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Brazil, officially the Federative Republic of Brazil (Portuguese: Brasil or Republica Federativa do Brasil, listen (help·info), is the largest and most populous country in South America; and the fifth largest in the world in both area and population. Spanning a vast area between central South America and the Atlantic Ocean, it is the easternmost country of America and borders every other South American country other than Ecuador and Chile (viz. Uruguay, Argentina, Paraguay, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname and the French department of French Guiana).
Brazil was colonized by Portugal and it is the only Portuguese-speaking country in the Americas. It is a multiracial country with a population composed of European, Amerindian, African and Asian elements. The country's Roman Catholic population is the single largest of any country in the world.
Brazil is characterized by the extensive low-lying Amazon Rainforest in the north and a more open terrain of hills and low mountains to the south — home to most of the Brazilian population and its agricultural base. Along the Atlantic seacoast are also found several mountain ranges, reaching roughly 2,900 metres (9,500 ft) high.
The highest peak is the 3,014 metre (9,735 ft) Pico da Neblina (Myst's Peak) in Guiana's highlands. Major rivers include the Amazon, the largest river in the world in flowing water volume, and the second-longest in the world; the Parana and its major tributary, the Iguacu River, where the impressive Iguacu falls are located; the Negro, Sao Francisco, Xingu, Madeira and the Tapajos rivers.
Located mainly within the tropics, Brazil's climate has little seasonal variation. In southern most Brazil, however, there is subtropical temperate weather, occasionally experiencing frost and snow in the higher regions. Precipitation is abundant in the humid Amazon Basin, but more arid landscapes are found as well, particularly in the northeast. A number of islands in the Atlantic Ocean are part of Brazil:
- Saint Peter and Saint Paul Archipelago
- Rocas Atoll
- Fernando de Noronha
- Trindade and Martim Vaz
Geographically, mainland Brazil is commonly divided into five regions: North, Northeast, Central-West, Southeast and South.
- The North constitutes 45.27% of the surface of Brazil and it is the region with the lowest number of inhabitants. With the exception of Manaus, which hosts a tax-free industrial zone, and Belem, with the biggest metropolitan area of the region, it is a fairly unindustrialised and undeveloped region. It accommodates most of the largest rainforest of the world and many indigenous tribes.
- The Northeast has one third of Brazil's population. The region is culturally diverse, with roots from the Portuguese colonial period, Afro-Brazilian culture and some Brazilian Indian influence. It is also the poorest region of Brazil, and has long periods of dry climate. It is well-known for its beautiful coast.
- The Central-West has a low demographic density compared to the other regions, mostly because of the Pantanal, the world’s largest marshlands area, and a small part of the Amazon rainforest, in the northwest. However, much of the region is covered by Cerrado, the largest savanna in the world. It is also the most important area for agriculture in the country. The most important cities of this region are: Brasilia (the capital), Goiania, Campo Grande and Cuiaba.
- The Southeast is the richest and most densely populated region. It has more inhabitants than any other South American country, and hosts one of the largest megalopolis of the world, whereof the main cities are the country's two biggest ones; Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. The region is very diverse, including the major business centre of Sao Paulo, the historical cities of Minas Gerais and its capital Belo Horizonte, the third-largest metropolitan area in Brazil, the world famous beaches of Rio de Janeiro, and the acclaimed coast of Espirito Santo.
- The South is the wealthiest region by GDP per capita and has the best standard of living in the country. It is also the coldest region of Brazil, with occasional occurrences of frosts and snow in some of the higher altitude regions. The region has been heavily settled by European immigrants, mainly of Italian, German, Portuguese and Slavic genealogy, and shows clear influences from these cultures. The most important cities of this region are: Porto Alegre, Curitiba, Florianopolis, Blumenau, Novo Hamburgo, Londrina, Caxias do Sul and Joinville.