1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Pará (state)

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PARÁ, or Grão Pará, a northern state of Brazil, bounded N. by the three Guianas and the Atlantic, E. by the Atlantic and the states of Maranhao and Goyaz, S. by Goyaz and Matte Grosso and W. by Amazonas. It is the third largest state of the republic, having an area of 443,922 sq. m.; pop. (1890), 328,455, (1900), 445,356. The Amazon valley has its outlet to the ocean through the central part of the state, the outlet, or neck, being comparatively narrow and the territory on both sides rising to the level of the ancient plateau that covered this part of the continent. In the north is the Guiana plateau, sometimes called Brazilian Guiana, which is “blanketed” and made semiarid by the mountain ranges on the Brazil-Guiana frontier. In the south the country rises in forested terraces and is broken by escarpments caused by the erosion of the northern slope of the great central plateau of Brazil. With the exception of the Guiana highlands, and some grassy plains on the island of Marajó and in some other places, the state is densely forested, and its lowest levels are covered with a network of rivers, lakes and connecting channels.

The rivers of the state may be grouped under three general systems: the Amazon and its tributaries, the Tocantins and its tributaries and the rivers flowing direct to the Atlantic. The Amazon crosses the state in a general E.N.E. direction for about 500 m. Its channels, tributaries, furos (arms), igarapés (creeks, or literally, " canoe paths "), by-channels and reservoir lakes form an extremely complicated hydro graphic system. From the north seven large tributaries are received the Jamundá (which forms the boundary line with Amazonas), Trombetas, Maecurú, Jauary, Parú, Jary and Anauera-pucú. The first is, strictly speaking, a tributary of the Trombetas, though several furos connect with the Amazon before its main channel opens into the Trombetas. All these rivers have their sources on the Guiana highlands within the limits of the state, and flow southward to the Amazon over numerous rapids and falls, with comparatively short navigable channels before entering the great river. From the south two great tributaries are received—the Tapajos and Pingu—both having their sources outside the state (see Amazon). The Pará estuary, usually called the Pará river, belongs to the Tocantins, although popularly described as a mouth of the Amazon. Very little Amazon water passes through it except in times of flood. It is connected with the Amazon by navigable tidal furos, in which the current is hardly perceptible. The estuary is about 200 m. long and 5 to 30 m. wide, and receives the waters of a large number of streams, the largest of which is the Guamá and its chief tributary, the Capim. A number of small rivers discharge into the Atlantic north and south of the Amazon, the largest of which are the Gurupy, which forms the boundary line with Maranhão, the Araguary, which drains a large area of the eastern slope of the Guiana highlands, and the Oyapok, which forms the boundary line with French Guiana.

Lying across the mouth of the Amazon and dividing it into three channels are the islands of Caviana and Mexiana, the first 47 m. and the second 27 m. in length, north-west to south-east, both traversed by the equator, and both devoted to cattle-raising. Somewhat different in character is the island of Marajó, or Joannes, which lies between the Amazon and Pará estuary. It is 162 m. long by 99 m. wide, and its area is about 15,000 sq. m. This island is only partly alluvial in character, a considerable area on its eastern and southern sides having the same geological formation as the neighbouring mainland. The larger part, the north-western, belongs to the flood-plains of the Amazon, being covered with swamps, forests and open meadows, and subject to annual inundations. There are several towns and villages on the island, and stock-raising, now in a state of decadence, has long been its principal industry. Of interest to archaeologists is the largest of its several lakes, called Arary, in the centre of which is a small island celebrated for its Indian antiquities, chiefly pottery. On the Atlantic coast the principal island is Maracá (lat. 2° N.), 26 m. long by 20 m. wide, which lies, in part, off the entrance to the Amapa river.

Pará is crossed by the equator, and its climate is wholly tropical, but there is a wide variation in temperature and rainfall. In general, it is hot and dry on the Guiana plateau, and hot and humid throughout the forested region. In the latter, there are two recognized seasons, wet and dry, which differ only in the amount of rainfall, a strictly dry season being unknown. The trade winds, which blow up the Amazon with much force, moderate the heat and make healthy most of the settlements on the great river itself; but the settlements along its tributaries, which are not swept by these winds, are afflicted with malaria. The population is concentrated at widely separated points on the coast and navigable rivers, except on Marajó island, where open country and pastoral pursuits have opened up inland districts. The principal occupation is the collecting and marketing of forest products such as rubber (from Hevea brasiliensis), gutta-percha, or balata (Mimusops elata), Brazil nuts (Bertholetia excelsis), sarsaparilla (Smilax), cumaru or tonka beans [Dipterix odorata), copaiba (Copaifera officinarum), guaraná (Paulinia sorbilis), cravo (an aromatic bark of Dicypellium caryophillatum) and many others. In earlier days cotton, sugar-cane, rice, tobacco, cacao and even coffee were cultivated, but the demand for rubber caused their abandonment in most places. Cacao (Theobroma cacao) is still widely cultivated, as also mandioca (Manihot utilissima) in some localities. Pará produces many kinds of fruits—the orange, banana, abrico, cajú, abacate (alligator pear), mango, sapotilha, fructa de Conde, grape, &c., besides a large number hardly known beyond the Amazon valley. The pastoral industries were once important in Pará, especially on the islands of Marajó, Caviana and Mexiana, and included the rearing of horses, cattle, and sheep. At present Uttle is done in these industries, and the people depend upon importation for draft animals and fresh meat. There remain a few cattle ranges on Marajo and other islands, but the industry is apparently losing ground. Mining receives some attention on the Atlantic slope of the Guiana plateau, where gold washings of no great importance have been found in the Counani and other streams. There are no manufactures in the state outside the city of Pará (q.v.).

Transportation depends wholly on river craft, the one railway of the state, the Pará & Bragança, not being able to meet expenses from its traffic receipts. The capital of the state is Pará, or Belem do Pará, and its history is largely that of this city. Other important towns are Alemaquer (pop. about 1500; of the municipio in 1890, 7539), on a by-channel of the Amazon; Breves (mun. 12,593 in 1890), a river port in the south-west part of Marajo, on a channel connecting the Amazon with the Para estuary; Bragança (mun. 16,046 in 1890), a small town in one of the few agricultural districts of the state, 147 m. by rail north-east of Pará, on the river Caeté, near the coast; Obidos (about 1000; mun. 12,666 in 1890), on the north bank of the Amazon at a point called the Pauxis narrows, a little over 1 m. wide, attractively situated on a hillside in a healthful locality; and Santarem (12,062 in 1890), on the right bank of the Tapajos, 25 m. from the Amazon, dating from 1661, and the most prosperous and populous town between Pará and Manáos.