The New Student's Reference Work/Brazil, The United States of
Brazil, The United States of. The largest state of South America and the third largest political division of the western continent. It has the Atlantic on the east and northeast, with a coast line of 5,000 miles. Its land frontier of 10,000 miles confronts all the other South American states except Chile. Its breadth is 2,705 miles, its length 2,660 miles, and its area 3,218,991 square miles. It is larger than the United States, excepting Alaska. It occupies nearly one half of the South American continent.
Surface and Drainage. Lying like a vast triangle in the eastern angle of the continent, Brazil falls naturally into two sections. The eastern and southern portions are high, containing two mountain ranges, with an enclosed elevated plateau. The northern and western section consists of plains and lowlands, including the valley of the Amazon.
Brazil’s unique feature consists of the most remarkable system of water-ways on our planet. Three great river systems drain the country, the Amazon, the Plata and the San Francisco. The mighty Amazon alone, with its branches, drains fully one half of Brazil. The rainfall of the South American continent is heaviest in the interior on the head waters of the Amazon, so that this river is already a stream two miles wide and 150 feet deep where it first enters Brazilian territory, 2,300 miles from its mouth. With its tributaries it affords 27,000 miles of navigable water. The Madeira, the longest tributary, gives access to Bolivia. The Rio Negro, the largest northern affluent, connects with the Orinoco and thus furnishes navigation into Colombia and Venezuela. Another extensive and important system is the Paraguay and its branches, which terminate in the Plata. The San Francisco, which flows directly into the Atlantic, gives, with its tributaries, 4,400 miles of navigation.
Transportation. The great rivers above named give abundant access to the interior of the country, and this fact is the more important because large areas must otherwise remain inaccessible, being not adapted to the building of railways. Brazil has 14,000 miles of railways and these have been confined largely to the seaboard sections, but are now being extended into the interior.
Climate. Nearly the whole of the area of Brazil lies within the tropics, less than ten per cent. being in the temperate zone. With the heavy rainfall, especially in the western portion, there is thus a combination of heat and moisture which results in rank growth of vegetation. In the extreme southern sections the four seasons are fairly marked; elsewhere they consist only of the wet and the dry season.
Natural Resources. Brazil is an agricultural country. Vegetation is rich and varied. The forests, especially in the Amazon valley, have an amazing growth, and abound in animals, birds and plants. The rivers are full of fish and reptiles. In the valley-region development of the country has been hindered by the almost uncontrollable luxuriance of vegetation, which the meager population has been unable to subdue and hold in check. Brazil has more varieties of plants than any other country in the world. Her forests have a great variety of valuable woods, including rosewood, mahogany, satinwood, oak, pine and many others.
Brazil furnishes more than 60% of the world’s coffee and more than 50% of the world’s rubber. Other important products are sugar, tobacco, cotton, rice, mate, cocoa and nuts. Among her fruits are pineapples, oranges, mangoes and grapes. In southern Brazil the cattle industry is important. The mineral resources of Brazil have not been largely developed, but there are deposits of coal and also gold, silver, lead, zinc, iron, copper and other minerals.
Government. The United States of Brazil are a federal republic, the constitution being formed after the pattern of the United States. There are twenty states and one federal district. The national Congress consists of a senate and chamber of deputies.
Inhabitants. The population is about 22,000,000, less than half being of European descent. The language, unlike that of the rest of South America, is Portuguese. There are over 2,000,000 immigrants, chiefly Italian, Portuguese, Spanish and German. The religion is Roman Catholicism. The federal government pays the salary of the prelates, but has declared absolute freedom for every form of religion.
Education. Education is under state control, primary education being free but not compulsory. In Rio de Janeiro there are polytechnic schools, law schools, normal schools, a school of war, a college of marines and a naval academy. Other cities are provided with similar schools, but on the whole the standard of education is low, four out of five of the population being illiterate.
History. Brazil was discovered in 1500 by the explorer Pinzon, and thirty years later the Portuguese began to plant colonies along its coast. Their selfish and greedy policy long delayed the progress of the country. In 1808 the royal family of Portugal, the house of Braganza, being expelled by the French, took refuge in Brazil, and their stay was marked by great growth in the country. On their return the king’s eldest son was left as prince regent, but soon afterward, in 1822,, he declared Brazil independent, and was crowned emperor as Dom Pedro I. Worn out with the cares of rule, he abdicated in 1831, and for nine years regents guided the affairs of the empire, until in 1831 Dom Pedro II, at the age of 15, was crowned emperor. Except a few insurrections, his reign was peaceful, until the revolution in November, 1889, when the empire became a republic. The ex-emperor was kindly treated and provision made for his support, though for fear of trouble from his presence he was sent to Portugal. The capital of Brazil, its largest city and most important seaport, is Rio de Janeiro. Population (estimated), 1,000,000. The other chief towns are Bahia (230,000) and Pernambuco (150,000).