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Fortaleza, the Capital of Ceará.
Sunset in Jericoacoara.
Cocó River.
Ceará ( ) is one of the 26 states of Brazilmarker, located in the northeastern part of the country, on the Atlanticmarker coast. It is one of the main tourist destinations of Brazilmarker.

Literally, the name Ceará means "sings the jandaia". According to José de Alencar, one of the most important writers of Brazil and an authority in native languages, Ceará is composed of cemo -- to sing aloud, to claim -- , and ara -- littleparakeet in a native language. There are also theories that the state name would derive from Siriará, a reference to the crabs from the seashore.

The state has dunes at Jericoacoara, to the Dune Buggy and Jeep rides in Canoa Quebrada, and handcraft industries in embroidery, hammocks, and pottery. The state is best known for its extensive coastline, with 573 kilometers (356 miles) of sand. There are also mountains and valleys producing tropical fruits in the chapadas of Araripe and Apodi. To the south, on the border of Paraíbamarker, Pernambuco and Piauímarker, is the National Forest of Araripe.


Ceará has an area of 148,016 km². It is bounded on the north by the Atlantic Oceanmarker, on the east by the states of Rio Grande do Norte and Paraíbamarker, on the south by Pernambuco state, and on the west by Piauímarker.

Ceará lies partly upon the northeast slope of the Brazilian Highlands, and partly upon the sandy coastal plain. Its surface is a succession of great terraces, facing north and northeast, formed by the denudation of the ancient sandstone plateau which once covered this part of the continent; the terraces are seamed by watercourses, and their valleys are broken by hills and ranges of highlands. The latter are the remains of the ancient plateau, capped with horizontal strata of sandstone, and having a remarkably uniform altitude of 2000 to The flat top of such a range is called a chapada or taboleira, and its width in places is from 32 to . The boundary line with Piauí follows one of these ranges, the Serra de Ibiapaba, which unites with another range on the southern boundary of the state, known as the Serra do Araripe. Another range, or escarpment, crosses the state from east to west, but is broken into two principal divisions, each having several local names. These ranges are not continuous, the breaking down of the ancient plateau having been irregular and uneven.

The rivers of the state are small and, with one or two exceptions, become completely dry in the dry season. The largest is the Jaguaribe, which flows entirely across the state in a northeast direction.

Ceará has a varied environment, with mangroves, caatinga, jungle, scrubland and tropical forest. The higher ranges intercept considerable moisture from the prevailing trade winds, and their flanks and valleys are covered with a tropical forest which is typical of the region, gathering species from tropical forests, caatinga and cerradomarker. The less elevated areas of the plateaus are either thinly wooded or open campo. Most of the region at the lower altitudes is characterized by scrubby forests called caatingas, which is an endemic Brazilian vegetation. The sandy, coastal plain, with a width of 12 to , is nearly bare of vegetation, although the coast has many enclaves of restingas forests and mangroves.

The soil is, in general, thin and porous and does not retain moisture, consequently the long, dry season turns the country into a barren desert, relieved only by vegetation along the riverways and mountain ranges, and by the hardy, widely distributed Carnauba Palm (Copernicia cerifera), which in places forms groves of considerable extent. Some areas in the higher ranges of Serra da Ibiapaba, Serra do Araripe and others are more appropriate to agriculture as its soil and vegetation are less affected by the dry seasons.

The endless stretch of beaches in the state is a major tourist attraction. Ceará has several famous beaches such as Canoa Quebrada, Jericoacoara, Morro Branco, Taíba and Flexeirasmarker. The beaches are divided into two groups (in relation to the capital Fortalezamarker): Sunset Coast (Costa do Sol poente) and Sunrise Coast (Costa do Sol nascente).
Lagoon of University of Fortaleza.


The climate is hot and humid on the coast, tempered by the cool trade winds; but in the more elevated, semi-arid regions it is very hot and dry (often above 35 °C, but seldom above 40 °C), although the nights are cool. However, in the higher ranges (Serra da Ibiapaba, Serra do Araripe and several less larger highlands) the temperatures are colder and vary from about 14 °C to 34 °C (the minimum temperature registered in Ceará took place in Jardim, a small city in Serra do Araripe: 8 °C).

The year is divided into a rainy and dry season, the rains beginning in January to March and lasting until June. The dry season, July to December, is sometimes broken by slight showers in September and October, but these are of very slight importance. This environment and temperature attracts many tourists, especially ecotourists. The climate is hot almost all year round. The temperature in the state varies from 22 °C to 36 °C with the lowest temperatures not being typical in the capital Fortalezamarker but in the numerous mountains in the state.

Sometimes the rains fail altogether, and then a drought ("seca") ensues, causing famine and pestilence throughout the entire region. The most destructive droughts recorded in the 18th and 19th centuries were those of 1711, 1723, 1777-1778, 1790, 1825, 1844-1845, and 1877–1878, the last-mentioned (known by local people as "a Grande Seca", "the Great Drought") destroying nearly all the livestock in the state, and causing the death through starvation and pestilence of nearly half a million people, or over half the population. Because of the constant risk of droughts, nowadays there are lots of dams (called "açudes") throughout Ceará, the largest of them being the Açude Castanhão. Thanks to the dams, the Jaguaribe River doesn't become completely dry anymore.


Campo do Prado in 1927.
Music School of Ancuri.
Buildings in Fortaleza.
Map showing indigenous groups in Ceará.

The territory of Ceará includes three of the capitanias originally granted by the Portuguese crown in 1534. The first attempts to settle the territory failed, and the earliest Portuguese settlement was made near the mouth of the Camocim River in 1604. Ceará was first successfully colonised by the Portuguese soldier Martim Soares Moreno in 1612, when what is today Brazil was hotly contested by the Dutchmarker and the Portuguese.

The area was invaded twice by the Dutch, in 1644 and in 1654. Both times the settlers were ultimately repelled. Before being defeated, however, the Dutch founded what is today Fortaleza where they constructed Fort Schoonenburg, so named after one of their commanders. In 1661, the Netherlands formally ceded their Brazilian territories to the Portuguese crown, ending conflict in the region. Ceará became a dependency of Pernambuco in 1680; this relationship lasted until 1799, when the Captaincy of Ceará was made independent.

The fight for Brazilian independence in 1822 was fierce in Ceará, with the area being a rebel stronghold that incurred vicious retribution from loyalists. The captaincy became a province in 1822 under Dom Pedro I. A revolution followed in 1824, the president of the province was deposed fifteen days after his arrival, and a republic was proclaimed. Internal dissensions immediately broke out, the new president was assassinated, and after a brief reign of terror the province resumed its allegiance to the empire. Ceará was one of the first provinces of Brazil to abolish slavery.

The reign of Dom Pedro II (see Empire of Brazilmarker) saw great advances in infrastructure in Ceará, with the commerce increasing by a large amount, and with gas lighting becoming almost ubiquitous.

The state of Ceara became a bishopric of the Roman Catholic Church in 1853, the bishop residing at Fortaleza.

Two railway lines running inland from the coast (the Baturité line from Fortaleza to Senador Pompeu, , and the Sobral line from the port of Camocim to Ipu, 134 miles) by the national government after the drought of 1877–1878 to give work to the starving refugees, and were later operated under leases. Dams were also begun for irrigation purposes.

The population numbered 805,687 in 1890, and 849,127 in 1900. In 1900 approximately five-sixths of the population lived on estates, owned no property, paid no taxes, and derived few benefits from the social and political institutions about them. Education was then confined almost exclusively to the upper classes, from which came some of the most prominent men in Brazilian politics and literature.

In the early 20th century the sandy zone along the coast was nearly barren, but the more elevated region behind the coast with broken surfaces and sandy soil produced fruit and most tropical products when conditions are favourable. The natural vegetable production was important, and included manigoba or Ceara rubber, carnahuba wax and fibre, caju wine and ipecacuanha. The principal agricultural products were cotton, coffee, sugar, mandioca and tropical fruits. The production of cotton increased largely with the development of cotton manufactures in Brazil.

The higher plateau was devoted almost exclusively to cattleraising, once the principal industry of the state, although recurring droughts created an obstacle to its profitable development. The state exported considerable amounts of cattle, hides and skins.

Since 1960, the Orós Dam, comparable in size to the Aswan Dammarker has supplied Ceará with much of its water, and in 1995 construction began on the enormous Castanhão Dam, which, when completed, will be able to hold 6.5 km³ of water.

On July 17, 2006, the state of Ceará became the second state after São Paulo to ratify a bill recognizing the Armenian Genocide.


According to the IBGE of 2007, there were 8,238,000 people residing in the state. The population density was 55.2 inh./km².

Urbanization: 76.4% (2006); Population growth: 1.7% (1991-2000); Houses: 2,181,000 (2006).

The last PNAD (National Research for Sample of Domiciles) census revealed the following numbers: 5,124,000 Pardo (Brown) people (62.2%), 2,883,000 White people (35.0%), 197,000 Black people (2.4%), 32,000 Asian or Amerindian people (0.4%).

Interesting facts

Vehicles: 1,084,991 (March/2007);Mobile phones: 3.5 million (April/2007); Telephones: 908 thousand (April/2007); Cities: 184 (2007).


The service sector is the largest component of GDP at 56.7%, followed by the industrial sector at 37.9%. Agriculture represents 5.4% of GDP (2004). Ceará exports: leather footwear 20.3%, crustaceans 17.6%, woven of cotton 16.9%, cashew 14.7%, leather 13.1%, fruits , juices and honey 5.4% (2002). It is one of only three Brazilian states which together produce the world's entire supply of carnauba wax.

Share of the Brazilian economy: 1.9% (2004).

According to the data from IPECE and IBGE, the GDP in Ceará reached RS$38.54 billions (about US$19 billions) in 2006. The economic growth in the State in 2006 was of 4.8%, higher than the average growth in Brazil, which was of 2.7% (or 3.7% according to the new method for calculation of GDP). The GDP has grown 3.33%, in average, in the period 2003-2006.

Traditionally an agriculture-based state, Ceará began an industrialisation program under the military regime (1964-1985), and the industrial sector continues to expand annually. In 1999, industry accounted for 39.3% of the state's GDP. Tourism also plays a large role in Ceará's economy, with the state's many waterfalls, beaches and rainforests. On average, Fortalezamarker alone receives half a million tourists annually.


Educational institutions

  • Universidade Federal do Ceará (UFC) (Federal University of Ceará);
  • Universidade Estadual do Ceará (UECE) (State University of Ceará);
  • Centro Federal de Educação Tecnológica do Ceará (Cefet-CE);
  • Universidade de Fortaleza (UNIFOR) (University of Fortaleza);
  • Universidade do Vale do Acaraú (Uva) (University of Acaraú Valley);
  • Universidade Regional do Cariri (URCA) (Regional University of Cariri);
  • and many others.

Tourism and recreation

The state has several tourist attractions but is famous for its eco-tourism capabilities with hundreds of nearly deserted beaches and sand dunes. Besides the famous coast, Ceará has also a big tourist potential in the countryside, with the rainforests and waterfalls of the Highlands (such as Ibiapaba, Araripe, Meruoca and Guaramiranga) and some semi-arid regions which are ideal for tourists who like sports and adventure, especially the city of Quixadá. The city of Santana do Cariri, in the more elevated areas of Serra do Araripe, is also noted for its great paleontological importance, being the place of major searches and discoveries (including a new species of dinosaur, the Santanaraptor placidus).

Fortalezamarker's international airport (named Pinto Martins airport) is well served by international flights from North and Central America as well as Europe.

Main Tourist Attractions


International airport

The Pinto Martins International Airportmarker is situated in Fortaleza. The passenger terminal is air conditioned and has four levels. The basement level has parking for 1,000 cars as well as automatic teller machines and a stop for regular city buses.

The ground level has 31 check-in counters, airline offices, car rental agencies, special tourist information, a juvenile court bureau to facilitate travel of minors, a National Civil Aviation Agency (ANAC) office, information counter, passenger arrival area and access to two taxi stops.

The second level contains shops, a food court and domestic and international boarding lounges. The top floor has a beer garden and panoramic deck overlooking the maneuvering apron with a view of the Fortaleza skyline. The apron is 152,857 square meters and can accommodate 14 aircraft at once in pre-established positions (“boxes”).

The scheduled airlines operating out of Fortaleza are Cabo Verde Airlines, TAP, Delta Airlines, Gol, TAM, Webjet, OceanAir and TAF. The airport also frequently receives domestic and international charter flights. The passenger terminal, opened in 1998, was designed to have a useful life of 50 years. The former terminal, called the General Aviation Terminal, is now used for general aviation and the fire brigade. The control tower is located alongside.

Construction of a cargo terminal is the next big step planned by Infraero. The new terminal will have roughly eight thousand square meters, boosting the cargo storage and handling capacity fourfold. Plans then call for the new terminal to be integrated with highway and railroad links.


View of Fortaleza's BR-116 entrance.
Highways in Ceará include:
  • BR-020
  • BR-116
  • BR-122
  • BR-222
  • BR-226
  • BR-230
  • BR-304
  • BR-402
  • BR-403
  • BR-404
  • CE-004
  • CE-040
  • CE-060


The Port of Fortaleza is located in the inlet of the Mucuripe and is a man-made port, including an oil platform. The quay stretches 1,054 meters. There are 6,000 square meters of warehouses and more than 100,000 square meters of dock for containers. There are still two wheat mills, interconnected to the railway system by an extensive maneuvering dock.


Fortaleza provides visitors and residents with various sport activities. The most popular sport here, as well as in the remainder of Brazilmarker, is soccer. The Championship of Ceará has its main games in Fortaleza. There are several association football (soccer) clubs, such as Ceará SC, Fortaleza EC and Ferroviário AC. Strong winds make the Praia do Futuro an excellent place for nautical sports, and Fortaleza hosts world competitions of surfing, windsurfing and kitesurfing. Fortaleza appears to have a culture conducive to the production of high-level athletes in combat sports, as evidenced by several Fortalezans' recent success in mixed martial arts.

Fortalezamarker is one of the 18 remaining candidates to host games of the 2014 FIFA World Cup.


The flag of Ceará is nearly identical to that of the federal Brazilian flag, the sole difference being the blue hemisphere in the Brazilian flag replaced by the Ceará state coat of arms.


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