The People

Roughly 75 per cent of the people live in urban areas, nearly all of which are in the highland and coastal areas south of the Amazon Basin. Many cities are growing rapidly, some almost explosively, mainly because of migrants from rural areas. In and near some cities, huge impoverished settlements, called favelas, have grown up. One such shantytown, Nova Iguaçu, outside Rio de Janeiro, has rapidly become one of the largest cities in Brazil.

About 60 per cent of the people are of European ancestry, mostly Portuguese, Italian, or German. Most of the people live in the south and southeast. People of mixed European and black or Indian ancestry make up about 30 per cent of the population. The remaining 10 per cent consists of blacks. Indians, and Asiatics. Most of the Indians live in the Amazon valley, and most of the blacks live on the central coast. Beginning in the mid-1980's, some Indians in the Amazon valley were relocated to make way for mining and road-building projects.

The official language is Portuguese, but English is also widely spoken among the educated. (Brazil, Guyana, and Suriname are the only independent mainland South American countries in which Spanish is not the official language.) More than 90 per cent of the people are Roman Catholic.

Although Brazilians are strongly nationalistic, immigrants from Europe and Asia have been easily assimilated. Brazilians enjoy music, theater, and sports, especially soccer, golf, tennis, and swimming. The carnival in Rio de Janeiro just before Lent is one of the world's most notable festivals. Nearly every business closes while people celebrate with costume parades, balls, folk music, dancing in the streets, and elaborate fireworks. Other Brazilian cities also have pre-Lenten festivals.