Brazil, 20th-century giant
Brazil, the largest country of Latin America, the fifth largest in the world (8.5 million km2) after the Soviet Union, Canada, China and the United States, possesses more freshwater reserves than any other country. It is the "lung of the planet", producing one-quarter of the world's oxygen. Through it flows the world's largest river in volume and area of its drainage basin, the 6,500-km-long Amazon, which with its tributaries waters one-third of global timber reserves. Brazil also has fabulous deposits of precious and semi-precious stones, and is the major industrial and commercial centre of Latin America, with one of the highest growth rates in the world.
Brazil has also developed an original culture which respects the beliefs and customs of the different ethnic groups (some of which live much as their ancestors did when the Portuguese conquistadors arrived almost 500 years ago) which make up its population. The destiny of Brazil has also been shaped by the ethnic intermingling which is one of the country's most distinctive characteristics. Among the important manifestations of this culture , to take only three examples from the arts, are the sculptures of o Aleijadinho, who has been described as a "universal genius" and "the greatest artist born in America"; the architecture of Brasilia, the first city of the 21st century, called by André Malraux the "first capital of the new civilization"; and Brazilian music, whose popularity at world level is rivalled only by that of the tango. Superlatives are unavoidable where Brazil is concerned.
This issue of the Unesco Courier highlights some of the most original and lesser known aspects of Brazil. We have excluded from our coverage problems which lie outside Unesco's fields of competence, and have attempted to dispel the stereotyped and in some cases misleadingly picturesque image of the country which may be propagated by the tourist brochure. For space reasons alone there are bound to be many gaps in the picture. Nevertheless, we hope that readers will be able to form a clear impression of a country which, through its dynamism, its vast wealth of natural resources, its commitment to progress, and its unfailing gaiety and good humour in the face of natural obstacles and serious demographic and economic problems, is the pride of a people who readily claim that "God is Brazilian !"
Editor-in-chief: Edouard Glissant