The culture of Brazil is the result
of the melting pot of races and cultural influences that
helped shape this country. Brazilian culture has been shaped not only by the Portuguese, who gave
the country its religion and language, but also by the country's native
Indians, the considerable African population, and other settlers from
Europe, the Middle East and Asia. In 1992 the population of Brazil reached
149.8 million, the sixth
largest in the world after those of China, India, the United States,
Indonesia, and the Russian Federation.
The population of Brazil is
predominantly young, with 62 percent of the people under 29 years of age.
Nationwide, the demographic density is relatively low. The
population is concentrated along the Atlantic coastal areas of the
southeastern and northeastern states.There are three basic racial sources for the Brazilian people.
are the natives (Indians), the European immigrants (mainly Portuguese),
and Africans, most of whom came from the sub-Saharan west coast. In
the 16th century, the area now known as Brazil was inhabited by several
hundred indigenous tribes who, while racially similar, spoke different
languages and had different cultures. Intermarriages by the natives
among Portuguese settlers and, later, among African slaves, produced a
racial mix that was further diversified in the 19th century as German,
Lebanese, and Italian immigrants began to arrive. The beginning of
the 20th century saw the onset of Japanese emigration to Brazil, a
trend which has increased almost exponentially to this day.
Portuguese is the official language of
Brazil. With the exception of the Indian tribes on reservations
throughout Brazil, Brazilians use Portuguese as the only language of daily
life. There are no regional dialects. Brazil is the only
Portuguese-speaking country in South America.
The immigrant Portuguese language was greatly influenced by the numerous
Indian and African dialects they encountered, but it remains the dominant
language in Brazil today. In fact, the Brazilian dialect has become the
dominant influence in the development of the Portuguese language, for the
simple reason that Brazil has 15 times the population of Portugal and a
much more dynamic linguistic environment. Among Brazil's writers of fiction, Machado de Assis stands out with his
terse, ironic style. The son of a freed slave, Assis worked as a
typesetter and journalist in 19th-century Rio. Brazil's most famous
20th-century writer is the regionalist Jorge Amado, whose tales are
colorful romances of Bahia's people and places.
Brazil is officially a Catholic
country, but in practice the country's
religious life incorporates Indian animism, African cults, Afro-Catholic
syncretism and Kardecism, a spiritualist religion embracing Eastern
mysticism, which is gaining popularity with Brazilian Whites. The Brazilian constitution guarantees
absolute freedom of religion. In 1989 almost 90% of the population
declared themselves to be Roman Catholic, but recently, Protestant groups
in Brazil have been growing in number. Today there are sizeable
memberships in independent Pentecostal churches, and numbers are
increasing steadily in European- and American- born denominations such as
Episcopal, Lutheran, Methodist, Baptist, and the Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-Day Saints (Mormons). In addition, Brazil is home to small
minorities of Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, and numerous adherents to
candomblé, a religion combining Catholicism and the polytheistic beliefs
of early African slaves. Spiritism, a reincarnation-centered system
of beliefs developed by 19th-Century psychic researcher Allan Kardec, is
also practiced in Brazil.