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Maranhão, Estado do

Maranhão, Estado do

Estado do Maranhão, one of several administrative centers in colonial Brazil. Because prevailing winds made northern Brazil more accessible by sea from Lisbon than from Salvador, the state of Maranhão was formed as a separate government in 1621. It initially included the captaincies of Ceará (later made dependent upon Pernambuco), Maranhão, and Grão Pará, which included the Amazon Valley. During the seventeenth century the capital moved between the towns of São Luís do Maranhão and Belém do Pará, but when cacao, harvested from the Amazonian rainforest, became the leading export in the eighteenth century, Belém, the leading port, also became the permanent capital. Until their removal in 1759–1760, the Jesuits were the dominant missionaries, but they were joined by Carmelites, Franciscans, and Mercedarians. The expulsion of the Jesuits coincided with the legal end of Indian slavery in Maranhão and the introduction of substantial numbers of African slaves. The arrival of the blacks led to the development of plantation-produced staple exports, mainly cotton and rice. As part of the administrative reorganization of Brazil during the 1760s and 1770s, the state was abolished as a separate entity in 1774.

See alsoAmazon Region; Cotton; Rice Industry.


Cézar Augusto Marques, Diccionário histórico-geográphico do Maranhão (Maranhão, 1870).

Rodolfo Garcia, Ensaio sôbre a história política e administrativa do Brasil (1500–1810) (Rio de Janeiro, 1956), chap. 11.

Additional Bibliography

Almeida, Rita Heloísa de. O diretório dos índios: Um projeto de "civilização" no Brasil do século XVIII. Brasília: Editora UnB, 1997.

Costa, Wagner Cabral da. História do Maranhão: Novos estudos. São Luís: EDUFMA, 2004.

Santos Neto, Manoel dos. O negro no Maranhão. São Luís: Clara Editora: Edições Guarnicê, 2004.

                                         Dauril Alden

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