Most of the 175 million Brazilians live along the Atlantic coast. The Amazonian Lowlands are sparsely inhabited. Nevertheless Brazil is one of the most urbanized countries in the world. Of the 10 largest cities in the world, two are in Brazil: São Paulo (over 17 million) and Rio de Janeiro (more than 10 million). There is constant migration from the country to the urban areas. The continuing expansion of the run-down areas on the cities’ outskirts is one of the great problems of contemporary Brazil. The country has a young population: half are under the age of twenty, 27% is even under ten years old. There are 12 million children without parents or a home, the so-called abandonados. They mainly scavenge and hide in the big cities. Many of the children are hounded by death squads, who murder them on the pretext that ‘all of them will turn into criminals anyway, so why not get rid of them now?’ The fate of these children is another of the great problems in Brazil.
Before Europeans arrived in Brazil, there were between 3 and 5 million Indians, mostly living in tribes in the Amazon area. They led a (semi) nomadic existence as hunter-gatherers. Their present number is between 200,000 and 300,000. They live only in very isolated parts of the Amazon area although some have managed to retain their time-honoured cultures. European colonisation was slow, and in the first half of the 19th Century it was mainly the Portuguese. Then other nationalities began to arrive. Also more than 3 million African slaves were brought to the country to work on the coffee plantations and in the mines. About 53% of the present population are of European descent, 11% of African descent, over 35% of mixed blood and the remainder are of Indian or Asian descent. Thus the Brazilian population is highly varied and strikingly tolerant. Racial tension or manifestations are uncommon. In general Brazilians are really friendly and obliging, and above all, have a fantastic ‘joie de vivre’.