The Northeast Region of Brazil is the third largest of five geopolitical regions of Brazil composed of nine of Brazil's twenty-six states: Maranhão, Piauí, Ceará, Rio Grande do Norte, Paraíba, Pernambuco, Alagoas, Sergipe and Bahia, and the Fernando de Noronha Archipelago (formerly the federal territory of Fernando de Noronha, now part of Pernambuco state). It stretches from the Atlantic seaboard in the northeast and southeast, northwest and west to the Amazon Basin and south through the Espinhaço highlands in southern Bahia. It encloses the São Francisco River and drainage basin, which were instrumental in the exploration, settlement and economic development of the region. The northeast was the first region to be discovered and colonized by European (principally Portuguese, Spanish and Dutch) explorers in the 16th century.
The Northeast Region represents 18% of Brazilian territory, has a population of 53.6 million people, 28% of the total population of the country, and contributes 13.4% (2011) of Brazil's GDP. Nearly three quarters of the population lives in urban areas clustered along the Atlantic coast and about 15 million people live in the hinterland. It is an impoverished region: 58% of the population lives in poverty, defined as less than $2/day. It is known in Brazil for its hot weather, beautiful beaches, rich culture (unique folklore, music, cuisine, literature), Brazilian Carnival and Festival of St. John, and the arid sertão backlands.
The region lies entirely within the earth's Tropical zone and encompasses Caatinga, Atlantic Forest and part of the Cerrado ecoregions. The climate is hot and varies from xeric in Caatinga, to mesic in Cerrado and hydric in the Atlantic Forest.
Recife, the capital of the state of Pernambuco, is the largest metropolitan area of the Northeast Region. The biggest cities are Salvador, Fortaleza, Recife, and São Luís, all lying on the Atlantic coast, each with a population above a million inhabitants.
The Northeast has nine international airports, and the region has the second largest number of passengers (roughly 20%) in Brazil.
The dominant language in the region is Portuguese, the official language of Brazil, with English and Spanish as common secondary languages.