Chapter 3

How Brazil Became Endowed for Prosperity in a Collapsing World

We are from America and we want to be Americans.

—from the “Manifesto of the Republican Party of Brazil,” 1871

Among the family of nations, Brazil is not a sibling of the United States. Canada would be. Brazil is more like a first cousin with a strong family resemblance. Or, if you prefer, you could see Brazil as a half sibling, with a Portuguese rather than an English father. Both the United States and Brazil are the modern incarnations of New World economies. They are gigantic countries; among the top five on a world scale, richly endowed with natural resources and peopled by a diverse array of immigrants from across the globe.

Like only the United States and China, Brazil is a geographically large country that also is among the top five in population with roughly 203,000,000 inhabitants as of July 2011.

Brazil has more inhabitants of African descent than any country but Nigeria; more persons of Italian ancestry than any country other than Italy; more Japanese than anywhere but Japan. Brazil also is home to 10 million persons of Arab descent, more than any country outside the Middle East. And Brazil hosts the second-largest population of German ancestry outside of Germany. These ethnic groups are so thoroughly mixed together that in most cases it is impossible to discern a clear line where one stops and another begins.

The original name of the Brazilian Republic (until 1967) was “The Republic of the United ...

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