Manaus is located in the middle of the Amazon rainforest, but is home to more than 2.5 million people. Rubber made it South America’s richest city in the late 1800s and lured many wealthy Europeans.
Early settlement of Manaus
The history of the European colonization of Manaus began in 1499 with the Spanish discovery of the mouth of the Amazon River. The Spanish then continued to colonize the region north of Brazil. Development continued in 1668-1669 with the building of the Fort of São José da Barra do Rio Negro by the Portuguese in order to ensure its predominance in the region, especially against the Dutch, at that time headquartered in what is today Suriname. The fort was constructed in rock and clay, with four cannon guarding the curtains. It continued to function for more than 100 years. Next to the fort there were many indigenous mestizos, who helped in its construction and began to live in the vinity.
Manaus was at the center of the Amazon region’s rubber boom during the late 19th century. For a time, it was “one of the gaudiest cities of the world”. Historian Robin Furneaux wrote of this period, “No extravagance, however absurd, deterred” the rubber barons. “If one rubber baron bought a vast yacht, another would install a tame lion in his villa, and a third would water his horse on champagne.” The city built a grand opera house, with vast domes and gilded balconies, and using marble, glass, and crystal, from around Europe. The opera house cost ten million (public-funded) dollars. In one season, half the members of one visiting opera troupe died of yellow fever. The opera house, called the Teatro Amazonas, has been restored and was used in scenes of the Werner Herzog film Fitzcarraldo (1982). After a gap of almost 90 years, it is producing live opera again.
When the seeds of the rubber tree were smuggled out of the Amazon region to be cultivated on plantations in Southeast Asia, Brazil and Peru lost their monopoly on the product. The rubber boom ended abruptly, many people left its major cities, and Manaus fell into poverty. The rubber boom had made possible electrification of the city before it was installed on many European cities, but the end of the rubber boom made the generators too expensive to run. The city was not able to generate electricity again for years.
The Brazilian government declared a duty-free zone in Manaus, which helped stimulate the economy as it attracted more tourists. Today it is a center of ecotourism and biology tours, as visitors explore the Amazon Basin.
Geography – The largest city in northern Brazil, Manaus occupies an area of 11,401 square kilometres (4,402 sq mi), with a density of 144.4 inhabitants/km². It is the neighboring city of Presidente Figueiredo, Careiro, Iranduba, Rio Preto da Eva, Itacoatiara and Novo Airão.
Manaus has a tropical monsoon climate (Am) according to the Köppen climate classification system, with more or less consistent temperatures all year round. Because the driest month, August, sees less than 60 mm (2.4 in) of precipitation, the city’s climate falls under the tropical monsoon climate category instead of the tropical rainforest climate category. The wet season covers remaining 11 months (September–July).
The Amazon represents over half of the planet’s remaining rainforests and comprises the largest and most species-rich tract of tropical rainforest in the world. Wet tropical forests are the most species-rich biome, and tropical forests in the Americas are consistently more species rich than the wet forests in Africa and Asia . As the largest tract of tropical rainforest in the Americas, the Amazonian rainforests have unparalleled biodiversity. More than one-third of all species in the world live in the Amazon Rainforest.
Manaus sprawls, but the center of town, the Centro where most of the hotels and attractions are located, rises above the river on a slight hill. As the largest city and a major port on the river, Manaus is commercial. Local industries include brewing, shipbuilding, soap manufacturing, the production of chemicals, computers, motorcycles and petroleum refining of oil brought in by barge and tourism.
The mobile phone companies LG, Nokia, Samsung, Siemens, Sagem, Gradiente and BenQ-Siemens operate mobile phone manufacturing plants in Manaus. Plastic lens manufacturer Essilor also has a plant here. The Brazilian sport utility vehicle manufacturer Amazon Veiculos is headquartered in Manaus. Two airlines, MAP Linhas Aéreas and Manaus Aerotáxi, have headquarters on the grounds of Eduardo Gomes International Airport in Manaus.