Place:Amazonas, Brazil


Coordinates5°S 63°W
Located inBrazil     (1889 - )
source: Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names
source: Family History Library Catalog

the text in this section is copied from an article in Wikipedia

Amazonas is a state of Brazil, located in the northwestern corner of the country. It is the largest Brazilian State by area and the 9th largest country subdivision in the world.

Neighbouring states are (from the north clockwise) Roraima, Pará, Mato Grosso, Rondônia, and Acre. It also borders Peru, Colombia and Venezuela. This includes the Departments Amazonas, Vaupés and Guainía in Colombia, as well as the Amazonas State, Venezuela, and the Loreto Region in Peru.

Amazonas is named after the Amazon River, and was formerly part of the Spanish Viceroyalty of Peru, a region called Spanish Guyana. It was settled by the Portuguese in the early 18th century and incorporated into the Portuguese empire after the Treaty of Madrid in 1750. It became a state of the Brazilian Republic in 1889.

Most of the state is tropical jungle; cities are clustered along navigable waterways and are accessible only by boat or plane. The capital and largest city is Manaus, a modern city of 1.7 million inhabitants in the middle of the jungle on the Amazon River 1,500 km upstream from the Atlantic Ocean. Nearly half the state's population lives in the city; the other large cities, Parintins, Manacapuru, Itacoatiara, Tefé, and Coari are also along the Amazon River in the eastern half of the state.



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Administrative evolution

Amazonas was originally the captaincy of São Jose do Rio Negro, then a District of Grão-Pará, which became a province and finally a state of Brazil.

1616 captaincy of Maranhao begins westward expansion

1751 Maranhão reconstituted as state of Grão-Pará e Maranhão

1755 captaincy of Rio Negro split off

1757 captaincy of Rio Negro rejoined

1772 Grão-Pará e Rio Negro split from Grão-Pará e Maranhão.

1775 Captaincy of Grão-Pará of state of Brazil.

1821 Province of Pará

1822 Pará province of independent Brazil.

1832 Creation of Judicial District of the Upper Amazonas, under Pará.

1850 Province of Amazonas split from Pará

1889 state of Amazonas


1755 village of São José do Javari; it became the vila Mariuá

1758, Mariuá is elevated to a town and called Barcelos

1788–1799, capital moved to Barra do Rio Negro;

1799–1808 The capital was again in Barcelos

1808 Barra do Rio Negro the capital, renamed Manaus in 1832

Rise of the rainforest

See Also History of South America#Amazon and Amazon Rainforest#History

At one time Amazon River flowed westward, perhaps as part of a proto-Congo (Zaire) river system from the interior of present-day Africa when the continents were joined as part of western Gondwana. Fifteen million years ago, the Andes were formed by the collision of the South American Plate with the Nazca Plate (eastern Pacific oceanic) plate. The rise of the Andes and the linkage of the Brazilian and Guyana bedrock shields, blocked the river and caused the Amazon to become a vast inland sea. Gradually this inland sea became a massive swampy, freshwater lake and the marine inhabitants adapted to life in freshwater. For example, over 20 species of stingray, most closely related to those found in the Pacific Ocean, can be found today in the freshwaters of the Amazon.

About ten million years ago, waters worked through the sandstone to the west and the Amazon began to flow eastward. At this time the Amazon rainforest was born. During the Ice Age, sea levels dropped and the great Amazon lake rapidly drained and became a river. Three million years later, the ocean level receded enough to expose the Central American isthmus and allow mass migration of mammal species between the Americas.

The Ice Ages caused tropical rainforest around the world to retreat. Although debated, it is believed that much of the Amazon reverted to savanna and montane forest. Savanna divided patches of rainforest into "islands" and separated existing species for periods long enough to allow genetic differentiation (a similar rainforest retreat took place in Africa. Delta core samples suggest that even the mighty Congo watershed was void of rainforest at this time). When the ice ages ended, the forest was again joined and the species that were once one had diverged significantly enough to be constitute designation as separate species, adding to the tremendous diversity of the region. About 6,000 years ago, sea levels rose about 130 meters, once again causing the river to be inundated like a long, giant freshwater lake.

Indigenous civilization

The earliest records of continuous human occupation of Amazonia are from 11,000 years ago.

The politics of dominion

In colonial days, who owned what was determined by a combination of exploration, occupation, agreement (treaty) and evangelism. And of course by what could be taken or held by military force. Scant account was taken of the rights and claims of indigenous peoples – they got whatever was not wanted or could not be settled by the European colonial powers. (Today, indigenous people do not exercise sovereignty over any part of the New World.) The contending parties were the sea-faring European powers of Portugal, Spain, England, France and Holland. These being dominantly Catholic countries, they shared a supermediary, the pope. The process of claiming dominion extended from the discovery of the New World by Columbus in 1492, until the signing of the Treaty of El Pardo (1778) (South America) (cf the Monroe Doctrine 1823 (Latin America) and the policy of "manifest destiny" ~1845 (North America)).

Chief among the treaties were the Treaty of Torsedillas in 1494, the Treaty of Zaragoza in 1529, the Treaty of Madrid 1750, and the several Treaties of El Pardo 1760s–1770s. First Treaty of San Ildefonso, 1777 nullifies treaty of Madrid.

The Portuguese Crown later asserted the principle of uti possidetis with respect to the region. During this time was first asserted the principle from Roman law of uti possidetis, ita possideatis, (Latin, "who has possession, has dominion"), analogous to English common law "Squatters rights" Due account may have been taken of John Locke's labour theory of property.

The issues originated from the conflict between what was granted by law in the 1494 Treaty of Torsedillas, and the subsequent reality of colonial expansion. Spanish eastward expansion from the Pacific coastal plains had been restrained by the rise of the Andes, while Portuguese westward expansion had been aided by the waterways and lowlands of the mighty Amazon. The Treaty of Madrid, finalizing the border between the newly independent state of Uruguay and southern Portuguese Brazil, had first enunciated the principle that new states, at the time of their creation shall have dominion over the lands that were settled as colonies. It implicitly opened the door to claims by prior possession in the vast lands of the north.

Spanish conquistadores and Jesuits

By the Treaty of Tordesillas (1494), the whole Amazon basin was in the area of the Spanish Crown. The mouth of a great river was discovered by Spanish conquistador Vicente Yáñez Pinzón, who reached it in February 1500, followed by his cousin Diego de Lepe, in April of that year. He called the river Río Santa María de la Mar Dulce (River of Saint Mary of the Sweet Sea) on account of the large freshwater estuary extending into the sea at its mouth.

In 1541, Spanish conquistadores Gonzalo Pizarro and Francisco de Orellana, from Quito, Ecuador, crossed the Andes Mountains and explored the course of the river to the Atlantic Ocean. The indigenous people called this river the Conoris. The myth of women warriors on the river has spread in the accounts and books, without any popular scope, still making those regions were to receive the names of the warriors of Greek mythology, the Amazons—among them the largest river in the region that became known as the Amazon River. Early publications, as was the style of the day, called the river after its discoverer, the Orellana.

Also in the 16th century, there were the expeditions of conquistadores Pedro de Ursua and Lope de Aguirre in search of the legendary El Dorado, the Lost City of Gold (1559–1561)

Spanish Jesuit missions were the first settlements upstream on the Amazon. As many as 30 missions were founded in Amazon territory, seven in Brazil, between 1638 and 1727. The municipality of Silves on an island of Lake Saracá is one of the oldest in the Amazon, originating in a Mercedarian Indian mission founded in 1663. By the early 18th century, they were destroyed by the Portuguese, depopulated by smallpox, or their indigenous residents taken away as slaves by Portuguese Bandeirantes. A few were taken over by Portuguese Carmelites. The destruction of the missions was the end of Spanish claims in western Amazonia. Only one is a populated place today, San Pablo, now the municipality of São Paulo de Olivença.

English, Dutch and French outposts

Starting about 1580, without effective occupation, English, Dutch, Irish (and even some French) searching for so-called Drogas do Sertão (spices of the backlands) had established some outposts upstream of the mouth of the Amazon.

Portuguese usurpation

For prior history of Amazonian Brazil, see Pará#History.

From at least the time of the Tordesillas Treaty in 1494 until the Treaty of Madrid in 1750, the region of the upper Amazon was part of the Spanish Viceroyalty of Peru (Viceroyalty of New Granada after 1717). Everything north of the Amazon (Solimões) and west of the Nhamundá River (Yamundá, in Spanish), an affluent of the left bank of the Amazon that forms the boundary of Amazonas with Pará, was known as Spanish Guyana.

Portuguese expansion westward and northward of the Torsedillas Line began from the frontier of the northern-most captaincy of Maranhão with the expulsion of the French from São Luis in 1615, and the founding of Belem at the mouth of the Amazon in 1616. Exploration and colonization thence followed the waterway upstream.

There are accounts of Portuguese Carmelite missionaries active in the Solimões area, upstream of the Rio Negro, as early as the 1620s, but permanent settlements weren't established for another 80 years, so the records are nebulous. The first documented Portuguese foray into upper Amazonia was the expedition of Portuguese explorer and military officer Pedro Teixeira, who followed the great river from the Atlantic Ocean to Quito, Equador with 70 soldiers and 1,200 Indians in forty-seven great canoes (1637–1639). He returned by the same route, arriving back in Belem in 1639. According to the Portuguese, Pedro Teixeira placed a possession marker at the upper Japurá River in 1639. Soon after that the Portuguese bandeirante Antonio Raposo Tavares, whose bandeira, leaving the captaincy of São Vicente travelling overland, reached the Andes, and following the Amazon River, returned to Belém, visiting a total of about , between 1648 and 1651.

Tropical jungle is hostile and impenetrable. Aboriginal as well as European settlements were exclusively along the waterways. Portuguese expansion generally was east to west, and from the main channel, the Solimões, north and south along the tributaries. The character of the settlements was of three kinds: defense and occupation (fortes), economic (feitorias), and evangelical (missãos). The first permanent Portuguese settlements in the region were Itacoatiara 176 km east of Manaus, founded in 1655 by Portuguese Jesuit Padre António Vieira as Mission of Aroaquis on the island of Aibi near the mouth of Lake Arauató, followed by São Gabriel, founded in 1668 as < > by Franciscan Friar Theodósio[Teodózio or Teodósio] da Veiga and Captain Pedro da Costa Favela on the Rio Negro, near the mouth of the Rio Aruím. In 1761, a fort was built on the location, and the settlement became the town of São Gabriel da Cachoeira. The first missionary aldea of the Portuguese in the Negro was that known as Santo Elias dos Tarumas (originally aldeia of Nossa Senhora da Conceição, and later called Airão), dating from 1692.

The capital Manaus, was founded in 1693–94 as the Fort of São José do Rio Negro (later called Lugar da Barra do Rio Negro or "place on the shore of Rio Negro") on the confluence of the Rio Negro and Solimões Rivers.

The Royal Charter of 1693 divided Amazonia among the Jesuits, Carmelites, Capuchines and Franciscans: the Jesuits restricted their activities to the south bank of the Amazon upstream to the mouth of the Madeira; the north shore of the Amazon as far as the Trombetas fell to the Franciscans, to the mouth of the Rio Negro to the Mercedarians, and the Negro itself and the Solimoes to the Carmelites. The Portuguese Carmelites got a later start than the Spanish Jesuits, but their impact was more durable. Between 1697 and 1757, they established eight missions on the Solimões and nine on the Rio Negro. In addition, there were a few Portuguese Jesuit missions in the Solimões. In 1731, Portuguese Jesuits received orders from the Governor Luiz de Vasconcellos Lobo to establish two aldeias above the mouth of the Rio Negro, one on the right bank of the Orellana [Solimões], between the eastern mouth of the Javari and the Carmelite aldeia of São Pedro; the other at the western mouth of the great river Japurá. This was the beginning of what came to be called the Jesuit-Carmelite war.

Antidote to settlement was disease: fierce smallpox epidemics in 1661, 1695, 1724, and 1743/49 left the region nearly depopulated. A Carmelite Friar had notable success with the method of variolation in 1729, but the technique wasn't propagated. The Jenner cowpox vaccine wasn't introduced in Brazil until 1808. Variolation was prohibited in 1840, and vaccination was mandated in 1854. But epidemics got worse until finally perering out around the turn of the century.

Within the project of occupying the Amazon hinterland, was formed the royal captaincy of São José do Rio Negro subordinate to Para, in Mar. 1755, with headquarters in the village of Mariuá, (now Barcelos).

The borders of Brazil

The boundary between the Portuguese and Spanish domination of the Amazon was eventually fixed at the Rio Javari (river that rises on the border between Amazonas state, Brazil, and Loreto department, Peru) by the Treaty of Madrid in 1750.

By the mid-18th century, the effective boundary between the two empires, the Spanish Viceroyalty of Peru and Portuguese Brazil, had shifted to the area of the confluence of the Rio Negro and Amazon Rivers, in upper Amazonia. While the Treaty of Madrid in 1750 implicitly recognized the principle of <uti possiditis>, it didn't actually specify the northern borders of the country. At that time, the border of contention between Spanish and Portuguese domains was in the upper Solimões, at the junction of the Rio Negro. In the upper Salomoes, Spanish missionary influence was being displaced, and the Viceroy was indifferent to colonization, but Portuguese settlements were not yet established. Part of the northern boundary between Brazil and what was then British Guyana, was set by the Spanish Boundary-line Commission of Yturriaga and Solano (1757-1763). After two indecisive wars between Portuguese and Spanish colonial forces 1761–1763 and 1776–1777, the border between the Spanish and Portuguese possessions, the Viceroyalty of Peru (and successor states) and Grão-Pará region of Brazil, was set by negotiaton between 1781 and 1791.

Age of rebellion

In 1821, Grão-Pará and Rio Negro provinces became the unified Grão-Para. The following year, Brazil proclaimed its independence and Grao-Para became the Province of Para of state of Brazil.

At the time of the independence in Brazil in 1822, residents of the village proclaimed themselves independent, establishing a provisional government. When D. Pedro declared independence, in 1822, he had to fight also the provinces of Grão-Pará and Maranhão. In 1823, a ship <name> commanded by British officer John Pascoe Grenfell arrived at the port of Belém, to combat rebels. Only in August 1824 did the new governor swore loyalty to the Brazilian Emperor. The Province of Pará, including the comarca of Rio Negro, the upper Amazon region, was incorporated into the Empire of Brazil in 1824.

A revolt in 1832 demanded the autonomy of the Amazon as a separate province of Pará. The rebellion was suppressed, but the Amazons were able to send a representative to the Imperial Court, Friar José dos Santos Inocentes, who got up the creation of the District of the Upper Amazon. During Cabanagem in 1835-40, the Amazon remained loyal to the imperial government and not joined the revolt.

As a sort of reward for loyalty, the Province of Amazonas was officially created by Dom Pedro II in 1850.

Rubber and economic exploitation

From the mid 19th century, the territory began to receive migrants from the northeast seeking a better life. Attracted by the rubber boom, they settled in important Amazonian cities such as Manaus, Tabatinga, Parintins, Itacoatiara and Barcelos, the first capital of Amazonas.

The state had an era of splendor in the 1850s, at the peak of the rubber boom. However, the economic gains were largely the result of great human suffering: untold thousands of enslaved Amerindian seringueiros (rubber tappers) died through disease and overwork.

By the late 19th century, the Brazilian rubber monopoly was slowly dying, as British and Dutch plantations in South-East Asia were producing cheaper, superior quality rubber, and by 1900 the Amazonas state had fallen into serious economic decline.

The state capital of Manaus had once been a rich city (it received street lighting and streetcars before London) but had largely fallen into disrepair after the end of the rubber boom.

Development and deforestation

It was not until the 1950s that federal government policy rescued the state from complete financial ruin. In 1967, the federal government implemented a plan to revive the city of Manaus, and today the city is the financial centre of the region.

20% of South Americas rainforest has been lost in the last 40 years.

Tapajos gold rush

In 1958 a prospector found gold in one tributary of the Tapajos River. This discovery triggered the largest gold rush in Brazil’s history, which lasted until the mid-1990s.

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