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Manaus, capital of the Brazilian state of Amazonas. Founded in 1669, Manaus is located on the Rio Negro, about 1,000 miles upriver from the mouth of the Amazon, and is the main port in the Amazonian interior.

Manaus was a small settlement in 1867, when the Brazilian government opened the Amazon River to international trade. The forests surrounding Manaus were rich in rubber trees, and from the 1870s on, Brazilian and foreign merchants flocked to the inland capital to profit from the booming rubber trade.

The city entered its heyday in the 1890s, when Manaus became the major center for Amazonian exports; by 1910 the urban population had grown to nearly 100,000 inhabitants. A classic boomtown, Manaus boasted the first electric street lighting in Brazil, piped water and gas, a system of floating docks, an ornate customshouse, and an elaborate opera house, crafted almost entirely from imported materials.

As an entrepôt that relied almost entirely on the rubber trade, Manaus was hit hard by the collapse of the wild rubber market in 1911. Population declined, trade plummeted, and the abandoned, decaying opera house stood as a monument to the excesses of the boom years. However, as the sole significant urban center in the western Amazon, Manaus survived the boom-bust cycle. In an effort to revive the Amazonian economy, in 1967 the Brazilian government declared Manaus a free port, thus generating a sharp increase in commercial activity and industrial development. Along with factories processing local products, Manaus is now home to several large, foreign-owned manufacturing plants producing consumer durables for the Brazilian market. As of 2006, Manaus had an estimated population of 1,688,524.

See alsoAmazon Region; Amazon River; Rubber Industry.


E. Bradford Burns, "Manaus, 1910: Portrait of a Boom Town," in Journal of Inter-American Studies 7, no. 3 (1965): 400-421.

Richard Collier, The River that God Forgot (1968).

Barbara Weinstein, The Amazon Rubber Boom, 1850–1920 (1983).

Additional Bibliography

Aguiar, José Vicente de Souza. Manaus: Praça, café, colégio e cinema nos anos 50 e 60. Manaus: Editora Valer: Edições Governo do Estado, 2002.

Markusen, Ann R., Yong-Sook Lee, and Sean DiGiovanna. Second Tier Cities: Rapid Growth Beyond the Metropolis. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1999.

Oliveira, José Aldemir de, José Duarte Alecrim, and Thierry Ray Jehlen Gasnier. Cidade de Manaus: Visões interdisciplinares. Manaus: EDUA, 2003.

                                  Barbara Weinstein

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