Sergipe (originally Sergipe D'El-Rey), is the smallest state of Brazil, located on the northeastern Atlantic coast of the country. It borders on two other states, Bahia in the south and west and Alagoas in the north, and in the east on the Atlantic Ocean. Aracaju is the capital and the largest city of the state. The warm waters of and tropical scenery along the coast have been attracting growing numbers of tourists from Brazil and abroad. In the capital, Aracaju, there are many options for tours, such as catamaran rides on the Rio Sergipe, that include a visit to the Ilha de Santa Luzia, or on the Rio Real, all the way to Mangue Seco in the state of Bahia. To the north, at the Praia de Pirambu, you can visit the base of the Tamar Project (where sea turtles lay their eggs). The history and the customs of the sergipano people are well represented in the Memorial of Sergipe.
São Cristóvão was the site of the first settlement by the Portuguese, in 1591 at Sergipe D'El-Rey, what is today Sergipe (the name Sergipe is actually a Tupi word, meaning river of "crab"), becoming the state's capital.
As with other states in the northeast, Sergipe was invaded numerous times by the Dutch, and frequently raided by French buccaneers. During the 1600s, the state was known throughout the Americas for its king-wood, a prized commodity that was the primary attraction in the buccaneer raids, and probably a factor in Dutch military expeditions. By the 1700s, the Portuguese military had driven off the pirates permanently.
In 1855, under the administation of provincial president Inácio Joaquim Barbosa, the capital was moved to Aracaju.
In the 1930s Sergipe became notorious for its outlaws, including Virgolino Ferreira da Silva, - better known as Lampião, the "King of Bandits", who terrorised the state for almost a decade until his beheading by the Brazilian police in 1938. His head was later displayed on a pole in a village square.
According to the IBGE of 2007, there were 2,007,000 people residing in the state. The population density was 91.3 inh./km².
The last PNAD (National Research for Sample of Domiciles) census revealed the following numbers: 1,280,000 Pardo (Brown) people (63.8%), 602,000 White people (30.0%), 114,000 Black people (5.7%), 10,000 Asian or Amerindian people (0.5%).
The industrial sector is the largest component of GDP at 53.9%, followed by the service sector at 39.1%. Agriculture represents 7% of GDP (2004). Sergipe exports: orange juice 66.1%, urea 20.8%, leather and footweares 4.6%, woven 2.3%, others juices 2% (2002).
Share of the Brazilian economy: 0.7% (2004).
Sergipe's economy is focused around the production of sugarcane, and the enormous cane fields, taking advantage of the wet and fertile soil, produce over 1.4 million tons of sugar annually. Unlike in many Brazilian states, cattle is not a major industry, as the land area of the state prevents large scale grazing. Along with sugarcane, cassava (617,400 tons annually) and oranges (14.4 million oranges annually) are grown. A small-scale leather and textiles industry also exists.
As a planned urban settlement, the town contains churches and religious ensembles dating back to the colonial period. Most of these monuments are concentrated around the São Francisco Square.
In 1939, São Cristóvão was designated as a National Treasure by the Instituto do Patrimônio histórico e Artístico Nacional - IPHAN (The Brazilian National Historical and Artistical Heritage Institute).
Landscape, rocky formations, crystal clear waters, ecological trails, Caatinga Theme Park, exuberant vegetation and diversified fauna and flora: this is Xingó, located in Canindé do São Francisco – on the banks of the lengthy and well-known São Francisco river. To navigate between the rocks of this gigantic cliff embedded in the middle of Sergipe’s Alto Sertão is an unforgettable experience. There are imposing valleys forming a 50 m-high canyon, surrounding a lake that, in certain points, reaches a depth of 190 m. Nests of herons and fluvial islands complete the spectacle. The rocks guard traces of the area’s first inhabitants who lived there more than 8,000 years ago. There are also traces of Lampião’s stay there with his gang of outlaws in less remote times. Angico trail, in Poço Redondo, leads to the cavern of the same name, where Lampião, Maria Bonita and nine other outlaws lost their lives. Located in the town of Canindé do São Francisco, 213 km (132 miles) from Aracaju, Xingó Canyon is one of the most famous rocky formations in the area, embellishing the landscape of the dry Northeastern backwoods. It is hot all year round, but the strong wind blowing from December to January keeps temperatures at a very comfortable level. Between May and August, it rains frequently.
In 1937, dictator Getúlio Vargas abolished all state flags and symbols, but they were allowed again in 1946. In 1951, when the Sergipe legislature began to consider restoring the state flag, it decided to change the number of stars, so that there would be one for every municipality in the state. In 1952, this new design was scrapped and replaced by the original 5 star design.