Brazil, officially the República Federativa do Brasil (Federative Republic of Brazil), is the largest country in Latin America and the only Portuguese-speaking country in the entire American continent. It is the world’s fifth-largest country, both by geographical area and population, and the biggest economy in Latin America. It is also the largest Portuguese-speaking country in the world, followed by Portugal, Mozambique, Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau and São Tomé and Príncipe.
The country occupies a large area along the eastern coast of South America and includes much of the continent’s interior. It shares land borders with every South American country except Ecuador and Chile: Uruguay to the south; Argentina and Paraguay to the southwest; Bolivia and Peru to the west; Colombia to the northwest; Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana to the north.
Currently, Brazil is divided into five official regions: West Center (Centro-Oeste), Northeast (Nordeste), North (Norte), Southeast (Sudeste) and South (Sul):
The largest region in Brazil is the North, with a population of over 15 million. The main city is Manaus and the economy is based mostly on Iron and Energy production and electronic manufacturing. It is home for the Amazon rainforest, which attracts several tourists yearly. Even though it is responsible for almost half of the Brazilian territorial extension, it has the lowest population density of the country.
The West Center region is the second largest one in territory and has the smallest population in the country: less than 14 million. Mainly savanna-like vegetation, includes the Pantanal, a natural region containing the world’s largest tropical wetland area. The region is also the least industrialized in the country, based mainly in food & meat processing and the economy lives mostly on livestock, soybeans and tourism. It is the home of Brazil’s capital city, Brasília.
The Northeast region was the first part of Brazil discovered by the Portuguese, and the first Brazilian capital, Salvador (Bahia state), was founded here. It has the lowest levels in the country in almost all of the social indicators, being considered the most impoverished region in Brazil. However, it has been growing above national average since the start of 21st century, gradually reducing the socio-economic distance to the other regions. Economy is based mostly on tourism, cocoa plantation, machinery manufacturing and textiles.
The Southeast region concentrates the biggest percentage of Brazil’s population, with over 80 million people, and is the major powerhouse of the Brazilian economy, responsible as it is for 49% of the Brazilian GDP (Gross Domestic Product). The biggest metropolitan area is São Paulo, followed by Rio de Janeiro, and its economy is based mostly on manufacturing (machinery, electronics, automobiles and aviation), coffee and sugar cane plantation, tourism, petroleum, textiles and energy production. Minas Gerais and Espírito Santo are placed in the richest mining region in Brazil.
The South of Brazil is the smallest region in size and is home to over 27 million people. Historically known by its high standard of living, with considerably better social indicators, which include some of the cities with the highest HDI levels in the country, including their capitals. Cities also feature an advanced level of urbanism in comparison with other parts of Brazil. However, is not immune from poverty, violence and other social issues, especially in the larger cities, even though in a lower level than poorer areas in the country. Economy is mostly based on machinery and automobile industries, textiles, tourism, energy production, information technology, orange, apple, grapefruit. It is home for the Iguaçu waterfalls, one of UNESCO’s sites of World Heritage.
Although officially recognized, the division is merely academic, considering geographic, social and economic factors, among others, and has no political effects other than orientating Federal-level government programs. Regions have no political autonomy; only states and cities do.