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Paraíba (until 1930, Paraíba do Norte), a small northeast Brazilian state with 3,595,886 inhabitants (2000). Paraíba's name derives from the river that is its central geographical feature. On its coast are Cabo Branco, the point in South America closest to Africa, and the first anchorage in Brazil (Baía da Traição, 1501). The Serra do Borborema separates Paraíba's littoral and Agreste from the extensive interior plateau of the cariri (a semi-arid zone), which contains the driest Município in Brazil (Cabaceiras) and the highest point in the Northeast (Pico do Jábre). Ninety-five percent of the state lies within the official "drought polygon." Farther west, the more humid far backlands (alto sertão), renowned for their tree cotton, reach to Brazil's heartland in the São Francisco Basin. Originally a donatary captaincy (with Itamaracá) whose indigenous Potiguars had sided with French dyewood traders, Paraíba could not be effectively settled until the 1580s, when Spanish soldiers and Portuguese colonists, with their native Tabajara allies, founded Fort Santa Catarina, on the coast, and the capital of Filipéia. Famous for its fertile coastal sugar zone, Paraíba shared in the battle to eject the Dutch (1630s and 1640s) and forge early national consciousness. During the empire, major regional revolts like the Confederation of the Equator (1824) and the Ronco de Abelha (1858) found support in Paraíba, while others, like the Praieira (1848) and the Quebra-Quilos (erupted in Campina Gande in 1874), drew leaders from the province. Paraíba's native sons and daughters include imperial painter Pedro Américo de Almeida; Leandro Gomes de Barros, founder of a Brazilian literature of the Cordel; intellectual and politician José Américo de Almeida, author of the first regionalist novel (A bagaceira, 1928); novelist José Lins do Rêgo, whose "sugar cycle" (1930s–1940s) chronicled regional change; President Epitácio Pessoa (1919–1923); economist Celso Furtado (head of the Superintendency for the Development of the Northeast [SUDENE] in the late 1950s and minister of culture in the late 1980s); Luiza Erundina de Sousa, the first woman to be elected mayor of São Paulo; and the seventeenth-century folk heroine Branca Dias (by adoption, as a Portuguese immigrant), martyr to the Inquisition.

See alsoDrought Region (Brazil); Pessoa, Epitácio da Silva.


Linda Lewin, Politics and Parentela in Paraíba: A Case Study of Family-Based Oligarchy in Brazil (1987).

Additional Bibliography

Fanzeres, Anna. Paraiba: A Challenge in Natural Resources Management. New Haven, CT: Tropical Resources Institute, Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, 1990.

Machado, Humberto F. Esclavos, senhores and café: A crise da cafeicultura esclavista do Vale do Paraíba fluminense, 1860–1888. Niteroi, Rio de Janeiro: Editora Cromos, 1993.

Oliveira Sobrinho, Reinaldo de. Anotações para a história da Paraíba Anotações para a história da Paraíba. João Pessoa, Brazil: Idéia, 2002.

Trigueiro, Osvaldo Meira, and Altimar de Alentar Pimental. Paraíba. Recife, Brazil: Editora Massangana, Fundação Joaquim Tabuco, 1996.

                                             Linda Lewin