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Customizable Maps of Brazil and Colombia, and Brazilian Social Development

Submitted by on March 9, 2016 – 10:58 am One Comment |  
Tocantins in Brazil mapGeoCurrents is continuing its initiative of providing free customizable maps. Today’s offerings are of Brazil and Colombia, based on their first-order administrative divisions (states in the case of Brazil; departments in that of Colombia). The Brazil maps also includes portions of neighboring countries, and one of its versions includes as well the map on which it was constructed, which allows one to “reveal” individual states, as demonstrated here for Tocantins. As in previous offerings, these maps are constructed with simple presentation software, and are available at the links at the bottom of this post in both PowerPoint and Keynote formats.

I have used the Brazil base-map to make several thematic maps of the country. The purpose here is mainly to demonstrate the significant socio-economic progress that Brazil has made since 1990. The current economic and political situation of the country is, of course, grim. As noted in a recent Forbes article, “According to the weekly Focus survey by Brazil’s Central Bank, 2016 will herald a depression-era contraction rate of 3.8% this year instead of the previous estimate of 3.5% made by dozens of Brazilian economists at the big banks.” The detention of former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (“Lula”)—seen by many Brazilians as the main architect of their country’ recent social progress—underscores the current political crisis, although some observers think that his arrest indicates the strength of Brazilian democracy.

Brazil 1991 HDI MapBut regardless of what one thinks of either Lula or of Brazil’s current situation, the progress that it made in the last decade of the 20th century and the first decade of the 21st is difficult to deny. Consider, for the example, the composite Human Development Index (HDI), which takes into account education, longevity, and income. Here we see that the highest Brazil 2010 HDI Mapranking unit in 1991, the Federal District (Brasília), scored lower than the lowest ranking state (Alagoas) did in 2010 (0.616 vs. 0.631). Other countries have also seen major improvements in their HDI figures over this period, but few have made gains as large as those of Brazil. As the maps posted here show, the geographical patterns of Brazilian HDI did not change much during this period. The large interior state of Mato Grosso, noted for its soy boom, did register a particularly large jump, however.

Brazil Life Expectancy MapI also mapped more recent data for life expectancy and infant mortality, found on the Wikipedia page of the states of Brazil. In terms of life expectancy, the northeast no longer appears as the worst-off part of Brazil. Instead, the north as a whole occupies most of the lower categories. It is interesting to see that Mato Grosso does not show particularly well on this Brazil Infant Mortality Mapmap, which may indicate that its recent gains have been more in the economic than in the social sphere. Somewhat similar patterns are found on the map of infant mortality. Here I am surprised by the low showing of the state of Rio de Janeiro and by the very low showing of Bahia.

Brazil Customizable Maps  (Keynote)

Brazil Customizable Maps (powerpoint)


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  • Ygor C.S.

    Insightful maps, it is very interesting even for a Brazilian man like me to figure out that Bahia has now worse life conditions than most of its northeasternmost neighbors and Rio de Janeiro was clearly surpassed by states like Espírito Santo. I have one clarification and one main comment to make about the text:

    1) Former president Lula was not arrested at all, but rather forcibly taken as a judicial witness in his own home, the so-called “condução coercitiva”, a quite controversial procedure given that he hadn’t explicitly refused to bear his witness to the judicial authorities, and such a strong-handed legal measure as the “condução coercitiva” is only allowed for situations where a given witness is relevant and refuses to do so when called by the judge. In any case, right or not, the procedure didn’t mean his detention and arrest, though that’s how it was interpreted by a lot of foreign media.

    2) Brazil is unusual among most large emerging countries in that it already had its period of high growth and collateral increase in social inequality, and now right when the rest of the world copes with increasing regional and class inequality Brazil sees the opposite trend (at least since the late 1990’s). . For some (and I do think there are such evidences), the country is amidst a middle-income trap, but another unusual feature appears here: even in this scenario of sluggish growth and at most a moderate healthy pace during the “golden years” of 2004-2010 (4%, a meagre annual growth compared to other emerging markets), Brazil had some stunning social advance, family income growth which was higher than GDP growth for many years, and diminished inequality. This still subtle “flattening” of the stark differences that characterize Brazil is very visible both on a class/social and regional point of view, as it is now clear that the poor areas, especially the Northeast (and, within it, especially the northeastern states, places like Rio Grande do Norte, Ceará and Pernambuco), are starting to close the gap with the Southeast/South – while the North (Amazon) is clearly heading to become Brazil’s least developed area. Also clear are also the ascendance of Santa Catarina as the Southern center of development, with the relative decline of Rio Grande do Sul, and the amazing development of the Center-West states, which in the 1970’s were as backward and underdeveloped as the Northeastern poorer states, and now are heading towards the same levels of social (less so) and economic (especially) development of the industrial and dominant Southeast, all of that based on an intensive agribusiness economy.

    While other emerging countries had stunning economic performance which was more impressive than the social gains, Brazil did the absolute opposite and managed to increase its HDI more than the Latin America and developing world average since 1980. However, I doubt such “incoherence” can be maintained for many years, and we’ve already come to see the first clear signs that Brazill will need a lot more stable and higher GDP and income growth to sustain further social improvements. It is also interesting, for me, how international (1st world) perceptions remain very biased and outdated still after all these fast developments, as I still run across many people who seem to have an idea that places like Brazil, Iran or Turkey are still less socio-economically developed (or even see them as real “hellholes”) than the likes of South Africa, Ukraine and China, which are actually less developed as a whole.

    Recently I saw several posters in a famous newspaper’s comment board commenting that, to prevent the spread of Zika virus, Brazilian women should “manage to have less children, but the Catholic Church won’t allow less large families in such a traditional country”. That in a country where women have now less children than the average French or Swedish woman, only 60% of the population is Catholic and use of contraceptives is not only easy and widespread but even freely distributed by the state. The world has changed, but some don’t seem to have taken the note. Sigh.