The eighth largest Brazilian state in terms of population is Ceará, which is situated on the Atlantic coastline. Its capital is the vibrant city of Fortaleza, which alone has a population of well over three million people and is the fifth largest city in Brazil.

Although ‘discovered’ by Portuguese explorers in the early part of the 16th century, it was only successfully colonised in 1612 (by the Portuguese Martim Soares Moreno). This was during a time that this country was battling with Holland for political authority over South America.

There were several attacks made by the Dutch during the 17th century, some even resulting in their settling in Ceará for some time.

Picturesque tropical village near Fortaleza in Brazil viewed from sand dunes.

During the periods in which they had settled there, they founded Fortaleza, then called Fort Schoonenburg. However, their occupation of the area was always temporary. Eventually, in 1661, the Brazilian territory was formally handed over to the Portuguese, resulting in the cessation of the conflict that had existed for decades. Ceará was a dependency of Pernambuco until 1799, when the Captaincy of Ceará gained independence.

Then, when the entire country of Brazil was fighting for independence from European rule in the early 1800’s, Ceará was the site of a strong rebel force. In 1822, the region (captaincy) was declared a province. However, this only lasted for two years and, in 1924, the area was a republic. Significantly, Ceará was one of the very first places in the country to do away with the system of slavery.

The state of Ceará has a total area of just under 150 000 square kilometres. It is bordered by Rio Grande do Norte, Paraíba, Pernambuco and Piauí as well as by the blue waters of the Atlantic Ocean. Its beautiful coast stretches for an impressive 573 kilometres and attracts locals and tourists alike to share in the pristine beauty of these beaches. Other parts of the state lie on the Brazilian Highlands, which consist of high mountains and deep valleys. These highlands produce rich foliage, much of which bears edible fruit for consumption and export. Ceará is not particularly rich in rivers. Those that do exist are usually small and dry up in the driest months. The most significant river in terms of size is Jaguaribe.

The vegetation of this state varies from mangroves and jungles to scrublands and dense tropical forests. Caatinga is another prevalent form of vegetation in Ceará, and is characterised by scrubby forests. This is a type of vegetation that is endemic to Brazil. This state suffers from very dry, harsh conditions during some seasons, resulting in the desertification of many areas at these times. In general, the climate is humid on the coast and dry further inland, but always hot. The average noon temperature is between 33 and 40 degrees Celsius. The rainy season is between January and June, while July to December is the dry season.

The service sector is the most dominant industry player, making up more than 50% of the GDP (Gross Domestic Product). This is followed by industry, agriculture and export. Ceará exports, amongst other products, leather shoes, crustaceans, cashew nuts and fruit.

view of Praia das Fontes the springs beach between Morro Branco and Beberibe near Fortaleza, Ceara state, Brazil.

The main tourist attractions in Ceará include:

• Canoa Quebrada Beach
• Morro Branco
• Praia Do Futuro
• The colonial buildings of Aracati
• The House of Miracles in Fortaleza

Here is the Ceará Government web site: http://www.ceara.gov.br/

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