Brazil Travel Articles
Brazil is by far the largest country in South America. From the Amazon to the coast, it hosts a vast array of wildlife and landscapes within its borders. Rio de Janeiro, the nation’s capital and cosmopolitan hub, hosts the world-famous Carnival each year, and is also a great place to catch a game played by the renowned Brazilian football team. Whether you’re looking for a jungle adventure, hip scene, or relaxing vacation, a Brazilian cruise has something to offer.
Brazil’s first peoples were composed of several ethnic groups descended from ancient migrants from North Asia. They were semi-nomadic tribes who subsisted on hunting, fishing, gathering, and some agriculture. These early cultures did not leave stone monuments or keep written records, and unfortunately most wood and bone relics have deteriorated in the humid climate.
A significant number of these tribes were wiped out with the arrival of European diseases, and others were enslaved to work on Portuguese sugar plantations.
Today, native tribes have been offered official protection by the FUNAI (National Indian Service). There are still some tribes living deep in the Amazon that have been able to resist acculturation into Brazilian society. Unfortunately, rubber exploration daily poses a serious threat to these native peoples, including expulsion and death.
A Complex and Beautiful Culture
A Brazilian cruise would be best timed to coincide with the country's world-famous festival, Carnival. The festival originated when the Church incorporated pagan celebrations of thanksgiving into its calendar. Portugal was particularly fond of these celebrations, and brought it to the New World where it caught on quickly. Carnival occurs to mark the start of Lent, as a "farewell to the pleasures of the flesh". The occasion is marked by elaborate costumes, several parades, incredible regional music, and samba performances.
Brazil's music diverges from other musical styles of South America. The country is famous for samba, bossa nova, frevo, and foro. The samba is Brazil's unofficial national music style. Its roots are African, and it is full of intricate harmonies made with drums and a type of guitar.
Paulo Coelho has marked the Brazilian literary scene of modern times. His great works include The Alchemist, By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept, and The Pilgrimage.
And, of course, a Brazilian cruise should include a football (soccer) game. The Brazilian football team is world famous, with five World Cup championships under their belt. Brazil is often considered the strongest football nation in the world, and so the sport is very much a part of Brazilian culture.
Brazil is also becoming known for capoeira, which is a fight-dance and marshal art. It was created by enslaved Africans as a sly method of maintaining their skills and physical shape under the watchful eyes of their masters. It is highly fluid, skillful, and beautiful to watch.
The Brazilian environment is incredibly rich in natural resources, not to mention the first-place winner of the world’s biodiversity. Many species living in the rainforest are thought to be undiscovered. Unfortunately, these precious areas are under considerable threat; even as new species are discovered, others slide into extinction before our eyes.
Extensive logging and rubber exploration are responsible for deforestation on a massive scale. An area the size of a small country is destroyed every year. In addition to providing habitat for uncounted species the Amazon is capable of absorbing a huge amount of carbon dioxide, which is essential in controlling the world’s rising climate. The Brazilian government is often unable to regulate logging practices, as many logging operations are unofficial and difficult to detect in the rainforest’s vast reaches.
However, Brazil has been successful in creating several protected areas. As of today, the country has thirty-five national parks, twenty-three biological reserves, six ecological reserves, and twenty-one ecological stations.
Food in Brazil is also as varied as its wide topography. The cuisine of the Southeast is the most well known, as that region houses the major cities of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Comida mineira is world famous; it consist of a combination of rice and beans, chorico sausage, corn, and queijo de minas, an excellent fresh cheese. Polenta and fried bananas also come from this region.
In the South, the gauchos (South American cowboys) have influenced this cuisine that is famous for its sun-dried beef and churasco (Brazilian barbeque). The South also produces the bulk of Brazilian wine.
The Northeast was most heavily influenced by Portuguese cooking; fish and seafood are abundant on the coast, and are accompanied by goatmeat, cassava, and rice and beans.
The cosmopolitan hubs of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, as well as the larger cities of Brazil house an array of international foods as well as the best of all regional Brazilian cooking.
Brazil is a vast country, the biggest on the South American continent by far. One of Brazil’s most incredible features is the Amazon basin. This second-longest river in the world is surrounded by rainforest; it is not crossed by a modern bridge at any point of its flow. The basin composes all of the north and central portions of Brazil. The Amazonian rainforest is the largest rainforest in the world. The river has hundreds of tributaries, supporting a vast array of life all the way to its outlet to the sea. A trip to Brazil would be incomplete without a glimpse of the impressive Amazon.
Brazil has a long a diverse coastline along the Atlantic Ocean that includes both sandy beaches and dramatic cliffs and mountains ranges. The highest peak in Brazil, Pico de Neblina, reaches to 9,735 feet. The greatest mountain range is called the Sierra del Mar.
Iguassu Falls are the widest waterfalls in the world. They form an immense semi-circle made up of 275 individual falls. These are located on the Argentinean border, offering the opportunity to add another country to a Brazilian cruise.
Brazil’s huge topography also hosts savannahs and low mountains in the South, where the Pantanal floodplains open up. The country has something to offer to every type of traveler.
Most of Brazil’s population is clustered around the southeast coast. The states of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paolo dominate agriculture, development, and cosmopolitan trends. A Brazilian cruise will most likely stop in one of these bustling cultural hubs of Brazil.
Colonization of Brazil
The first European to land in Brazil was the Portuguese explorer Pedro Alvarez Cabral, in 1500. The region received its name from the pau-brasil, a wood brought back by the explorers that produced a red dye. Portugal began to colonize the area about 30 years after Cabral made landfall. The colonies exported agricultural goods, mainly sugar, back to Portugal; gold and diamonds were also mined for a short time during these early colonial years. Portugal began to bring African slaves to Brazil to work in these colonial endeavors, in addition to the smaller quantity of native slaves.
As the Napoleonic Wars advanced on Portugal, the King Joao fled with his court to Rio de Janeiro in 1808. When he returned to Portugal, he left his heir Pedro as regent of Brazil. Dom Pedro was crowned as the first Emperor of Brazil when the country received its independence in 1822.
Dom Pedro’s son, Pedro II, was deposed in 1889 and replaced by Brazil’s first de facto president. The country became the United States of Brazil, and the large states of Sao Paulo and Minas Gerais alternated the presidency for several decades.
A military junta took control of the government in 1930, setting in motion a series of military regime changes that occurred until 1985, when indirect elections took place and Brazil returned to a civil government regime.
Democracy was fully re-established to Brazil in 1988, ushering in the current Federal Constitution. The Brazilian Federation is composed of four autonomous entities with no power hierarchy: States, Municipalities, Union, and the Federal District. The division of power among the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial branches exists as well, organized by the above four entities and elected by direct suffrage. The current president of Brazil is Luis Inacio Lula de Silva, who was re-elected on 2006.
Given its great size and population, Brazil is a South American leader in politics as well as economics. It is considered a leader of developing countries worldwide, with a foreign policy oriented toward multi-lateralism.
As the savvy traveler has probably already figured out, Brazil’s weather is as variable as its landscape. The equator bisects the country, and so 90% of the country is tropical. Temperatures along the equator are hot with next to no seasonal variation.
Travelers taking a Brazilian cruise during the winter months (May through September) should be prepared for frosts in the southern regions of the country, and snow in those southern mountain ranges.
The big coastal cities of Rio de Janeiro and Salvador enjoy perpetual warm temperatures, while the southern cities of Porto Alegro and Curitiba often experience freezing temperatures in the winter. In the north, Sao Paulo and Brasilia remain moderate because of their coastal status.
The Amazon region is famously hot and humid, with rain falling nearly every day except in the dry months that vary depending on their location north or south of the equator. The rainy season occurs in the rest of the country during the winter months of December through April.
Incredible Numbers of Wildlife
Brazil is known to have some of the highest numbers of wildlife in any country in the world: the most mammals, highest primate diversity, and highest number of terrestrial vertebrates and invertebrates in general. A Brazilian cruise is sure to reveal an astonishing array of animals.
The Amazon region hosts the greatest biodiversity in the world. Travelers may expect to see several species of monkeys, and keep looking to the trees to see three-toed sloths. Tapirs and coatis run along the forest floor, along with the capybara, the world’s largest rodent. Travelers will most likely not see (or want to see) the majestic spotted jaguar, black jaguar, and ocelot that roam the Amazon. Some giant otters may be seen playing in the river itself, avoiding the prehistoric-looking caiman with whom they share the waters. This region is home to a long list of snakes (including the legendary anaconda), turtles and tortoises, and lizards.
Exotic birds inhabit the extensive canopy. Colorful parrots and macaws are abundant, and the species range from tiny hummingbirds to great eagles. Beautiful butterflies and other fascinating (some of them very large!) insects also inhabit the air in the Amazon.
The elusive Maned Wolf may be found in the southern Pantanal region of Brazil, as well as the Great Anteater. This area also has its own long list of incredible birds, including herons and macaws.
Along the coast, dolphins are frequently sighted. An array of sea life completes the long list of wildlife that calls the vast country of Brazil their home.