Mini Guide to Brazil
Brazil is the largest country in South America and also the most populous. It has an intricate history of monarchy, slavery, immigration, and dictators, and therefore it’s a melting pot of cultures, religions, and races.
Although native Brazilians have inhabited the land for over 20,000 years, it was only in the 16th century that the Portuguese arrived in Brazil and decided to create a colony. For the next 300 years, it became a source of commodities such as sugar cane, precious metals, and pau Brasil (a prized type of wood from which the country’s name originated).
Unfortunately, it doesn’t have a pretty history. Portugal was one of the first European countries to buy slaves from Africa and use them for hard work in its colonies. They suffered for nearly four centuries as Brazil was the last country in the world to abolish slavery in 1888. Even though they were free, the black population carried on struggling and racial discrimination is still a big problem nowadays.
During the 19th century, hundreds of thousands of European immigrants (Italians, Portuguese, Germans) came to Brazil to work within agriculture. The country became a republic in 1889 and at the beginning of the 20th century, there was a surge in Asian immigration, especially Japanese people due to the First World War. Brazil’s history also involves a bloody military dictatorship (1964-1985) where many innocent people suffered and died.
Recently, the country hosted the World Cup and the Olympics, but it’s now struggling politically and economically. Despite its tempestuous past, Brazilians are extremely welcoming and always find creative ways to bring happiness to their lives.
Most foreigners will either fly into Galeão International Airport (Rio de Janeiro) or Guarulhos International Airport (São Paulo), although it’s sometimes possible to go to southern or northern airports.
Once you’re in the country, you can fly pretty much everywhere, but you should buy the tickets in advance as prices can sometimes be very high. The main flight companies in Brazil are TAM, Gol, and Azul.
Most people in Brazil, however, tend to travel by bus. Unlike many countries, busing around can be a pleasant experience as the vehicles are modern and comfortable.
Brazil’s official language is Portuguese. Many travelers assume that just because the country is in South America, the local language must be Spanish, but that’s not the case even though the languages are very similar. If you happen to only speak Spanish, you might struggle a bit, but you’ll be able to communicate with most people.
Portuguese is a Latin language, which means it evolved from Latin, just like French, Italian, and Spanish. Apart from Brazil, it’s spoken in Portugal and many of its former colonies. It’s a good idea to learn the basics before visiting Brazil as English is only mainly spoken in the capitals.