Fortaleza with my wife. the first one we visited was Praia do Futuro. And after the walk we endured to get there, it was well worth the blisters. A nice ice cold coconut water (Água de Coco) and a delicious cuisine afterwards hit the spot. And the water at the beach was just at the right temperature. Not too hot or too cold.
There is a tour that you can take running from Fortaleza to a few of the other popular beaches which are not accessible directly within the city because of the distance. In our particular case, our tour picked us up at Praça dos Estressados located near our hotel. The journey takes you to Praia das Fontes (Beach of the Sources), Praia da Canoa Quebrada (Beach of the Broken Canoe) and Praia da Areia Vermelha (Beach of Red Sand).
Iracema Beach (Praia de Iracema)
All along this beach you will find many popular businesses catering to the tourist industry here. And of course, lots of tourists. The main attraction here is the statue of Iracema. The history goes something like this: Iracema was an indian of the state of Ceará. Martim Soares Moreno was a hero of the war against the Dutch back in the 1700's. It was from the power of the love of Iracema that gave Martim the strength to fight in battle. Ah, how touching!
The Statue of Crist Redeemer (Cristo Redentor)
It is THE most prominent feature surrounding the city of Rio de Janeiro. It sits atop the mountain Corcovado - at 2,300 feet in altitude. It is considered the 5th largest statue of Crist in the world. It is 98 feet tall and weighs around 700 tons. Its construction began back in 1926 and was finished in 1931. It cost the equivalent of $3,200,000 to build (mostly funded by the Catholic Church).
The Famous Copacabana Beach of Rio de Janeiro
Copacabana stretches from Princesa-Isabel Avenue and ends at Posto Seis (which is lifeguard tower 6) - 4 kilometers long. It hosts yearly attractions such as New Year's Eve bashes and Fifa's Beach Soccer World Cup. Approximately, 160,000 residents live at Copacabana. Of recent events, Copacabana beach played host to the visit of Pope Francis in 2013 - which was his first ever visit to Brazil and a monumental milestone for Brazilians.
Brazil really has a lot to offer in terms of culture and geographical attractions. The fact of the matter is, I am just skimming the surface with this hub's content. These are just a few of my recommendations as far as where to visit during your tour through Brazil. Other places that come to mind not previously mentioned would be the likes of Curitiba (where temperatures don't reflect Brazil as a tropical vacationer's hotspot). But I hope I have enlightened your curiosity for Brazil from a tourist's viewpoint. If you wish to know anything else about Brazil or its language, you may leave a comment here.