Estudo regional da Zona da Mata, de Minas Gerais


  • Orlando Valverde


Minas Gerais;, Zona da Mata;, Geografia Urbana;, Geografia Regional;, Geografia da População.


One of the present characteristics of the Zona da Mata (Forest Zone) in the State of Minas Gerais is precisely that it has no forests Pastures of Melinis minutiflora cover almost the whole region leaving only small patches of secondary forest Nevertheless, the Original tropical forest which was interrupted only by small stretches of level ground connect continuously the mid Paraiba Valley with the Rio Doce valley. To the West lie the natural grasslands af Central and Southern Minas Gerais. This forest rises to an altitude of about 2 000 metres above sea level.

            The soils which predominate in the region me mange and yellow latosols.

            The layers of schistose gneiss of the Mantiqueira range constitute an "anticlinorium" which has at its base to the southeast a very closed sync line in the Pa1aiba Valley. Between the massifs of Itatiaia and Bandeira, the Mantiqueira range was depressed in the form of a saddle with radial fractures in an approximately NW-SE direction through which the left bank tributaries of Paraíba opened water-gaps cutting the direction of 1ayers and extended their drainage systems in their higher reaches. Thus, three concentric levels of erosion were formed in the 'Zona da Mata" (Forest Zone), extending in a NE-SW di1ection: "Leopoldina" surface of 300-400 meters; the "Guarani-Rio-Novo" surface with 450-500 metres and the "El valia" surface with 800-900 meters. In the Bandeira massif forms of periglacial erosion may be observed above 2 200 meters.

            The depression of the Mantiqueira range facilitates the penetration of the Atlantic tropical ail mass which predominates in the "Zona da Mata" in Autumn, Winter and Spring in Winter the polar mass also teaches this area In Summer, however, the equatorial continental mass, which in the intermediate seasons forms fronts with other masses, predominates. When those fronts ate stationary there ate prolonged rains which cause great damage.

            At first, the "Zona da Mata" was occupied by estates employing slave labour. The dwellings were grouped in nuclei. Later, the slaves were replaced by sharecroppers and by compulsory hired labour without contract and remunerated at a very low rate. The dwellings became scattered on the predominantly agricultural estates but remained in groups in the pastoral estates.

            According to the characteristics of the landscape, the "Zona da Mata" is divided in the form stated below:

            1 - Dairy products zone - Occupies the Southern and Eastern side of the Zona da Mata. It is divided in: old milk production zone where there are big decadent or inactive farms; yield dairy products which me sold in Rio de Janeiro by means of cooperative societies. The pastures are Melinis and the cattle Dutch mixed with zebu. The rural workers live in poor houses and work by the partnership system, by share or by shifts, i e , they receive low wages and have no right to food, being compelled to work for the farm owner 3 to 4 das in the week b) Kitchen garden zone and housing estates of Juiz de Fora. This is a very small zone with small proprieties to Northeastern of Juiz de Fora where kitchen garden cultivation and housing estate management is done in the valleys. There is no cattle raising in that area.

            2 - Small farmers zone - This zone is still consecrated to dairy production although in small prope1 ties and is represented by old farms of the distant dairy zone which have been spitted in small estates during the coffee crisis.

            3 - Leopoldina zone - It is occupied by big farms of milk cattle Where the methods of cattle raising are relatively advanced Coffee cultivation is decadent. The processing of the product is made by a wet system like the one employed in the Paraíba Valley, in the last century. Nevertheless, there are other crops of some importance, as paddy rice, maize and sugar cane, and in some zones it stands at the same footing· with cattle raising. The small properties occupy small areas and are economically inferior. The farm workers are poor and work in the same conditions as those of zone 1

            4 - Large estates zone of beef cattle raising - In Leopoldina zone other crops offset in some degree, the coffee decadence, but here the lack of agricultural methods has reached its highest. Owing to the long distances of the market place, the breeding of milking cattle is not worth being done any more; so, the zebu cattle is raised for slaughter proposes. The landscape of this zone is dissimilar in two of its areas only: one af very poor small farms southeast from Viçosa, the other, in the big sugar cane plantations of the Pomba valley, pertaining to the sugar factory of Cataguases

            5 - Small tobacco farm zone - Although physiographically alike to the zones 3 and 4, this one is different from the others because it is a big area of small estates. It cultivates tobacco and maize for which chemical fertilizers and organic manure are employed by those who possess some cattle; the maize is sold in grain to Rio de Janeiro; tobacco is prepared rolls which are sold to small local firms. Owing to their income the farmers pertain in their majority to the middle class. The density of population is high in the region. There is lack of credit and of · agricultural guidance, which cannot be given by the tobacco purchasers.

            The expansion of small farms started In Tuiutinga by the division of the decadent coffee farms In the neighborhood of Rio Pomba the owners of small farms produce simultaneously tabaco and milk and in the neighborhood of Astolfo Dutra they produce also sugar cane.

            6 - Sugar zone of Visconde do Rio Branco -'- In this zone predominate the sugar cane plantations which supply the sugar plants Those who work there have only sugar cane; the suppliers cultivate maize, coffee and rice also Both raise zebu cattle in the exceeding lands.

            7 - Coffee zones - At present, only at the extreme Northern and Northeastern "Zona da Mata" are found areas predominantly of coffee cultivation. The spacial connection between them is not known. The author distinguishes the following: a) Ervalia sub-zone almost decadent, with very large estates and very poor population; b) and c) Matipó and Manhumirim sub-zones, with good farms with sufflcient productlon; d) the coffee small farms which go from Manhumirim to Caparaó Velho, with good coffee yields.

            The "Zona da Mata" is one of the most inhabited of the State; its rural population is one of the biggest The decadence of agriculture have not occasioned a collapse of the regional urban life The censuses of 1940 and 1950 showed that while the total of population diminished in Zona da Mata, it generally increased in the towns. The decrease occurred, therefore, in the rural areas.

            The urban nuclei of the region are in their majority of the "Strassendorf" type and more rarely, of the "Castrum" type. The flourishing of industry and of commerce grew them in more complex types w!th greater spacial development.

            If the Rochefort method is applied to the urban system of the "Zona da Mata", the result is the hierarchy of cities in 6 categories. Of the five most important categories only the city of Bicas has a linear pattern In more or less uniform conditions of the physical environment, the conclusion reached is that there is a relation between the urban design and the functions o! the nucleus, and of these functions with its regional hierarchy.

            This monograph is destined as basis for the works of the Illiteracy Eradication Campaign which shall take place in Leopoldina and later, maybe, in Cataguases. So, a comparative summary is made of the history and geography of these two cities. The sit and the location of Cataguases were better. The construction of the highway Rio-Bahia, after the Second Word War placed Leopoldina in a more favorable position. The rural decadence of the Municipality of Cataguases liberated labour and attracted capital from other place to create industries in town. In Leopoldina, the industrialization is not so intense and came later; it was organized by local well-off farmers. The luxury trade and modern architecture are very advanced in Cataguases.

            For the organization of schools in the urban centers a greater number of small schools in the "Strassendorf" type, and a smaller number of bigger schools in the square and complex nuclei, shall be foreseen In the rural areas it is necessary that an investigation be made in the farms in order to choose adequate places for each school having in view to proportion to pupils short and practicable roads during any kind of weather. As a consequence of this work In favor of literacy, the exodus from the country to the cities of the population desirous of obtaining better wages shall be increased.