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History of Ceará and Fortaleza
When Portugal instituted the system of capitanies in Brazil, the lands of Ceará (originally called Siará) were granted to Antônio de Barros; after visiting Ceará, he decided it was not worthy to spend money trying to explore his lands. Until the end of the 16th century, Ceará was unhabited only by indian tribes tupis and tapuias, their original owners.
In the beginning of the 17th century, attracted by the wealthiness of the Amazon, the French invaded the north of Brazil (read History of Maranhão); Pedro Coelho de Souza had authorization by the Portuguese King to try to settle in the region, but he could not fight the French. One member of Souza´s expedition, however, stayed in Ceará: Martin Soares Moreno got along so much with the native indians that he practically became one of them, marrying Iracema; centuries later, their affair would be immortalized in the novel Iracema, by José de Alencar, one of the most famous Brazilian books.
Martin Moreno fought the Frenchmen and, later on, the Dutch, who were trying to expand on their occupation of Olinda (read History of Pernambuco). In 1649, the Dutch built a fortress by the river Mucuripe, which they called Schoonenborch; in 1654, the Dutch were expelled from Olinda and Ceará; the fortress was maintained by the Portuguese, giving origin to the city of Fortaleza (Fortaleza is the Portuguese word for fortress).
The Portuguese consolidate the presence in Ceará, but didn´t do much to bring prosperity to the region.
Ceará is in an arid zone (check out Geography of Ceará), between the Atlantic forest and the Amazon forest; so, the State could not explore pau-brasil, rubber or other natural products. Because of the lack of rains, Ceará could not cultivate sugarcane, as other states in the northeast of Brazil. The subsoil is poor: gold, diamonds or other stones were never found.
During the entire colonial period, the main economic activity was cattle raising and a sub-product, the leather. The cattle farms expanded all across the State; the animals were fed with the bushes of the caatinga and, as these are sparsely distributed, the animals needed large extensions of land.
The largest consuming markets for the cattle of Ceará were Olinda and Recife, where the sugarcane farms prospered; animals were used as workpower in the sugarmills and as food for the population.
Soon, the farmers of Ceará learned to produce jerked beef, which was much easier to store and transport. The process developed by the cearenses to make the jerked beef was so successful that soon it was exported to neighbour states of Piauí and Rio Grande do Norte, and later on the technique was also applied in the distant Rio Grande do Sul.
As side product of the beef production, the handcraft industry of leather also flourished in Ceará. Very resistant, leather fit very well with the tough life conditions of people of the caatingas; from shoes to hats, the vaqueiros (cowboys) worn in leather; until today, the typical costume of the men from Ceará is based on leather (the regional name of the leather coat worn by vaqueiros is gibão).
Ceará had ostensive participation in the Independence movements; the movements usually had origin in Recife, richer and more in touch with the liberal ideas of Europe, but had the prompt adhesion of the other northern States.
Proclaimed the Independence, Ceará started to receive more attention from the new Brazilian government; one of the first governors was José Martiniano de Alencar, who opened roads, built water reservoirs, invited European urbanists, combated banditism in the sertão. Because of its location (Ceará is one of the places in Brazil nearest to Europe and Africa), Fortaleza was included in the route of several international ship lines, which caused an influx of new goods and new ideas; Fortaleza became one of the intellectual centers of Brazil.
Ceará was the first province to abolish slavery in Brazil, on January 30th of 1881 (Brazil would free all slaves only on May 13th 1888). An important character was Francisco José do Nascimento, known as Dragão do Mar (Dragon of the Seas), who led the jangadeiros (men who operate the jangadas, rustic boasts) in the combat against the ships which transported slaves; Dragão do Mar is today the name of one of the largest cultural centers in Fortaleza.
In 1889, with the proclamation of Republic, a new political phenomenon appears in Ceará (and a few other Brazilian states, based on a fundiary oligarchy): the coronelism.
During the Empire, the governors of the provinces were indicated directly by the Emperor, at His will. After the Republic, the governors (and mayors, deputies, councilmen, etc) were chosen in elections; the results of the elections, however, were controlled by the coronéis (owner of the farmers; coronel is the Portuguese word for Colonel; as the farmers had delegation to fight against the bandits, they were given this informal military ranking), who had power and influence to determine the fortune (jobs, freedom, death) of the masses of poor.
In the first decades of the 20th century, the figure of Padre Cícero became famous. Cícero Romão Batista had already made a name for helping the poor; in 1889, a discussion arose between clericals and believers over a miracle which would have been worked by Cícero; the Church positioned against the priest, but this only caused the population to worship him more fanatically. Cícero used his popularity to win several elections (he was a Federal Deputy, but he never went to the Congress), which in turn only increased his popularity. Today, the city where Cícero lived, Juazeiro do Norte, is one of the largest pilgrimage center of Brazil.
The cycle of the rubber, which occurred in the States of the Amazon forest (read, for example, History of Amazonas ) during the first decades of the 20th century, had an influence on Ceará. The extraction of the rubber juice demanded human force (the use of machinery is impossible), and, suffering prolongued drought periods, Ceará had plenty of workers available.
Ceará is the State which exported most workers to the Amazon during that period. Hard workers, accustomed to the tough working conditions of the caatingas, the cearenses faced the jungle in search of better opportunities. Many (most) stayed in the Amazon, but many returned to Ceará, bringing some of the money they earned.
These savings, as well as more attention from the now Republican government, contributed to the progress of Ceará early in the 20th century. In 1907, the first Superior School (Laws) is opened. In 1909, the federal Government creates the DNOCS - National Department to Combat Drought. In the 1950s, when Brasilia was built, again many cearenses migrated. In 1966, SUDENE, an agency to foment industrialization in the Northeast, was created (in 2002, SUDENE was closed down).
Despite all the attempts to promote progress, the State remains subject to the restraints of the climate (dry climate) and the lack of natural resources.
Efforts by the State to change this picture are showing results. In 1971, the Industrial District of Fortaleza was instituted, offering tax breakes to new enterprises; today, the district is one of the largest textile centers of Brazil. The port of Murucipe was recently expanded.
Over the past few decades, the climate is being used as an instrument to foster tourism. The coast of Ceará is sunny most of the year, and the wet seasons are well defined. Fortaleza has become of the most tourist friendly cities in Brazil.
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