Amazonia and the North

In 1541, lost Spanish conquistador Francisco de Orellana returned from a harrowing year-long adventure with frightening tales of ferocious bands of female warriors in an inland river region. Europeans considered these women to be remnants of a tribe that killed Achilles at Troy, thus giving birth to the name: Amazon. Three hundred years later, British naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace roamed the region and returned to extol what is today the most salient point in the Amazon: the incredible biodiversity. Indeed the Amazon is the most biodiverse region, with respect to both plants and animals, on earth.
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Jungle Lodge in ManausThe Brazilian Amazon region encompasses the states of Amazonas, and its capital of Manaus, and the more eastern state of Para, and its capital of Belem. While many of the region's four million still live in traditional manners like their ancestors, a majority have moved to cities.

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Amazonas and Manaus
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Located at the intersection of the two main tributaries of the Amazon River, the Rio Negro and the Solimoes, Manaus has recently experienced marked economic and demographic growth, almost reaching two million inhabitants. Manus first shot onto the global stage during the rubber boom of the late 18th century, when its fabulous architectural wonders were constructed, including Teatro Amazonas and the Customs house. In 1910 the boom came to a screeching halt when a British merchant took some rubber seeds and planted them in sprawling and wildly successful plantations in Malaysia. Subsequent government trade policies turned Manaus into a manufacturing center in the second half of the twentieth century. Today, however, the Brazilian military and tourism industries generate the majority of employment.

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Para and Belem
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Belem Market BuildingFounded in 1616, Belem is situated at the mouth of the Amazon River, where it meets the Atlantic Ocean. It, like its neighbor Manaus, became fabulously wealthy during the 18th century rubber boom, and proceeded to import all manner of imported good from Europe, including a Scotch cast-iron market hall, English parade grounds, a Roman basilica, and an Italian opera house. Following the rubber crash, this city of 1.5 million plays an important economic role as an exit point for Amazonian goods. The town is a delight for tourists, who relish the Ver-o-Peso Market, which offers every type of good one could imagine from the jungle, and the downtown, with its slowly disintegrating stock of ostentatious 19th century buildings. By way of ecotourism, head to nearby Marajo, the world's largest freshwater island, where you'll find birds, caimans, piranha, and water buffalo.

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