Five centuries of commingling has resulted in a population that is extremely diverse, which explains the endless array of physical types as well as an impressive openness towards biological, cultural, and religious differences.
When the Portuguese first arrived in Brazil  in 1500, an estimated 5 million indigenous people, most belonging to the Tupi and Guarani groups, were inhabiting this vast territory. Today, only about 700,000 (representing 0.4 percent of the total population) of their descendants remain. Although indigenous groups live throughout Brazil, the majority reside in the least populated areas of the Central-West and the Amazon.
The degree to which they have succeeded in preserving the traditions and lifestyles of their ancestors varies enormously. However, there are indeed small communities deep within the Amazon  (protected by FUNAI, the federal agency of Indian affairs) that have never had contact with “civilization.” Meanwhile, according to the results of a recent mitochondrial DNA survey, an estimated 60 million Brazilians can lay claim to at least one ancestor from an indigenous tribe. Brazilians who are descended from both indigenous tribes and Europeans are known as caboclos.
Between the early days of colonial Brazil and the abolition of slavery in 1888, it’s estimated that more than 4 million slaves were brought to Brazil from Africa. The majority of them were Bantu peoples from Portugal’s African colonies, such as Mozambique and Angola, as well as Yoruba from the western coast nations of Benin and Nigeria. Although you’ll find Brazilians of African descent throughout the country, the largest black communities are in Rio  and the coastal areas of the Northeast , particularly Salvador da Bahia , where 85 percent of the population boasts some African ancestry.
Overall, only 7 percent of Brazilians (roughly 13 million) consider themselves to be “black.” However, according to the 2006 IBGE census, more than 92 million Brazilians can claim to possess some African ancestry. They are often referred to by the traditional appellate “pardo,” meaning colored (pardo is actually a beige-caramel color).
Due to a tradition of miscegenation (Portuguese had no compunction about having extraconjugal relationships with their slaves), most Brazilians are of mixed race, or mulato (Brazilians descended from a mixture of Africans and Indians are known as cafuzos). However, the varying shades of skin color and the way in which they are perceived and projected among different social milieus is extremely complex and nuanced.
The official designation these days is afro-descendente or afro-brasileiro. Applicable to anyone with African origins, these terms are based more on cultural identity than skin color. In terms of skin color, Brazilians have come up with hundreds of (often extremely creative) terms to designate themselves (and confound racial categorization). These range from preto retinto (repainted black) and jabuticaba (a dark purple berry-like fruit), both of which refer to darker skin tones, to jegue quando foge (donkey when it runs away) and formiga (ant), on a somewhat lighter scale.
Many of these euphemistic designations have their origin in a subtle yet deeply rooted racism that is still very much alive in Brazil. As a result, darker skinned Brazilians sometimes try (often subconsciously) to embranquecer (to become more white) by choosing a non-black identity for themselves. This phenomenon explains why only 7 percent of Afro-Brazilians refer to themselves as “negro.” Instead, many mixed-race Brazilians refer to themselves as “mulatos,” or even “mulatos claros” (light-skinned mulatos).
The first Europeans to set foot in Brazil  were the Portuguese who claimed the territory as their own. The next five centuries saw various waves of immigration; as a result the vast majority of Brazilians can lay claim to some Portuguese ancestry. It wasn’t until the mid- to late 19th century that other Europeans began to arrive en masse in Brazil.
Lured by the promise of vast tracts of fertile land, growing cities, and the beginnings of industry, large numbers of Italians, Germans, and Spaniards, followed by Poles and Ukrainians, flocked to the sparsely populated states of the South and to São Paulo . To this day, the South has a distinctly European character, and blond hair and blue eyes are quite common. São Paulo, in particular, has been a magnet for immigrants from all over the world. Aside from Europeans, the city boasts the largest population of Japanese outside of Japan and of Lebanese outside of Lebanon.