The beautiful South American country of Brazil is made up of 26 states, over 5 500 municipalities and a Federal District in which the capital city, Brasilia, is located. The states and municipalities of Brazil are divided up as such mainly for geographical and administrative purposes. The regions, on the other hand, are purely geographical. They can be characterised as:
• The Northern Region
• The Northeast Region
• The Central-West Region
• The Southeast Region
• The Southern Region
There are currently more than 5 500 individual municipalities in Brazil, each classified as an administrative division of the state that they occupy. Each municipality represents an average of about 35 000 residents and each state has an average of 214 municipalities. The administrations, or local governments, are autonomous, granting them a measure of independence from the political regions around them. They can create their own laws (within reason), collect taxes from their residents and receive funds from the state.
Each municipality is headed by an elected mayor and a legislative body that handles the legal aspects of running the municipal area. The elections take place across Brazil at the same time.
The state with the least number of municipalities is Roraima, which only has 15 such bodies in place. On the other hand, Minas Gerais has the largest number of municipalities, which number 853. The Federal District cannot, by law, be divided into municipal areas.
The political power of the municipality limits it from any judicial matters or actions. Therefore, courts are only organised at a state level.
Municipal administrations will be located in a denominated city, which must bear the same name as its municipality. If necessary, one or more municipalities can be split or merged together within the same state, as long as they are still under the Federal Constitution with no ulterior motive to rebel. Therefore, no municipalities can join forces to separate themselves from or oppose the state or the union.
There are 27 individual states or Federative Unions that make up the country of Brazil. To be precise, there are 26 states and a Federal District. The geographical borders of each state were largely decided on through the course of history, changing and developing over time.
States were first defined (although not officially) during the 16th century, when land was leased to Portuguese nobles and merchants, who were instructed to colonise their portion and make it their home. There was the facility granted for these ones to leave their land to their sons after their own deaths, thereby keeping them under Portuguese control, but also defining very strict boundaries for each person. However, the Monarchy of Portugal retained its ultimate power over these districts and eventually retrieved direct control during the same century.
When Brazil gained its independence in 1822, the colony became the empire and all these captaincies, or districts, were classified as provinces. Some minor changes were made at this point. These provinces were then made into states in 1889, when the country became a republic.