Fortaleza - Encyclopedia

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FORTALEZA (usually called Ceara by foreigners), a city and port of Brazil and the capital of the state of Ceara, on a crescent-shaped indentation of the coast-line immediately W. of Cape Mucuripe or Mocoripe, 72 m. from the mouth of the Ceara river, in lat. 3° 42' S., long. 38° 30' W. Pop. (1890) of the municipality, including a large rural district, 40,902. The city stands on an open sandy plain overlooking the sea, and is regularly laid out, with broad, well-paved, gas-lighted streets and numerous squares. Owing to the aridity of the climate the vegetation is less luxuriant than in most Brazilian cities. The temperature is usually high, but it is modified by the strong sea winds. Fortaleza has suffered much from epidemics of yellow-fever, small-pox and beri-beri, but the climate is considered to be healthy. A small branch of the Ceara river, called the Pajehu, traverses the city and divides it into two parts, that on its right bank being locally known as Outeiro. Fortaleza is the see of a bishopric, created in 1854, but it has no cathedral, one of its ten churches being used for that purpose. Its public buildings include the government house, legislative chambers, bishop's palace, an episcopal seminary, a lyceum (high school), Misericordia hospital, and asylums for mendicants and the insane. The custom-house stands nearer the seashore, 14 m. from the railway station in the city, with which it is connected by rail. The port is the principal outlet for the products of the state, but its anchorage is an open roadstead, one of the most dangerous on the northern coast of Brazil, and all ships are compelled to anchor well out from shore and discharge into lighters. Port improvements designed by the eminent engineer Sir John Hawkshaw have been under construction for many years, but have made very slow progress. The Baturite railway, built by the national government partly to give employment to starving refugees in times of long-continued droughts, connects the city and its port with fertile regions to the S.W., and extends to Senador Pompeu, 178 m. distant. The exports include sugar, coffee, rubber, cotton, rum, rice, beans, fruits, hides and skins.

Fortaleza had its origin in a small village adjoining a fort established at this point in early colonial times. In 1654 it took the name of Villa do Forte da Assumpcao, but it was generally spoken of as Fortaleza. In 1810 it became the capital of Ceara, and in 1823 it was raised to the dignity of a city under the title of Fortaleza da Nova Braganca.

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