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Tocantins

State Flag of Tocantins
  1. Introduction
  2. Capital: Palmas
  3. Data Table for Tocantins

Introduction

The creation of the state of Tocantins, which occupies an area which was previously the northern territory of the state of Goiás, was determined by the 1988 Constitution. Tocantins covers a transitional area between the Amazon Forest and the Savannah, with vegetation and fauna belonging to both eco-systems. The state is crossed from north to south by two long rivers, the Tocantins and the Araguaia, where tourists can enjoy a succession of beaches and appreciate the beauty of the region's nature. The land is suitable for agriculture and cattle raising.

Opened up by Jesuit missionaries, who founded a mission in 1625 in the north of what was the state of Goiás, Tocantins was always different from the other regions of the state to which it belonged. The difficulties of travel in the area which now forms the state of Tocantins led to greater settlement, and therefore development, in the south and south east, strengthening regional differences and encouraging separatist ideals. The first stirrings towards self government began in 1809, as a reaction to the levying of heavy taxes on mining, and were followed by various attempts at separation in the nineteenth century, all of which failed. From the 1970s onwards, the movement grew stronger, and the creation of the state of Tocantins was finally decided by the new Brazilian Constitution of 1988.

Construction of Palmas, the new capital, started in 1989 and lent the region a touch of modernity. The architecture of Palmas contrasts with that of the other cities in the state, which were mostly founded during the colonial period and show traces of the architecture and culture of the eighteenth century.

Mainly in the period from June to September, when the rivers are low, white sand beaches offer a great variety of leisure options, from camping by the riverside to sports such as fishing and canoeing. In order to encourage tourism, which is still little publicised, the state government has defined four tourist regions: Palmas, Bico, Lagos and Termas & Gerais. The state of Tocantins also possesses 20 archaeological sites, which have been studied by researchers from various parts of the country.

In need of economic development, Tocantins is growing thanks to extensive cattle raising, to subsistence agriculture, and to the establishment of commercial agriculture, whose principal product, pineapples, supplies other Brazilian states and is now an important item on the list of exports to other Mercosul countries. Largely in the extreme north of the state, there is also a vegetable extraction industry, centred round the babaçu palm tree, from which both oil and charcoal are obtained. With a view to economic expansion and diversification, Tocantins also has several special projects, ranging from the construction of the Lajeado hydro-electric scheme and the Araguaia - Tocantins waterway to the extension of the North South Railway.

With large tracts of land inhabited almost exclusively by Indians, Tocantins has developed an unprecedented education programme for indigenous peoples. Developed in four schools, the programme includes the training of Indian teachers in their own language and in Portuguese. Besides encouraging education, the main concern is to respect the customs and traditions of the six Indian villages in the state. The Programme for Indigenous Education has been recognised by Unesco as a model to be followed by countries which possess indigenous populations.

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Capital: Palmas

PalmasPalmas

Palmas, is the capital of the state of Tocantins. There are four other main towns - Lajeado, Miracema do Tocantins, Monte do Carmo and Porto Nacional. One of the main attractions in the Palmas area is Graciosa beach, on the banks of the Tocantins river, which draws up to 15,000 people a weekend during the "Tocantins summer", from July to September. Also near the capital is the Serra da Figura, a hill which can be climbed on foot. On the top there are many prehistoric inscriptions and representations of human figures, domestic objects, animals etc.

In Lajeado, there are white water rapids on the river known as Mares de Tocantins, and at Serra das Escritas there is a ten metre long panel with many forms of geometrical inscriptions, recalling the distant past of the first inhabitant of the region, prehistoric man. There is also the hill known as Morro do Segredo, shaped like a volcano, on the 250 metre summit of which, according to local people, mysterious lights as if from flying saucers can sometimes be seen. In the Serra do Lajeado there are examples of three types of vegetation - caatinga, cerrado and tropical forest - which are the natural habitats of dozens of species, some of them in danger of extinction, such as the eagle hawk, the king vulture, the tapir, the deer and the leopard.

Miracema do Tocantins is economically important, especially for pineapple production, and is also an attraction for its urban river beaches. The town is also the best place to buy arts and crafts made by the Xerentes Indians.

Monte do Carmo is a pleasant town almost 250 years old. With its simple type of eighteenth century architecture and narrow streets, the town preserves some of the stories and traditions of its first inhabitants. The church of Nossa Senhora do Carmo was built in 1801, at a time when gold production in the region was in decline. Monte do Carmo also has the Suero Waterfall. Legend goes that the inhabitants of the town would regulate their crop farming and cattle raising activities by the waterfall - or rather, by the sound it made. They believed it made a roaring sound to announce when it was going to rain.

Although it has many river beaches, Porto Nacional's feature most often shown on postcards is the Cathedral of Nossa Senhora das Merces. Constructed in the nineteenth century in brick and stone, its columns and arches are inspired by the romantic style of Toulouse in France, from where its Dominican friar founders came.

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Data Table for Tocantins

Capital Palmas
Area 278,420.7 km2
Towns 139
Location South-west of the North Region
Population 1,155,913 inhabitants (2000)
Population in the Capital 150,000 inhabitants
Climate Tropical
Mean Annual Temperature (capital) 26º C
Time in Relation to Brasília The same
Density of Population 4.2 inhabitants/km2
Urbanization Index 74.3% (2000)
Infant Mortality 32.7 per thousand live-born (2000)
Illiteracy Rate 21% (2000)
Contribution to GDP 0.1%
Representation at National Congress 11 Members of Parliament
Vegetation Amazon rain forest to the north, savanna across most of the territory, with a small area of tropical forest
Tourist Information Governo do Estado do Tocantins
Tel/fax: (63) 218-2362
ACSO I, Conjunto 3, lote 33
77163-070 Tocantins - TO

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