Pará                                  North Region

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Santo Antonio Waterfall

With its Atlantic coastline stretching for 562 kilometers, Pará is Brazil's second largest state by area, exceeded only by Amazonas. Its 1,253,164.5 km2 represent more than twice the area of France. The geography of the state is notable for its numerous islands, rivers, lakes, beaches and mountain ranges that are a striking feature for visitors. The state capital, Belém do Pará, is an unusual city having two thirds of its area formed by a total of fifty five islands. Situated on the banks of the River Tocantins, it is close to the world's largest sea-river island, the Island of Marajó covering an area of 50,000 km2. The second largest city in Pará is Santarém which has as one of its main attractions opposite the city, the waters of the Rivers Tapajós and Amazon, the state's two main rivers which from there onwards flow together yet separately towards the sea. Pará was given its name by the Portuguese at the time of the discovery of Brazil. Since the beginning of the sixteenth century it was invaded on several occasions by the Dutch and the English who as well as occupying the territory, searched for different varieties of pepper, guaraná (a tree from which a powder used as a stimulant is obtained), and annatto seeds used for cooking, as protection against the sun and from which a tincture is extracted. The Portuguese occupation took place only in 1616 with the building of the Forte do Presépio, known nowadays as the Forte do Castelo (Castle Fort), in Guajará Bay, later to become the city of Belém.

Pará is almost entirely covered by the Amazon Rainforest, except for the open country in the area of the Trombetas river basin and the Marajó archipelago. One of Brazil's largest mining areas is located in the Carajás mountains, a mining province where the Carajás iron project, belonging to the Companhia Vale do Rio Doce, is situated. The complex produces 35 million tons of ore each year which are exported to countries such as Japan, Germany, Italy, France and Spain. The Carajás project includes three separate ventures: the mine, with reserves of 18 billion tons of hematite ore, the iron highway stretching a distance of 890 kilometers and the port of Ponta de Madeira which is able to accommodate ships of up to 360,000 tons. The mining sector represents 14% of the state's Gross Domestic Product (GDP), originating mainly from the extraction of iron, bauxite, manganese, limestone, and tin, as well as gold, which until recently was extracted from one of biggest mines of recent history: Serra Pelada. These large-scale enterprises, in spite of increasing the state's resources, are also responsible for serious conflicts involving landowners, rural workers without land, land-grabbers, leaseholders and native Indians.

Pará greatly benefits from rich soil and a large hydrological basin that enables shipping to be the main method of transportation within the state. Its economy is based on vegetable extracts, agriculture and animal-rearing. In terms of agriculture the main crops are oranges, sugar cane, pepper, cassava and cocoa whilst animal-rearing covers a wide range of species including poultry, beef cattle, pigs, horses and buffalo. Today in Pará there are around thirty nine indigenous population groups, scattered across an area covering more than 23 million hectares, of which 8 million hectares are sectioned off by the National Foundation for Brazilian Indians (the Funai). According to estimates by the Brazilian Geographical and Statistical Institute (IBGE), the state's indigenous population is of 15,450 inhabitants. The larger communities include the Andira Marau, the Mundurukus and the Kayapós.


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