Brazil Table of Contents
The equatorial North, also known as the Amazon or Amazônia, includes, from west to east, the states of Rondônia, Acre, Amazonas, Roraima, Pará, Amapá, and, as of 1988, Tocantins (created from the northern part of Goiás State, which is situated in the Center-West). Rondônia, previously a federal territory, became a state in 1986. The former federal territories of Roraima and Amapá were raised to statehood in 1988.
With 3,869,638 square kilometers, the North is the country's largest region, covering 45.3 percent of the national territory (see table 3, Appendix). The region's principal biome is the humid tropical forest, also known as the rain forest, home to some of the planet's richest biological diversity. The North has served as a source of forest products ranging from "backlands drugs" (such as sarsaparilla, cocoa, cinnamon, and turtle butter) in the colonial period to rubber and Brazil nuts in more recent times. In the mid-twentieth century, nonforest products from mining, farming, and livestock-raising became more important, and in the 1980s the lumber industry boomed. In 1990, 6.6 percent of the region's territory was considered altered by anthropic (man-made) action, with state levels varying from 0.9 percent in Amapá to 14.0 percent in Rondônia.
In 1996 the North had 11.1 million inhabitants, only 7 percent of the national total. However, its share of Brazil's total had grown rapidly in the 1970s and early 1980s as a result of interregional migration, as well as high rates of natural increase. The largest population concentrations are in eastern Pará State and in Rondônia. The major cities are Belém and Santarém in Pará, and Manaus in Amazonas. Living standards are below the national average. The highest per capita income, US$2,888, in the region in 1994, was in Amazonas, while the lowest, US$901, was in Tocantins.
The nine states that make up the Northeast are Alagoas, Bahia, Ceará, Maranhão, Paraíba, Pernambuco, Piauí, Rio Grande do Norte, and Sergipe. The former federal territory of Fernando de Noronha was incorporated into Pernambuco State in 1988. For planning or ecological purposes, Maranhão west of 44° W longitude, most of which until recently was covered with "pre-Amazon" forest (that is, transition from the cerrado or caatinga to tropical forest), is often included in the Amazon region.
The Northeast, with 1,561,178 square kilometers, covers 18.3 percent of the national territory. Its principal biome is the semiarid caatinga region, which is subject to prolonged periodic droughts. By the 1990s, this region utilized extensive irrigation. In an area known as the forest zone (zona da mata ), the Atlantic Forest, now almost entirely gone, once stretched along the coastline as far north as Rio Grande do Norte. Sugar plantations established there in colonial times persisted for centuries. Between the mata and the sertão lies a transition zone called the agreste , an area of mixed farming. In 1988-89, 46.3 percent of the region had been subjected to anthropic activity, ranging from a low of 10.8 percent in Maranhão to a high of 77.2 percent in Alagoas.
Because its high rates of natural increase offset heavy out-migration, the Northeast's large share of the country's total population declined only slightly during the twentieth century. In 1996 the region had 45 million inhabitants, 28 percent of Brazil's total population. The population is densest along the coast, where eight of the nine state capitals are located, but is also spread throughout the interior. The major cities are Salvador, in Bahia; Recife, in Pernambuco; and Fortaleza, in Ceará. The region has the country's largest concentration of rural population, and its living standards are the lowest in Brazil. In 1994 Piauí had the lowest per capita income in the region and the country, only US$835, while Sergipe had the highest average income in the region, with US$1,958.
Data as of April 1997
Brazil Table of Contents