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Maranhao and Grao Para

The captaincies of Maranhao and Grao-Para, were headed by a governor general, who resided half the year in Sao Luis and the other half in Santa Maria de Belem or Para. Over time, this latter city became the residence of the governor-general, until finally the two provinces were declared independent of each other. Ceara was already separated as an independent captaincy, which later also happened to Piaui.

Bahia, Pernambuco, Piaui, Ceara. Maranhao

(VI) In general, the agricultural system in Maranhao corresponds to that of other parts of Brazil; the weather and local accidents, however, give it certain variations, as mentioned in brief:

Cotton field in Maranhao

Cotton - Its cultivation in coastal regions is the same as in the interior of the province. Caiapó is considered of the best quality. Cotton is packaged in large-scale coarse fabric bags that are also exported to neighboring provinces, particularly Para, for blacks' clothing. Consumption in the country amounted to only 12,000 arrobas annually.


Rice - after cotton, the most important production of the province. Annual production is estimated at an average of 560,000 to 580,000 and even 600,000 bushels, of which a third is exported; the rest is mainly used for black food. These prefer the cassava flour rice; In the country, a distinction is used, which seems to come from the Arab medical school, considering rice as hot food, whereas cassava flour is considered cold food. Rice thrives best on fresh, strong ground where few or no palm trees are found. It is customary to sow from January to May, putting three grains in a pit, and these pits should be separated one and a half feet apart. After five months the harvest is ripe. This is entirely different from that used in southern Europe, as only the ears are cut, taken in the left hand, and the foot is trodden, burying in the ground, so that it can again grow roots. and, two months after the punch, often yields an abundant harvest again. A black slave can thus collect three bushels daily. Often rice is grown in conjunction with cotton, serving the rotting straw to spoil.

This branch of farming was also especially encouraged and spread by the Maranhao Trading Company. Through it, around 1766, Carolina's white rice was imported to replace what was previously planted in the country (red rice or ground rice), and a mill was established to peel it. Almost incredible is the increase of this product, because, exporting in the year 1763 only 285 arrobas, already in 1821 increased the exportation to 284,721 arrobas. Only on the occasion of our stay there was an English steam machine set up to peel rice.


Sugar plantation

Sugar cane - By the time of the Dutch invasion (1637 to 1644), there were already five sugar mills on the mainland of the province, along the Itapicuru River;

Sugar mill

from that time onwards the number of them doubled, so when for the province's consumption the few thousand arrobas of the poor sugar production did not arrive, it was necessary to import from Parnaiba and Paraiba do Norte some 12,000 to 16,000 arrobas.

The reason for this was not, however, the small cultivation of sugarcane, but rather the widespread view that the soil inland was not as good for the sugar for cachaca production. Among the 4,855 farms that existed throughout the province in the year 1821, there were 115 that made cachaca with sugarcane juice often with very small and poorly built distillation apparatus. The production of this sometimes very bad cachaca, the brandy of the earth, does not annually maintain more than 400 “kites”(containers), and it is necessary to import a considerable amount of brandy from the Carribean islands and from Portugal.

Sugar processing factory

Sugarcane is now planted here in the country, especially the so-called Caian sugarcane. Planting in low, moist soil is done at the start of the rainy season, and in the usual way. Sugarcane is cut in the second and third year, throughout the dry season, from July to December. A properly treated sugarcane field would last 10 to 15 years; but it is customary to abandon it already in the third year, taking advantage of it for grazing cattle.