Amapá, a Brazilian state that once guarded the Amazon delta against foreign invasion via the Atlantic Ocean. The seventeenth-century Portuguese showed no interest in this strategic area on the northern seaboard until France occupied land adjacent to it. In 1637, the future Amapá became Costa do Cabo Norte, the first captaincy that was clearly west of the line drawn by the Tordesillas Treaty of 1494. Sixty years later, the French invaded Costa do Cabo Norte, but Portugal forced their withdrawal. After the Portuguese dissolved Costa do Cabo Norte in the mid-eighteenth century, the French once again encroached on the area between the Amazon and Oyapock rivers. The ongoing border conflicts with France were not resolved until the twentieth century, when Brazil and France turned to an impartial arbitrator, Walther Hauser, president of Switzerland. Hauser awarded Amapá to Brazil on 1 December 1900, after which it became part of the state of Pará. The federal government detached the area in 1943 and created the territory of Amapá (54,161 sq mi). On 1 January 1990, Amapá became a state.
Since it is in Amazonia, rubber gathering was and still is important in Amapá. The Bethlehem Steel Company has mined and exported most of the magnesium, which was discovered in 1945. Prospectors have extracted alluvial gold from the rivers in Amapá since the 1970s, and other residents have farmed, mined coal, and cut timber. By 1990, over half of its 252,000 inhabitants resided near the capital city, Macapá, which rests on the equator.
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