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Historical Background of Brazil


Developing cultural competence is necessary in the modern world because the countries’ borders become blurred, and people of different nationalities are prone to cooperate within various circumstances. To avoid any inconveniences and misunderstandings, acquiring knowledge about distinguishing features of major cultures is essential. In particular, getting acquainted with Brazilian culture allows obtaining a deeper insight into the country and its people.

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Brazil is the largest state with a rapidly growing population in South America. Currently, this country is tightly associated with the production of bananas and coffee, football, favelas, crime, annual carnival in Rio, and dense jungle. Regardless of its vast territory and huge potential owing to a favorable geographical location, Brazil is a developing country with unstable economics and great inequality levels in society. That is why it is necessary to analyze the historical background of Brazil along with its political, economic, and social conditions to develop cultural competence and provide comprehensive recommendations for amelioration and resolving the problems.

A Brief History of Brazil

Discovering the history of any country is crucial because it describes all the events that occurred in its territory, which facilitates understanding of the current processes and transformations of the particular state. Exploring the origins, development, and symbolic significance of the cultural phenomena “allows acquiring wider perspectives on Brazil’s history, economy, society, and culture” (Nikitina, Mohd Don, & Cheong, 2014, p. 81).

Many millennia ago, indigenous people existed on the territory of what is now Brazil. They were involved in hunting, fishing, and agriculture, living according to the principles common for the Neolithic era. In 1500, Portuguese sailors discovered this land and started to form some settlements there. Until the 19th century, the Portuguese were the main Europeans who migrated to Brazil and brought livestock and seeds with them (Barros, 2015).

The colonial regime was prevalent until 1822, the year when Brazil became independent. However, in 1989 the country shifted from the monarchy to a federal republic, so the leading role was assigned to oligarchy. Brazil has passed through several stages of state formation and started to implement the principles of democracy at the end of the previous century. Such historical events and the transformation of the country help to analyze contemporary political, economic, and social conditions in Brazil.

Physical, Social, Political, and Economic Character of the Country

Geographic factors

The geographical location of Brazil is favorable because it ensures access to the Atlantic Ocean and makes the country border on many states in South America. Furthermore, its climate is favorable for living and economic development in most of the regions because the average annual temperatures are relatively stable within the equatorial and tropical latitudes. The largest cities are Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Brasilia, Salvador, and Fortaleza, most of which are located on the Atlantic coast. Sao Paulo is also considered the richest and unequal city in the country (Monteiro et al., 2017).

Meanwhile, Brasilia is the capital, and Rio de Janeiro is well-known for the statue of Christ the Redeemer, annual carnival, and favelas with a bad reputation. All these cities are situated in the South and Southeast – the most economically developed parts owing to European migrants. Historically, mining rubber was the basis of the urban economy in Manaus that is located in the Amazon basin. It is obvious that geographical location and climatic conditions promote both industrial and agricultural growth in Brazil.

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Political and Economic Conditions

Even though environmental conditions contribute to the evolvement of the economy, Brazil’s underdevelopment is still evident at the present times. Previously, “the country was mostly an agricultural economy, and the absence of a broad industrial sector was perceived as a restriction to economic development” (de Barros Lisboa & Latif, 2014, p. 6). This happened primarily due to insufficient long-term funding for investment and centralized control performed by the government. Currently, Brazil’s economy is characterized by extensive coffee, rubber, and light industry production.

Economic and political spheres are mutually interrelated, so changes in one of them have an immediate impact on another. For instance, democratic principles popularization at the end of the twentieth century resulted in elaboration on several legislative and political changes. They ensured “rising female participation in the labor market, and the political arena was a driver for this shift in the economic agenda” (de Barros Lisboa & Latif, 2014, p. 17). Other benefits of democracy constituted an increased investment in education and other social institutions.

Social Characteristics

Social determinants have a huge potential either to drive or retard the Brazilian economy. The term ‘Jetinho Brasileiro’ “refers to the ability of Brazilians to be creative in dealing with a situation that they encounter in daily lives” (Lehmann & Khan, 2018, p. 242).

It implies that people are targeted at the achievement of desired outcomes by circumventing rules, violating policies and social conventions. As a rule, such resources as personal connections, family ties, and even money help to overcome bureaucratic restrictions. This social phenomenon is named corruption, which is a common practice in Brazil. This specific feature is essentially helpful for those who are eager to establish and develop business relations with Brazilian companies. Furthermore, social status is another determinant that explains what one can and cannot afford in life (Lehmann & Khan, 2018). It makes Brazilians suffer from the inequality characterized by a major gap between social classes.

Major social issues in Brazil


Those who visited Sao Paulo or Rio de Janeiro had most likely encountered a problem of inequality in a society where homeless people live in the areas next to the luxury business center or hotel. Indeed, conditions in Brazil “do very little to unite social system, emphasizing significant differences that do not promote change” (Lehmann & Khan, 2018, p. 243). There is an explicit contrast between upper and lower social statuses. The first social layer comprises middle-income and wealthy Brazilians who take advantage of all social benefits. The second group includes working-class, rural, and poor people, 30 million of which live beyond the poverty line (Lehmann & Khan, 2018).

Such distribution of income among Brazilians results in unequal access to healthcare services and prevents them from obtaining major social benefits for the poor. With the implementation of democratic principles, the government is striving to improve this situation by narrowing the gap between two opposite social layers. Otherwise, inequality will remain a major driver for social disturbances.


Social inequality also contributes to the evolvement of crime in Brazil, especially in the metropolitan area of Rio de Janeiro. It also promotes the accumulation of violence, which is common not only for poor but middle-income Brazilians. Some typical forms of crime in the country constitute robbing, kidnapping, gang violence, and mugging. Most of them occur during drug trafficking, an illegal activity that is widespread in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro. Police have officially reported that “it had killed more than 10 thousand civilians in armed conflicts on the hills and in the favelas, but as justification identified the victims as bandits and traffickers” (Misse, 2017, p.76).

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In some cases, police shots were reported as self-defense responses. In fact, most Brazilian cities have increased crime levels compared to general indices. Such disturbing circumstances cause much attention from both government and international organizations.

A Piece of Advice for Brazil from the UN Perspective

Despite numerous attempts of the Brazilian government to improve the social environment, inequality levels and the number of accidents are not decreasing. Thus, the intervention of third parties such as the United Nations is essential to provide a piece of advice for the country to overcome such social disturbances. Those recommendations need to be culturally competent to prove their efficacy. United Nations’ primary mission is to maintain security and peace in the world. Thus, Brazil needs to reduce the increased crime levels by promoting equality in society. This is possible with higher taxes applied to middle-income and wealthy people to guarantee social help for those in need. Furthermore, enhanced control by military troops and police is necessary for the areas characterized by gang violence and crimes.


Historical overview of Brazil reveals that its government has always had a significant impact on economic, social, and political spheres. Furthermore, its geographic location is favorable for agriculture which has always been the major sector in the Brazilian economy. The development of democracy at the end of the twentieth strategy has promoted female participation and industrialization of the biggest cities.

Nevertheless, social problems, including inequality and crime, were evolving in Brazil. Unfair distribution of income created a gap between two opposite social layers – rich and poor. While the first group utilized all social benefits, more than 30 million poor live beyond the poverty line. Such a social environment is characterized by numerous crimes and gang violence. Therefore, the interventions and control of the third parties, the United Nations, for instance, are likely to decrease social inequality and crime levels.


Barros, A. R. (2015). Historical origins of Brazilian relative backwardness. Brazilian Journal of Political Economy, 35(1), 75-94.

de Barros Lisboa, M., & Latif, Z. A. (2014). Brazil: Democracy and growth. Web.

Lehmann, K. E., & Khan, F. (2018). The social and political conditions of corruption in Brazil. Administratio Publica, 26(3), 231-251.

Misse, M. (2017). The social accumulation of violence in Brazil: Some remarks. Sociology International Journal, 1(2), 71-77.

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Monteiro, C. N., Beenackers, M. A., Goldbaum, M., de Azevedo Barros, M. B., Gianini, R. J., Galvão Cesar, C. L., & Mackenbach, J. P. (2017). Use, access, and equity in health care services in São Paulo, Brazil. Reports in Public Health, 33(4), 1-13.

Nikitina, L., Mohd Don, Z. B., & Cheong, L. S. (2014). Focus on Brazil: Country images held by Malaysian learners of Brazilian Portuguese. Calidoscópio, 12(1), 73-82.

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