Expansive and diverse, Brazil’s history has been influenced by a variety of peoples, including the Portuguese, Dutch, French, Spanish, Africans and indigenous groups. Traditional and contemporary threads are interwoven here, commingling in every aspect of life, from architecture to festivals to food.
Though it was Portuguese explorer Pedro Alvarez Cabral who claimed discovery of Brazil for his country in 1500, the land had been inhabited long before his arrival. For thousands of years, this large South American country was home to indigenous people believed to have made their way across the Bering land bridge from the north.
The Portuguese set out to colonize the region, importing slaves from Africa to work the sugar mills and plantations. Throughout the 16th and 17th centuries, both France and Holland attempted to gain control of the area, but were unsuccessful. Brazil’s economy and history was shaped by sugar production and later, the discovery of gold, coffee bean harvests and the rubber boom of the 19th century.
Brazil gained its independence in 1822, after more than three centuries of Portuguese dominance. It was several years, however, before slavery was abolished and the monarchy disappeared. This era was followed by a military movement that declared the country a republic in 1889. Populist and military governments ruled until the 1980s, when Brazil transitioned into democracy.
Recently, the country has been making a bid for the world stage by winning opportunities to host the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games.
Brazil’s cities maintain structures of its old regimes. From Baroque churches and cathedrals to colonial houses and cobblestoned squares, visitors can still view remnants of the country’s past. More modern elements have earned their place here as well. Luxury hotels, clubs supporting an active nightlife and top-notch restaurants adding their gourmet delights to the culinary scene are just some of the contemporary endeavors that vacationers will find here.