Rich in gold and minerals of high economic value, Roraima was the scene of fierce, and often violent, disputes between Indians, farmers and prospectors for land use, in the 1980s and 1990s.
The state of Roraima is located in the extreme north of Brazil and occupies an area of 225,116 km2. It is limited to the northwest and north with Venezuela, to the east with Guyana and the state of Pará and to the south and west with the state of Amazonas. Roraima includes in its territory the northernmost point in Brazil, Mount Caburaí, located in the Serra de Pacaraima, 5o16’20 ”above the equator.
About 60% of the surface of Roraima is below 200m of altitude, 25% between 200m and 300m, 14% between 300 and 900m and 1% above 900m. Large extensions of flat or slightly wavy relief dominate the state. Two units make up the morphological picture: the wavy plateau and the northern cliffs. Both are an integral part of the Guiana plateau, which extends to the north of the Amazonian plain.
The wavy plateau consists of a large pediplane, the monotony of which is broken up by isolated and dispersed massifs and peaks. The northern cliffs are the edge of a higher plateau, which extends mainly through the territories of Venezuela and Guyana. These escarpments, which dominate the undulating plateau to the north, are named in Roraima, the mountain ranges Parima and Pacaraima and Mount Roraima, the latter at an altitude of 2,875 meters.
The hot and humid climates with little pronounced dry season (Am de Köppen) and hot sub-humid climates with a well-marked dry season (Aw) are registered in Roraima. The first dominates the western part of the state, with an average annual temperature of 24 ° C and total rainfall of 2,000 mm. The second dominates the eastern portion, with equally high temperatures and less abundant rainfall, with 1,500 mm per year.
The drainage network belongs to the Negro River basin (left bank). The main river is the Branco, whose basin encompasses the entire area of Roraima, with the exception of a small part located to the south, drained by the Jauaperi and Jufari rivers. About 72% of Roraima’s surface is covered by the rainforest that covers the southern and western portions of the state. The remaining 28% correspond to the closed fields of the northern and eastern portion.
In 1950, the old territory of Rio Branco had a population of less than 20,000 inhabitants. In the 1970s, Roraima’s demographic growth surpassed the national average, with 6.83% per year; and population development grew even more in the following decade, at 10.55% per year. Even so, in the early 1990s, the population density was just over one inhabitant per square kilometer. More than half of the population was concentrated in the capital, Boa Vista. The rest were dispersed in the region of closed fields.
Agriculture and extractivism
The main economic activity of the state is cattle ranching, developed in the areas of savanna fields. Due to difficulties in communicating with Manaus, the activity turned mainly to the markets of Venezuela and Guyana. In the early 1980s, agricultural production experienced a great development. In addition to rice, beans, corn and cassava, traditional cultures that have expanded in an extraordinary way, the region already produced coffee, cocoa, peanuts, sunflower, guarana, rubber and cashew. The extraction of forest products, in the south, is done in a limited way; Brazil nuts and non-elastic gums are explored. The state is home to the Monte Roraima National Park, in addition to the ecological stations of Maracá, Niquiá and Caracaraí.
Energy and mining
The discovery of oil in Guyana, about twenty kilometers from the border with Brazil, in 1982, generated great expectations in Roraima; Petrobrás immediately started drilling the pioneer well Serra Tucano I, sixty kilometers from Boa Vista. In the northern portion, gold and diamond mining is practiced. The indigenous lands (of the Yanomami and Maimiris-Atroaris) are particularly coveted, as there are supposed to be rich mineral deposits. In 1993, the Jatapu River was dammed for the construction of a new hydroelectric plant, destined to supply the chronic energy deficiency in the state.
Roraima offers tourists diversified natural environments that are still intact. The Amazon rainforest extends over much of the state. To the north, the mountains, with rivers and waterfalls and the mild mountain climate in the equatorial zone, stand out. In the center and in the extreme north, the savannas, cut by streams and with their vegetation characterized by buritizais.
About 140km north of Boa Vista is the archaeological and paleontological ensemble of Pedra Pintada, where paintings and rock engravings are found in vaults and walls of strange rock formations.
The state’s handicrafts are rich, with strong indigenous characteristics. In the capital, on Sundays there is a craft and typical food fair, with pieces of ceramics, vines, leather, wood, fibers and soapstone, highlighting the typical pots of Macuxi ceramics. The typical food presents the characteristics of Amazonian dishes, where the fish is highlighted.