Rio Grande do Norte


Rio Grande do Norte is a Brazilian state with a total area of 52 796.79 square kilometres (or 20 385 square miles). It has a population of more than 3 million people. Rio Grande do Norte is situated in northeast Brazil and is recognised as the north-easternmost tip of the entire continent of South America. Its capital city is Natal. The entire state is acclaimed for its exquisite beaches that stretch on for hundreds of kilometres, as well as its clean air that is, according to NASA, second only to the Antarctic air in terms of its purity.

Although the area now known as Rio Grande do Norte was officially ‘discovered’ by the Spanish explorer, Alonso de Ojeda, in 1499, it was only in 1501 / 1502 that the European navigators visited the area formally. When these Portuguese arrived, they visited an area just north of Natal and called it Cape São Roque.

Natal, Brazil.

The Potengi River had a much larger mouth than other rivers in the surrounds. Therefore, the Portuguese dubbed it “Rio Grande”, meaning “Great River”. Although no permanent settlement was established in the area for many years, it was still considered to be the property of the Portuguese.

When the French pirates arrived in 1535, battles for the land ensued. The Portuguese established sugar plantations and cattle farms, cultivating and developing the area for habitation. In 1633, the Dutch had begun their efforts to gain control of South America.

This led to the Portuguese teaming up with the local natives against the Dutch. These uprisings are known as the massacres of Cunhaú and Uruaçu. Most of the rebels were African slaves and the South American natives that had inhabited the land for centuries before the arrival of any Europeans. These ones were finally victorious and, in 1654, the Dutch were sent back to Holland.

Rio Grande do Norte enjoys a hot, humid tropical climate in places, while the majority of the state is actually quite arid. The mammoth sand dunes have become a tourist attraction, but actually cover the dense forests that were once home to a variety of species and ecosystems.

Another geographical feature of the state is its many mangroves and the luscious rainforests of the interior. Rocas Atoll belongs to this state, and is one of its most beautiful natural features. An atoll is an island of coral that surrounds a lagoon, and this particular one is 260 kilometres off the coast of the capital city, Natal.

At just over 50% of the state’s contribution to the GDP (Gross Domestic Product), the service sector is the most significant, followed closely by the industrial segment. Although agriculture is a very important part of the economy, its percentage contribution is only in the region of about 5% to 6%. Rio Grande do Norte’s most significant exports include chocolate, select seafood, fruit, petroleum, cotton and cashew nuts, amongst others.

During your time in Rio Grande do Norte, you are encouraged to visit the following sights and attractions:

• Newton Navarro Bridge
• Pipa Beach
• The Genipabu dunes
• The Three Kings Fort
• Centro de Lancamento da Barreira do Inferno – the first base in the country to launch rockets into outer space
• Parque das Dunas (Dunas State Ecological Park)
• Natal Aquarium
• Teatro Alberto Maranhao (Alberto Maranhao Theatre)

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