Brazil is the largest country in South America, not to mention the source of the world's most grueling steakhouse experience (the all-you-can-eat-and-keep-going churrascaria) and some of the hottest women living in Eastern Massachusetts. They are the undisputed worldwide kings of soccer futebol. Also Tom Brady's wife. And a great Terry Gilliam film.
And they have elected their first female president, Dilma Rousseff, something that the United States has yet to do.
Brazil, as many other countries around the world, is historically marked by political conservatism, violence against minorities, sexism and other disgraces, including dictatorships, slavery, absolute material misery for the majority of the population, elitism, political and business corruption, rape and racism (which eventually became matters of middle class “jokes” supposedly on the grounds of the right to freedom of speech) and even fascism.  On the other hand, Brazil has won five times the FIFA World Cup. 
Before 1500, Brazil was inhabited by a large number of different ethnic groups and comprised a gigantic linguistic and cultural diversity. Few years before the colonization, the north of Brazil was occupied by complex chiefdoms highly populated and with increasingly centralized authorities. The indigenous people of other regions had no systematic agriculture activity and depended mainly on fishing, hunting and horticulture.
Then, after civil war, famine and the Black Death, some Portuguese adventurers decided to expand their misery beyond the Atlantic, eventually discovering the until recently unknown lands of America, specifically Brazil – much to the bemusement of the people who lived there already. For the next three hundred years the Portuguese sought to solidify institutions such as slavery and vice-royalties in their American colonies. They also implanted a European-like landowner’s aristocracy in the country, what is usually understood as the foundations of huge social disparities (which last roughly to our days).
During the Napoleonic wars, the king of Portugal and his family, friends and courtesans alike, feeling that the things were about to get really hot in the Hispanic Peninsula, decided to escape and hide in Rio de Janeiro, one of the biggest Brazilian cities of the time. This led to an odd and indeed chaotic situation, where a colonized territory suddenly became the site of a European Monarchy. There is an ongoing debate on whether the fled of the monarchy in 1808 led to more violence against the poor people of Brazil, or if it was only a way of impoverishing all other areas of the country except for Rio (the both effects combined are equally plausible). The fact is that, when the Portuguese liberal revolution of 1820 exploded, the Portuguese and Brazilians alike were summoned to a Constitutional Assembly. Apparently, Brazilians thought that their new constitution, which was very progressive and inclusive indeed (the freed slaves and Brazilians of African descent were granted many civil and political rights, while the monarchy would be subjected to a parliament), was way too liberal for them. Accordingly, they declared independence in 1822 and soon adopted a constitutional absolutist monarchy under King (more arrogantly “emperor”) Peter I, the son of the former King John VI.
King Peter I was a ruthless, authoritarian King. He was also a terrible diplomat and deplorable strategist, having being easily defeated by the Argentinean troops in the Cisplatine War (a creepy violent dispute for the possession of territories currently belonging to Uruguay), although Argentina had little military power and was facing great domestic instability. Incredibly enough, the Argentines virtually proved to be even worse diplomats than Peter I ever was, since they agreed to transform Cisplatina in an buffer-state, instead of attaching it to their own territory, even though they had actually won the war. Not surprisingly, their president was assassinated after the agreement.
Peter I was so political awkward, that he was soon expelled from Brazil, considered to be more occupied with the Portuguese political matters than the Brazilian ones. Curiously, he came to be known in Portugal as a great hero, since his evil brother Dom Michael was even more conservative, and had restored an absolutist monarchical government (with no constitution) in Portugal after a somewhat grisly coup d’état, which Peter successfully reverted after defeating Michael during civil strife. But that’s another story.
Peter left Brazil in 1831. Then, the country was run by a bunch of bureaucrats and clerks that played the regents during the minority of the future king (that is, till 1840). The regency, as the Brazilians themselves would call it, was a festa do caqui (literally, “party of the Asian persimmon” meaning “a great mess”) with civil strife, conflicting legislation and unstable cabinets. There was also some kind of dispute among liberal and conservative parties, although they had little (if any) ideological divergence beyond federalist or non-federalist purposes. In fact, they were so similar that people often said “a liberal resembles a conservative more than anything else”.
Slavery was Brazil’s main institution since the colony times, and was hardly criticized, even after the British intensive propaganda and effective political measures against it. When King Peter II assumed the throne, things changed little, as the slave labour was essential to the Brazilian main economic activity, the production of commodities (first sugar-cane, then coffee). Many people find it hard to believe that such a vast and potentially powerful State could have dedicated almost his entire economy to these extremely risky and dependent activities for so many years; however, after you get to know the Veja magazine (one of the most important medias of the country) or the Brazilian bourgeoisie, this is hardly the case.
During the reign of Peter II, Brazil fought a war against Paraguay, apparently due to the imperialistic projects of the Paraguayan president. The war, which was a never ending savagery, was further promoted by the United Kingdom, for obviously equally imperialistic reasons. Finally, there came a time when the King himself found it extremely shameful to maintain slave labour, and began a series of orchestrated attempts to put a definitive end on it. The abolition of slavery took many years to happen (it is widely known that Brazil was one of the last countries to do it), but it was finally concluded in 1888. Peter II, along with his renewed cabinet, had also progressively reformed some of the countries institutions. Not surprisingly enough, this led to a republican coup d’état in the next year, backed by the Brazilian armed forces, that instituted an even more oligarchic and conservative regime.
 The Old Republic
The republican government was a club: the totality of its politicians counted no more than five hundred men, most of which were eligible by an active (voting) citizenry of less than two per cent of the total population. Once again, one wonders why it was still necessary to fraud elections (a very common practice before 1946) in such a republic. At this epoch, a great mass of European refugees (specially from Italy, Portugal, Poland and Germany) came to Brazil. They had either been deceived by the Brazilian propaganda or, more commonly, were simply desperate for something to eat. The Brazilian tidy and crude middle classes often regard these ancestors as a reason for being greatly proud of, and often claim they were of noble descent or other stupidities like these, whereas in fact they were just poor people or war criminals searching for food.
 Vargas Era
The republic ended in 1930, when a so called revolution took place (the reasons for this nomenclature are still to be explained). São Paulo, a very unimportant district of the country till the end of the nineteenth century, had become both an economic and political power during the republic, and dominated the republican general elections along with Minas Gerais (another unity of the federation). This was surely regarded by many other unities of the federation as usurpation. Besides, a group of discontent low-ranking military (the tenentes) began criticizing and even affronting the establishment, as they thought the government was corrupt and the elections were fraudulent. Getúlio Vargas (by the way, a not unknown former minister of republican governments) conducted the militarily campaign against the oligarchs of the republic, and founded a new regime. During 1931 and 1932, the regime had no constitution, and sought to debilitate opposition, destroying even the forces of the proud and conservative Paulistas. In 1934 the president Vargas summoned a constitutional assembly; nevertheless, the new constitution seemed exaggeratedly liberal for the provisional president that never really obeyed its rules. Actually, he supported fascist groups inside Brazil (the Integralistas, also known as “green chickens”) for rather a long time before his coup d’état. He created a so called police of state that used torture as a mean of investigation. Vargas smashed organized opposition from the left (the National Liberation Alliance, for example, was deemed illegal less than one year after its creation), persecuted Jews and censored the press. In 1937, claiming that “agents from Moscow” were planning a takeover he instituted a dictatorship that lasted almost a decade.
The dictatorship was nationalist, conservative and centralist. Although Vargas himself was no fascist, he deeply admired Mussolini’s Italy and Hitler’s Germany. However, under North American pressure, he decided to side with the United States in World War II, and lost considerable support from right-wing crazy fascists. In the last years of his government, Vargas created three base industrial complexes and tried to guarantee minimum labor rights for the gigantic mass of Brazilian excluded and explored workers. These acts were considered almost a miracle from heavens and Vargas is admired to this day (as the humble’s father by one hand, and the rich people’s mother, by the other).
 The 1946-Republic
With the victory of the Soviet Union and democratic republics in WW II, the Vargas' dictatorship was quickly replaced by a more democratic republic, where almost ten percent of the population could vote. This was obviously a nightmare for the Brazilian oligarchs and the Brazilian middle classes, since a very small number of workers could therefore influence the final electoral results. This was indeed the case with the election of Eurico Gaspar Dutra in 1946. In 1950, Getúlio Vargas was directly elected president, as a big part of the Brazilian workers recognized him as their benefactor. Vargas’ nationalist economic policies (which were by no means revolutionary) faced intense opposition from the Brazilian conservatives. Vargas was particularly disliked by an abhorrent figure of the Brazilian history, a journalist named Carlos Lacerda, whose writings must be read to be believed (it would not be an exaggeration to say that he has some successors in contemporary Brazil). Deeply depressed by the course of events, Vargas took his own life in 1954, causing some national commotion (some say that the high esteem with which Vargas is held by the Brazilian to this day is more difficult to comprehend than the trinity). Actually, Vargas had faced an ever increasing interventionist ideology sustained by some branches of the armed forces and the Brazilian bourgeoisie, since these groups could not tolerate any political shift towards progressive economic or social policies. Conspiracies were loosely organized but were getting stronger, and there was an unsuccessful try to prevent the elected president Juscelino Kubitschek (aka. JK) from taking power in 1955. Juscelino’s government was progressive to a certain extent, and is remembered as the Brazilian Golden Age, although the Brazilian debts increased radically during these years, since the current Brazilian capital, Brasília, was built during his term. Legend says that he got the idea during a press conference where someone asked him if he was willing to obey the constitution, specifically the part where it said that the capital should be moved towards the center of the country. His catchphrase was "50 years in 5!", alluding Brazil would progress 50 years in 5. The country debt did, at least. He was replaced by a psychotic professor called Jânio Quadros. Jânio stayed briefly on power, and soon resigned, apparently because he was not only a freak and a moralist, but was also incredibly arrogant to think that the Congress would beg for his permanence. His successor, João Goulart (aka. Jango, the vice-president) took office in 1961, soon after the conservatives accused him of communism and forced him to accept a parliamentary government, where he would have no great power. The Congress supported this coup, but Jango prepared a referendum for 1963, when the citizens declared themselves in favor of a presidential system. Jango defended wide “base reforms” in Brazil, which had already been done in the developed countries such as Japan, the United States and so on. For the first time ever in the history of Brazil, a president was proposing genuine land reform, universal suffrage, fiscal reform and many other basic democratic ideas. Nonetheless, it was almost impossible to demonstrate to the Brazilian elite that land and fiscal reforms were not communism, since they live in an alternative reality. Jango was repeatedly accused of being against Christian faith, and the Catholic Church was overtly against his government. Businessmen, the middle class and the Brazilian press (concentrated in the hands of four to ten families, whose paranoic publications usually makes you believe they were/are trapped in Sauron’s Mordor ) united against what they called “the communist threat”. In fact, the conservative middle classes organized an amazingly sick demonstration against Goulart called “the march of the family on behalf of god and the fatherland”. In 1964, after several attempts of Goulart to reverse the brain-death of the Brazilian elite, there was another coup. This time, the dictatorship was approved by the USA (USA supporting a latin dictatorship? Who'd thunk!), and lasted for two long decades.
 Brazilian military dictatorship
The dictatorship imposed by the armed forces was a bloodthirsty, repressive and moralist dictatorship. Although censorship had already been instituted in the 1946-Republic, it’s scope became wider and dumber (believe it or not) after the coup. Torture was institutionalized immediately after the seizure of power. The dictator Castelo Branco, often referred only as “president” by the Brazilians themselves, tried to create a moderate center-right self-identity (so that he could be immortalized as an odonym); this was no hard task, since the ignoble and sordid far right was really worse, as they defended eugenics, genocide and the implosion of minorities along with any eventual opposition group (in effect, for the Brazilian right-wing psychotic “citizens” as a whole, any sort of opposition are commies).
After Castelo Branco’s administration, the Brazilian dictatorship quickly degenerated into a more evil aberration. The Institutional Act number five, for example, issued by president Artur da Costa e Silva, suspended habeas corpus and judicial review, alongside with the virtual suppression of the Congress' deliberative power. Monstrous activities followed, such as the persecution and eventual suicide (aka. assassination) of congressmen, journalists and other civilians opposed (or not) to the government. Furthermore a bizarre “group” inside the armed forces called “linha dura” ("hardliners") promoted terrorist attacks against civilians during these years, as they thought this would fortify the dictatorship position. These practices consisted, for example, in exploding the site of the OAB (The Order of Attorneys of Brazil) and saying that this was a communist attack. In a parallel universe this would have worked.
Things became harder to sustain after dictator Geisel implemented a series of statist economic policies, felt as the communist revolution by the Brazilian and foreign businessmen. In fact, as Geisel himself reported, the Brazilian elite had never formally requested the end of torture and other atrocities like these, but they were concerned with the impact of economic policies to their profits. The same holds true for the Brazilian press, which never condemned summary killing and torture in general, and which have even provided assistance for the torturers and the political police. Golbery de Couto e Silva, for example, an éminence grise of the regime, said once that the newspaper “Estado de São Paulo” needed no censorship, as the Mesquita family (owner of the newspaper) was even more conservative than himself.
 The New Republic
The return to democracy was a gradual and controlled process. Civil society was tired of the dictatorship violence, the economic growth had ended, inflation was rising and even the middle classes were no longer happy with the regime they helped to establish. In 1988, Brazil promulgated a new particularly democratic constitution, assuring universal suffrage for the first time. In the presidential campaign that followed, however, the Globo television station (formerly allied with the dictatorship) and the oligarchic press massively supported the obscure candidate Fernando Collor de Mello for the presidency (much to the pleasure of the middle classes, for he was rich, conservative and handsome), who was soon deposed by the same political forces that had him elected. This utterly demonstrates that the Brazilian elites are deeply incompetent.
Fernando Henrique Cardoso, considered by the intelligence (?) service of the dictatorship to be a commie (although his party, the Brazilian Social Democracy Party, is extremely liberal in economic policies and very inclined towards religious prejudices in ethical matters), was finally elected president during a high inflationary crisis, and he succeeded to combat it, having being elected for a second term in 1998. In the next presidential elections, the Brazilians elected Lula (aka. Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva), who had been an important leader of syndicalism and an oppositional figure during the dictatorship. For the Brazilian press, his election was considered a catastrophe like, if not worse, than the Chernobyl nuclear reactor meltdown in Ukraine or World War II. Repeatedly, Lula was represented by the media as a new version of Stalin or Fidel Castro, or simply as an “illiterate dumbo” (classism? prejudice? Nah! You are just being too politically correct about it, they would say). In reality, Lula did not make any attempt to systematically reform social conditions in the country, and he just instituted a state financed assistance to prevent people from starving to death (which, Brazil being Brazil, there is a considerable number of politics and their relatives and friends who also receive it). He has not even promoted big changes in civil rights, although his economic policies were kind of progressive. In fact, Lula’s government was not social-democratic in any sense, and the sole change was a more nationalist approach to economic policies. The same holds true for his successor, Dilma Rousseff, a former guerrilla member, who has spread terror amongst the middle classes as never before during the 2010 presidential elections.