Brazil has nearly half of South America’s people and land. It has two main landforms—plains and plateaus. The huge Amazon River basin is a plains region. A narrow lowlands region follows the Atlantic coast. A huge interior plateau drops sharply to the plains. The drop forms an escarpment, or steep cliff, between the two levels. The escarpment created a barrier to Brazil’s interior for many years. Inland from the coast lies the serta ̃o, or interior plateau. Portuguese settlers started sugar planta- tions along the coast of the northeast in the 1500s. They brought enslaved Africans to do the work. Poverty in this region is great because the soil is poor and rain is uncertain. Brazil’s southeast is the smallest region and economic heartland. Many crops grow on its fertile soil. Coffee is the biggest and most important crop. About 40 percent of Brazilians live in this region, mostly in or near two cities—Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. The cities attract poor people from rural areas who are looking for a better life. But many end up in slum communities called favelas. Houses there are often built of mud, tin, and wood boards. Brazil’s capital, Brasília, is in the Brazil- ian Highlands. It was built to attract peo- ple to this area, which is on the central plateau. The Amazon River basin is home to thousands of kinds of plants and animals. Only about 10 percent of Brazilians live there, including about 200,000 Indians.
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#1 What region is Brazil’s economic heartland?

#2 Map Skills: What city is located on the Amazon River?


Brazil is a country of extremes. It is rich in natural resources but has much poverty. The country is taking steps to modernize its economy. The growth of industry has helped to create a middle class. Many of the poorest Brazilians live in urban favelas. Others are small farmers who live in the northeastern serato, a region with poor soil and uncertain rain- fall. To attack poverty, Brazil’s government has increased industry and encouraged people to settle in the interior. The govern- ment has built steel mills, oil refineries, and hydroelectric dams. It built the new capital of Brasília in the Brazilian Highlands and built thousands of miles of new roads. To encourage people to move to the interior, the government gave away land and mining permits. Manufacturing now makes up more than one third of Brazil’s gross domestic product. The development of gasohol, a new fuel that mixes gasoline with ethanol, which comes from sugar cane, allows Brazil to grow its own fuel rather than import expensive foreign oil. About half of the people work in service indus- tries such as hotels, restaurants, stores, and government. Economic change has been good for Brazil, but it has had some unexpected bad effects. Favelas have grown larger as more people have moved to the cities. New settlers in the Amazon Basin cut down forests to plant crops. They learned, however, that the rain forest had kept the soil from washing away. Today the soil is no longer good for farming. Deforesta- tion, or the permanent removal of wood- land, threatens thousands of species of plants and animals in the Amazon. The government is now working to stop this threat.

#3 What has Brazil done to encourage the development of the country’s interior region?

#4 Graph Skills: How did the percentage of people living in cities change from 1974 to 1994?