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Maranhão - Geography

The capital city of Maranhão, São Luís, is located in an island (the other capital city in Brazil in an island is Florianópolis, in Santa Catarina); most of population of the State lives in São Luís or in cities around the gulf which surrounds it. There is a high proportion of black and mulatos, as well as descendants of of indian tribes tupi and jê.
Climate is hot all across the state, with annual averages of 26 degrees Celsius. Pluviosity in the occidental part is around 2,000 mm per year, with rains all along the year; in the oriental area, pluviosity ranges between 1,250 and 1,500 mm, with a well defined dry season.
The vegetation of Maranhão is well diversified, reflecting the fact that the state is in the transition zone between the arid Brazilian northeast and the forests of Amazon. Forests predominate to the west of São Luís, with an abundance of babaçus, a kind of palm tree which is base of local economy. From the gulf to the border with Piauí, there is predominance of prairies. In the south of the State, there is predominance of savannahs (called cerrados in Brazil).
The largest river is the Parnaíba, which makes the border between Maranhão and Piauí; a few other large rivers flow to the Atlantic and meet at the gulf, like Pindaré, Grajaú and Itapecuru.

The profile of the State shows a clear distinction between the lowlands of the littoral and the plateaus of the interior.
The plateaus are often shaped as what is called Chapadas or Chapadões: flat top mountains with abrupt borders.
To the east of São Luís, the combination of white dunes, rainy and dry seasons produce the so called Lençóis Maranhenses (the word lençóis, plural of lençol, is the Portuguese word for sheet beds). The water gets trapped during the wet season, forming several lagoons. During the dry season, the water evaporates and leaves visible the only desertic area in Brazil.

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