Brazil is a land of contrasts, of vast isolated areas and densely populated cities. Brazil is mystery, music, food, tropical rainforests and fabulous beaches. It is the Amazon and the drought-ridden states of the Northeast, South America’s easternmost region.
The Northeast was the first area of discovery in Brazil, when roughly 1,500 Portuguese arrived on April 22, 1500, under the command of Pedro Álvares Cabral at Porto Seguro, in the state of Bahia.
The Northeast was the stage for the first economic activity of the country, namely the extraction and export of brazilwood. Brazilwood was highly valued in Europe where it was used to make violin bows and for the red dye it produced. Countries like France, who disagreed with the Treaty of Tordesillas, (a papal bull decreed by the Spanish-born Pope Alexander VI in 1493 which sought to divide the South American continent between the Spanish and the Portuguese), launched constant attacks against the coast with the objective of stealing the wood.
The Dutch, also opposed to the Treaty of Tordesillas, plundered the Northeast coast, sacked Bahia in 1604, and even temporarily captured Salvador. From 1630 to 1654 the Dutch set up more permanently in the Northeast and controlled a long stretch of coast that was most accessible to Europe without, however, penetrating the interior. But the colonists of the Dutch West India Company in Brazil were in a constant siege despite the presence in Recife of the great John Maurice of Nassau as governor.
The Northeastern region is different from the rest of Brazil. The population is more heavily African and mestizo, the cuisine is spicier, the weather hot and dry. The barren areas called sertão are more desert-like than tropical since they get rain for only a short time each year.
Most of the Northeast is not as developed as other parts of the country. You travel inexpensively eat cheaply and get good rates for accommodation.
Travel is more of than an adventure that a means to get there so it is not recommended for wimps or luxury travelers.
The first European to travel the length of the Amazon River was Francisco de Orellana in 1542. It is believed that the tribes living in the Amazons were devastated by the spread of diseases from Europe, such as smallpox.
The rainforest contains several species that can pose a hazard. Among the largest predatory creatures are the black caiman, jaguar, cougar, and anaconda. In the river, electric eels can produce an electric shock that can stun or kill, while piranha is known to bite and injure humans. Various species of poison dart frogs secrete toxins through their flesh. Vampire bats dwell in the rainforest and can spread the rabies virus. Malaria, yellow fever and Dengue fever can also be contracted in the Amazon region.
One concern for Amazonia is the fate of it indigenous people. An estimated 10 million Indians were living in Amazonia about five hundred years ago. Today there are less than 200,000 indigenous peoples left in Amazonia. More than 90 tribes have been destroyed since the 1900’s.