city's name, meaning "fortress," is the only visible
legacy in modern Fortaleza of its earlier eventful history.
Prosperity came to the city in the 19th century when
ranching was rapidly expanding and Fortaleza became
a major port for the hinterland. For decades, the most
important export, however, was labor; during drought
years working men and their families were transported
from here in huge numbers to the rubber plantation zones
of the Amazon and to expanding industrial cities in
a sprawling city of almost two million inhabitants,
Fortaleza is the capital of the State of Ceará
and one of the chief commercial centers of Brazil's
northeast region. Despite its size, the city's layout
is easy to grasp; the center is built in blocks that
form the commercial, administrative and religious heart.
A French architect designed the original street pattern
in the 19th century, contracted by the ambitious city
fathers that hoped to turn Fortaleza into "The Paris
of the North." More recently, the city has made attempts
to expand the tourist trade and encourage the construction
of luxury hotels along the city's fine beaches.