Although both Mexico and Brazil are regions of very large urban populations, the ethnic make-up of the regions are quite distinct from each other. Beginning in the sixteenth century both regions came into contact with European nations. Mexico and Brazil both had populations of Amerindians before the Europeans arrived. In Mexico the Spanish would encounter the advanced civilizations of the Aztecs ruled by Montezuma (Suchlicki 26). The Aztec population has been estimated to be between 80,000 to 250,000. The Aztec people had built a great city at Tenochtitlan. The Aztec were advanced in their architectural abilities, their engineering accomplishments, and their culture (22). In Brazil the Amerindian population upon arrival of the Portuguese was fragmented into innumerable small tribes (Burns 17). There was no culture in Brazil when the Europeans arrived that can be compared to the Aztecs of Mexico (21).
The fact that different European countries colonized Mexico and Brazil is most noticeable today in the languages of the countries. The languages of Brazil and Mexico are different. The official language of Brazil is Portuguese (Microsoft Encarta). The major language of Mexico is Spanish. Some Amerindian languages do survive in both of these countries. In Mexico the use of Amerindian languages is more common than in Brazil. Eighty percent of the people who speak Amerindian languages in Mexico also speak Spanish (Camp). The Portuguese language as spoken in Brazil is colored by many words and phrases from native and immigrant languages. Cities in the southern parts of Brazil have populations who speak German and Italian (Microsoft Encarta).
The early European colonies in the region of Brazil and the region of Mexico operated large plantations. Brazil lacked the large work force provided by the greater Amerindian population of Mexico. The Amerindians of Mexico were already familiar with working for native overlords, making the transition to working under a Spanish overlord a relatively smooth process (Suchlicki 31). To compensate for the lack of an indigenous work force, the Portuguese began to bring African slaves into Brazil as early as 1433. Out of the total population of the Brazilian colony in 1585 numbering some 57,000 people, 14,000 were African slaves (Burns 49). Although the Spanish who colonized Mexico were by no means innocent of enslaving Africans, the large numbers of Amerindians provided the bulk of the work force on Mexican plantations (Suchlicki 31).
These historical differences in the regions of Brazil and Mexico are still evident in their populations of today. The Amerindian influence is strong in Mexico. While only ten percent of the population is full Amerindian (de Blij and Muller 220), the cultural influence remains greater than in Brazil. Less than one percent of the population is full Amerindian in Brazil (Microsoft Encarta). The population of Mexico is largely mestizo, people with mixed European and Amerindian ancestries (de Blij and Muller 220). The population of Brazil is much more diverse; it is more heavily influenced by European immigrations. The large numbers of slaves brought into Brazil from Africa have...