Brazil has the largest population in South America and is the fifth most populous country in the world. The people are diverse in origin, and Brazil often boasts that the new "race" of Brazilians is a successful amalgam of African, European, and indigenous strains, a claim that is truer in the social than the political or economic realm. Not quite half the population is of European descent, while more than 40% are of mixed African and European ancestry. Portuguese is the official language and nearly universal; English is widely taught as a second language. Most of the estimated 350,000 to 550,000 indigenous peoples (chiefly of Tupí or Guaraní linguistic stock) are found in the rain forests of the Amazon River basin; 12% of Brazil's land has been set aside as indigenous areas. About 75% of the population is at least nominally Roman Catholic; there is a growing Protestant minority.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.