Some of the mighty rivers to the east of the Andes form excellent water-ways. The Orinoco, in the north of the continent, is navigable for steamers continuously for nearly a thousand miles. The Amazon is navigable without interruption to the base of the Andes, a distance of twenty-six hundred miles from its mouth, and six thousand miles of navigation are afforded by the main stream and its tributaries. Many of these tributaries, however, have their navigable course greatly obstructed by falls and rapids. The value of the navigation of the Amazon is diminished by the paucity of population and products in the region through which it flows and by the similarity of the products in nearly the whole of its navigable course. The inland water-way, which is already of most importance, and likely to remain most useful to commerce in the future, is that from north to south formed by the upper Paraguay and the lower Parana, a water-way which is uninterrupted from near the source of the former river, and which, like the Mississippi, brings hot and temperate climates into direct communication. Its chief drawback is the extreme shallowness of its estuary, the Rio de la Plata, or River Plate.
The population is still very scanty, probably not more than thirty millions. Whites of pure blood form only from two to three tenths of the whole, negroes about one tenth, and the remainder either native Indians or people of mixed race; so that on the whole the Indian element still largely predominates. The white population in Brazil is of Portuguese origin, and Portuguese is there the official language; but elsewhere, except in Guiana, the whites are mainly of Spanish descent, and Spanish is the official language.
Brazil is an empire which secured its independence of Portugal in 1822. In size it is the rival of the United States and Canada. Only a limited area has been turned to account for agriculture. Even the area which travelers in Brazil deem it possible to bring under cultivation at some future time is but a small fraction of the whole. The equatorial valley of the Amazon is filled with dense forests. Close to the coast, that trends in a south easterly direction, stretch ranges of mountains which cut off the Atlantic moisture from the region behind. This region is made up mainly of low table—lands (campos) with a sterile soil. North of about 20° south—that is, throughout the broader part of the country south of the forests—these campos are considered fit for nothing but pasture. There remains nevertheless an area in the south—small, indeed, compared with the extent of the empire, but yet between four and five times the size of Great Britain—in which there are many fertile districts still unsettled, and a considerable
- [* These pages were written before Brazil became a republic.—Editor.]