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Sergipe

State Flag of Sergipe
  1. Introduction
  2. Capital: Aracaju
  3. Estância
  4. Data Table for Sergipe

Introduction

Sergipe is the smallest state in the federation and, with an area of 22,050.4 km2, it represents 0.25% of Brazil. Almost entirely covered in scrubland, with a coastal strip of tropical forest apart from beaches and dunes, the state has extensive mango groves. The capital, Aracaju, was one of the first city to be planned in Brazil and was founded in 1855 as the state capital.

Sergipe accounts for approximately 0.40% of Brazil's GDP, with sugar-cane being its main activity. Vast plantations extend across the region's fertile soil, producing an average harvest of 1.4 million tons of cane each year. There are also plantations of cassava yielding 617,400 tons per annum and orange, producing 14.4 million fruits which are harvested throughout the year. Because of the small land area, animal-rearing is restricted to a herd of one million cattle and 207,200 sheep. Industrial activity is largely concentrated on agricultural products and leather, the processing of foodstuffs and small-scale textile production.

The soil of Sergipe is mainly massapê which is fertile and rich in mineral deposits such as rock salt and potassium. With extensive reserves of oil and natural gas, most of the state's development is concentrated on the exploitation of these products, with considerable Federal Government support. However, further efforts are continuing in the planting and processing of sugar-cane.

SergipeSergipe

The first settlement of the region was in São Cristóvão, at that time a small village and the state's first capital, designated as a National Monument in order to conserve its architecture, which dates from colonial times and includes the Museum of Sacred Art. The state was originally called Sergipe D'El Rey, referring to the Tupi word meaning a type of crab.

Sergipe has a history of struggles and opposition in relation to national sovereignty. Similar to other north-eastern states, it was invaded by French pirates who wanted to exploit king-wood. Military expeditions and action by the Jesuit missionaries between the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries finally put an end to this illegal trade. More recently, in 1938, the bushlands of the Angicos region witnessed the execution of Virgolino Ferreira da Silva known as Lampião, who was the most notorious bandit in the Brazilian outback. He was just and fair-minded but inspired terror throughout the entire Brazilian north-east for a whole decade. Together with his wife, Maria Bonita, and the nine members of his band, the "king of the bandits" was beheaded with extreme violence by the police, who displayed the heads in a gruesome procession along several kilometres of scrubland.

Sergipe is also a festive state. In Estância, for example, there are forty consecutive days of festival in honour of St. John, starting one month before and ending ten days after celebrations have stopped in the rest of Brazil, where the saint is celebrated on June 24th. Some of the most delicious dishes made from fish and crustaceans come from Sergipe, including moqueca de pitu (stew made of freshwater prawn), barbecued crab and fish, enjoyed by both the people of Sergipe and tourists visiting the state's beautiful beaches. In the beach shacks and seaside restaurants, it is compulsory to order one of the typical dishes of beans, fish or oyster served with their juices, or else one of the typical dishes from the interior of the state, such as paçoca, a delicious mixture of dried meat shredded with cassava flour.

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Capital: Aracaju

Close to the estuary of the River Sergipe, flowing into the Atlantic Ocean was an area that was ideal for setting up a port to handle the export of sugar and the founding of a new city. Aracaju, one of the first cities to be planned in Brazil, was established there and built with the intention of becoming the state capital. Founded in 1855, the capital of Sergipe has its place on the nation's tourism route with attractions that include a revitalized shoreline, with catamarans - boats with special hulls for sailing in calm water - to explore the city's numerous mango groves, rivers and beaches.

With its typically colonial layout, Aracaju offers both residents and visitors examples of refined architecture, such as that of the Metropolitan Cathedral which took thirteen years to build. Completed in 1875, the Cathedral houses a series of neo-classical paintings including one of Our Lady of the Conception. Built at the same time as the city, the church of São Salvador, the first parish church in Aracaju, also bears traces of the architecture of that period.

Walking through the capital of Sergipe, one of the city's attractions is the Emperor's Bridge which was commissioned in 1860 for the visit of Emperor Pedro II. Built over the River Sergipe, the bridge in fact leads nowhere but is used as a viewpoint. Also in the city centre is the Museum of History and Geography with a display of igaçabas, or native funeral urns, and the skeleton of a giant sloth together with a large collection of fossils.

The sea is a constant presence in Aracaju. The most famous beach in the state is Atalaia Velha ("old look-out") where there are numerous bars, restaurants, playgrounds, sports pitches and kiosks; there is also the Praia do Robalo which, with its creeping vegetation, coconut groves and dunes, is different from the other beaches chiefly because of the water temperature which is usually around 27 degrees centigrade. Also by the sea is the Parque dos Cajueiros, a reserve covering an area of 74,000 m2, with easy access to soccer pitches, tennis and volleyball courts, a children's play area, a miniature city, bars, restaurants and kiosks, as well as a water complex with three swimming pools and a water-toboggan with a 20 metre drop. To complete the description there are Thursday evening shows featuring performances by lively local dance groups, very much to the local taste.

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Estância

In the region where the festival of St. John is most celebrated in the whole of Brazil, Estância, the historic city in the state of Sergipe, is in party mood from May 31st until July 10th each year. The population of 58,700 cannot conceal their pride in promoting the largest and longest festival in Brazil, when the characteristic perfume of tobacco plants that permeates the city all year round is overtaken by the aroma of roast corn, couscous and liqueurs of Surinam cherry, myrtle and genipap. There are bonfires all over the city which is decorated with banners. At night there is wild dancing to the beat of the accordion.

Estância has one of the most beautiful beaches in Sergipe - the Praia de Abaís, 20 km long and punctuated with dunes. In addition to the tropical setting, the sea and its powerful waves is the stage for the surfers' amazing manoeuvres. Nearby, Lagoa Grande with its warm and transparent water is another bathing option. Thirty nine kilometres away is Mangue Seco, an ecological sanctuary that is only accessible by boat or canoe and rediscovered following the success of the drama serial, "Tieta do Agreste", based on the novel of the same name by Jorge Amado.

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Data Table for Sergipe

Capital Aracaju
Area 22,050.4 km2
Towns 75
Location East of the North-East Region
Population 1,781,714 inhabitants (2000)
Population in the Capital 475,000 inhabitants
Climate Tropical and semi-arid
Mean Annual Temperature (capital) 26º C
Time in Relation to Brasília The same
Density of Population 81.1 inhabitants/km2
Urbanization Index 71.4% (2000)
Infant Mortality 44.5 per thousand live-born (2000)
Illiteracy Rate 23.9% (2000)
Contribution to GDP 0.5%
Representation at National Congress 11 Members of Parliament
Vegetation Swamps along the coast, strip of tropical forest and savanna across most of the territory

Sources

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