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The lung of the World

Situated in the heart of the greatest forest in the world, the State of Amazonas is more than 1.5 million km2 in area, equivalent to 18% of the total area of Brazil (8.5 million km2). It lies in the Northern Region of Brazil, is the largest state in the country and possesses some of the greatest variety in the world in terms of plants, animals, rivers and minerals. For this reason it is the object of continuous attention from NGOs and environmentalists, who wish to ensure that regional economic development does not prejudice an ecosystem which is fundamental for life on earth. The name Amazonas was originally given to the great river which flows through the region by the Spanish explorer Francisco Orelhana, who sailed up it in 1541. At a certain part of the river he encountered a tribe of female Indian warriors. Skirmishes took place and he associated them with the mounted female warriors known as Amazons in ancient myth. The name he gave to them was later transferred to the state. In the language of the indigenous peoples, Amazonas derives from the word "amassunu", meaning "sound of the waters" or "water which resounds".Under the Treaty of Tordesillas, which was signed between Spain and Portugal in 1494, the Amazonian region was ceded to Spain. From the beginning of the seventeenth century, however, the whole area began to be infiltrated by the Portuguese. The dispute with Spain ended with the signing of the Treaty of Madrid in 1750, which confirmed Portuguese possession of a large part of the area. In 1850, the province of Amazonas was created by D. Pedro II.


By the early years of the twentieth century, rubber extraction was bringing enormous wealth to the region. However, the boom crashed when rubber trees started to grow in the English and Dutch colonies in Asia, especially Malaya, and Amazonas entered into an economic decline which lasted until 1950, when the state saw a return to growth thanks to federal government policies. The process culminated with the creation, at the beginning of the 1960s, of the Amazonia Development Agency (SUDAM) and, in 1967, the establishment of the Free Zone of Manaus (SUFRAMA), which was a catalyst for the industrialization of the state.The economy UHF Amazonas is largely based on extractivist activities - mining, primary industry and fishing - and the sophisticated technological industries of the capital Manaus, thanks to fiscal incentives available through SUFRAMA. The main agricultural products of the state are oranges, cassava, rice and bananas. The most important minerals are limestone, gypsum and tin. Among the state's industries, mention should be made of electrical and communications products; metallurgy and mining; watches and clocks; and the food and drink industry.



In the north of the state lies the highest point in Brazil, Neblina Peak, which rises to 3,014 meters. Situated in the Imeri Range, near the border with Venezuela, it is permanently covered by clouds. The line of the Equator passes through the state, and the climate is predominantly equatorial, with average temperatures between 24º and 26º C and plentiful rainfall throughout the year.The state of Amazonas is covered almost entirely by the Amazon rain forest and crossed by the Amazon basin and its relief is divided into three different levels: the igapos, permanently flooded areas, where the roots of the vegetation are always under water; the varzeas, formed of slightly higher land and are only flooded when the rivers are at their highest; the low plateaux, which represent still higher land and are out of reach of flooding. There are trees in Amazonia which reach a height of 20 meters, but trees of two or three meters are also common and their growth is so thick that the forest becomes impenetrable.The Amazonian Forest has a huge variety of medicinal, edible, oil producing and dye producing plants, many of which have still not been scientifically examined. The forest on the plateaux of firm land produces the great trees of Amazonia. In some areas the crowns of the trees are so huge that they prevent up to 95% of natural light from reaching the forest floor, making the interior of the forest very dark, with little ventilation and very high humidity. Among the most important species of the region are the Brazil nut tree, the rubber tree and the guaraná. The first produces an edible nut which is widely used in Brazilian cooking; the second secretes a sap from which rubber is made; and the third produces a fruit which is used as a stimulant and which is the basis of a soft drink consumed throughout Brazil.



The fauna of the Amazon region includes felines, rodents, birds, tortoises and primates. Some species are in danger of extinction and increasing attempts are made by specialist government agencies to protect them and guarantee their survival. This is the case with the white ouakari monkey and the little tamarin marmoset, now found on the outskirts of Manaus.Among the various protected areas of the state of Amazonas are the Pico da Neblina National Park and the Janauary Ecological Park. The latter has a combination of firm land, igapós and várzeas, where canoe trips can be taken to see the vitórias-régias and other types of flora and fauna. Janauary Park is run by a consortium made up of tourist companies licensed by the state government. Amazonas also has the Jaú National Park, the largest forest reserve in South America; nearby is Anavilhanas, which is the largest river archipelago in the world.




Ecological tourism is the great attraction in Amazonia. It can include river journeys by boat, overnight stays at forest hotels and trips through the forest. A tour can last hours or days, depending on the interest of the visitor and how much time he has available. There are also tours accompanied by specialist guides. The state of Amazonas has pioneered the establishment of forest hotels, known as lodges. The state also hosts one the biggest folklore festivals in Brazil: the Parintins.