Brazil, officially Federative Republic of Brazil, encompasses an area of about 8,511,965 sq. km. (3,290,000 sq. mi.); slightly smaller than the U.S. In 2007, its estimated population was 192 million; 74% of the population are Roman Catholic; the official language is Portuguese; 86% of the adult population is literate.
Following three centuries under the rule of Portugal, Brazil became an independent nation in 1822 and a republic in 1889. By far the largest and most populous country in South America, Brazil overcame more than half a century of military intervention in the governance of the country when in 1985 the military regime peacefully ceded power to civilian rulers. Brazil continues to pursue industrial and agricultural growth and development of its interior. Exploiting vast natural resources and a large labor pool, it is today South America's leading economic power and a regional leader. Highly unequal income distribution and crime remain pressing problems.
Brazil's climate is mostly tropical, but is temperate in the south. Its terrain is mostly flat to rolling lowlands in the north; with some plains, hills, mountains, and a narrow coastal belt. Natural resources include: bauxite, gold, iron ore, manganese, nickel, phosphates, platinum, tin, uranium, petroleum, and timber. Brazil is the largest country in South America; shares common boundaries with every South American country except Chile and Ecuador.
Brazil has the largest population in Latin America and ranks fifth in the world. The majority of people live in the south-central area, which includes the industrial cities of Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, and Belo Horizonte. Urban growth has been rapid; by 2005, 81% of the total population was living in urban areas. This growth has aided economic development but also has created serious social, security, environmental, and political problems for major cities.
The Itajaí Açu River (EE−tah−zhah−EE AH−soo) is about 125 mi/201 km long, in the eastern portion of Santa Catarina. The river rises in several headstreams in the Serra do Mar; flows East, through fertile, thickly settled lowland, past Rio do Sul and Blumenau (head of navigation), to the Atlantic at Itajaí.
CIA World Factbook; U.S. State Department Background Notes; The Columbia Gazeteer, 11/2008; 06/2008; 11/2008