Far from being a jungle paradise Brazil has both the largest rainforest and the biggest city in Latin America. You have cowboys in the South and Wild West Stories from the Northeast. Brazil is my second home and it surprises me every day, so we’ve put together 40 facts on Brazil. A bunch of statistics, curiosities and wild myths ŧhat you would have never guessed all fit into one country.
Brazil Facts on Food
- Brazil produces the greatest quantity of coffee in the world. The coffee plant was imported form Africa, and turned many of the Brazilian elites extortionately rich. The most lucrative coffee area was in the Vale do Paraíba, where the farmers would deforest the hills to expand the crop. Eventually, the business suffered with the prohibition of slavery and due to over-exhausting the land. Nowadays, many of the old coffee farms have been converted into holiday resorts known as Hotel Fazendas. The slave quarters, known as the Senzalas are often converted into the hotel rooms and they offer tours (including typical attire from the 18th century) of the farm owners’ majestic house.
- Guaraná is an Amazonian fruit that contains more caffeine than coffee beans. For this reason the fruit extract has been made into a syrup that forms the basis of Brazil’s most popular soda, Guaraná. When the fruit is cut it looks like eyeballs … a source of many indigenous fables in the region.
- Mandioca (yuca or cassava in English) is one of the principal food substances consumed in Brazil, being produced in all 27 states. Tapioca also derives from this root vegetable and Brazil is the second biggest producer of mandioca, only behind Nigeria. So popular is mandioca that it has several names, like aipim, macaxeira, castelinha, macamba, as well as being nicknamed “Brazil’s Father.”
- Cachaça is Brazil’s national drink, which is made from distilled sugarcane product, similar to rum. It does however, have a very distinct taste and can reach up to 50% alcohol percentage.
Read our post to learn more: What is Cachaça? Should I get Drunk on It?
- Açaí, hailed a super-food, is a berry produced in Brazil and throughout South America. The berry is popular in a drink that takes the same name. The drink açaí, however, also contains various ingredients for sweetness, including the Gauraná syrup.
- Cow farming in Brazil is so valuable that a prize bull can be worth up to a US $1 million. The farms in Brazil can occupy huge amounts of flat land highlighted for the the cattle to graze freely. Nova Piratininga in Goiás is the biggest farm in Brazil with 135 thousand hectors, about the size of New York City.
- Brazilians love chicken heart so much that despite producing 6 billion chickens a year, they occasionally still have to import extra chicken hearts. The BBQ treat is served up on skewers and piled onto your plate in a whole mound.
Brazilian Facts on Nature
- Brazil boarders every country in South America apart from Chile and Ecuador. That’s 10 country boarders, which adds up to a lot of boarder control. It has also implicated recent influxes of Venezuelan Refugees forced to migrate due to the humanitarian crisis in their country.
Read about the Refugee Crisis here: Fleeing Through the Jungle: Venezuelan Refugees in Brazil.
- Two-thirds of the Amazon rainforest lies in Brazil. Here lies the largest natural reserve in the world, the Central Amazon Conservation Complex, that protects a region of 6 million hectares.
- In São Paulo there is an island solely inhabited by venomous snakes. Setting foot on the island is prohibited by the Brazilian navy as the snakes, the Golden Lanceheads or pit vipers, are those that kill the most people in Brazil. Luckily there are no beaches for anyone to surreptitiously wonder onto this risky island.
- Natural rubber is traditionally produced from the Brazilian tree, Hevea brasiliensis, also known as the rubber tree. Sadly, in 1876 an English explorer Sir Henry Wickham smuggled rubber tree seeds from Brazil, from which point it was then produced worldwide.
- Brazil is considered the most biodiverse country in the world. Though it doesn’t top the charts for birds nor mammals, it wins for plant life and amphibians, which draws it to first place.
Along these lines, the population is pretty diverse too. Why not read about how even Kim Jong-un has a Brazilian passport…?
- Brazil is the land of giant emeralds. Two of the biggest finds of Emeralds in the world were discovered in Pernambuco and Bahia States. One is considered as worth up to US$400 million. Imagine digging $400 million from your backgarden one day? It’s called the Bahia emerald. The problem? Who owns this beast? There have been on going disputes on ownership rights and so far no one has hit the jackpot. Just last year another emerald was revealed weighing 341kg. This time the “owner” went into hiding with his family. He relocates the gem every now and then too and fears if people knew he might be kidnapped.
- Though the Amazon is most famous for its ferocious piranhas there is a giant that lives in the Amazon basin. The Pirarucu can reach 3 metres in length and breathes air, though it can stay underwater for 30 minutes. This allows the fish to hunt in water that is low in oxygen.
Historical Facts on Brazil
- Brazil harbors the remnants of one of the world’s most Ancient civilizations in the Serra de Capivara park. Located in the State of Piauí (pee-a-wee), here you can find the most extensive caving painting sites in the world. They date back 50,000 years, knitting together a cave system of 750 archeological sites and totalling 30,000 wee cave painting figures. It is a now a World UNESCO heritage site.
- The country has had two impeachments of presidents, so far. The first was Fernando Color de Mello whose was removed from power in December 1992. The second impeachment removed Dilma Rousseff, 24 years later, in December 2016.
- Brazil was ruled by a military dictatorship between 1964 – 1985.
- The biggest slave population in the world was in Brazil, which imported approximately 4 million Africans into slavery. This is believed to be 10 times more than in the USA. Furthermore, Brazil was the final country to abolish slavery in 1888.
Read about how the abolition of slavery was intricately linked to the emergence of favelas in Brazil: Visiting Favelas Responsibly.
- Rio de Janeiro was the capital of Brazil from 1763 until 1960, when the president at the time had a vision to transfer the capital to the center of the country. Brasília was so far from other structures that they had to fly in concrete and building materials to actually construct the city. From above the planned city takes the shape of an airplane.
- Brazil has a document saying it would not participate in wars, unless it is directly attacked. That means they only technically had one international war, which was against Paraguay who tried to simulataneously invade three countries. They do, however, participate in peace movements such as the UN missions. That’s why the Brazilian army were stationed in Haiti from 2004 – 2017.
Celebrations and Festivals in Brazil
- Brazilians have a tradition of wearing white on New Year’s Eve. It is a sign that you want peace for the year to come. There are though a whole array of color specters to choose from depending on your aspirations for the New Year.
Red is for passion and romance.
Green is nature and good health.
Yellow is for money.
Blue is for harmony.
Orange is for professional success.
Purple is for inspiration.
- Brazil technically has a Second “independence day” called Tiradentes Day. Tiradentes was a dentist who plotted against the Portuguese court (conquistadores). BUT in a dramatic grass up he was caught and quartered, many times, as an example to others that would try to follow in his path.
Read more about it in my Tiradentes Guide: How Brazil Wrangled Two Independence Days.
- Brazil has 13 official national holidays (Carnival has 3 days) and extra ones for each city and state. For example Rio de Janeiro also has Saint George’s Day and Black Awareness Day. On top of this, in special events like days of the World Cup Football games in which Brazil participates are declared holidays (or at least for half a day).
- At Christmas it is tradition to eat Turkey and cod fish. The festivities happen in the evening of the 24th and the 25th the shops and restaurants will often be open as usual. The Easter tradition food is fish on Good Friday.
- The 12th October is a national holiday for Nossa Senhora Aparecida (Our Lady Aparecida), which leads to the pilgrimage of roughly … people each year to the cathedral dedicated to the miracle that happened in 1717. They march to the location where the small, black statue of Mary appeared to fishermen in the coffee region of Brazil, Vale do Paraíba.
Sports Facts on Brazil
- Brazil has won the most World Football Cups ever. They hold 5 titles to their name.
- Brazil has its own Marshall Art form called Capoeira. It was developed by the slave population as a form of self defense and at the time was prohibited.
- Rio was the second city in the Southern Hemisphere to host the Olympic Games, behind Australia that has hosted the games twice. It is the first country in South America to host the prestigious sporting event.
Cultural Facts on Brazil
- Brazil has 21 World UNESCO sites, including a central reserve in the Amazon, colonial mining town Ouro Preto and the largest waterfall system in the world, Iguaçu Falls.
- Telenovelas are Brazil’s high budget, dramatic soap opera genre. The shows are so popular they have been broadcast to 180 countries in total. The frequent export market of telenovelas lies in 100 countries, and whereas usually soap actors are c listers, they hit the big bucks in Brazil and are A listers.
- There are 240 indigenous tribes in Brazil. That’s 900,000 people belonging to an indigenous ethnic group. Despite popular believe, not all this population live in the Amazon. In fact, the Guarani, the largest indigenous group live in the Southern Savanas. The Guarani have a population of 51,000 and live in Mato Grosso, as well as Paraguay, Argentina and Bolivia.
- Sao Paulo is largest city in Latin America, with more than 13 million people. Though bearing this in mind, there is a more sinister outcome. Obviously, there are more rats than people in this mega city.
- Brazil has the most Catholics in the world, 130 million. It is believed that 64% of the population is Catholic. However, change is on the rise as the Evangelical church is gaining momentum. The mayor of Rio de Janeiro is a bishop of the Universal Church, an evangelical institution with its tv channel.
- Brazil has a zero alcohol tolerance. If you drink anything and drive in Brazil you will be subject to a steep fine, losing your license and having your car confiscated.
- Other laws are prohibition of gambling. That’s right, there isn’t a single casino in the whole of Brazil. Also, you cannot sunbathe topless in Brazil, although the rest of the bikini is pretty skimpy.
- The prison system in Brazil is split into two categories where the inmates are incarcerated separately. In the first those who haven’t graduated from university and in the other those who have a degree. Quite dubious and undoubtably unjust.
- Brazil is the country with the most VW kombi vans in the world. Whereas in other places production ceased in the 1980s, in Brazil the line was only removed from production fairly recently in 2013.
- Brazil has its own Wild West Story involving the Cangaço gangs (cangançeiros). In the North East of Brazil there is a huge area of arid land, not dissimilar to the Wild West of the USA, known as the Sertão. The most famous Cangaço was Lampião, a mixture of hero and villain, who hated the government and rich land owners. A Brazilian Wild Western, Robin Hood figure who you can read more about here.
- Brazil or more specifically the Amazon River Basin has it’s own pink dolphins. These river dolphins, named Botos, can range from grey to pink in colour, and has poor vision using sonar to navigate the murky river waters.