Manaus ( or ), or Manáos before 1939, or (formerly) Lugar de Barra do Rio Negro, is the capital city of the state of Amazonas in northern Brazil. It is situated at the confluence of the Negro and Solimões rivers. With a population of two million, it is the most populous city of Amazonas, and also the most populous city of the Amazon rainforest.
The city was founded in 1693-94 as the Fort of São José do Rio Negro. It was elevated to a town in 1832 with the name of "Manaus", an altered spelling of the indigenous Manaós peoples, and legally transformed into a city on October 24, 1848, with the name of Cidade da Barra do Rio Negro, Portuguese for "The City of the Margins of Black River". On September 4, 1856 it returned to its original name.
Manaus is located in the middle of the Amazon rainforest, and access to the city is primarily through boat or airplane. This isolation helped preserve both the nature as well as the culture of the city. The culture of Manaus, more than in any other urban area of Brazil, preserves the habits of Native Brazilian tribes. The city is the main entrance to visit the fauna and flora of the Brazilian Amazon. Few places in the world afford such a variety of plants, birds, insects, and fishes.
It was known at the beginning of the century, as "Heart of the Amazon" and "City of the Forest". Currently its main economic engine is the Industrial Pool of Manaus, the famous Free Economic Zone. The city has a free port and an international airport. Its manufactures include electronics, chemical products, and soap; there are distilling and ship construction industries. Manaus also exports Brazil nuts, rubber, jute and rosewood oil. It has a cathedral, opera house, zoological and botanical gardens, an ecopark and regional and native peoples museums.
With a population of 2 million people in 2014, Manaus is the most populous city in the Brazilian Amazon area and the 7th most populous in the country. Located on the north bank of the Negro River, 11 miles (18 km) above the meeting of the rivers where the Negro merges with the Solimões, Manaus is 900 miles (1,450 km) inland from the Atlantic Ocean. It is the hub of tourism for the rivers, the jungle lodges and the river cruises.
The Solimões and Negro rivers meet in Manaus and join to form the Amazon River (using the Brazilian definition of the river; elsewhere, Solimões is considered the upper part of the Amazon). Rubber made it the richest city in South America during the late 1800s. Rubber also helped Manaus earn its nickname, the "Paris of the Tropics". Many wealthy European families settled in Manaus and brought their love for sophisticated European art, architecture and culture with them. Manaus is also a duty-free zone, which has encouraged development in the region.
Manaus was one of the host cities of the 2014 FIFA World Cup. It was the only host city in the Amazon rainforest and the most geographically isolated, being further north and west than any of the other host cities.
The history of the European colonization of Manaus began in 1499 with the Spanish discovery of the mouth of the Amazon River. The Spanish then continued to colonize the region north of Brazil. Development continued in 1668-1669 with the building of the Fort of São José da Barra do Rio Negro by Portugal in order to ensure its predominance in the region, especially against the Dutch, at that time headquartered in what is today Suriname. The fort was constructed in rock and clay, with four cannon guarding the curtains. It continued to function for more than 100 years. Next to the fort there were many indigenous mestizos, who helped in its construction and began to live in the vicinity.
The population grew so much that in 1695, the missionaries (Carmelite, Jesuit, Franciscan) built a nearby chapel dedicated as Nossa Senhora da Conceição (Our Lady of the Conception), who in time became the patron saint of the city. The Royal Charter of March 3 of 1755, created the capitancy of São José do Rio Negro, with capital in Mariuá (now Barcelos), but the governor, Lobo D'Almada, fearing Spanish invasions, the seat went back to Lugar de Barra in 1791. Being located at the confluence of the Rio Negro and Amazon Rivers, it was a strategic point. On November 13 of 1832, Lugar da Barra was elevated to town and named Manaus. On October 24 of 1848, with Law 145 of the Provincial Assembly of Para, was renamed City of Barra do Rio Negro. On September 4 of 1856 the governor Herculano Ferreira Pena finally gave it the name "Manaus".
The Cabanagem was the revolt in which blacks, Indians and mestizos fought against the white political elite and took power in 1835. The Cabanagem reduced the population of Grão-Pará from about 100,000 to 60,000. The entry of the High Amazonas (Manaus today, which was the cradle of the city in the Western Amazon) in Cabanagem was crucial for the birth of the current state of the Amazon. During the brief period of revolution, the Cabanos of the High Amazon, bands of rebels, roamed throughout the region, and in most settlements their arrival was greeted by the non-white population's spontaneously joining their ranks and there was a greater number of adherents to the movement. With that there was an integration of people in the region thus forming the state.
Manaus was at the center of the Amazon region's rubber boom during the late 19th century. For a time, it was "one of the gaudiest cities of the world". One historian has written, "No extravagance, however absurd, deterred" the rubber barons. "If one rubber baron bought a vast yacht, another would install a tame lion in his villa, and a third would water his horse on champagne." The decadence extended to a grand opera house, vast domes and gilded balconies, and marble, glass, and crystal, from around Europe. The opera house cost ten million (public-funded) dollars, but its foolhardiness was demonstrated by the death by yellow fever of half the members of one visiting opera troupe. The opera house, called the Teatro Amazonas, still exists today; it has been restored, was used in the Werner Herzog film Fitzcarraldo, and after a type of interlude lasting almost 90 years, presents operas once again.
When the seeds of the rubber tree were smuggled out of the Amazon region, Brazil lost its monopoly on the product and Manaus fell into poverty. The rubber boom had brought electricity to the city before it arrived in many European cities, but the end of the rubber boom made the generators too expensive to run, and the city lost artificial lighting for years.
The declaration of a duty-free zone in Manaus added to the economic prosperity of the city.