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Goiás, a Brazilian state that had an area of 248,000 square miles until 1989, when the new state of Tocantins was created out of a portion of it. Goiás now covers 137,000 square miles and has a population of 4.8 million (2002 est.). The geographical center of Brazil, Goiás encompasses the Federal District and the new capital of Brasília. The name Goiás comes from one of the tribes of Indians who used to be very numerous throughout the territory. The first chronicler, Silva e Souza, counted seventeen tribes in existence at the beginning of the nineteenth century. Today they are nearly all extinct.

During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Goiás was only occasionally reached by explorers and raiders who came from São Paulo to hunt Indians. It was officially discovered during the gold rush by Bartolomeu Bueno de Silva's ("The Anhanguera") expedition (1722–1725). The discovery of gold brought about the first colonization and the characteristics typical of a gold rush: violence, instability, a rapid boom, and a sudden decline. This period lasted about sixty years (1726–1785) and left behind a town and three dozen frontier settlements with a total population of about sixty thousand.

The gold gone, the population became sedentary, spreading out over the plains and sierras and dedicating themselves to subsistence farming and the raising of cattle. Throughout the entire nineteenth century and into the first decades of the twentieth, the export of livestock constituted the area's only commercial relationship with the rest of the country. The population grew slowly, aided by constant immigration from the neighboring states of São Paulo, Minas Gerais, Bahia, and Maranhão. The 1920 census registered 500,000 inhabitants living throughout the vast open spaces.

The third phase of colonization began with the Revolution of 1930 and the so-called "march to the west." This initiated a very dynamic period for the population of the Goiás area that was still going strong in the mid-1990s. In 1933 construction was begun on the new capital of Goiás, Goiânia, both symbolizing and stimulating the drive toward modernization and progress. Its establishment should have marked the fall of the old oligarchies and the beginning of economic progress. In both cases, however, the road proved longer than anticipated. The triumph of Goiânia was not the hoped for industrial modernization, but the great impulse given to the agricultural colonization of the east central region of the country.

By 1990, the population of Goiâna had reached over a million. The construction of Brasília begun in 1960 (as a political commitment to the development of Brazil's interior) and the completion of great nationalized railroads—especially the one from Belém to Brasília—promoted the occupation of the last open spaces: the valleys of the Araguaia and the Tocantins rivers in the extreme north. In recent decades, government projects have aided the growth of the livestock industry and of exportable crops (soy, corn, and rice).

See alsoBrazil, Geography; Gold Rushes, Brazil; Mining: Colonial Brazil.


Luis Palacin, Goiás, 1722–1822: Estrutura e conjuntura numa Capitania de Minas (1972).

F. Itami Campos, Coronelismo em Goiás (1983).

Luis Palacin and Maria Augusta De Sant'anna Moraes, História de Goiás, 4th ed. (1986).

Nasr N. Fayad Chaul, A construção de Goiânia e a transferência da capital (1988).

Additional Bibliography

Guy, Donna. Contested Ground. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1998.

McCreery, David. Frontier Goiás. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2006.

Toledo, Caio Navaro de. Concepções e formacao do estado brasileiro. São Paulo: Anita Garibaldi, 1999.

                                           Luis PalacÍn

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