And geographic diversity/human-environment interaction

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Intro to Brazil Case Study

Welcome to our study of the vast country of Brazil! Our Brazil Case study focuses on 2 large themes: cultural diversity and cultural convergence and geographic diversity/human-environment interaction. Brazil is South America’s largest country and exemplifies its rich cultural and geographic diversity. We will see in Brazil how some people live in some the most modern cities on earth and others in places seemingly untouched by modern technology.
As we know already, Brazil was colonized by the Portuguese in the 1500s. The slave trade brought many Africans to Brazil. Sugar plantations and later on, the rubber trade dominated Brazil’s economy. Slavery was abolished in Brazil in 1888 – over 20 years after the United States, making it the last country in the Americas to end it. Today Brazil is one of the rising economic powers - otherwise known as BRIC nations - together with Russia, India, China and South Africa. Over the past few years it has made major strides in its efforts to raise millions out of poverty. The discovery of major offshore oil reserves could propel the country into the top league of oil-exporting nations.

Courtesy of BBC Country Profile
Geographic Regions of Brazil

Brazil is diverse geographically. In class we will focus mostly on the geography of the Rainforest.

The Rainforest is primarily in the North of the country. This area is dominated by the Amazon and its large tributaries. Deforestation beginning in the 1970s and 1980s became a problem in this area. Acres of land were cut down to provide farmland for people in Brazil. Other land was cut down for timber. Accordingly, the Brazilian government launched various policies to control development. These policies have been largely successful and the pace of deforestation has been reduced, but the Amazon is still under threat, as is much of the rainforests in the world.

1/3 of the Brazilian population lives in the Northeast, an often dry region. This area was the first region colonized by the Portuguese and much of what we think of as characteristically Brazilian culture and cuisine comes from this region.

West Central Brazil is made of largely populated grassland. The nation's capital, Brasília, founded in 1960, is located in this region. It’s built in the shape of an airplane!

The Southwest is highly industrialized especially in the areas around the cities of São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, and Belo Horizonte, which form the economic hub of Brazil. The majority of the country's population is concentrated in this region.

São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro are the traditional base for manufacturing and commerce in Brazil. São Paulo in particular remains the commercial center of the country. The Southern region is characterized by cattle grazing and grassland.

Courtesy of the Embassy of Brazil in New Zealand:
Brazilian Culture

Cultural diffusion has brought many cultures to Brazil. Portuguese conquest, immigration and slavery have made Brazil a mix of cultures and heritages. As with other Latin American countries, Brazil has a mixed inheritance of Indian and European descent, and also a large portion of people with African heritage. Immigrants from Asia other places also make up the population in Brazil.

Because there is such a mix of cultures, how people view race in Brazil is very different than America. In America we tend to categorize people into what race or ethnicity they are. In Brazil race is seen as self described and more fluid. The idea of “black” and “white” are not seen as so simple. For example, on the 1990 census, people were asked to describe their race and skin color. There were a total of 155 different terms that people used ranging from “darkish white” to “bronzed tan” to “cinnamon hued” to “dark tan” to “toffee”

Courtesy of The Brazil Reader: History, Culture, Politics Levine, Crocitti et. al
The Northeast of Brazil has heavy African influence, whereas the South, where Brazil borders Argentina is more heavily European.

The conquest and the rubber trade has wiped out the majority of the Indigenous peoples. The in the 1850s, the rubber trade brought many people seeking fortune into the Brazilian Rainforest and other remote areas. Indigenous tribes who had never had contact with outsiders found themselves at odds and in danger from the outside world. In the Early 1900s the Foundation for protection of Indian peoples (FUNAI) was founded to protect the rights and safety of indigenous people. However, this has not always protected these tribes effectively and their culture as well as their lives are constantly under attack.

Some tribes have had very little contact with the “modern” world. The term for a culture not having contact with other groups is called cultural divergence. As Brazil becomes more modern and economically powerful, how long these tribes will be able to limit contact is uknown.

  1. How do humans interact with their environment in different ways in the various regions of Brazil? Give examples of Human Environment interaction in two regions.

  2. How has cultural diffusion impacted Brazil historically and in modern day?

  3. Why do you think there is still cultural divergence among some indigenous groups in Brazil?

Atlas: Brazil Revealed - Film NOTES

Task: Take notes on the region specified, the elements of culture listed, and the key term/people/events identified. Take thorough notes for each section defining the key terms and describing the regions in the space provided.
Caneta’s Story –

Element of culture: economic systems.

Region/City: Amazon

Important terms: caboclos

Jackie’s Story:

Elements of Culture: customs and traditions, social organization (gender roles)

Region/city: Manaus (North/Amazon Region)

Jackson’s story:

Elements of Culture: social organization, customs and traditions, arts and literature.

Region/city: Salvador - Northeast

Key terms/people: capoeira, Boa Gente, candomble, favelas, slavery, African heritage


Elements of Culture: Arts and literature

Region: Rio de Janeiro (South), Brasilia (West Central)

Key terms: Samba, Carnaval

Rodrigo’s Story

Elements of Culture: arts/literature (entertainment), economic systems, customs and traditions

Region: Sao Paulo State/Southern region


Elements of Culture: Social Organization (education, life for young people)

Region/city: Sao Paolo (Southern Region)

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