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History of Amazonas
From 1539 to 1542, Spanish explorator Francisco de Orellana navigated the river Amazon from Peru until reaching the Atlantic; he sent a letter to Europe, reporting the vastness and wealthiness he had seen. English and Dutch, which contested the dominance of Portugal and Spain, established possessions in the
region; Portugal was making efforts to settle the Atlantic coast, whereas Spain was doing the same in the Pacific Coast.
From 1580 to 1640, Portugal and Spain became one single kingdom; with jointed forces, they expelled English and Dutch. As a side effect, in 1640, when the countries separated again, Portugal had occupied the are where today is the state of Pará; in the 1650s, the bandeirante Raposo Tavares navigated the Amazonas towards east, starting to consolidate the occupation; several expeditions followed, worthy mentioning those led by Francisco de Melo Palheta and Belchior Mendes de Morais, around 1700, which consolidated the Portuguese presence where today is the State of Amazonas.
To help occupy the region and make it productive, the jesuits were called. By this time, Portugal was loosing the monopoly of commerce with the Eastern Indians. The jesuits became, then, the first explorers of the natural resources of Amazon: clove, cocoa and vanilla, among others products, were sent to Portugal; several cities were founded by the jesuits, such as Santarém and Tefé.
The jesuits and sertanists, however, eventually had to face the rebellions of the indians, particularly the tribe of the manaus, which gave the name to the capital city of Amazonas. The Army was sent, and in 1669 the city of São José do Rio Negro, which would become Manaus, was founded. In 1759, the jesuits were expelled from Brazil; the main reason was the accusation that they were trying to take advantage of their relationships with the indians of the Amazon (e.g., trading products without official authorization).
A company was created to take over the commerce in the name of Portugal; cultures of products like tobacco, cocoa, cotton and others brought a small and brief progress to the region; the Crown, however, found more profitable to explore sugar cane and gold elsewhere in Brazil, leaving Amazon abandoned.
In 1832, after Brazil declared independence from Portugal, the province of Amazonas tried to become independent from Brazil; the upheaval was heavily crushed by the Brazilian forces. In 1835, Amazonas and Pará saw another rebellion movement, called Cabanada, which was also crushed manu militari.
Despite the economic stagnation, during the Empire the scientific exploration of Amazonas began. Famous scientists like Henry Walter Bates, Louis Agassiz, Von Martius, João Martins da Silva Coutinho, William Chandless and Alexandre Rodrigues Ferreira tried to catalogue flora, fauna, soil, subsoil and the indian tribes. The Bothanic Museum of Manaus was founded in 1883, and from the beginning collected material of the forests and the rivers. Several expeditions were sent to explore the interior of the wild.
The proclamation of Republic, in 1889, coincided with the beginning of the cycle of rubber.
The Amazon was the virtual monopolistic supplier of rubber to the high demanding American and European markets; Manaus became one of the most important cities in the world. Brazilians from all States, and foreigners from all countries met in Manaus; the finest products were imported; world class artists performed in the Teatro Amazonas, to date one of the best opera houses in Brazil.
However, the prosperity lasted short. Seeds of the rubber trees were smuggled to the Far East, where they adapted very well. By 1920, as quick as it came, the wealthiness was gone. A consequence was permanent, though: the population of Manaus grew from 30,000 in 1850 to about 300,000 in 1920.
Since then, several measures have been adopted by the Brazilian government to boosts the economy of Amazonas and neighbour States.
In the 1960s and 1970s, several roads were opened, with the purpose to integrate the Amazon to the rest of the country; the largest and most famous of such roads is the Transamazônica, which cuts the forest from east to west. The Transamazonica today is abandoned; the forest claimed back large stretches of the road; the margins of the road were the first areas to be occupied by the illegal landtakers.
In 1966, SUDAM (Superintendência para o Desenvolvimento da Amazônia) was created; this federal institution had funds which should be exclusively used to finance enterprises in the north of Brazil. Along with SUDAM, several other laws were issued to provide fiscal incentives to enterprises which were established in the region.
In 2002, after several cases of corruption, SUDAM was extinguished. To replace it, the government created ADA - Agência para o Desenvolvimento da Amazônia (Agency for Development of Amazon), with less budget and less power; until today, the role of this agency doesn´t seem to be defined.
In the 1990s, the ecological movements put Amazonas and the Amazon back in the center of a global stage.
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