North / Northeast of Brazil
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
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.