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Rondônia

Rondônia (rŏŏndô´nyə), state (1996 pop. 1,132,692), 93,839 sq mi (243,043 sq km), NW Brazil, on the border with Bolivia. Pôrto Velho is the capital. Rain forests still cover much of the state, although by the 1980s deforestation had begun to emerge as a serious environmental problem in Rondônia.

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Rondônia

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Rondônia

Rondônia

Rondônia is a state, about the size of Arizona, in the western Amazon Basin of Brazil. Rondônia borders Bolivia to its west and south, and the Brazilian states of Mato Grosso to its east, Amazonas to its north, and Acre to its northwest.

Rondônia was part of the state of Amazonas until 1943, when it became the territory of Guaporé, named for the river that separates it from Bolivia. It was renamed Rondônia in 1956 to honor Cândido Rondon (1865–1958), the Indian protector and explorer. In 1981 Rondônia became Brazil's twenty-sixth and final state.

Before 1900 the region was occupied mainly by indigenous groups that included the Urueu-Wau-Wau, the Wayoró, and the Tuparí. As the automobile industry grew, demand for rubber led settlers to the region to harvest latex from hevea brasiliensis trees. The settlers, called seringueiros, tapped trees dispersed along trails through the tropical rain forest. A complex, river-based trade system that brought the rubber to Manaus and Belém was interrupted by a series of waterfalls on the Rio Madeira. The city of Porto Velho, which eventually became Rondônia's capital, was established around 1907 when U.S. and British investors built the Madeira-Mamoré Railroad to circumvent the waterfalls. The rubber boom ended when plantation-grown rubber was established in Asia.

Only 70,000 people lived in Rondônia in 1960, when the Brazilian government began the POLONOROESTE project (Northeastern Brazil Integration Development Program) to promote agriculture in the region. As part of the program, an old telegraph road was paved and named BR-364, connecting Porto Velho to Cuiabá, Mato Grosso, and service centers were created near some of the old telegraph stations. Intended to attract 10,000 settlers, the paving of the road attracted nearly a half million migrants seeking farmland and gold. Crop yields from the tropical soils were low, leading many settlers to clear vast tracts of land before eventually abandoning farming attempts. Violence sometimes attended the consolidation of small farms into large ranches, and Rondônia suffered the highest rates of tropical deforestation in the world.

Beginning in the 1990s, service employment and inexpensive urban land continued to attract migrants to Rondônia. A majority of Rondônia's 1.4 million people now live in cities and towns. Electricity is provided by imported diesel fuel and a large hydroelectric plant along the Rio Candeis. Proposals for additional hydroelectric plants on the Rio Madeira have led to renewed environmental concerns at the international level.

See alsoBrazil: Since 1889; Railroads.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Browder, John O., and Brian J. Godfrey. Rainforest Cities: Urbanization, Development, and Globalization of the Brazilian Amazon. New York: Columbia University Press, 1997.

Ellis, William. "Rondônia's Settlers Invade Brazil's Imperiled Rain Forest." National Geographic 174, no. 6 (December 1988): 772-799.

Hayes-Bohanan, James. Rondônia Web. Available from http://webhost.bridgew.edu/jhayesboh/rondonia.htm.

Hemming, John. Amazon Frontier: The Defeat of the Brazilian Indians. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1987.

Martine, George. "Rondônia and the Fate of Small Producers." In The Future of Amazonia: Destruction or Sustainable Development?, edited by David Goodman and Anthony Hall. London: Macmillan, 1990.

Mendes, Chico. Fight for the Forest: Chico Mendes in His Own Words. London: Latin American Bureau, 1990.

                                    James Hayes-Bohanan

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