Essay by leewhitbreadB, February 2004

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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...