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State Flag of Pará
  1. Introduction
  2. Capital: Belém
  3. Data Table for Pará


With its Atlantic coastline stretching for 562 kilometres, 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 kilometres 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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Capital: Belém


Belém, the capital of the State of Pará, constitutes the economic center of the Northern region at the mouth of the largest river in the world, the Amazon. Surrounded by rivers, water flows and channels, the city is famous for its tunnels and its impressive rainfall mostly between November and May. Rain, though part of the city´s folklore, generally does not last too long and helps to alleviate the tropical heat.

What makes Belém pleasant and different, is first of all the nature that is integrated into urban life. Small enclosures of foliage and gardens resemble the nature of the Amazonian forest, in harmony with the unceasing movement of the city.

Belém also offers traditional cuisine, one of the most authentically Brazilian or Amazonian. Dishes such as duck dressed with tucupi, maniçoba, tacaca, crab shellfish, fish soup and turtle sarapatel are some of these delicious dishes that illustrate a regional culinary art rich in flavours.

The history of the city, told along its streets exhibiting varied architecture (of English, French, Dutch origin), is evidence of its unique destiny, with a mixture of several influences. Its prosperity was tied to the trading of Rubber. Today, Belém is the capital of the commerce of precious lumber.


At the picturesque marketplace of Ver-o-Peso, the fascinating mixture of colours, fragrances, flavours and exotic dishes, cannot be missed (seafood, products from the river and forest). With its 26.500 m2, the Ver-o-Peso is a free market where thousands of people daily circulate. It is a commercial center where you find food as well as clothes. In the numerous huts you will find, of course, all the delicious fruits of the region (pineapple, papaw, bacuri, cupuaçu, uxi, tapereba, açai, pupunha, etc.), as well as a wide variety of fish, meat, vegetables, plants used in traditional medicine from the forest. But you will also find, in addition, a mystical and magical touch to the list of possible purchases, all sorts of potions and remedies : from infusions to cures for a mere toothache, to flasks (garrafadas) containing concoctions of plants and animals' parts destined to "tame" husbands and which have suggestive names such as: "Cry at my feet", "Don't leave me", "Come back to me", etc... The colourful Ver-o-Peso marketplace, with the Amazon river to the rear represent the synthesis of Amazonian life.

Handicrafts are another attraction of Pará. You can buy beautiful ceramic pieces in ceramic Icoaraci, 25 km from Belém. Also well known for its cuisine based on fish and crustaceans, the city of Icoaraci is the largest handicraft centre of Pará regarding ceramics.

A prestigious institution, well known by the international scientific community, the Emilio Goeldi Museum, at Pará, is a botanical, archaeological and anthropological investigation center. The Museum has a zoo, a Botanical Park where you can observe more than 2.000 species of native plants of the Amazon; about 600 animals (monkeys, felines, tapir, cabiai, agouti, sloth sheep, reptiles, amphibians and numerous birds); an aquarium that shelters some of the rarest species of the Amazonian rivers, and a pavilion for archaeological and anthropological exhibitions, with authentically representative objects of the Marajoara and Tapajonic arts, as well as tools and miscellaneous articles of native origin.

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Data Table for Pará

Capital Belém
Area 1,253,164.5 km2
Towns 143
Location Centre of the North Region
Population 6,189,550 inhabitants (2000)
Population in the Capital 1,300,000 inhabitants
Climate Tropical
Mean Annual Temperature (capital) 26º C
Time in Relation to Brasília The same, except for the town Santarém, where the time is -1h
Density of Population 5 inhabitants/km2
Urbanization Index 66.5% (2000)
Infant Mortality 34.4 per thousand live-born (2000)
Illiteracy Rate 12.4% (2000)
Contribution to GDP 2.1%
Representation at National Congress 20 Members of Parliament
Vegetation Amazon rain forest, swamps along the coastal strip, dry tropical forest on the Island of Marajó, and savanna in the south


  • IBGE 2000 and Projections for 2002
  • Abril Almanac
  • Gabeira, Gabriel Luiz - "Synthesis of the Brazilian Economy", Rio de Janeiro, National Trade Confederation (CNC), 1999