Brazilian Culture: An Introduction to the Study of Culture in Brazil

By Fernando de Azevedo; William Rex Crawford | Go to book overview

CHAPTER ONE
LAND AND RACE

The physical environment -- Topography and territorial extension of the country -- The opposition of the two continental slopes -- The two great hydrographic basins -- Distances and the diversity of natural settings-Geomorphic and climatic environment -- Flora and fauna -- Mineral resources -- Ocean and coast -- Regions of dense and sparse population -- The São Francisco, river of national unity -- Origins and make-up of Brazilian population -- The three races which contributed to the formation of the population of Brazil -- Anthropological data -- Distribution of the population in north and south -- Natural increase of the population -- Internal migration -- Immigration -- Race mixture -- Social selection and classification -- Static and dynamic density -- The distribution of the population by age, sex, and race -- The Brazilian.

IF WE EXAMINE the physical map of South America carefully, the dominant impression we get of this continent as a whole is that of an immense land mass which flows down like a volcanic eruption from the Andes to disappear into the Atlantic. The great wall of the Andes extends from north to south, a proud barrier of peaks and plateaus which rise to gigantic heights and fall abruptly, and from which not a single river flows into the Pacific, while on the eastern slope enormous masses of water, the Amazon in the north and the Plata in the south, and the waters of the São Francisco and Parnaíba between the other two great hydrographic basins, roll slowly or impetuously toward the Atlantic Ocean. On the Pacific slope an aggressive, vertical line predominates, with the roofs and peaks of the Andes raising their heads to the clouds, contrasting violently with the eastern terrain of high land, plateaus great and small, mountains rolling toward the east with an average height of less than three thousand feet, rising to about nine thousand only in the mountains of the coastal chain (Itatiaia, in Mantiqueira and the Pico da Bandeira in the Serra do Caparaó, in Minas), and toward the south lie lazily in the endless vastness of fields and plains. On the Pacific side the coast is smooth, poor in indentations and articulations, in contrast to the bays, gulfs, and coastal islands, slightly cut up but hospitable, bathed by the Atlantic. But if we turn our attention to the continent that faces us across the South Atlantic, the two coasts, African and Brazilian, will not fail to appear so alike in their general lines that we can without difficulty imagine the two present continents as the result of a cutting apart of a single former block. America constitutes, in fact -- in so far as the present state of science permits us to judge-the remnant of an immense ancient continent which fell apart into Australia, surrounded by the Pacific, the Indies, separated by the Indian Ocean, and Africa and the South American continent, separated by the Atlantic Ocean. It was at the beginning of the period known in geological history as Cenozoic that valleys clothed themselves with earth, lowlands were inundated, the Andes, like the Alps and Himalayas, rose from sea level to beyond their present heights, and the earth took on the configuration which in its principal features and outlines it has today.

-19-

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