Brazil is only one of ten countries that have Portuguese as their official language. Portuguese is one of the top ten spoken languages in the world (it’s difficult to get an exact figure) and yet Portugal, like England that spawned one of the most used languages in the world, is a comparatively tiny country. Portugal is only one third of the size of the UK.

But when almost all of the Americas, with the exception of the United States, have Spanish as their official language why is Brazil the odd one out?

It all started in the days when Vasco de Gama, Christopher Columbus et al were bobbing around the globe discovering new lands. The Spanish and the Portuguese were in competition, in effect. So the Spanish looked to the pope for some sort of resolution.

Why the pope? Well, in those days the pope had a lot more power than today, particularly in the two Catholic countries. But the Spanish had another ace up their sleeve as the pope, Alexander VI, was himself a Spaniard. Now, of course, I’m not saying he was biased but…

He divided these new lands, essentially South and Central America, with an imaginary line. He decreed that the Spaniards could have the lands to the west of the line and the Portuguese to the east. The problem was, and take a look at a map to see what I mean, to the east of the line the area was largely ocean and not land at all.

This was drawn up as part of a treaty signed by both parties in 1494 and presumably, the Portuguese signed without realising that they had been awarded an area largely made up of the ocean.

During the next year, when Spain made strides into the region, colonising large chunks of their designated area, the Portuguese began to realise that the demarcation line had actually been less than fair to them so asked for a further adjustment.

The invisible line was duly moved over further to the west.

This allowed Portugal to claim the country we now know as Brazil for their own.

What Is The Lusophone World?

The Lusophone World is, according to Wikipedia:

Lusophones (Portuguese: Lusófonos) are an ethno-linguistic group of peoples and nations across the world that speak the Portuguese language. The Lusofonia, also known as the Lusophone World (Mundo Lusófono), is the corresponding community of Lusophone nations, which exist in Europe, the Americas, Africa, Asia, and Oceania. Lusophone nations make up more than 270 million people globally.

The Royal Portuguese Cabinet of Reading, seen in the photograph at the top of the page, is the amazing library in Rio de Janeiro that holds the largest collection of Portuguese-language texts and books in the world.


I’m sure that you’re familiar with the locations of the countries in Central and South America but the map beloe shows just how much Brazil juts out into the ocean and how an imaginary line drawn up by someone who had never been there would have given the Portuguese nothing much more than a large part of the ocean.

Because the lands were at that time only just discovered, there were nothing but the crudest and vaguest maps of the area for the pope to consult.

So it was an easy mistake for the pope to make. Or was it a mistake…?

The pin in the map, incidentally, shows the location of the library in the photograph above. 

Royal Portuguese Cabinet of Reading

R. Luís de Camões,
30 – Centro,
Rio de Janeiro – RJ,




JJ is originally from the UK and has lived in South Florida since 1994. She is the founder and editor of JAQUO Magazine. You can connect with her using the social media icons below.

Trending Now : Visiting the Channel Islands: Sark