views updated


Alagoas, a state in northeastern Brazil, encompasses 11,031 square miles. It has a population of 2.8 million (2000 estimate), composed primarily of people of mixed racial descent. The capital is Maceió. Along the coast, the climate is hot and humid; in the interior, hot and dry. To the west is Paulo Alfonso Falls, once regarded as one of the world's great waterfalls but now used for hydroelectric power so that little water passes over it except during the rainy season. Industrialization is proceeding slowly. The state remains primarily an agricultural region, where cotton, sugar, rice, tobacco, beans, and other crops are raised. Industries revolve around these products, textile manufacturing and sugar refining being the most important. As in much of the region, the state has attempted to parlay the beauty of its beaches into major tourist attractions since the 1980s.

Originally part of the captaincy of Pernambuco, the area that is present-day Alagoas was occupied by the Dutch in the early 1600s. Sugar cultivation employing enslaved Africans dominated as it did in other places on the northeast coast. Its forests and rugged interior offered havens to quilombos (communities of runaway slaves), among the most notable of which was Palmares. As Portuguese-Dutch conflicts disrupted plantations, Palmares burgeoned to the point of developing its own sophisticated governing structure and even maintaining a standing army. Palmares resisted both the Dutch and the Portuguese until concerted Portuguese efforts finally destroyed the community in 1694.

Alagoas became an independent captaincy in 1817, a province of the Brazilian Empire in 1823, and a state of the republic in 1889. Its most prominent native sons include the writer Graciliano Ramos and President Fernando Collor de Mello (1990–1992), whose family dominates the state's mass media and who was governor of the state (like his father before him) prior to becoming president.

See alsoBrazil: Since 1889; Brazil: Geography.


Conti, Mario Sergio. Notícias do Planalto: A Imprensa e Fernando Collor. São Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 1999.

Diégues Júnior, Manuel. O Banguê nas Alagoas: Traços do Sistema Econômico do Engenho de Açucar na Vida e na Cultura Regional. Rio de Janeiro: Instituto do Açucar e do Álcool, 1949.

Moreira Alves, Márcio. Teotônio, Guerreiro da Paz. Petrópolis: Vozes, 1984.

Ramos, Graciliano. Viventes das Alagoas (Quadros e Costumes do Nordeste). São Paulo Livraria Martins, 1962.

                                           Cara Shelly