Brazil is the largest country in South America, and the fifth largest country in the world, both by area and population. It’s a culturally and ethnically diverse nation thanks to centuries of immigration from around the world, and is home to a large indigenous population, though millions of people were wiped out through Portuguese colonialism. Some of the earliest human remains in the Americas, and the earliest known pottery, were found in Brazil. People have lived in the region for at least 11,000 years.
The country’s economy was founded on the slave trade, importing enslaved people from Africa to work in the sugarcane fields. During Brazil’s gold rush, in the late 1690s, the colony expanded to approximately its current national boundaries. Brazil achieved independence from Portugal in 1822, and experienced cycles of political, economic, and military instability until 1930, when a military coup initiated Getúlio Vargas’ dictatorship. Vargas ruled Brazil through World War II, siding with the Allies, and was overthrown after the war.
From the mid-1950s to the 1980s, Brazil was ruled by a series of short-lived dictatorships. From the 1980s through the early 2000s, Brazil experienced elections and the peaceful transition of power. Current president, Jair Bolsonaro, has been praised by U.S. president Donald Trump, and has made disparaging, inflammatory comments about sexual assault, LGBTQ+ people, indigenous people, Black people and other marginalized members of Brazilian society. He has pushed against environmental regulations, including those preventing agribusiness from accessing indigenous lands.