Courtesy Reuters

Brazil: Complex Giant

For the caboclo of the Amazon flood-plain, jabbing the blade of his paddle into the silty waters of the wide main stream, or gliding through a tunnel of trees and vines in some small black-water tributary, there is one Brazilian reality. Quite another exists for the northeastern vaqueiro, riding in leather armor through the thorny bush of his drought-smitten land. Different images of their country are held by a gold-miner in Minas Gerais, a herva-mate gatherer in Mato Grosso, a sheepherder in Rio Grande do Sul, a coffee planter in São Paulo or another of the many regional types of rural Brazil. The factory hand or the construction worker may think back with nostalgia to the countryside from which he came, but now Brazil is to him a throbbing manufacturing center, an urban sprawl, perhaps a hillside shanty town inserted in a beautiful landscape and overlooking luxurious apartment buildings.

There is, indeed, an extraordinary diversity in the land and in the peoples of Brazil. This diversity separates regions of different latitudes, geological structures, land forms, climate and vegetation. It also separates people who live side by side but in different cultural ages-some whose only tool may be a simple hoe, others employing the most advanced technology. And it is precisely in the light of this cultural diversity, interacting with a complex pattern of physical and biotic features, that Brazil's unity appears so surprising.


The personality of the country-so hard to pin down-is being molded by the combination and assimilation of very heterogeneous ethnic and cultural components. Inhabited until the sixteenth century by a Stone-Age people, Brazil has been the physically diversified stage for a unique and impressive mingling of Europeans, Africans and Orientals-among themselves and with the aboriginal stock.

Whereas the Spaniards, at the time of the Conquista, were able to cram their galleons with treasures accumulated by the subjugated natives, the Portuguese had to turn to the more prosaic chores of agriculture. In this they were handicapped by

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