Brazil Facts - Compassion International

You can see through these Brazil facts that Brazil is a beautiful country with beautiful people. The people of Brazil are made up of various groups — Portuguese, Africans, Europeans, Middle Eastern, Asians, and indigenous peoples. These various people groups have freedom of religion, though most choose Catholicism. Evangelicals are also increasing in numbers throughout Brazil. One of the biggest cultural experiences is the love of soccer and many kids grow up with the dream of playing professionally. Sadly, Brazil facts and information must include statistics on poverty. Compassion is hoping to change that!

Compassion has been working in Brazil since 1975. Poverty has plagued the country for many years and Compassion is working to change many children’s lives across the country. We want facts about Brazil to change so that poverty isn’t even included! This is possible because we change the lives of children one kid at a time.

Don’t let the hopelessness of these Brazil facts discourage you. You can make a life-changing impact on a Brazilian child who is living in poverty. When you sponsor a child in need, your sponsorship meets physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of a child living in poverty in Brazil. Your sponsored child will receive urgent medical care, food, clean water, educational opportunities, a Bible, life-skills training, and an opportunity to hear about Jesus.

All of these essential items are provided within the ministry of a local church that is already present in the child’s community in Brazil. You are helping nurture your sponsored child and connect that child to a local church. With your help, we’re hoping it won’t be long before poverty isn’t even included in information about Brazil!


Compassion partners with churches and denominations to help them provide Brazilian children with the opportunity to rise above their circumstances and become all God has created them to be.

Compassion's work in Brazil began in 1975. Currently, more than 51,000 children are registered in more than 185 child development centers.

Brazil Facts and Information About Brazil

Six major groups make up the Brazilian population: the Portuguese, who colonized Brazil in the 16th century; Africans, brought to Brazil as slaves; various other European, Middle Eastern and Asian immigrant groups who have settled in Brazil since the mid-19th century; and indigenous peoples of the Tupi and Guarani language stock. Intermarriage between the Portuguese and indigenous people or slaves was common. Although the major European ethnic stock of Brazil was originally Portuguese, subsequent waves of immigration have contributed to a diverse ethnic and cultural heritage.

From 1875 until 1960, about 5 million Europeans immigrated to Brazil, settling mainly in the four southern states of Sao Paulo, Parana, Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul. Immigrants have come mainly from Italy, Germany, Spain, Japan, Poland and the Middle East. The largest Japanese community outside Japan is in Sao Paulo. Despite class distinctions, national identity is strong and racial friction is a relatively new phenomenon.

Pedro Alvares Cabral claimed Brazil for Portugal in 1500. The colony was ruled from Lisbon until 1808, when Dom Joao VI and the rest of the Portuguese royal family fled from Napoleon's army and established its seat of government in Rio de Janeiro. Dom Joao VI returned to Portugal in 1821. His son declared Brazil's independence on Sept. 7, 1822, and became emperor with the title of Dom Pedro I. His son, Dom Pedro II, ruled from 1831 to 1889. Slavery had been abolished a year earlier by the Regent Princess Isabel while Dom Pedro II was in Europe.

From 1889 to 1930, the government was a constitutional democracy, with the presidency alternating between the dominant states of Sao Paulo and Minas Gerais. This period ended with a military coup that placed Getulio Vargas, a civilian, in the presidency; Vargas remained as dictator until 1945. Between 1945 and 1961, Jose Linhares, Gaspar Dutra, Vargas himself, Café Filho, Carlos Luz, Nereu Ramos, Juscelino Kubitschek and Janio Quadros were elected presidents. When Quadros resigned in 1961, Vice President Joao Goulart succeeded him.

Brazil completed its transition to a popularly elected government in 1989, when Fernando Collor de Mello won 53 percent of the vote in the first direct presidential election in 29 years.

After strong economic growth in 2007 and 2008, the onset of the global financial crisis hit Brazil, which experienced recession, as global demand for commodity-based exports dwindled and external credit dried up. However, Brazil was one of the first emerging markets to begin a recovery. In 2010, consumer and investor confidence revived and GDP growth reached 7.5 percent, the highest in the past 25 years. With unemployment at historic lows, Brazil's traditionally high level of income inequality has declined for each of the last 14 years.

Source: The World Factbook, 2014.


The typical school year runs from February through November. Children attend one year of preschool, four years of elementary school, four years of middle school and three years of secondary school.

Over the last 15 years, some advances have been made in education. For example, the government has increased the facilities for children, and parents are required to keep their children ages 7 to 14 in school.

Despite advances, the Brazilian educational system has many challenges. Teachers are not adequately trained and many children in Brazil are being moved through school even though they have not mastered the basics, such as reading and math.

Responding to this situation, Compassion Brazil, began a literacy program to teach children who have not gained adequate skills in school.


The constitution provides for freedom of religion and the government generally respects this right in practice.

There are no registration requirements for religions or religious groups. There is no favored or state religion, although the government maintains a formal agreement with the Vatican. Brazil is the biggest Catholic country in the world, according to the Brazilian Geography and Statistic Institute. However, the numbers of evangelicals in the country are growing.

All faiths are free to establish places of worship, train clergy and proselytize. There is a general provision for access to religious services and counsel in all civil and military establishments. The law prohibits discrimination based on religion. Foreign missionary groups operate freely throughout the country.

There are many Catholic religious holy days in Brazil. The following are observed as official, national holidays: Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, Corpus Christi, Assumption Day, Our Lady Aparecida, All Souls Day and Christmas. Additionally, each city has at least one Catholic holy day.

Source: International Religious Freedom Report, released in 2012 by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.



Brazilians enjoy wood carving and sculpture of African descendants in Bahis Salvador.


The "Bossanova," a ballroom dance, originated in Brazil. Other popular music includes the Samba, Pagode and MPB (Brazilian Popular Music, a mix of many Brazilian rhythms). African rhythms have a strong influence in Brazilian music, too.

Holidays and Festivals

New Year's Day, Jan. 1
Carnaval, six weeks before Easter: Carnaval is the biggest celebration in Brazil. For months in advance, people spend time making elaborate costumes and floats, as well as practicing their music and dancing.   
Independence Day, Sept. 7
Republic Proclamation, Nov. 15
Christmas, Dec. 25: Churches usually have a midnight service and dinner on Christmas Eve. Brazilians gather on Christmas Eve with their families to eat panetone (fruit bread), drink champagne and exchange gifts.

Sports and Games

Brazilians love soccer. Every town has professional teams and the season lasts all year. Brazilians also like volleyball and futsal (another kind of soccer played with five players in a special court).

Typical Foods

Common foods in Brazil include rice, beans, pasta, chicken, sausage, beef, vegetables, tropical fruits and coffee. There is at least one typical food from each of Brazil's five regions. For example, Brazilians who live in the northern region may eat pato no tucupi (duck with sauce) while those in the northeast region may eat shrimp.


  • 1 lb. pork sausage, sliced
  • 1 lb. pork tenderloin, cut into chunks
  • several slices of bacon
  • 1 can of black beans (15.5 oz.)
  • salt, pepper, garlic, chopped onions and bay leaves, to taste

Brown the sausage, pork and bacon in a pan and add the salt, pepper, garlic, onion and bay leaves. Cook several more minutes until the onions are transparent. Add the black beans and cook 5 or more minutes, until the beans have absorbed the flavors of the meat.

Feijoada is served with rice, kale, torresmo (bacon) and oranges, which are believed to aid in digestion.

You may also like these recipes:



  • ¡Bom dia! (Good morning!)
  • Até logo. (See you later.)
  • Tchau (Goodbye)
  • Boa tarde (Good afternoon)
  • Boa noite (Good evening/good night)
  • ¿Como vai você? (How are you?)
  • Oi (Hi)
Compassion in Brazil

Child Sponsorship Program

Children typically meet at the child development center 3 to 4 hours a day, 1 or 2 days a week.

Children receive a Bible when they are 6 and 10 years old and also when they complete the program.

Each child receives a meal typically including pasta, rice, vegetables and/or meat on the days that he or she attends the center.

The child development center staff encourage the children to participate in extracurricular activities, such as sports tournaments, camps, dance performances, job fairs and field trips to parks, museums, zoos and local businesses. The staff also hold Health Week, which is a time that the centers set aside to educate the children and their parents on hygiene and disease prevention. The staff encourage medical checkups and bring in health professionals to speak on topics like malnutrition, of disease prevention and self care. In addition, the center staff conduct social responsibility campaigns during which the children raise awareness in their communities by handing out pamphlets about disease prevention (e.g., dengue fever) and other social issues.

Adolescents are typically involved in skills workshops, such as hairdressing, nail technology, information technology and office skills.

Visit the Compassion blog to learn more about our work in Brazil and to read a post about a typical day at a child development center in Brazil.

Brazil Facts and Figures
Capital Brasilia

202,656,788 (2014 estimate)


Portuguese (official), Spanish, German, Italian, Japanese, English, Amerindian languages

Religions Christian 87.9% (Roman Catholic 65%, Protestant 22.2%, ohter 0.7%), spiritualist 2.2%, other 1.4%, unspecified 0.4%, none 8% (2010 census)
Literacy rate
Definition: Age 15 and over can read and write.
Male: 90.1%
Female: 90.7%
(2010 Estimate)
Percentage of population using improved drinking water sources Urban: 99.5%
Rural: 84.5%
(2011 estimate)
Percentage of population using adequate sanitation facilities Urban: 86.7%
Rural: 48.4%
(2011 estimate)
Climate Mostly tropical, but temperate in south.
Percentage of population urbanized 87% (2010 estimate)
Life expectancy Male: 69.73 years
Female: 77 years
(2014 estimate)
Under-5 mortality rate 14/1,000 (2012 estimate)
GDP per capita $21,100 (2013 estimate)
Monetary unit real (BRL)
Number of people living with HIV/AIDS 660,000 (2003 estimate)
Percentage of population living below $1.25 a day 6% (2007-11 study)

Sources for facts: The World Factbook, 2014; The State of the World's Children, 2014