Was Brazil a "serious country" destined to be a great power, or was it always to remain a land of the future? There are no simple answers. By ALEXA FUTTERWEIT The fifth largest country in the world, Brazil is the largest country in Latin America and has territory slightly larger than that of the continental United States. With 80 percent of its population living in cities and towns, Brazil is one of the most urbanized and industrialized countries in Latin America. Brazil stands out for its regional and social disparities. Brazil is noted for having one of the most unequal income distributions of any country. In the rural Northeast, there is poverty similar to that found in some African and Asian countries. Although increased urbanization has accompanied economic development, it also has created serious social problems in the cities. While in many ways this diversity or heterogeneity makes it similar to other developing countries in Latin America and elsewhere, Brazil is also unique. One of the fascinating elements of this uniqueness is that it is different things at once, presenting different faces or identities of a single coherent whole. Both local and foreign perceptions of Brazil tend to exaggerate particular features, lack a balanced view, and fail to grasp how the parts of the whole fit together. During the twentieth century, for example, the country was considered a tropical paradise famed for its exports (coffee), music, and soccer, as well as the nearly mythical Amazon rain forest. On a more serious level, Brazil often was disparaged for its inability to solve basic political and economic problems, such as consolidating democratic institutions, controlling runaway inflation, and servicing the foreign debt. However, the nation is noted for being an emerging industrial power and for constructing giant public works, such as the new capital city of Brasília, the Trans Amazonian Highway, and the world's largest hydroelectric dam (Itaipu). Brazil also stands out for its leadership role in Latin America and the developing world. Most Brazilians saw the military regime of 196485 as a repressive dictatorship, although others regarded it as having saved the country from communism. Brazilian society was viewed as conservative and male opinionated, yet simultaneously freewheeling or even immoral, as revealed in its Carnival festivities. In the 1980s, much of the world saw the Amazon, the world's greatest store of biodiversity, and its native peoples as falling victim to unparalleled destruction.
Published on May 19, 2010
Published on May 19, 2010
By ALEXA FUTTERWEIT The fifth largest country in the world, Brazil is the largest country in Latin America and has territory slightly larger...