Brazil, officially known as the Federative Republic of Brazil, is located in the eastern side of South America. Without a doubt, Brazil is the largest of the Latin American countries as it covers about half of the South American continent. Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Paraguay, Peru Uruguay, and Venezuela are some of its well-known neighboring countries. Its capital is Brasilia while Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro are the country's largest cities ("Brazil," 2009). Brazil occupies a vast territory with most of its large cities located either on the Atlantic coast or the banks of large watercourses. It falls in the category of one of the world's largest economies as it has strong sectors of agriculture, mining, industry, and services. Its major trading partners are Argentina, China, Germany and the United States. The official language is Portuguese whereas English is spoken as a widely accepted second language. Approximately, 75% of the population in Brazil is Roman Catholic whereas a considerable number of people are Protestants ("Brazil," 2009).
When it comes to population, Brazil has the largest in the South American region. It is also the 5th most densely inhabited country in the world. The people belong to diverse origins. Brazil is known to be very boastful about its "new race of Brazilians" ("Brazil," 2009) as "a successful amalgam of African, European, and indigenous strains" ("Brazil," 2009). About half of the population in country is of European descent. On the other hand, the remaining 40% is related to mixed African and European origin ("Brazil," 2009).
Brazil: Population and Urbanization
Brazil is the largest Latin American nation both land wise and population wise. Today, it is one of those countries where there is a rapid growth in population and urbanization. It is not uncommon for the developing countries to have a tendency for rapid population growth and urbanization. The population in Israel raised by 24 million people between 1960 and 1970. However, unlike most developing countries, the population density of Brazil varies greatly as it has got many areas where population is very low. Majority of Brazilians either live in or around the large cities and it has been in recent years that some low population density areas have been opened up for the purpose of settlement (Yoder & Fuguitt, Summer 1979).
According to a World Bank statement, "Brazil has over the last three decades become a fully urbanized country… Between 1970 and 2000, the urban system absorbed more than 80 million people… Cities became the core of economic activity (90 per cent of GDP), with large cities becoming diversified, taking advantage of large markets for inputs and ideas and enjoying high levels of productivity and growth" (as qtd. In Martine & McGranahan, 2010). In Brazil, the economy is one of the fastest-growing in the world. The country is achieving significant milestones in the industrial and tourism sectors. This is the reason why the number of people is continuing to escalate with each passing day. This is a kind of growth that consistently leads to the phenomenon of urbanization. It also means that urban areas are developed more and more and people migrate from rural areas to the metropolitan cities. This also customarily leads to the vanishing of rural areas as hubs are being expanded further and further outwards until they take place of the previous rural areas (Plessis, 2011). Due to the constantly-increasing population growth, industrialization and urban development experienced by Brazil at the beginning of the 21st century, the country has been challenged with a number of social, environmental and political issues (Plessis, 2011). The road leading towards reaching a higher level of urbanization has been and exhausting one for Brazil. It has also been a socially disorderly pathway and the leftovers of this process of urbanization can still be seen in some particular aspects of the current social organization. These difficulties are said to be derived from two main reasons. They are the "historically rooted and enduring structure of social inequality, and the persistent failure to foresee, accept and plan for massive urban growth" (Martine & McGranahan, 2010).
There are multiple reasons why people have moved to large cities like Rio de Janeiro. Firstly, people have more and more opportunities for work and jobs in the city centers where it becomes easier for them to raise their standard of living and grow. Secondly, they are provided with better educational facilities and health care quality. Thirdly, the recreational facilities that cities offer are not a part of the persistent rural life. Thus, people migrate to cities so that they could see more and do more. Fourthly, the rural life is made difficult with the constant natural catastrophes that occur there such as drought or other adverse weather conditions. Fifthly, the civil war in Brazil has forced a considerable number of rural inhabitants to seek settlement in the urban hubs. Moreover, there is not much left to do for the people in rural areas of Brazil with the mechanization of agricultural practices (Plessis, 2011).
However, there is a major problem that pops up to the scenario with such a rapid urbanization in Brazil. The larger cities are not equipped with enough resources or have much time to handle and accommodate such a large number of internal migrants. It has become a difficult task to employ such a large number of people in the cities. Consequently, when the migrants arrive in the cities in search of better opportunities, they regrettably find themselves surrounded by problems of poverty and thus, start a fight to achieve a better standard of living. As a result, the Brazilian territory has developed a number of informal settlements that are known as shanty towns or favelas in the local language. These are small towns that have been established by the migrants around the urban centers. Amazingly, there are about 2 million inhabitants living in favelas in Rio de Janeiro alone (Plessis, 2011). This situation of rapid urban growth has raised the demand for housing in urban lands to overwhelming heights. Consequently, the people belonging to the middle class are being compelled to live in very small apartments in high-rises that are packed with people. However, unlike most Brazilian cities, Brasilia and Curitiba are the fortunate large urban centers that have tasted the rewards offered by large-scale urban planning (James, Momsen & Schneider, 2012).
If seen from every aspect, establishing favelas around the urban centers is not an appropriate solution for accommodating the rising urban population. There are a number of health and safety problems due to the favelas. Firstly, they have been mostly built on steep hills that are unsafe for supporting homes. Secondly, the material used in the construction of such homes is not durable such as cardboard, corrugated iron or scrap wood. Such materials do not offer the required protection from the different hazards. Moreover, the lack of water, absence of electricity or safe sanitary means makes it really difficult and unhygienic for people to dwell in such places. Not only this, these favelas are established far from shops, schools or routes which have also made such areas not suitable for living. Another problem is that the small living units are being accommodated by large families where the number of children is really high. Also, these areas are prone to epidemic outburst due to the non-provision of proper sanitation means. It is a clear reality that the favelas are being inhabited by the poor families who have inadequate resources and lack of money. Therefore, such areas are also susceptible to crime and violence for the attainment of money. The drug mafia and trafficking industry is also been said to thrive in such areas (Plessis, 2011). These mentioned problems are a result of the clear "geographical split of the wealthy and the poor within one area" (Plessis, 2011) which is a common resultant feature of urbanization.
As discussed above, two of the major issues of urbanization in Brazil are unemployment and poverty. The other huge problem is that of rapid disease spread and the distinctive health care unavailability in the Brazilian favelas. If these persistent issues are not addressed and taken into consideration, a country like Brazil can never progress and develop. The good thing is that the government has taken and implemented some initiatives so that at least some areas could be made worth living in for the present time. The government has provided new housing structures whereby the houses are constructed using bricks and breeze blocks. These materials are much better than the cardboard and iron rods etc. And provide more stability and safety than the informal cabins and huts. Some areas are also being provided with the necessities like electricity and water. The locals are now being assisted and facilitated by the city councils for building shops and starting schools near or within the informal living places. Steps have also been taken to open clinics in favelas so that the inhabitants could at least have a place to go to…