Rio Grande do Norte (lit. "Large River of the North", ) is one of the states of Brazil, located in the northeastern part of the country, on the edge of the South American continent. Because of its geographic position, Rio Grande do Norte has a strategic importance. It is the land of the folklorist Câmara Cascudo and is second in the world having the purest air, second only to Antarctica, according to NASA. Its 410 km (254 mi) of sand, much sun, coconut palms and lagoons are responsible for the fame of beaches, such as the secluded white sandy shores of Praia de Cajueiro, Genibapu (to the north of the capital, Natal), with sand dunes reaching 50 m (164 ft) in height. The beach of Baía Formosa, the prettiest of the south coast, has falésias, stretches with reefs and very popular for surfing. To the south, the beach of Sagi, a little more rustic, has clear waters and small dunes. In Natal, beside beaches, there are other tourist attractions, such as the fortress of Reis Magos and the Parque das Dunas, the second largest urban park in the country.
Two climates predominate: humid tropical, in the oriental littoral, and semi-arid, in the remaining (most part) of the State (including the North coast). The rainforest which once covered most of Brazil's coast had its northern end in the south of Rio Grande do Norte; the area north of Natal, the capital, is under dunes, a kind of formation associated with semi-arid climate. The semi-arid climate is characterized not only by the low level but also the irregularity of rainfall; some years can go by with no or very little rain; most of the interior of the State is part of the Polygon of Droughts (an area which receives special attention from the federal government). There are also many mangroves in the state, and the interior is dominated by rainforest. Rocas Atoll in the Atlantic Ocean, 260 km Northeast of Natal, also belongs to the state of Rio Grande do Norte.
The first European to reach the region may have been the Spaniard Alonso de Ojeda in 1499. The northeastern tip of South America, Cape São Roque, 20 miles to the north of Natal, was first officially visited by European navigators in 1501, in the 1501–1502 Portuguese expedition led by Amerigo Vespucci, who named the spot after the saint of the day. The Vespucci expedition also named the Potengi (Tupi-Guarani for "River of Shrimps") river, whose considerably large mouth contrasted with the nearby bodies of water, "Rio Grande" (Portuguese for "Great River"), after which the Captaincy, Province, and State were named. For decades thereafter, no permanent European settlement was established in the area, inhabited by the Potiguar tribe.
In the 16th century (between 1535 and 1598), it was explored by French pirates in search for brazilwood. In 1598, the Portuguese built the Forte dos Reis Magos and, in the following year, founded the city of Natal. Rasing cattle and sugarcane plantation lifted the local development and economy.
In 1633, the area became a battleground between the expansionist Portuguese, seeking to take more land for their Brazilian territories, and the Dutch, who gained a foothold in South America.
After a short period of peace and prosperity in Olinda and Recife, the sugar prices went down in the market of Amsterdam and the region entered into a serious economic crisis. The economic problems led the Portuguese settlers and native Brazilians to revolt against the Dutch in what is known today as the massacres of Cunhaú and Uruaçu.
The religious confrontations (the Portuguese-Brazilian Catholicism and the Dutch Calvinism), Portugal's restoration of the throne in 1640 and the reconquest of Maranhão in 1643, lead the Portuguese-Brazilians to undertake the 1645 uprising, led by André Vidal de Negreiros and João Fernandes Vieira. The governor of Bahia promised new Portuguese troops, but most of the rebels were Africans and Amerindians. In 1654, the Dutch were finally cast out.
According to the IBGE of 2007, there were 3,051,000 people residing in the state. The population density was 57.7 inh./km².
The service sector is the largest component of GDP at 50.2%, followed by the industrial sector at 44.2%. Agriculture represents 5.6% of GDP (2004). Rio Grande do Norte exports: fish and crustacean 30.5%, fruits 19.3%, woven of cotton 12.3%, petroleum 10.8%, cashew 8.5%, sugar 5.3%, chocolate 3.9%, sea salt 3.7% (2002).
Share of the Brazilian economy: 0.9% (2004).
Historically, Rio Grande do Norte has relied upon sugar and cattle for its livelihood. However, since the 1980s, the state government has realised that tourism is a lucrative industry, and more money is being poured into the construction of tourist resorts, and restoring colonial buildings in major cities.
Fruit is also grown in Rio Grande do Norte, with the state supplying 70% of Brazil's melons, and the state is famed for its mango and cashew fields. The world's largest cashew tree is located in the state; it has a circumference of 500 centimetres and occupies an area of 7,300cm², making it 70 times the size of average cashew trees. Rio Grande do Norte is also one of three Brazilian states that together produce the world's entire supply of carnauba wax.
Festa Junina was introduced to Northeastern Brazil by the Portuguese for whom St John's day (also celebrated as Midsummer Day in several European countries), on the 24th of June, is one of the oldest and most popular celebrations of the year. Differently, of course, from what happens on the European Midsummer Day, the festivities in Brazil do not take place during the summer solstice but during the tropical winter solstice. The festivities traditionally begin after the 12th of June, on the eve of St Anthony's day, and last until the 29th, which is Saint Peter's day. During these fifteen days, there are bonfires, fireworks, and folk dancing in the streets. Once exclusively a rural festival, today in Brazil it is largely an urban festival during which people joyfully and theatrically mimic peasant stereotypes and clichés in a spirit of jokes and good times. Typical refreshments and dishes are served. It should be noted that, like during Carnival, these festivities involve costume-wearing (in this case, peasant costumes), dancing, heavy drinking, and visual spectacles (fireworks display and folk dancing). Like what happens on Midsummer and St John's Day in Europe, bonfires are a central part of these festivities in Brazil.
The Port of Natal is specialized in cold storage cargo such as fruit, fish and shrimp, among others. It has its own customs facilities and is connected to Europe by direct navigation lines, mainly to the ports of Vigo, Rotterdam and Sheerness, which allows great agility and reduced costs for the shipment of your products. Besides having a modern infrastructure, competitive prices and qualified professionals, the access to the management of the Port is easy, meaning less bureaucracy for your transactions.