The population of Brazil, as recorded by the 2008 PNAD, was approximately 190 million (22.31 inhabitants per square kilometre or 57.8/sq mi), with a ratio of men to women of 0.95:1 and 83.75% of the population defined as urban. The population is heavily concentrated in the Southeastern (79.8 million inhabitants) and Northeastern (53.5 million inhabitants) regions, while the two most extensive regions, the Center-West and the North, which together make up 64.12% of the Brazilian territory, have a total of only 29.1 million inhabitants.

The first census in Brazil was carried out in 1872 and recorded a population of 9,930,478. From 1880 to 1930, 4 million Europeans arrived. Brazil's population increased significantly between 1940 and 1970, because of a decline in the mortality rate, even though the birth rate underwent a slight decline. In the 1940s the annual population growth rate was 2.4%, rising to 3.0% in the 1950s and remaining at 2.9% in the 1960s, as life expectancy rose from 44 to 54 years and to 72.6 years in 2007. It has been steadily falling since the 1960s, from 3.04% per year between 1950 and 1960 to 1.05% in 2008 and is expected to fall to a negative value of –0.29% by 2050 thus completing the demographic transition.

In 2008, the illiteracy rate was 11.48% and among the youth (ages 15–19) 1.74%. It was highest (20.30%) in the Northeast, which had a large proportion of rural poor. Illiteracy was high (24.18%) among the rural population and lower (9.05%) among the urban population.

Race and ethnicity

According to the National Research by Household Sample (PNAD) of 2008, 48.43% of the population (about 92 million) described themselves as White; 43.80% (about 83 million) as Pardo (brown), 6.84% (about 13 million) as Black; 0.58% (about 1.1 million) as Asian; and 0.28% (about 536 thousand) as Amerindian (officially called indígena, Indigenous), while 0.07% (about 130 thousand) did not declare their race.

In 2007, the National Indian Foundation estimated that Brazil has 67 different uncontacted tribes, up from their estimate of 40 in 2005. Brazil is believed to have the largest number of uncontacted peoples in the world.

Since the arrival of the Portuguese in 1500, considerable miscegenation between Amerindians, Europeans, and Africans has taken place in all regions of the country (with European ancestry being dominant nationwide according to the vast majority of all autosomal studies undertaken covering the entire population, accounting for between 65% to 77%).

Brazilian society is more markedly divided by social class lines, although a high income disparity is found between race groups, so racism and classism can be conflated. Socially significant closeness to one racial group is taken in account more in the basis of appearance (phenotypes) rather than ancestry, to the extent that full siblings can pertain to different "racial" groups. Socioeconomic factors are also significant, because a minority of pardos are likely to start declaring themselves White or Black if socially upward. Skin color and facial features do not line quite well with ancestry (usually, Afro-Brazilians are evenly mixed and European ancestry is dominant in Whites and pardos with a significant non-European contribution, but the individual variation is great).

The brown population (officially called pardo in Portuguese, also colloquially moreno) is a broad category that includes caboclos (assimilated Amerindians in general, and descendants of Whites and Natives), mulatos (descendants of primarily Whites and Afro-Brazilians) and cafuzos (descendants of Afro-Brazilians and Natives). People of considerable Amerindian ancestry form the majority of the population in the Northern, Northeastern and Center-Western regions.

Higher percents of Blacks, mulattoes and tri-racials can be found in the eastern coast of the Northeastern region from Bahia to Paraíba and also in northern Maranhão, southern Minas Gerais and in eastern Rio de Janeiro. From the 19th century, Brazil opened its borders to immigration. About five million people from over 60 countries migrated to Brazil between 1808 and 1972, most of them of Portuguese, Italian, Spanish, German, Ukrainian, Polish, Jewish, Russian, Chinese, Japanese, and Arab origin.


Religion in Brazil was formed from the meeting of the Catholic Church with the religious traditions of enslaved African peoples and indigenous peoples. This confluence of faiths during the Portuguese colonization of Brazil led to the development of a diverse array of syncretistic practices within the overarching umbrella of Brazilian Catholic Church, characterized by traditional Portuguese festivities, and in some instances, Allan Kardec's Spiritism (a religion which incorporates elements of spiritualism and Christianity). Religious pluralism increased during the 20th century, and the Protestant community has grown to include over 22% of the population. The most common Protestant denominations are Pentecostal and Evangelical ones. Other Protestant branches with a notable presence in the country include the Baptists, Seventh-day Adventists, Lutherans and the Reformed tradition.

Roman Catholicism is the country's predominant faith. Brazil has the world's largest Catholic population. According to the 2000 Demographic Census (the PNAD survey does not inquire about religion), 73.57% of the population followed Roman Catholicism; 15.41% Protestantism; 1.33% Kardecist spiritism; 1.22% other Christian denominations; 0.31% Afro-Brazilian religions; 0.13% Buddhism; 0.05% Judaism; 0.02% Islam; 0.01% Amerindian religions; 0.59% other religions, undeclared or undetermined; while 7.35% have no religion.

However, in the last ten years Protestantism, particularly in forms of Pentecostalism and Evangelicalism, has spread in Brazil, while the proportion of Catholics has dropped significantly. After Protestantism, individuals professing no religion are also a significant group, exceeding 7% of the population as of the 2000 census. The cities of Boa Vista, Salvador, and Porto Velho have the greatest proportion of Irreligious residents in Brazil. Teresina, Fortaleza, and Florianópolis were the most Roman Catholic in the country. Greater Rio de Janeiro, not including the city proper, is the most irreligious and least Roman Catholic Brazilian periphery, while Greater Porto Alegre and Greater Fortaleza are on the opposite sides of the lists, respectively.


According to IBGE (Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics) urban areas already concentrate 84.35% of the population, while the Southeast region remains the most populated one, with over 80 million inhabitants. The largest urban agglomerations in Brazil are São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, and Belo Horizonte – all in the Southeastern Region – with 21.1, 12.3, and 5.1 million inhabitants respectively. The majority of state capitals are the largest cities in their states, except for Vitória, the capital of Espírito Santo, and Florianópolis, the capital of Santa Catarina.


The official language of Brazil is Portuguese (Article 13 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Brazil), which almost all of the population speaks and is virtually the only language used in newspapers, radio, television, and for business and administrative purposes. The most famous exception to this is a strong sign language law that was passed by the National Congress of Brazil. Legally recognized in 2002, the law was regulated in 2005. The law mandates the use of the Brazilian Sign Language, more commonly known by its Portuguese acronym LIBRAS, in education and government services. The language must be taught as a part of the education and speech and language pathology curricula. LIBRAS teachers, instructors and translators are recognized professionals. Schools and health services must provide access ("inclusion") to deaf people.

Brazilian Portuguese has had its own development, mostly similar to 16th-century Central and Southern dialects of European Portuguese (despite a very substantial number of Portuguese colonial settlers, and more recent immigrants, coming from Northern regions, and in minor degree Portuguese Macaronesia), with a few influences from the Amerindian and African languages, especially West African and Bantu restricted to the vocabulary only. As a result, the language is somewhat different, mostly in phonology, from the language of Portugal and other Portuguese-speaking countries (the dialects of the other countries, partly because of the more recent end of Portuguese colonialism in these regions, have a closer connection to contemporary European Portuguese). These differences are comparable to those between American and British English.

Brazil is the only Portuguese-speaking nation in the Americas, making the language an important part of Brazilian national identity and giving it a national culture distinct from those of its Spanish-speaking neighbors.

In 1990, the Community of Portuguese Language Countries (CPLP), which included representatives from all countries with Portuguese as the official language, reached an agreement on the reform of the Portuguese orthography to unify the two standards then in use by Brazil on one side and the remaining lusophone countries on the other. This spelling reform went into effect in Brazil on 1 January 2009. In Portugal, the reform was signed into law by the President on 21 July 2008 allowing for a 6-year adaptation period, during which both orthographies will co-exist. The remaining CPLP countries are free to establish their own transition timetables.

Minority languages are spoken throughout the nation. One hundred and eighty Amerindian languages are spoken in remote areas and a significant number of other languages are spoken by immigrants and their descendants. In the municipality of São Gabriel da Cachoeira, Nheengatu (a currently endangered South American creole language – or an 'anti-creole', according to some linguists – with mostly Indigenous Brazilian languages lexicon and Portuguese-based grammar that, together with its southern relative língua geral paulista, once was a major lingua franca in Brazil, being replaced by Portuguese only after governmental prohibition led by major political changes), Baniwa and Tucano languages had been granted co-official status with Portuguese.

There are significant communities of German (mostly the Brazilian Hunsrückisch, a High German language dialect) and Italian (mostly the Talian, a Venetian dialect) origins in the Southern and Southeastern regions, whose ancestors' native languages were carried along to Brazil, and which, still alive there, are influenced by the Portuguese language. Talian is officially a historic patrimony of Rio Grande do Sul, and two German dialects possess co-official status in a few municipalities.

Learning at least one second language (generally English or Spanish) is mandatory for all the 12 grades of the mandatory education system (primary and secondary education, there called ensino fundamental and ensino médio respectively). Brazil is the first country in South America to offer Esperanto to secondary students.


The core culture of Brazil is derived from Portuguese culture, because of its strong colonial ties with the Portuguese Empire. Among other influences, the Portuguese introduced the Portuguese language, Roman Catholicism and colonial architectural styles. The culture was, however, also strongly influenced by African, indigenous and non-Portuguese European cultures and traditions.

Some aspects of Brazilian culture were influenced by the contributions of Italian, German and other European as well Japanese, Jewish and Arab immigrants who arrived in large numbers in the South and Southeast of Brazil during the 19th and 20th centuries. The indigenous Amerindians influenced Brazil's language and cuisine; and the Africans influenced language, cuisine, music, dance and religion.

Brazilian art has developed since the 16th century into different styles that range from Baroque (the dominant style in Brazil until the early 19th century) to Romanticism, Modernism, Expressionism, Cubism, Surrealism and Abstractionism. Brazilian cinema dates back to the birth of the medium in the late 19th century and has gained a new level of international acclaim since the 1960s.


The architecture of Brazil is influenced by Europe, especially Portugal. It has a history that goes back 500 years to the time when Pedro Cabral discovered Brazil in 1500. Portuguese colonial architecture was the first wave of architecture to go to Brazil. It is the basis for all Brazilian architecture of later centuries. In the 19th century during the time of the Empire of Brazil, Brazil followed European trends and adopted Neoclassical and Gothic Revival architecture. Then in the 20th century especially in Brasilia, Brazil experimented with Modernist architecture.

The colonial architecture of Brazil dates to the early 16th century when Brazil was first explored, conquered and settled by the Portuguese. The Portuguese built architecture familiar to them in Europe in their aim to colonise Brazil. They built Portuguese colonial architecture which included Churches, civic architecture including houses and forts in Brazilian cities and the countryside. During 19th Century Brazilian architecture saw the introduction of more European styles to Brazil such as Neoclassical and Gothic Revival architecture. This was usually mixed with Brazilian influences from their own heritage which produced a unique form of Brazilian architecture. In the 1950s the modernist architecture was introduced when Brasilia was built as new federal capital in the interior of Brazil to help develop the interior. The architect Oscar Niemeyer idealized and built Government buildings, Churches and civic buildings was constructed in the modernist style.


The music of Brazil was formed mainly from the fusion of European and African elements. Until the nineteenth century, Portugal was the gateway to most of the influences that built Brazilian music, although many of these elements were not of Portuguese origin, but generally European. The first was José Maurício Nunes Garcia, author of sacred pieces with influence of Viennese classicism. The major contribution of the African element was the rhythmic diversity and some dances and instruments that had a bigger role in the development of popular music and folk, flourishing especially in the twentieth century.

Popular music since the late eighteenth century began to show signs of forming a characteristically Brazilian sound, with samba considered the most typical and on the UNESCO cultural heritage list. Maracatu and Afoxê are two Afro-Brazilian music traditions that have been popularized by their appearance in the annual Brazilian Carnivals. The sport of capoeira is usually played with its own music referred to as capoeira music, which is usually considered to be a call-and-response type of folk music.

Choro is a very popular music instrumental style. Its origins are in 19th-century Rio de Janeiro. In spite of the name, the style often has a fast and happy rhythm, characterized by virtuosity, improvisation, subtle modulations and full of syncopation and counterpoint. Bossa nova is also a well-known style of Brazilian music developed and popularized in the 1950s and 1960s. The phrase "bossa nova" means literally "new trend". A lyrical fusion of samba and jazz, bossa nova acquired a large following starting in the 1960s.


Brazilian literature dates back to the 16th century, to the writings of the first Portuguese explorers in Brazil, such as Pêro Vaz de Caminha, filled with descriptions of fauna, flora and commentary about the indigenous population that fascinated European readers.

Brazil produced significant works in Romanticism – novelists like Joaquim Manuel de Macedo and José de Alencar wrote novels about love and pain. Alencar, in his long career, also treated indigenous people as heroes in the Indigenist novels O Guarani, Iracema and Ubirajara. Machado de Assis, one of his contemporaries, wrote in virtually all genres and continues to gain international prestige from critics worldwide.

Brazilian Modernism, evidenced by the Week of Modern Art in 1922, was concerned with a nationalist avant-garde literature, while Post-Modernism brought a generation of distinct poets like João Cabral de Melo Neto, Carlos Drummond de Andrade, Vinicius de Moraes, Cora Coralina, Graciliano Ramos, Cecília Meireles, and internationally known writers dealing with universal and regional subjects like Jorge Amado, João Guimarães Rosa, Clarice Lispector and Manuel Bandeira.


Brazilian cuisine varies greatly by region, reflecting the country's varying mix of indigenous and immigrant populations. This has created a national cuisine marked by the preservation of regional differences. Examples are Feijoada, considered the country's national dish; and regional foods such as beiju, feijão tropeiro, vatapá, moqueca, polenta (from Italian cuisine) and acarajé (from African cuisine).

The national beverage is coffee and cachaça is Brazil's native liquor. Cachaça is distilled from sugar cane and is the main ingredient in the national cocktail, Caipirinha.

A typical meal consists mostly of rice and beans with beef, salad, french fries and a fried egg. Often, it's mixed with cassava flour (farofa). Fried potatoes, fried cassava, fried banana, fried meat and fried cheese are very often eaten in lunch and served in most typical restaurants. Popular snacks are pastel (a fried pastry); coxinha (a variation of chicken croquete); pão de queijo (cheese bread and cassava flour / tapioca); pamonha (corn and milk paste); esfirra (a variation of Lebanese pastry); kibbeh (from Arabic cuisine); empanada (pastry) and empada, little salt pies filled with shrimps or heart of palm.

Brazil has a variety of desserts such as brigadeiros (chocolate fudge balls), bolo de rolo (roll cake with goiabada), cocada (a coconut sweet), beijinhos (coconut truffles and clove) and romeu e julieta (cheese with goiabada). Peanuts are used to make paçoca, rapadura and pé-de-moleque. Local common fruits like açaí, cupuaçu, mango, papaya, cocoa, cashew, guava, orange, lime, passionfruit, pineapple, and hog plum are turned in juices and used to make chocolates, popsicles and ice cream.


The Brazilian film industry began in the late 19th century, during the early days of the Belle Époque. While there were national film productions during the early 20th century, American films such as Rio the Magnificent were made in Rio de Janeiro to promote tourism in the city. The films Limite (1931) and Ganga Bruta (1933), the latter being produced by Adhemar Gonzaga through the prolific studio Cinédia, were poorly received at release and failed at the box office, but are acclaimed nowadays and placed among the finest Brazilian films of all time. The 1941 unfinished film It's All True was divided in four segments, two of which were filmed in Brazil and directed by Orson Welles; it was originally produced as part of the United States' Good Neighbor Policy during Getúlio Vargas' Estado Novo government.

During the 1960s, the Cinema Novo movement rose to prominence with directors such as Glauber Rocha, Nelson Pereira dos Santos, Paulo Cesar Saraceni and Arnaldo Jabor. Rocha's films Deus e o Diabo na Terra do Sol (1964) and Terra em Transe (1967) are considered to be some of the greatest and most influential in Brazilian film history.

During the 1990s, Brazil saw a surge of critical and commercial success with films such as O Quatrilho (Fábio Barreto, 1995), O Que É Isso, Companheiro? (Bruno Barreto, 1997) and Central do Brasil (Walter Salles, 1998), all of which were nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, the latter receiving a Best Actress nomination for Fernanda Montenegro. The 2002 crime film City of God, directed by Fernando Meirelles, was critically acclaimed, scoring 90% on Rotten Tomatoes, being placed in Roger Ebert's Best Films of the Decade list and receiving four Academy Award nominations in 2004, including Best Director. Notable film festivals in Brazil include the São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro International Film Festivals and the Gramado Festival.


The theatre in Brazil has its origins in the period of Jesuit expansion when theater was used for the dissemination of Catholic doctrine in the 16th century. in the 17th and 18th centuries the first dramatists who appeared on the scene of European derivation was for court or private performances. During the 19th century, dramatic theater gained importance and thickness, whose first representative was Luis Carlos Martins Pena (1813–1848), capable of describing contemporary reality. Always in this period the comedy of costume and comic production was imposed. Significant, also in the nineteenth century, was also the playwright Antônio Gonçalves Dias. There were also numerous operas and orchestras. The Brazilian conductor Antônio Carlos Gomes became internationally known with operas like Il Guarany. At the end of century 19th century orchestrated dramaturgias became very popular and were accompanied of songs of famous artists like the conductress Chiquinha Gonzaga.

Already in the early 20th century there was the presence of theaters, entrepreneurs and actor companies, but paradoxically the quality of the products staggered, and only in 1940 the Brazilian theater received a boost of renewal thanks to the action of Paschoal Carlos Magno and his student's theater, the comedians group and the Italian actors Adolfo Celi, Ruggero Jacobbi and Aldo Calvo, founders of the Teatro Brasileiro de Comedia. From the 1960s it was attended by a theater dedicated to social and religious issues and to the flourishing of schools of dramatic art. The most prominent authors at this stage were Jorge Andrade and Ariano Suassuna.

Visual arts

Brazilian painting emerged in the late 16th century, influenced by Baroque, Rococo, Neoclassicism, Romanticism, Realism, Modernism, Expressionism, Surrealism, Cubism and Abstracionism making it a major art style called Brazilian academic art. The Missão Artística Francesa (French Artistic Mission) arrived in Brazil in 1816 proposing the creation of an art academy modeled after the respected Académie des Beaux-Arts, with graduation courses both for artists and craftsmen for activities such as modeling, decorating, carpentry and others and bringing artists like Jean-Baptiste Debret.

Upon the creation of the Imperial Academy of Fine Arts, new artistic movements spread across the country during the 19th century and later the event called Week of Modern Art broke definitely with academic tradition in 1922 and started a nationalist trend which was influenced by modernist arts. Among the best-known Brazilian painters are Ricardo do Pilar and Manuel da Costa Ataíde (baroque and rococo), Victor Meirelles, Pedro Américo and Almeida Junior (romanticism and realism), Anita Malfatti, Ismael Nery, Lasar Segall, Emiliano di Cavalcanti, Vicente do Rego Monteiro, and Tarsila do Amaral (expressionism, surrealism and cubism), Aldo Bonadei, José Pancetti and Cândido Portinari (modernism).


The most popular sport in Brazil is football. The Brazilian men's national team is ranked among the best in the world according to the FIFA World Rankings, and has won the World Cup tournament a record five times.

Volleyball, basketball, auto racing, and martial arts also attract large audiences. The Brazil men's national volleyball team, for example, currently holds the titles of the World League, World Grand Champions Cup, World Championship and the World Cup.

Some sport variations have their origins in Brazil: beach football, futsal (indoor football) and footvolley emerged in Brazil as variations of football. In martial arts, Brazilians developed Capoeira, Vale tudo, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

In auto racing, three Brazilian drivers have won the Formula One world championship eight times.

Brazil has hosted several high-profile international sporting events, like the 1950 FIFA World Cup and recently has hosted the 2014 FIFA World Cup. The São Paulo circuit, Autódromo José Carlos Pace, hosts the annual Grand Prix of Brazil.

São Paulo organized the IV Pan American Games in 1963, and Rio de Janeiro hosted the XV Pan American Games in 2007. On 2 October 2009, Rio de Janeiro was selected to host the 2016 Olympic Games and 2016 Paralympic Games, making it the first South American city to host the games and second in Latin America, after Mexico City. Furthermore, the country hosted the FIBA Basketball World Cups in 1954 and 1963. At the 1963 event, the Brazil national basketball team won one of its two world championship titles.