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Pará - travel information

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Area: 1,253,264 km2; Population: 6,192,307 (2000)
Official website:
Important newspapers: O Liberal; Jornal de Carajás
Map of Pará; How to get to Pará
Pará Information

Pará and Belém, Brasil

Pará is the second largest State of Brazil in area. Do not confuse Pará with the southern State of Paraná.

Pará occupies a large part of Brazilian Amazon.
The river Amazonas cuts through the North half of Pará and joins the Atlantic Ocean in the Northern coast of the State; the volume of water deployed by the river is so big that an island (Ilha de Marajó) is formed at the junction (see map of Pará).
The State remained economically unexplored until the 19th century; the area was visited by the Jesuits looking to evangelize the Indians, but they also faced the huge trouble of moving around the dense forest.

In the 20th century, the situation started to change, first slowly and, more recently, faster and faster.
The region experienced a brief exhuberance during the rubber cycle (1870-1920; see History of Pará); finished this cycle, the Economy of the region returned to the centuries-old practice of exploring the natural resources.
The Brazilian Military have, since long, had a preoccupation about the sovereignity of the Amazon; according to some sources, certain countries would be considering a so called internationalization of the Amazon (the sources and the conspiring countries have been changing over the centuries, but there are reports of such rumors for at least two centuries).
When the Military took over the power in 1964, they adopted several measures to integrate Pará and all the Northern region to the rest of the country. Major roads were built, the two most remarkable being Transamazonica and Belém-Brasília. A mega-project called Jari was started in the North or Pará, to become a major world producer or pulp and paper (the project eventually failed). Mineral resources were stimulated, and a huge iron ore mine (the biggest in the world) was found in Carajás, while huge gold reservoirs were found in Serra Pelada, sparkling a gold rush which became famous for the sub-human conditions of the miners.

Economic progress attracted many people to the region. Soon, some people started to realize that the lumb of the Amazon had high commercial value; later, people realized that, to feed the growing population, more and more plantations and cattle farms would be necessary.
So, since the 1990s, Pará has been invaded by all kinds of land looters. A typical invasion cycle is: first, a group deforests a small area to harvest the lumber; next, the forest is burned, to open field for plantations (usually soy bean, for export); and last, when the fertility of the land begins to exhaust, cattle ranches are formed.

As a consequence, Pará is known as the most violent and lawless State in Brazil. It is nearly impossible to the State to enforce the law in such so big an area, and an area where it is very profitable to disrespect the law.
Very seldom, are some lumber smugglers arrested; however, for each one arrested, hundreds of others continue operating. When land is invaded, it is maintained by force, using hired gun men (called jagunços in Portuguese); and because land is illegal anyway, very often a slave work force is employed. Dorothy Stang was killed in Pará because she was somehow attempting to impose the law.

Important cities in Pará

Capital city: Belém, situated by the river Amazonas, in the northern half of Pará.

Santarém is also in the northern half of Pará, near the border with the State of Amazonas.
Of the cities situated further to the South, where social conflicts are more common, the biggest one is Marabá.
The city of Altamira is, by area, the biggest one in Brazil; with an area larger than 160,000 (62,000 sq.mi),it bigger than the State of Florida, and almost twice as big as Portugal.
List of all cities in Pará.

Tourist Attractions and Events in Pará

The main attractions in Pará are the jungle and the Amazon river.
Several operators offer tours around Belém and cruises along the Amazon river.
On September 14th, Belém celebrates the Círio de Nazaré, a pilgrimage with more than 2 million faithfuls who walk across the city (see video). This huge crowd shows how Catholic the population of Pará is (the Portuguese colonization here was not influenced by Africans and protestants).


Pará is one of the States where the Indian culture is strongest in Brazil. Cities in Pará, particularly the smaller ones, didn't have as much influence of black culture as the cities in the coast of Brazil.
The Indian influence can be seen, for example, at the Mercado de Ver o Peso, (See the Weight Market), where since 1688 the population (and recently the tourists) go to buy fresh food.
Food in Pará has been for centuries predominantly fish (tucunaré and pirarucu are two big species, very typical), manioc and several other local fruits and vegetables.
Interesting to notice that the Indian tribe of Marajoaras, around the island of Marajó, have a much more advanced culture than all the other tribes of Pará and Brazil; it is believed that this tribe had direct contact with the advanced Indians of Central America (maias and aztecas), who would have sailed to Brazil.
It is possible, but not easy, to visit Indian reserves, such as Xingu (which Sting visited back in the 1980s), to see Indians who still (try to) preserve their way of life.

Other sites

Pará: culture, fauna and flora. People, animals and plants of Pará.
Manaus Guide. A guide to Manaus, the other major city in the Brazilian city.

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