Half of South America’s population lives in Brazil, and among the world’s countries, only China, India, the United States and Indonesia have more residents. The population is relatively young, but the proportion of older people is growing steadily as child birth decreases, life expectancy increases and the previously so rapid population growth has slowed down.
An extensive move into the cities has resulted in less than one fifth of Brazilians living in the countryside today. Around 80 percent of the residents are found in a 30-mile wide belt along the long Atlantic coast, while the vast hinterland is very sparsely populated. It is particularly densely populated on the coast in the southeast. São Paulo is the largest not only in Brazil but on the entire American continent (north and south), with 12 million residents in the city itself and 21 million in the metropolitan area. The second largest is Rio de Janeiro, which was the capital from 1793 to 1960, when Brazil became a new capital (see Modern history).
- COUNTRYAAH.COM: Key populations estimated size and data of Brazil, including population density of how many people per square mile. Also included are facts for population and language.
In Brazil, many different populations live and the tolerance for cultural differences is greater than elsewhere in Latin America. But the colonial legacy has created a hierarchical society where those with the darkest skin have the lowest status while those who are descendants of Europeans dominate the country’s governing body.
According to the latest census in 2010, 48 percent of Brazilians are white, while 43 percent say they are of mixed origin. Although the boundaries are fluid, it was the first time in the history of the census that the proportion of whites fell below 50 percent: ten years earlier they were 53 percent and those with mixed origins 38 percent. The latter consists mainly of mixed descent from Europeans, Africans and indigenous peoples.
Brazil’s black residents are descended from the millions of African slaves who, during colonial times, were picked up by plantation owners to northeastern Brazil (see Ancient History). There, and especially in the state of Bahia, one finds the strongest African element today. In the Northeast, poverty is also greatest, life expectancy is the shortest, and most children are born there.
When slavery ceased in 1888, waves of immigrants from Europe came. Portuguese and Italians are the largest European immigrant groups, but there are also many Spaniards and Germans. Swedes also emigrated to Brazil in the early 1900s, but most of them continued to Argentina. A large group of Japanese immigrants are found around São Paulo.
When the Portuguese arrived in Brazil five centuries ago, the indigenous population was at least 5 million, most of them in the Amazon. The arrival of the Europeans led to the almost-extermination of the indigenous peoples – collectively called the Indians by the Europeans. Many were massacred while others were poisoned or passed away in diseases brought by the whites. At the 2010 census, almost 900,000 of the country’s residents themselves counted as indigenous peoples, which are divided into approximately 300 people groups. Brazil is also regarded as the country in the world where there are most isolated groups of people who live completely without contact with the outside world. However, these are small groups of hundreds of individuals.
In the 1988 Constitution, the indigenous people are granted the right to use their traditional land and water areas. This has led to the creation of around 700 special areas. The areas cover a total of more than a tenth of the country’s area, mainly in the Amazon where the regulation of land has gone relatively painlessly. Here most of the indigenous people live in state-owned reserves. But often, and not least in the south, they have been forced to fight for their rights in conflict with forest and mining companies, dam builders, large property owners, gold diggers and the military, sometimes with life as an effort. In some groups, suicides are common, for example, among guaraní who have lost over 95 percent of their original land.
Some of the indigenous peoples have adapted to the surrounding community. Some live semi-nomadically (gather, hunt and grow), others live exclusively nomadic life. But the more the modern world penetrates in the form of, for example, road and hydropower construction and also environmental degradation, the more difficult it is for the indigenous people to live in an old traditional way. Brazil has a special office for Native American issues, Funai (Fundação Nacional do Indio).
Brazil is Latin America’s only country with Portuguese as its main language. The Brazilian Portuguese is different from the one spoken in Portugal, both in vocabulary and pronunciation. However, a growing Brazilian influence on the language led Portugal to change its spelling rules in 2008 to better align with the Portuguese spoken in Brazil. Among the indigenous peoples, some 280 languages are spoken with different dialects, most of which belong to one of the language families tupi-guaraní, gê, carib and arawak. Many of those who speak native languages also speak Portuguese.
FACTS – POPULATION AND LANGUAGE
white 48%, people of mixed origin 43%, blacks 7.6%, indigenous people 0.4%, other 1% (census 2010)
Number of residents
209 288 278 (2017)
Number of residents per square kilometer
Percentage of residents in the cities
86.3 percent (2017)
Nativity / birth
14.2 per 1000 residents (2016)
Mortality / mortality
6.2 per 1000 residents (2016)
0.8 percent (2017)
1.7 number of births per woman (2016)
Percentage of women
50.9 percent (2017)
76 years (2016)
Life expectancy for women
79 years (2016)
Life expectancy for men
72 years (2016)
Portuguese as well as about 280 native languages
Over 70,000 people are forced to flee their homes and at least 40 are killed when the states of Espirito Santo and Minas Gerais in the south-east are hit by the worst snowfalls in almost a century. President Rousseff cancels his Christmas celebration to fly to Minas Gerais, her home state, and promises millions to rebuild.
Purchase of Gripanplan
Brazil unexpectedly decides to buy 36 JAS Gripen fighter aircraft from Swedish Saab, a deal worth US $ 4.5 billion. According to Brazilian media, the government is opting out of US competitor F-18 manufactured by Boeing because of the eavesdropping scandal (see September 2013).
Oil recovery auction in the sea
A major security concern surrounds the auction where the mining right in the Libra oil field outside Rio de Janeiro is held. About 40,000 Petrobras employees have gone on strike a few days earlier, against the auction, which the union believes damages the nation’s interests when foreign companies may also participate. The oil workers also demand increased wages and a halt to plans to let private entrepreneurs take over some operations. When the disputed auction is held, clashes between police and protesters occur. Eleven companies have reported interest in advance of the auction, but only one bid is placed at the end. The rights thus go to a consortium led by Petrobras.
Marina Silva in new party
The popular former environment minister and senator Marina Silva joins the Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB). Silva, who left the Labor Party after her resignation as Environment Minister in 2008, was nominated as the Green Party’s candidate in the 2010 presidential election, when she was surprisingly supported by almost every fifth voter. PSB leader Eduardo Campos is governor of Pernambuco and is aiming for the 2014 presidential election – it is unclear what Marina Silva’s role in the party will be before the election.
State visit to the United States canceled after spying scandal
President Rousseff cancels a planned state visit to the United States because of a revelation that the US intelligence service NSA has engaged in eavesdropping on both state leadership and state oil company Petrobras. According to information from the American “whistleblower” Edward Snowden, the NSA has spied on both Brazil’s and Mexico’s presidents and intercepted electronic communications within the senior management. The NSA should also have intercepted Petrobras, which Rousseff notes in this case is about industrial espionage.
Congressmen vote against secret ballots
The Chamber of Deputies votes unanimously to ban secret ballots in Congress – a demand made during the major demonstrations in June. The proposal, which must also be approved by the Senate, would entail a constitutional change. Just days before, Congress – in a secret ballot – voted down a motion to remove Congressman Natan Donadon’s seat, despite being sentenced to 13 years in prison for corruption. Donadon is the first sitting member sentenced to prison since democracy was restored in the late 1980s.
The Foreign Minister resigns following diplomatic scandal
Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota leaves his post following a scandal concerning Bolivia. Brazil’s chargé d’affaires in La Paz have smuggled in a diplomatic car a Bolivian opposition politician, who has stayed at the Brazilian embassy for over a year. The politician, a senator, was accused of, among other things, corruption but claimed that he was subjected to political persecution and had been granted asylum at the embassy. Instead, the Patriots become UN ambassadors, while veteran diplomat Luiz Alberto Figueiredo is brought home from the UN and becomes new Foreign Minister.
The new Pope Franciscus, who is Argentine in origin, comes to Brazil on his first trip abroad in office. He is greeted by cheering crowds, but also by protesters protesting that the visit costs the state the equivalent of $ 53 million.
Rousseff’s popularity plunges
Opinion polls show that the unrest in June has made President Dilma Rousseff expensive. From June to July, the proportion of respondents who support her policy has dropped from 73.4 to 49.3 percent.
Basic amendments are voted down
When the Congress, by a large margin, votes down a contentious draft constitutional amendment, PEC 37, it is considered to be a direct result of the social protests that have been shaking the country for some time. According to the critics, PEC 37 should have reduced the prosecutors’ ability to investigate corruption among politicians and officials. Congress also votes for oil revenues to go to education and health care.
Social protests shake the country
Protests that start in São Paulo at increased public transport prices are spreading to several cities and growing to the largest in Brazil in over 20 years. The dissatisfaction is mainly directed at the state’s investments in major sporting events, while the deficiencies are major in important social functions, such as health care and education. Violence erupts, among other things, in connection with matches in the Confederations cup football tournament, which is seen as an exercise for the 2014 Soccer World Cup. and Brazil. This means military presence in five of six cities where the tournament is going on. In an attempt to put an end to the protests, the price increase in public transport is being withdrawn in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. But hundreds of thousands of people continue to demonstrate, against corruption and waste of public funds. The outbreaks of violence continue into the fall.
Land grief after fire disaster
Three days of country grief then a fire was announced at a nightclub in the city of Santa Maria demanding over 230 people’s lives. The majority of victims are young people. The fire disaster is reported to be the worst in the country in half a century.