Why Does France Border Brazil?

(Last Updated On: August 28, 2022)

Looking at a map, you might have noticed that France and Brazil have a pretty big ocean between them. With that in mind, you might not find “France borders Brazil” to be a believable claim. So let’s go into what has France and Brazil bordering each other (hint: it has to do with rampant colonialism). Anyway, why does France border Brazil?

Further Reading: What Countries Border France? A List of French Borders

It’s Also France’s Longest Border

You might think Spain is France’s longest border at 387 miles (623 kilometers), but France’s longest border is actually shared with Brazil, at 450 miles (730 kilometers)

The Brazil-France border sits in between Amapá and French Guiana within the Amazon Rainforest. French Guiana is a French territory in South America, and is the second-largest region of France. It’s officially part of the European Union and uses the Euro and was integrated into the French Republic in 1946.

French Guiana isn’t the only department of France overseas. In the Caribbean the French Republic includes Guadeloupe and Martinique; in the Indian Ocean it includes Mayotte and Réunion. Collectively they make up the overseas departments of France. This carries a handful of international implications; for starters they have the same status as mainland France. All of France’s laws and regulations apply to these regions (though they are allowed to adapt some of these laws to accommodate regional limitations). 

What this means is that these departments are largely considered extensions of France. If you’re American, you can think of regions like French Guiana as a state. This differs from some of the other regions under France (they did a lot of colonialism), which have more individual autonomy. 

How Does This Affect Borders?

So the Brazil-France border is in a bit of a different position when it comes to overseas borders, since they’re not autonomous regions. Autonomous regions are broadly defined as having freedoms from an external power. For example, Puerto Rico or American Samoa are considered autonomous regions under the USA. While there’s variation internationally regarding the freedoms of autonomous regions by country (America doesn’t govern its autonomous regions exactly the same as, say, the UK), autonomous regions typically enjoy more legislative power within their borders.

So what does this mean when autonomous regions border each other, like Saint Martin and Sint Maarten? The former is a French autonomous region and the latter is an autonomous region under the Netherlands. Would that make a French-Netherlands border? 

Well, for us here at Sporcle, a border between two autonomous regions doesn’t create an international border between the powers that control them. Pointing to Saint Martin and Sint Maarten again (since we’re talking about France), they’re both broadly considered autonomous regions under European powers. So the European powers that control them (France and the Netherlands) don’t share a border along the lines of Saint Martin and Sint Maarten. Further, neither region borders the main sovereignty of another; the border between Saint Martin and Sint Maarten is formed by two autonomous regions and not even an autonomous region and another sovereign state. 

Hans Island

Honestly when you got to thinking about weird corner-case borders you probably thought of the one between Denmark and Canada. While it is funny (and we’re going to talk about it for a hot second because it’s funny), according to the stipulations we already laid out; it’s not really a border between Canada and Denmark. 

Okay, so Hans Island. It’s an uninhabited island that’s only like half a square mile in area. Despite being uninhabited, Hans Island was the site of the Whisky War, a war that started in 1973 and ended in June of 2022. Also known as they agreed to basically split the island in half and call it a day, dividing it between two territories: Nunavut and Greenland for Canada and Denmark respectively. But since the island is split between two territories, we don’t count it as a land border between Canada and Denmark.

Anyway nobody died in the war, it just started in 1984 when Canadian soldiers planted a flag on the island and left a bottle of whisky there. The same year the Danish Minister of Greenland Affairs replaced the Canadian flag with a Danish one and left behind a bottle of Cognac.

Then they did this until 2022. 

About the Author:

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Kyler is a content writer at Sporcle living in Seattle, and is currently studying at the University of Washington School of Law. He's been writing for Sporcle since 2019; sometimes the blog is an excellent platform to answer random personal questions he has about the world. Most of his free time is spent drinking black coffee like water.

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