Ten Things You May Not Know About Brazil

A landscape of Brazil showing a harbor, cityscape, and rock formations


  1. Brazil's name comes from the pau-brasil, the brazilwood tree, which is the country's national tree.
  2. Portuguese is the national language of Brazil, spoken by 98% of the population. The country is also home to more than 200 other languages, many of which are indigenous. The most widely spoken indigenous languages include Ticuna, Kaingang, Kaiwá Guarani, and Nheengatu, among many others.
  3. Brasilia became the nation’s capital in 1960, replacing Rio de Janeiro. The city was built in 41 months, from 1956 to 1960.
  4. Brazil has 4,660 miles of coastline and is home to numerous beautiful beaches.
  5. There are 21 UNESCO World Heritage sites in Brazil. These include the capital of Brasilia, the Historic Centre of Salvador de Bahia, the country’s original capital city from 1549 to 1763; the Valongo Wharf Archaeological Site in Rio de Janeiro, which, according to UNESCO, was “built in 1811 to facilitate the debarkation of enslaved Africans arriving in Brazil.”; and the Central Amazon Conservation Complex, the largest protected area in the Amazon Basin.
  6. More than a third of the world’s coffee comes from Brazilian coffee plantations. Most are in the southeastern states of Minas Gerais, São Paulo and Paraná. The two most widely grown varieties are arabica and robusta.
  7. One major part of society and culture in Rio are the favelas that are scattered across the city. Favelas are impoverished neighborhoods that are also rich with culture and history. Favelas grew with increased migration to Rio starting in the early 20th century, and today there are around 1,000 favelas.
  8. Brazil is one of the world’s most biodiverse countries with some four million plant and animal species, including the most species of monkey in the world.
  9. Rio de Janeiro is the birthplace of bossa nova music. Merriam-Webster defines bossa nova (which literally means “new wave” or “new trend”) as “popular music of Brazilian origin that is rhythmically related to the samba but with complex harmonies and improvised jazzlike passages.” This genre was popularized around the world by artists such as João Gilberto and Antônio Carlos Jobim. The album Getz/Gilberto, a collaboration between Gilberto and American saxophonist Stan Getz, and featuring Jobim, was the first jazz album to win the Grammy Awards’ Album of the Year. Its most famous single, which won Record of the Year, is “The Girl from Ipanema.”
  10. Soccer, or football as Brazilians call it, is the country’s most popular sport. The national team of Brazil has won a record five FIFA World Cups.