Brazil, a growing, multicultural nation of nearly 200 million people, is preparing to host two huge international events: the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics. Brazilians face numerous challenges, building many new structures and the infrastructure to support them, while attending to existing challenges and "cleaning up" before the world comes to visit. Brazil is also huge (the largest country in the southern hemisphere), and its ecological diversity ranges from dense urban spaces to forested mountains, vast plains to sparkling beaches. It's impossible to sum up a country in a single photo essay, so take this as just a sample of recent scenes from around Brazil.
View of the Pantanal from the Cidade de Pedra viewpoint in the Chapada dos Guimaraes national park, Mato Grosso state, western Brazil, on January 30, 2011. The Pantanal area, a sanctuary of biodiversity, is presently at risk because of the intensive culture of soybean and the deforestation, scientists said.
Hundreds of swimmers take part in the "Travessia dos Fortes" (Forts Crossing) men's category in Copacabana beach, in Rio de Janeiro, on April 1st, 2012. Hundreds of swimmers took part in the 3,6km crossing from the Copacaban Fort to the Duque de Caxias Fort in Leme.
(Vanderlei Almeida/AFP/Getty Images) #
View of Iguazu Falls, one of the Natural Seven Wonders of the World, from the Brazilian side, on April 11, 2012, in Foz de Iguazu, Brazil. The waterfall system, 2.7 km long, consists of 275 falls, and has an annual peak flow of some 6,500 cubic meters a second. An acute drought has hit the famed falls, cutting back the tumbling waters to reveal the rocky sides. Only a third of the usual volume of water is now flowing over the top.
(Norberto Duarte/AFP/Getty Images)
Brazilian pianist Ricardo de Castro Monteiro plays in the air on a piano hanging from wires during the annual "Virada Cultural" event, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on May 6, 2012. The Virada Cultural is a cultural party which offers 24 hours of uninterrupted attractions in stages around the city, such as music, dance, cooking, theatre, exhibitions of art and history and other forms of expression.
(Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images)
A 23-year-old man smokes crack in downtown Manaus, on March 19, 2012. Many Brazilian cities now have their own "cracklands," areas of the city where swarms of crack users have converted entire neighborhoods into nocturnal encampments doubling as open-air crack markets. At nightfall throngs of stupefied buyers crowd around dealers before skulking away behind the telltale glow of cigarette lighters. Sociologists, health experts, and law enforcement officials all agree that crack use is a rapidly growing problem that puts Brazil squarely in the center of the international drug trade, just a few years ahead of the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games.
A sculpture cast from the body of British artist Antony Gormley, atop a building in downtown Sao Paulo, on May 16, 2012. The public exhibition titled "Event Horizon' uses 31 rooftops as a part of Gormley's exhibition at Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil. According to the organizers, when the exhibition began, many people confused the sculptures with potential suicides and reported them to authorities.
A physical therapist supports Luiza Ezaledo, 2, during a hydrotherapy session at the Association for the Aid of Disabled Children (AACD) in Sao Paulo, on April 2, 2012. The AACD, a non-profit organization that began in 1950 with just 14 patients, now works with some 8,000 young victims of disabling conditions and diseases such as cerebral palsy to give them better physical skills and improve their lives. Most of the patients are from impoverished or broken homes.
A man rides his bicycle next to a wall with graffiti depicting Brazilian soccer player Ronaldinho in Vila Autodromo slum in Rio de Janeiro, on April 19, 2012. According to a document released by the popular movement "Comite Popular da Copa e Olimpiadas do Rio de Janeiro" (People's Committee of the World Cup and Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro), the preparations for the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro will displace more than 7,185 families from their homes to make way for new sports facilities, bus routes for traffic and improvements in tourism infrastructure.
Police walk past a barrier set on fire by residents of the Pinheirinho slum, who are resisting police arrival to evict them by court order, in Sao Jose dos Campos, 50 miles (80 km) northeast of Sao Paulo, on January 22, 2012. Some 1,500 families who have been occupying a private plot of land for the past eight years were evicted after a lengthy legal process by the real owner, police sources said.
Riders try to thread a wooden needle through a ring during a horse riding competition as part of the festivities known as the "Marujada" in celebration of St. Benedict, who is also known in Brazil as the "black saint", in Braganca in the northeastern state of Para, on December 25, 2011. The Marujada began in the 18th century when a group of black slaves were allowed by their owners to form the Fraternity of St. Benedict, and decided to dance through the streets as an expression of their gratitude.
Firefighters carry the body of a victim among the debris of a collapsed building, behind the Municipal Theater in Rio de Janeiro, on January 26, 2012. Two buildings collapsed in downtown Rio de Janeiro on Wednesday, in the latest incident highlighting the failure of authorities to improve the city's infrastructure amid preparations to host soccer's World Cup and the Olympics.
Kypato Kayapo, chief of Kayapo tribe from the Aukre community, receives post-cataract surgery ophthalmologic attention on the seventh day of the "Expedicionarios da Saude" (Brazilian Health Expeditions) medical expedition in the Kikretum community in Sao Felix, on April 27, 2011. Twice a year, volunteer doctors build a mobile hospital to provide clinical and surgical treatments for indigenous tribes and residents from different parts of the Amazonian Rainforest.
A car with bullet holes, part of a test at the headquarters of Brazil's Dupont laboratory in Paulinia, on April 13, 2012. Armor plating isn't just for aristocrats anymore as Brazil grapples with high rates of kidnapping, murder and robbery. DuPont, widely known as a chemical maker, introduced its bulletproof Kevlar fiber and SentryGlas car kit Armura in 2008 to middle class Brazilian families with Chevrolets, Hondas and even low-cost Kias.
Retired Brazilian police officer Andre Luiz Pinheiro, 50, dressed as the super-hero Batman, runs at Santa Terezinha Square, in Taubate city, Sao Paulo state, on March 26, 2012. Pinheiro has been called to help police patrol the crime-ridden streets of Taubate, in Brazil. He was officially presented on March 17 in the districts with the highest crime rates in Sao Paulo state. Police captain Warley Takeo, one of the policemen who decided to bring in the character to help them fight drug traffickers, said the measure would bring long-term benefits. Takeo said making a connection between the police and Batman would help children have a clearer idea of good and bad.
Brazil's Talita Antunes prepares to serve during a beach volleyball training match on Ipanema beach in Rio de Janeiro, on March 20, 2012. Antunes and her teammate Maria Elisa Antonelli are one of the favorite teams to compete at the London 2012 Olympic games women's beach volley event.
(AP Photo/Victor R. Caivano)
Yawalapiti youth chief Anuia (front) leads a dance in the Xingu National Park, Mato Grosso State, on May 7, 2012. In August the Yawalapiti tribe will hold the Quarup, which is a ritual held over several days to honor in death a person of great importance to them. This year the Quarup will be honoring two people - a Yawalapiti Indian who they consider a great leader, and Darcy Ribeiro, a well-known author, anthropologist and politician known for focusing on the relationship between native peoples and education in Brazil.
An aerial view of homes flooded by the overflowing Rio Negro, one of the two main tributaries of the Amazon, after it broke the all-time record set in 2009, in Manaus, on May 17, 2012. Nearly two days after passing the historic record of 29.77 meters (97.67 feet) in the city's port, the water continued to rise and experts said that the peak was still not in sight.
A policeman patrols the Rocinha Slum during an operation to find a man who killed a policeman during a shootout in one of the slum's alleys in Rio de Janeiro, on April 4, 2012. According to local media, nine people were killed in Rocinha in the last two months during a dispute on the control of the drug traffic. Three thousand troops, backed by helicopters and armored vehicles, occupied Rio de Janeiro's largest slum without firing a shot on November 13, the biggest step in the Brazilian city's bid to improve security and end the reign of drug gangs. The occupation of Rocinha, a notorious hillside "favela" that overlooks some of Rio's swankiest areas, is a crucial part of the city's preparations to host soccer's World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics two years later.
Laborers work at night on the construction of the new Corinthians stadium, which is being prepared to host matches during the 2014 World Cup, in the Sao Paulo district of Itaquera, on March 8, 2012. FIFA president Sepp Blatter will meet Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff to clear the air after FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke's remarks about the country's slow progress in preparing for the 2014 World Cup caused an uproar.
Police patrol Rocinha slum in Rio de Janeiro, on April 6, 2012. Setbacks in a security program meant to take back territory from the drug trade have shown the immense challenge of pacifying the city's violent slums and raised questions about the state's ability to keep the peace as Rio prepares to take the world stage not just for the Olympics but the 2014 World Cup, which will host its headline events in Rio.
(AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
A woman looks down from the staircase in the occupied Prestes Maia building in downtown Sao Paulo, on February 23, 2012. Occupied in 2002 by about 350 homeless families, the building lacks electricity, elevators and running water. The families are part of Brazil's "roofless" squatter movement which has been around for years and hasn't abated despite the nation's economic boom. Squatters say their meager incomes, often earned in Brazil's informal economy, would never allow them to afford rent, even in slums.
(AP Photo/Andre Penner)
A worker climbs scaffolding around a century-old port warehouse undergoing renovation in Rio de Janeiro, on March 12, 2012. A multi-billion dollar project remaking Rio's port region into a tourism and business hub called "Porto Maravilha" ("Port Marvel") ahead of the 2016 Olympics, has also unearthed Valongo port, once the single busiest slave-trading port in the world where up to a million men and women forced into bondage arrived from Africa.
(AP Photo/Victor R. Caivano)
A woman leaves her house next to the word "Pride" written in Portuguese, in an alley in the Brasilandia favela of Sao Paulo, on February 29, 2012. Six alleys in the favela were painted by Spanish artist group Boa Mistura as part of their "Light on the Alleys" project, which aims to modify rundown communities by using art as a tool for change in their daily lives.