Country of Extremes & Contrasts
Brazil is the largest country in South America, occupying 50 percent of the continent. This important medical tourism hub has one of the world’s largest economies and most diverse populations. It also has experienced an incredibly mixed history that includes colonization, slavery, Bossa Nova music, and some of the most intense celebrations in the Catholicism.
Pre Columbian Roots
When the first Portuguese settlers arrived in 1500, they found more than seven million indigenous inhabitants already living here. These natives lived in well-organized communities, with some tribes having as many as 5,000 members. The early Portuguese settlers had no intention of conquering, converting, or otherwise changing the social landscape of the region. Gold mines, gem deposits, and escape from persecution back in Europe were the primary motivations for the early settlers. They found vast unclaimed lands perfect for agricultural cultivation, and they poured their efforts into eking out an existing.
Slavery came with the boom in sugar cultivation. The demand for increased manual labor on profitable sugar plantations opened the door to foreign and domestic slaves. Because slaves from West African often proved less susceptible to the combination of Old World and New World diseases, the foreign slave trade really began taking off. By the time slavery was officially banned in 1888, Brazil had the largest slave population in the world. Subsequent interracial mingling amongst native, Portuguese, and African Brazilians resulted in the country's incredibly diverse racial fabric. Most Brazilians have traces of European, Amerindian, African and native Indian ancestry in their blood.
In the 19th century, a wave of European immigration began. This coincided with the rise of coffee production which displaced sugar as the main cash crop. A surprising number of immigrants poured in from Germany and Italy, thus, further enriching the country's multicultural roots. By the turn of the century, Brazil was a republic, although political turmoil continued to plague the region till well into the middle of the 20th century. There were many periods of military rule until 1989, when the country elected Fernando Collor de Mello as its president.