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Brazil Cruises

About Brazil

From the winding Amazon River and its lush rainforest to soaring mountain peaks, the natural beauty of Brazil provides ample opportunities for awe and inspiration. South America’s largest country also boasts a rich culture as varied as its natural environment, with European, Latin and African influences merging in a wholly unique way.

The land comprising modern-day Brazil was occupied long before the Portuguese arrived in the 16th century. Tribes of indigenous people lived off the region’s diverse landscapes, foraging and planting food and other resources.

The Portuguese came ashore in 1500, led by Pedro Álvares Cabral. Interactions between the natives and Europeans were made complicated by shifting indigenous alliances, and conflicts were common.

Sugar proved to be a successful cash crop for the colonists and grew to become a major export. Governed by Portugal for many years, the young nation risked outshining its home country after the Portuguese royal court fled to Rio de Janeiro during the Napoleonic Wars. The Brazilian city served as capital of the Kingdom of Portugal from 1808-1821. Just four years later, Brazil gained its independence. A monarchy ruled the country until 1889 and a subsequent period of unrest led to a civilian government in 1930 under Getúlio Vargas.

Any hope for democratic rule was dashed when Vargas began seizing more authority for himself. After his downfall, periods of relative freedom were overshadowed by a return to dictatorship. Civilian control returned in 1985, and the nation is currently governed as a constitutional republic.

Brazil Lifestyle and Culture

Brazil is a thoroughly modern country with a sophisticated culture buoyed by rich natural resources. Portuguese is the national language, though many native tongues are still spoken by indigenous people. In fact, some tribes deep within the rainforests have limited contact with the outside world, leaving their language and culture to evolve in isolation.

Brazilian culture derives many of its traditions from Portugal, including a devout Roman Catholicism. Many Brazilian musical styles, too, carry a strong European influence. The lively samba, the most popular, was composed with an ear to the rhythms of Portugal and Africa. Brazil’s cuisine is also distinctly regional, thanks to the diversity of its population.

Soccer is the nation’s most popular sport, and the Brazilian team has enjoyed unparalleled success, winning a record five World Cups. Many Americans will be familiar with the Brazilian player Pelé, one of the most famous soccer players in the world.

Brazil Sights and Landmarks

The Amazon River is nearly 4,000 miles long, and has in many ways shaped the history of Brazil. Natives have long depended upon it for food and transportation, and do so still. The largest river in the world by volume, this spectacular waterway carries a staggering amount of water through the Amazon basin to its mouth on the Atlantic coast. The river is a priceless ecological treasure upon which both man and nature depend. Its surrounding forest, the Amazon, is the most biodiverse environment on the planet, home to some 2,000 bird and mammal species, 40,000 types of plants, 2,200 kinds of fish and an astonishing 2.5 million insect species; more are being catalogued every day.

Not all of Brazil’s treasures are nature-made. Along the lush banks of the Amazon, culture-rich cities carry on the legacy of their Portuguese founders. In Manaus, the river’s largest city, the stunning 19th-century Teatro Amazonas (Amazon Theater) is an elegant masterwork of Renaissance style, adorned with columns, marble statues and a tile-covered dome. Home to the national orchestra, it’s just as impressive inside, adorned with chandeliers and an intricate ceiling mural. The cities of Belém and Santarém, too, provide glimpses into the region’s history, largely built on the prosperity earned from the dreams and work of rubber barons. These riverside cities share another thing in common: they each enjoy a setting along the world’s most magnificent river and amid the spectacular Amazon rainforest.

Perhaps Brazil’s most famous city is Rio de Janeiro, host of the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. A pulsing metropolis of music, dance and cuisine, it is widely celebrated for its beaches, most notably Ipanema Beach. The renowned statue of Christ the Redeemer towers above, set among soaring mountains on Guanabara Bay. Arms extended in a plaintive pose, the stone figure stands atop Corcovado Mountain watching over the city like a sentinel.

Brazil Entertainment and Activities

Brazilian cities offer many dining opportunities. Enjoy delicious food at both upscale restaurants and small eateries throughout the country. For a taste of traditional Brazilian fare, try feijoada, the national dish composed of beans, meat and vegetables in a stew. It’s a favorite of Brazilians and a hearty conclusion to a day of exploring. Various styles of rice and beans, and empanada pastries, are also common and on most any menu. Experience Brazil’s traditional cuisine, at its most basic or with a modern twist, at restaurants such as Banzeiro in Manaus or Piracema in Santarém.

One of the nation’s oldest and most fascinating shopping experiences is Belém’s Mercado Ver-o-Peso (Ver-o-Peso market). Here, 2,000 stalls hark back to colonial days when Portugal ruled local commerce. For more upscale browsing, the Mercado Municipal in Manaus is modeled after Les Halles in Paris. Rio de Janeiro offers high-end boutiques and seaside shops. Outside, vendors line the shore at Ipanema and Copacabana Beaches; inside, air-conditioned malls beckon. The city also hosts the weekly Hippie Fair, a market where you can find local crafts and meet artisans or entertainers.