A Zona Bragantina no Estado do Pará


  • Eugênia Gonçalves Egler


Pará, Bragantina - PA : Microrregião, Geografia da população, Geografia regional, Colonização


            Settlement of the Bragantine Zone began shortly after that of Belém, a city which was founded in 1616, whereas Bragança. was not founded until 1662.

            Comunications between Bragança and the other, more densely populated, centers were very difficult up to the first half of the nineteenth century. Trips were most often made by sea, primarily to Belém and secondarily to São Luiz de Maranhão.

            For this reason a number of small centers of population sprang up along the coast between Belém and Bragança, with an economy largely based on fishing, and comprising the so-called Salgado Region.

            There was also an inland route connecting Belém to Bragança which took advantage of the navigable reaches of the River Guamá. Along this route other settlements took shape.          In 1883 work was started on the railway from Belém to Bragança, which was reached in 1907, after many interruptions, and the line has almost always operated at a loss.

            Even before the first rails were laid, settlement had begun with the landing of immigrants in the Bragantine zone in and after 1875. Of these, those that survived were mostly Spaniards but none of them settled down definitively. Hence, though 12,029 Spanish settlers were introduced into the region, by 1902 only 1,802 were left.

            They were succeeded by migrants from the Northeast who had abandoned their lands on account of persistent drought, but they did not remain either, returning home as soon as news came of abundant rains falling in their native region.

            The decay of the settlements has generally been attributed to faulty administration and a lack of propaganda to attract larger waves of immigration, but the real reason lies in the rapid exhaustion of the soil after two or three crops have been raised. In the Bragantine, rainfall is copious and the temperatures very high. After clearing the forest and burning over the ground, leaching is intense and the soil is very soon worked out.

            The basic agricultural output of the settler consisted in cassava (manioc) for flour-making, sugar-cane for spirits and coarse brown sugar in cakes, and, on a smaller scale, cacao, tobacco and cotton.

            Nowadays, Belém, with its 300 thousand inhabitants and over, is connected to the Bragantine Zone by rail and motor road, running parallel, and also by river, each of these means of communication supplying a market in the state capital.

            On every hand there are wide areas of cut-over land, for crop rotation is organized on the basis of 10 years of :fallow for one of tilth. In the municípios near Belém, charcoal-burning is one of the main activities.

            Though the landscape does not very very much, two sub-divisions may be assigned to the Bragantine in accordance With the economic activities carried on there: one stretches west from Castanhal to Belém, and the other east from Castanhal to Bragança.

            In the former, considerable advance has been made with the intensive culture of pepper, first planted there by the Japanese, who are still the leading producers, in the farming settlement of Acará. Owing to the heavy outlay of capital required to start a pepper plantation. this crop is inaccessible to the small-holder.

            In this region large stretches of land are also owned by public and private institutions.

            Eastwards from castanhal, there ls much small-scale cultivation of tobacco and fibers such as aramina or purp1e mallow (Urena Zobata) and malva veludo or velvet mallow (Pavonia malacophylla).

            These fibers are produced by weedy herbs, that formerly used to spread like a plague over even the poorest soil. They are cut in June to July and the stalks allowed to soak for 2 to 8 days, after which they are threshed and washed leaving a fiber which is dried on racks and finally bound into bales. A textile mill at Capanema absorbs most of the local output.

            The tobacco is cultivated in much the same way as has long been used in Bahia, around All Saints Bay. Movable corrals are made and the livestock herded in to them at night to manure the ground before the tobacco is planted. The leaves are prepared for marketing by rolling them lengthwise around a 7-foot pole, known as a molhe, and binding them tightly with a rope made of palm-leaves.

            Road asphalting and the introduction of Diesel locomotives have been instrumental in encouraging new capital investments, chiefly in rubber plantation, by Pirelli and Goodyear, and in a Capanema cement works.

            The economic occupation of the Bragantine zone has had to weather a series of disasters brought about by adverse natural conditions, but new prospects are in view, and good results are expected of the association of dairying with crop-farming, which has not yet been attempted on a large scale