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Fernando de Noronha

Fernando de Noronha, an island 200 miles northeast of Cape São Roque, Brazil. Covering 10 square miles and supporting a population of 2,051 (2000 est.), the island, of volcanic origin, is dominated by a 1,050-foot peak and is known for interesting wildlife. The archipelago consists of twenty-one islands, islets, and rocks of volcanic origin. The main island, from which the group gets its name, makes up 91 percent of the total area.

Discovered about 1503 by Fernando de Noronha, a Portuguese participant in the dyewood trade, the island later became a dependency of Pernambuco and in 1942, together with neighboring islets, a territory of Brazil. Strategically positioned off the bulge of Brazil, the island suffered several attacks, none of them successful, in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. It served as a penal colony in the 1700s and continued to receive a few political prisoners as late as the 1980s. During 1957–1962, the United States Air Force used the island as a tracking station for guided missiles based at Cape Canaveral, Florida. The Brazilian military controlled the territory, and the population consisted primarily of fishermen or civilian employees of the military. In 1989, surrounding waters were declared a Marine National Park. It is home to two endemic birds, the Noronha Elaenia and the Noronha Vireo. Though much of the natural vegetation has been lost, there are several sea animals that are a principal attraction of the island. Its economy is heavily dependent on tourism, although its delicate ecosystem makes it difficult to support heavy traffic. In 2001 UNESCO declared the island a World Heritage Site.

See alsoBrazil, Geography; Noronha, Fernão de.


Additional Bibliography

Fernandes, Hélio. Recordaçoes de um desterrado em Fernando de Noronha. Rio de Janeiro: Editora Tribuna da Imprensa, 1967.

Teixera, Wilson. Arquipélago Fernando de Noronha: O paraíso do vulcao. São Paulo: Terra Virgem Editora, 2003.

                                             Cara Shelly

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Fernando de Noronha (fərnän´dŏŏ dĬ nŏŏrô´nyə), group of 21 islands, c.10 sq mi (26 sq km), in the Atlantic Ocean, c.225 mi (360 km) off the northeast coast of Brazil. A federal territory of Brazil from 1942 to 1988, when it was reannexed to the state of Pernambuco, it is administered as a state district and is the site of a national maritime park. The islands have been the site of a military base and a penal colony. The main resources on the islands are guano and salt deposits. Tourism is the mainstay of the economy. The islands, discovered in 1503, were the first hereditary captaincy granted in Brazil by the Portuguese crown. A U.S. missile-tracking base was there from 1957 to 1962.

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Devils Island, Fr. Île du Diable, the smallest and southernmost of the Îles du Salut, in the Caribbean Sea off French Guiana. A penal colony founded in 1852, it was used largely for political prisoners, the most celebrated of whom was Alfred Dreyfus. Although conditions were probably not as sordid as in other prison camps in French Guiana, the island's name became synonymous with the horrors of the system. The penal colonies were phased out between 1938 and 1951.

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Colonia del Sacramento (kōlō´nyä ŧħĕl säk´rämān´tō), city (1996 pop. 21,744), capital of Colonia dept., S Uruguay, on the Río de la Plata. It is a resort city, a port, and the trade center for a rich agricultural region. The city, founded by the Portuguese in 1680, was bitterly contested before being ultimately secured by the Spanish. Colonia has many fine examples of colonial architecture.