Maranhão

Maranhão is a state in northeast Brazil and is characterised by the dense Amazonian forests in its northern areas and long stretches of barren beaches along the Parnaíba River and coastline. It is bordered by Piauí, Tocantins and Pará as well as the Atlantic Ocean.

The extensive beaches and sand dunes are protected, due to their ecological importance and contribution. This makes them particularly beautiful to see, as human interference is minimal. The capital city of this state is São Luís, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its historical value.

Image of a view of the historic center, that was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site, of the city of São Luís of Maranhao in Brazil

view of the historic center, that was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site, of the city of São Luís of Maranhão in Brazil.

The 16th century was a time of global exploration for the Europeans. Although various parts of South America had been occupied by the semi-nomadic tribes that were native to the area for centuries, the 1500’s saw the introduction of other nations, cultures and tongues. Records indicate that the Spaniard, Vicente Yáñez Pinzón, was the first person to explore Maranhão in 1500. However, the area was officially given to João de Barros in 1534 as a Portuguese hereditary captaincy. It was 60 years later, in 1594, that the French established the first settlement in what is today known as Maranhão. In 1612, a French colony was also established on São Luís Island. This was a short-lived victory as the Portuguese ousted the French in 1615 and maintained power until 1641, when the Dutch took over.

While the Portuguese still had control, Maranhão, Ceara and Pará were collectively called Estado do Maranhão. This was a separate entity to the southern captaincies. Subsequently, as a result of civil war and disagreements regarding the slavery of Indians, Ceara was detached. Maranhão stayed a separate entity until 1774, when Brazil regained colonial administration thereof.

Interestingly, Maranhão was not part of the independence that Brazil declared in 1822. It only became part of the Empire of Brazil in 1823, when Admiral Lord Thomas Cochrane drove the Portuguese out of the area in an effort to liberate Maranhão.

The northwest part of this state is densely forested with many rivers winding their way through the rich foliage. The northern part of Piauí boasts the Maranhão Babaçu, which produces the Babaçu palm, valuable for its edible oil. However, much of this land has been destroyed due to farming and grazing for cattle.

The southern part of the state, on the other hand, is situated within the Brazilian Highlands. The wet and dry seasons are both very hot, with extremely high levels of humidity characterising the wet season.

The western shoreline, which has many indentations, is littered with towering Maranhão mangroves. The eastern shoreline has rolling sand dunes and dune fields, which create impressive vistas and awe-inspiring backdrops for photographs.

Maranhão is home to approximately 6.5 million people, with over two-thirds of the population living in urban areas. It remains one of the poorest Brazilian states.

Visitors to Maranhão should see the following popular sights:

• The Historical Centre in São Luís
• The Convent of Mercy (São Luís)
• The Museum of Black Culture (São Luís)
• Calhau Beach
• Alcantara

Here is the Maranhão government web site: http://www.ma.gov.br/

Image of man dancer during Bumba Meu Boi celebration every solstice of June in center historic city of São Luís do Maranhao.

Male dancer during Bumba Meu Boi celebration every solstice of June in center historic city of São Luís do Maranhao.





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