Located in the North-eastern Region, Piauí is the smallest of Brazil’s coastal states.
It started to be populated by European settlers in the 17th century, when herdsmen, mainly from Bahia, came looking for new pastures. Up until 1718 the state belonged to Bahia, but was passed over to Maranhão. In 1811 it was promoted to the category of an independent Captaincy.
The state is known for its high number of archaeological sites, which contain the vestiges of pre-historic humans, dating back up to 50,000 years, in the Serra da Capivara National Park, the Serra das Confusões and Sete Cidades.
Finds in the region have included the oldest ceramic in the Americas, a 10,000-year-old block of paint, human and animal fossils, cave paintings and many other antique artefacts. Such items can today be seen in the Museu do Homem Americano, in São Raimundo Nonato.
The piauiense population reflects a mix of influences – black, white and indigenous – and its economy is based on agriculture, particularly cotton, rice, sugar cane and mandioc root. Other important industries nowadays are chemicals, textiles, beverages and livestock.
Although it is the state with the least coast, it makes up for a lack of quantity with an excess of quality – the famous Delta do Rio Parnaíba, made up of over 70 islands – is stunningly beautiful, with its rivers, streams, bayous, sand dunes and lakes. In addition to the Delta, tourist attractions include the sunset at the Pedra do Sal beach, the Porto das Barcas terminal and the refreshing Lagoa do Portinho.
The diversity and miscegenation of the population is apparent in the traditional mud houses covered with buriti straw, the coastal rafts, local herdsmen and the carnauba straw collectors.
Piauí’s cuisine is particularly worthy of note thanks to its indigenous influences, and its use of ingredients such as corn, mandioc flour, honey and pepper. The most traditional dishes are prepared using earthenware cooking pots. The biggest hits are Carne de Sol, Sarapatel and Panelada.
Piauí folk dances are predominantly spontaneous and simple, but always pleasantly surprising. Some examples are the Bumba-Meu-Boi, the Cavalo Piancó, the Congada, Samba de Cumbucaoda de São Gonçalo and the Reisado.
With its archaeological, natural and cultural attractions, Piauí is one of Brazil’s lesser-known states, but is certainly worth the effort of paying a visit.
Area (km2): 251,577.738
Population: 3,204,028 (2015)
Term for a person from this state: piauiense
Dial code: 86 / 89
Bordering states: Tocantins, Maranhão, Bahia, Ceará and Pernambuco