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The Colonization of Roraima State, Brazil: an Analysis of its Major Migration Flows (1970 to 2010)

La colonisation du Roraima au Brésil : analyse des principaux flux migratoires (de 1970 à 2010)
Alexandre Magno Alves Diniz et Elisângela Gonçalves Lacerda


L’État de Roraima est l'une des régions les moins connues de l'Amazonie brésilienne, c’est aussi l'un des États brésiliens les moins peuplés. La géographie du Roraima a subi de profonds changements au cours des dernières décennies, avec une croissance très forte de sa population due aux migrations avec aussi d’intenses flux internes.
Les projets de colonisation agricole, formels et informels, ont été l’un des facteurs de ces changements toutefois ces projets caractérisés par un manque d’infrastructures de base et de services sociaux se sont accompagnés de faibles taux de rétention de migrants. Cet article retrace l'histoire récente de l'occupation du Roraima, à partir des données des recensements de 1970, 1980, 1991, 2000 et 2010. On y identifie et cartographie les principaux flux migratoires inter et intra-étatiques, pour analyser ensuite leurs impacts sur la configuration démographique de l'État.
Les résultats montrent que la migration a joué un rôle de premier plan dans les configurations territoriales, politiques et culturelles du Roraima. Au cours des cinquante dernières années, la migration elle-même a subi des changements importants en termes d’intensité, d’origine et de destinations prédominantes à l’intérieur et en dehors du Roraima.
Entre 1970 et 1980, il a connu un afflux considérable de migrants en provenance des régions du nord et du nord-est du pays, en particulier des États de Ceará, Maranhão, Pará et Amazonas. Depuis 1980 le Roraima attire également des migrants du Sud et du Sud-Est du Brésil, en particulier originaires du Rio Grande do Sul. Une grande partie de ceux qui qui sont arrivés au Roraima cherchait un libre accès à la terre dans les différents projets locaux de colonisation, spontanés ou dirigés. Néanmoins, souvent, ils n’ont pas trouvé de réponse à leur attente dans les zones rurales et ont fini par migrer de nouveau vers les centres urbains, en pleine croissance, de l'État. Ces migrants ruraux vers les villes se sont ajoutés à ceux, innombrables, qui provenaient des réserves indiennes, aggravant ainsi les problèmes urbains existants. Les dynamiques migratoires observées sont fortement liées à la construction et à la configuration du Roraima, elles mettent en lumière un certain nombre de problèmes auxquels fait face la population de l'État aujourd'hui.

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1Frontier expansion has historically been an integral part of the development strategies of many countries sharing the Amazon basin, as it has been portrayed as the panacea for many social and economic problems. It serves to redistribute population from densely inhabited areas, provides land and income to the landless, promotes regional development, and serves geopolitical interests of countries [Martine, 1981 and 1984; Sewastynowicz, 1986].

2The exploration of the Brazilian Amazon since 1945 has involved centrally planned investments in roads, railroad, industries, mineral resources exploration, agriculture, ranching, and colonization projects. Government policies have been highly inconsistent, favoring peasants at times and national and multinational corporations at others. This erratic approach has led to widespread conflicts among these agents, and chronic displacement of settlers, re-migration and circulation. Moreover, the colonization projects implemented in the region have displayed low migrant retention rates, fueling a dynamic mobility system. In fact, some scholars argue that the Amazonian frontier no longer constitutes an alternative to the social pressures of rural Brazil, as most of the local resources have already been claimed by the capitalist agents [Martins, 1980; Sawyer, 1981 and 1984]. Nevertheless, the Amazon region continues to be perceived as the peasants’ safe haven by many and migrants keep arriving. The years to come promise conflicts over local resources and an intensification of mobility, as the laissez-faire approach adopted by recent administrations have done little to diminish internal social problems and conflicts.

3Among the various areas of the region, Roraima State is particularly important as it represents one of the most active agricultural frontiers of the Amazon region, displaying a relatively new migration history. Despite having its first attempts of occupation dating back to the eighteenth century, it was only during the last decades of the twentieth century that Roraima experienced significant growth via migration.

4Roraima is located in the northernmost portion of the Brazil, along the borders with Venezuela and Guyana (Figure 1). The state encompasses 225,116.1 km², with most of its territory lying in the Northern hemisphere. Despite its remoteness, the state was the fastest growing area of Brazil during the 1980's and early 1990’s, constituting the latest booming area of the Brazilian Amazon. Little is known of Roraima; most studies dealing with the Brazilian Amazon scarcely contain any reference to the state [IBGE, 1992; MacMillan, 1995].

Figure 1. Roraima State Geographical Context

Figure 1. Roraima State Geographical Context

Sources: PUC-MINAS – PPGG-TIE; Urban and Regional Studies Lab; Basemap: IBGE- 2010; INCRA, 2011; ANA, 2010; Geographic Coordinate System: Datum SAD, 1969 Organization: Elisangela Lacerda.

5Like other Amazonian States, Roraima received over the last decades a number of government incentives in order to promote its physical occupation. However, official colonization policies proved to be highly inconsistent failing to provide colonists with the necessary means to develop stable livelihoods giving way to a continuous cycle of migration. Interstate migrants reach Roraima in search of land, and after spending a few years at colonization projects they move on resettling themselves in the encroaching urban centers of the State or in newly created agricultural settlements. This cycle of migration exacerbates urban social problems also adding pressure to rural resources. Census data indicate that Roraima was the only State where the number of extremely poor households had increased over the last decade, going from 14,178 households in 2000 to 15,626 in 2010. This phenomenon is undoubtedly related to the cycle of migration just described, evidencing peoples’ difficulty to become economically productive.

  • 1 The so called fixed date migration data were used, which bring information on the municipalities Br (...)
  • 2 This compilation disregarded immigrants with origin and destinations unknown or unstated, fact that (...)
  • 3 To identify inter and intra-state migrants, we worked with migration data made available by the las (...)

6Despite the intuitive recognition of these processes we are yet to systematically address these migration flows, accounting for their magnitude, dynamics, nature, and direction. This paper promotes a historical survey of migration to and within Roraima over the last decade exploring its impacts upon the demographic configuration of the state. To do so we use migration data from the last Brazilian census1. With the help of SPSS software the number of immigrants residing in the State of Roraima , as well as the number of emigrants were identified, thus permitting the construction of net migration information for each municipality2. These data, in turn, were used to create migrant flow maps with the aid of the ArcGIS software3.

The paper initially provides an overall historical and geographical contextualization of Roraima internal migration in Brazil, followed by a discussion of predominant interstate and intrastate migration flows. Lastly, we highlight and put major results into perspective.

Historical context

  • 4 Indigenous settlement directed by missionaries. The first Portuguese missionaries were established (...)

7The history of Roraima is closely associated with that of the rest of the Brazilian Amazon. Given its remote location, the area remained isolated for centuries until the Portuguese implemented the first aldeamentos4 in the 18th century. The model proved to be ineffective as the physical isolation combined with the dependency upon larger Amazonian centers for supplies and the hostile native populations jeopardized this colonization attempt [Ambtec, 1994; Freitas, 1997].

  • 5 In 1789 the first cattle ranch (Royal Ranch São Bento) was introduced in the natural pastures of No (...)

8Roriama’s isolation was finally broken with the rubber cycle when the local economy and population expanded substantially. The chief economic activity at the time was not the extraction of latex, as the local rubber trees yielded low quality latex. Instead, Roraima’s economy prospered with the production of beef in the cattle ranches of the savanna region, becoming the primary source of beef for the entire Northern Amazon sub-region5 [Barros, 1995; Freitas, 1997; Silveira and Gatti,1988; Souza, 1986]. This period also coincides with the arrival of the first Northeast Brazil migrants. Fleeing the recurrent droughts that plagued Northeast Brazil, many individuals spontaneously arrived in Roraima, seeking employment in the thriving beef industry. Notwithstanding the economic bonanza of the time, Roraima remained sparsely populated, as cattle ranching was undertaken in an extensive fashion, requiring little labor demands. It is estimated that around 10,000 individuals inhabited Roraima by 1900. With the demise of the rubber economy, this small population became even smaller as many returned to birth places, or relocated elsewhere in the Amazon. By 1920 the area known today as Roraima counted on 7,424 individuals [Silveira and Gatti, 1988].

9With the demise of the cattle-ranching economy, mining became the primary economic activity. The discovery of gold and diamond mines along the river Cotingo promoted the arrival of former rubber tappers from all over the Amazon. During the 1930’s diamond mines were discovered in the Tepequém mountains [Vieira, 1971]. As a result of the revitalized economy, the population reached 10,509 by 1940 [Silveira and Gatti, 1988, and Freitas, 1997].

  • 6 These flows originate especially in the valleys of the Mearin and Pindaré rivers in Maranhão - most (...)

10President Vargas (1930-1945) implemented a series of measures to boost economic development in the Amazon region, the most relevant for Roraima was the 1943 decree that created the Federal Territory of Rio Branco, later renamed Federal Territory of Roraima. With the implementation of the Federal territory, Roraima experienced the first attempts toward a more permanent occupation of its lands. Daring colonization projects were implemented by local governmental officials, which promoted the transference of hundreds of peasants from the economic depressed areas of Northeast Brazil. Directed migration prioritized different source states, but natives of Maranhão were the most prolific immigrant group. Since the 1940’s Maranhão State had become the primary migrant source area for Roraima. This historical linkage strengthened over time, building and perpetuating very channelized flows6 [Freitas, 1997]. These colonization attempts frustrated government officials, as tropical diseases, disorganization, and the general lack of infrastructure discouraged permanent settlement among migrant families, who moved on to urban areas in Roraima and elsewhere in the Amazon.

11The Federal Territory status along with the creation of agricultural colonies had a profound impact on the local population. The 1950 census enumerated 18,116 individuals, 80% above the 1940 mark. The growth trend continued in the 1950´s, culminating in a population of 28,304 in 1960 [Silveira and Gatti, 1988; Souza, 1986]. Yet, Roraima remained sparsely populated and economically isolated. A major impediment for the occupation and development of the territory was its sole reliance upon Rio Branco for transportation. The river challenged navigation during the dry season (October to April), due to the presence of falls along its course. This shortcoming was resolved in 1976 when a road linking Boa Vista to Manaus (BR 174) established the first terrestrial-link with the rest of Brazil. The road was eventually extended to the Venezuelan border and concluded in 1998. It is also worth mentioning the construction of Perimetral Norte (Northern Perimeter) road, which opened up the isolated lands of Southern Roraima.

12The construction of these roads marks the beginning of a new era in the occupation of the region, as besides fostering a year-round connection with the rest of the country, they opened vast tracts of “new lands” that were explored in various colonization projects. As a result, the population which was slightly over 28,000 inhabitants in 1960, reached 40,885 in 1970. The upward trend continued during the 1970s and by 1980 the population had reached 79,159 people.

13The discovery of gold and diamond mines in the northern portions of Roraima in the mid 1980’s, drew thousands of miners to the area. It is estimated that over 40,000 individuals were directly involved in the mining rush between 1987 and 1991, not to mention those involved in the maintenance of the mining activity such as cooks, store clerks, pilots, and so forth [Macmillan, 1995]. Owing to the intense mining activity, Roraima´s population grew at staggering 10.64% a year during the 1980’s nearly tripled its population. Roraima constituted the fastest growing Brazilian State at the time, reaching a population of 217,583 by 1991 [IBGE, 1992].

14The mining activity was conducted mostly in clandestine fashion in Indian lands. The Ianomami and the Raposa Serra do Sol reservations were hard hit by gold tappers, who introduced a series of diseases, raped and killed Indians, and damaged the local environment. Earning widespread media coverage, the demise of Roraima Indians became a world concern. Pressured by foreign governments, environmental and human rights agencies, the federal government halted the illegal mining in 1990, removing the more renitent miners. The closing of the garimpos, in turn, has provoked a significant migratory reflux, dramatically slowing the population growth. Between 1991 and 1996 the annual rate of growth experienced by Roraima was 3.29%, much lower than the robust 10.64% annual rate prevalent between 1980 and 1991.

  • 7 The brigadier had already governed the Territory during the military dictatorship as an appointee o (...)

15The 1988 Federal Constitution transformed all former territories in states, including Roraima. In 1990, Ottomar de Souza Pinto7, an air force brigadier, became the first democratically elected governor of Roraima. Pinto was succeeded by Governor Neudo Campos, whose first term was marked by the political reconfiguration of Roraima. Given the population and economic growth experienced by the State during the 1980’s and early 1990’s, pressures mounted from various groups for political autonomy. Attending these demands, Roraima State house members created seven new municípios in early 1997, and as a result, Roraima is presently divided into 15 municipalities.

16The inception of the new municipalities created many job opportunities at the public administration sector. In turn, the agricultural frontier remained active also drawing migrants from all over Brazil. The combination of such factors led to another population surge during the late 1990s and 2000s making Roraima's population reach 324,397 inhabitants in 2000 and 450.479 inhabitants in 2010 (figure 2).

Figure 2. Evolution of Roraima State’s Total Population

Figure 2. Evolution of Roraima State’s Total Population

17The end result of this tremendous growth has been an uneven population distribution, an unbalanced urban network and a heavy concentration of people within urban areas. Within this context Boa Vista overwhelms all other municipalities displaying a population many times larger than the remaining political units (Figures 3 and 4). While the capital city counts close to 300 thousand inhabitants, the second largest municipality, Caracarai, held only 10,910 people in 2010.

Figure 3. The evolution of Roraima State’s Municipalities, except Boa Vista

Figure 3. The evolution of Roraima State’s Municipalities, except Boa Vista

Figure 4. The evolution of the municipality of Boa Vista, Roraima

Figure 4. The evolution of the municipality of Boa Vista, Roraima

18It is also important to realize that while Boa Vista has consistently experienced population growth over the past four decades the same cannot be said about the other municipalities. In fact, places like Alto Alegre and São João da Baliza experienced a decrease in population numbers, during the 2000s and 1990s respectively.

19Another important characteristic of Roraima's population is its intrinsic urban nature. The urbanization trend has intensified over the last decade, as most municipalities experienced substantive increases in their urban population between 2000 and 2010: Caracaraí, Rorainópolis, Alto Alegre, Cantá, Bonfim, Pacaraima, Normandia, Uiramutã, Caroebe e São Luiz. Surprisingly, among the municipalities experiencing a decrease in the relative participation of their urban populations is Boa Vista, along with Iracema e São João da Baliza (Table1).

  • 8 The Brazilian Federation is subdivided into States, which are, in turn, subdivided into municipalit (...)

Table 1. Urbanization Rates8 - Roraima Municipalities (1970 to 2010)













Alto Alegre






Boa Vista




























































São João da Baliza






São Luiz


















Source: IBGE - Censo Demográfico de 1970, 1980, 1991, 2000 e 2010

20The decrease in urban population observed in some municipalities, including Boa Vista is a result of the installation of colonization projects coordinated by the National Institute of Colonization and Agrarian Reform (INCRA) and the Land Institute of Roraima (INTERAIMA) over the past years in rural areas. In fact, among the 66 current colonization projects underway in Roraima, 36 were created since 2000. But where does Roraima draw its migrants from? Once in Roraima how do they move about?

Predominant migration flows

21Once we have built the historical and geographical context for the paper, we now turn our attention to the discussion of predominant inter and intrastate migration flows. Figure 5 brings information on the overall number of migrants arriving in Roraima from other Brazilian States, along with the number of migrants moving within Roraima State at various points in time. The first noticeable aspect is that interstate migrants are far more numerous than intrastate ones. Nonetheless, while both have experienced substantial increments over the past decades, the rate of growth of intrastate migration has been more pronounced, suggesting that within a few years one will witness its overtake. Two factors conspire for the surge in intrastate mobility. First, the emancipation of municipalities and the inherent economic development it induces, creating job and economic opportunities where once none existed. Secondly, the low migrant retention rates endemic at colonization projects also fuels intrastate mobility, as rural settlements generally do not hold the means to retain the migrants it attracts.

Figure 5. Inter and Intrastate Migration - Roraima: 1975-1980, 1986-1991, 1995-2000 e 2005-2010

Figure 5. Inter and Intrastate Migration - Roraima: 1975-1980, 1986-1991, 1995-2000 e 2005-2010

Source: IBGE - Censo Demográfico de 1970, 1980, 1991, 2000 e 2010

22Having explored the evolution of general inter and intrastate mobility, we now identify major migrant source and destination areas. Diniz (2008) mapped the so called "fixed data" migrants in Roraima based on the 1970, 1980, 1991 and 2000 Brazilian Censuses. The study demonstrates the presence of highly channelized migration flows during the 1970s as roughly all Roraima inmigrants originated in northern Brazil, especially within the Amazonian states of Amazonas, Pará and Acre, as well as in Maranhão and Ceará. At the time, the vast majority of migrants were interstate in nature, seeking Boa Vista and Caracaraí as destinations within Roraima. At that time it was also noticeable some population exchanges between Boa Vista and Caracarai, but with very shy numbers (Figure 6).

23During the 1980s one witnesses an intensification of previous flows, especially those arising in Manaus (Amazonas State), Itaituba (Pará State) and Imperatriz (Maranhão State). The escalation of these flows is clearly related to the discovery of gold and diamond in Roraima, which led to a massive transference of miners from other active or declining mining areas of the Amazon Region, such as Itaituba, Santarém and Porto Velho. Interstate flows originating in regions other than the North and Northeast Brazil are noteworthy at the time: Goiânia (Goiás), São Paulo (São Paulo) e Rio de Janeiro (Rio de Janeiro) (Figure 6).

24The 1990s brought significant changes upon interstate migration. From 1992 onwards a series of colonization projects is created in Roraima, representing a substantial migrant pull factor for the State. Curiously the diversity of migration flows diminishes with the increasing importance of those streams developed during the 1970s and 1980s, especially the ones beginning in the capital cities of the Amazon region (Manaus, Belém and Porto Velho); Northeast Brazil (São Luis and Fortaleza); the interior of Maranhão State (Zé Doca, Santa Inês, Bacabal and Imperatriz); and the interior of Pará state (Santarém e Itaituba). Another aspect observed by Diniz (2008) is the fact that for the first time in history intra-state migratory flows are prominent, developing copious migration streams from the capital city of Boa Vista towards other municipal seats such as Cantá, Pacaraima, Caracaraí and Bonfim. These movements are generated by the wide availability of land at local colonization projects, as well as by the creation of employment positions at the local public sector market given the transformation of the former Territory of Roraima into the State of Roraima, in 1988 (Figure 6).

Figure 6. Roraima's main Migration Flows (1975-1980, 1986-1991 and 1995- 2000)

Figure 6. Roraima's main Migration Flows (1975-1980, 1986-1991 and 1995- 2000)

25Throughout the 2000s one witnesses three concurrent phenomena regarding migration in Roraima: the overall dwindling nature of interstate migration; the inception of unprecedented migration flows; and the strengthening of intrastate movements. Migrants arriving in Roraima still originate predominantly from the Amazon region, especially the states of Amazonas and Pará, where the cities of Manaus, Itaituba and Santarem overwhelm the system. Notice that historically these cities have provided numerous migrants to Roraima, fact perpetuated by the formation of migrant social networks. Northeast Brazil remains important in the overall migratory scheme most noteworthy the state of Maranhão, also highly influenced by the workings of migrant social networks. Nonetheless, new flows emerge in south-central Brazil, especially in Brasília (Distrito Federal) e Curitiba (Paraná). These old and new migration flows target mostly the city of Boa Vista, despite the fact that Caracaraí, Caroebe and Cantá also draw a sizable number of incomers (Figure 7).

26At the intrastate level, Roraima experienced a new migration paradigm marked by the intensification of population exchanges between Boa Vista and the other municipal seats. Outward movements from Boa Vista are directed to Bonfim, Pacaraima, Alto Alegre, Mucajaí, Caracaraí and Rorainópolis; whereas the in and outbound movements established by the capital city with Caracaraí and Rorainópolis are equivalent. The attractiveness of Rorainópolis is noteworthy, as after Boa Vista it is the município with the largest number of intrastate immigrants.

27Within this context Boa Vista deserves special attention as it has been working historically as a redistributor of population. Puzzled by the contradictory nature of migration in Roraima during the 1990s, Diniz (1997) set out to explore why despite the rural nature of migrant pull factors, the majority of Roraima's population was concentrated in the city of Boa Vista. Results indicated that at the height of the mining era, most miners established residencies in the city, where family members were settled, engaging in vicious circulatory movements between mines and the city. Concomitantly, a sizable number of landless peasants spent some time in Boa Vista, pressing land granting agencies for land, before remigrating to colonization areas. These movements are not captured by census data, being only tangible via intensive fieldwork and survey applications.

Figure 7. Roraima's main migration flows (2005-2010)

Figure 7. Roraima's main migration flows (2005-2010)

28These intense population exchanges have worked for the benefit of Boa Vista. Figure 6 brings intrastate net migration numbers illustrating that Boa Vista, despite the new paradigm of internal migration remains the most attractive destination within Roraima in the late 2000s, presenting a total of net migration of over 20 thousand individuals. It is also important to realize that during the 2000s Rorainópolis and Cantá presented positive migration exchange numbers, surpassing Caracaraí, which had been the second most important destination within the State in previous decades.

Figure 8. Roraima's Net Migration (2005-2010)

Figure 8. Roraima's Net Migration (2005-2010)

29Conversely, Normandia and Uiramutã present the smallest net migration numbers, due to the fact that their territory encompass large tracts of national parks and Indian lands, especially the Terra Indígena Raposa Serra do Sol, where human occupation is restricted. Pacaraima also displays similar limitations to its physical occupation, nonetheless, due to its geographical location, right along the border between Brazil and Venezuela, the municipality was able to present substantially larger net migration numbers.

Discussion and conclusions

30Roraima mirrors many current and past features and problems of the Amazon region. Roraima was the centerpiece of defense preoccupations, and the work of missionaries paved the way for Portuguese hegemony. The rubber cycle brought many nordestinos to the area, and mining has become an important economic activity since the end of the Second World War. The post-1964 military administrations brought massive infrastructural investments to the region, and also created a series of agricultural colonization projects. In turn, the fast population growth engendered by such investments and activities promoted the demise of natural vegetation and indigenous peoples echoing processes taking place elsewhere in the region. Recent massive immigration has also left marks upon Roraima's population profile, similar to those taking place in other parts of the Amazon region.

31The state has its share of peculiarities, notably its remoteness and special physical endowments. Given the presence of natural pastures in Northern Roraima, cattle were introduced much earlier than in other areas of the Amazon. Human beings, however, took much longer to arrive in sizable numbers. Massive occupation of Roraima took place only after the construction of the BR174 road in the late 1970’s, contrasting with the century-old migration and economic exploration of other Amazonian areas. This much later occupation had its implications, as the environmentally blind character of the exploration of other Amazonian areas was no longer in vogue when Roraima was opened to the world. As a result, the occupation and exploration of Roraima has been executed in a more careful fashion, given the watchful eyes of public opinion and the work of environmental and human rights groups. As a matter of fact, Roraima is the state in the Amazon region with the lowest level of deforestation.

32Roraima also differs from other areas of the Amazon, given the timid way in which corporate capital has ventured into the region. Despite its natural riches, there are no large-scale mining or timber operations, and local industries are embryonic. Resulting from the mild stage of capitalist exploration, and relatively recent human occupation, the number and intensity of conflicts over regional resources are substantially smaller.

33Migration represented a leading role in the territorial, political and cultural formation of Roraima. During the 1970s and 1980s the state received a considerable influx of migrants from the North and Northeast regions of Brazil, especially from Ceará, Maranhão, Pará and Amazonas states. Overtime migration flows were perpetuated due to the workings of very active migrant social networks, linking very specific communities at origins and destinations. Internally, the city of Boa Vista has played a paramount role attracting immigrants from other states and then redistributing them to other municipalities. The importance of Boa Vista can be grasped from a quick examination of Roraima's urban network, where it exerts the role of a primate city in a highly unbalanced system.

34The tremendous influx of migrants over the 1970s and 1980s had a direct impact in the creation of new municipalities, promoting regional development and economic change, which, in turn, fueled renewed migratory flows. The 1990s and 2000s witnessed an augmentation of such moves projecting an inversion in terms of importance of inter and intrastate moves in future years. After all, interstate long distance moves have historically dominated Roraima's migration system; nonetheless, over the last decades intrastate migration has grown at a much faster pace than longer moves.

35In the near future Roraima is likely to continue drawing migrants from traditional areas given the organic nature of migrant social networks and its tendency to remain active over time. On the other hand, new migration flows are likely to arise and intensify as regional development will create economic opportunities for many, intensifying formal and informal communication channels. Within this context, the service sector, especially the public administration system will allure urban bound migrants from various Brazilian cities. However, one cannot deny the fact that Roraima remains an active agriculture frontier, where the perspective of acquiring a free plot of land is still viable. Thus, Roraima will still receive large waves of landless peasants in the near future, most likely from traditional source areas. Nevertheless, in order to become a valid alternative for the Brazilian poor, it is imperative that current abandonment rates within colonization projects are diminished, preventing them from turning into a demographic void, while the peripheral areas of the encroaching urban places become increasingly plagued with poverty.

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1 The so called fixed date migration data were used, which bring information on the municipalities Brazilians were living on July 31, 2005.

2 This compilation disregarded immigrants with origin and destinations unknown or unstated, fact that does not invalidate the analysis given their diminutive proportions.

3 To identify inter and intra-state migrants, we worked with migration data made available by the last Brazilian censuses, using a five-year timeline as follows: 1975-1980, 1986-1991, 1995 -2000 and 2005-2010. Thus, we worked with the so called "fixed date" data based on the 2010, 2000 and 1991 censuses. However, as the 1980 census does not bring “fixed date" migration data, we deployed an alternative measure, applying a filter in which those individuals who had in 1980 less than five years of residence in the municipalities of Roraima and were at least 5 years old were selected. During the compilation of such information immigrants with unidentified origins and destinations were discarded, fact which does not pose any threat to the analysis given their small numbers.

4 Indigenous settlement directed by missionaries. The first Portuguese missionaries were established in Roraima in 1725 in order to “save” the local Indians groups and above all, aid the Portuguese crown to establish a more effective control over the region. As a result, a series of “aldeamentos” were set up along the Rio Branco.

5 In 1789 the first cattle ranch (Royal Ranch São Bento) was introduced in the natural pastures of Northern Roraima and due to the success of the endeavor, other ranches were soon created in the vast Northern savanna region [Souza, 1986].

6 These flows originate especially in the valleys of the Mearin and Pindaré rivers in Maranhão - most notably, in the municípios of Bacabal, Santa Inês, Largo da Pedra, Pedreiras, and Pio XII.

7 The brigadier had already governed the Territory during the military dictatorship as an appointee of the regime, being responsible for the creation of a series of agricultural colonies along the newly built roads, and the provision of a series of advantages and political favors for peasants. To this day, he is remembered throughout the colonization areas of the state as “the man who takes care of the pioneers”.

8 The Brazilian Federation is subdivided into States, which are, in turn, subdivided into municipalities. Municipalities are organized in terms of districts, generally displaying both urban and rural areas. In Brazil urban areas correlate with the seats of the municipality (named cities), and districts (named villages). Thus, the census recording agency (IBGE) regards as urban all the population inhabiting cities and villages, regardless of size and urban functions. The remaining of the municipality is regarded as rural.

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Table des illustrations

Titre Figure 1. Roraima State Geographical Context
Crédits Sources: PUC-MINAS – PPGG-TIE; Urban and Regional Studies Lab; Basemap: IBGE- 2010; INCRA, 2011; ANA, 2010; Geographic Coordinate System: Datum SAD, 1969 Organization: Elisangela Lacerda.
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Titre Figure 2. Evolution of Roraima State’s Total Population
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Titre Figure 3. The evolution of Roraima State’s Municipalities, except Boa Vista
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Titre Figure 4. The evolution of the municipality of Boa Vista, Roraima
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Titre Figure 5. Inter and Intrastate Migration - Roraima: 1975-1980, 1986-1991, 1995-2000 e 2005-2010
Crédits Source: IBGE - Censo Demográfico de 1970, 1980, 1991, 2000 e 2010
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Titre Figure 6. Roraima's main Migration Flows (1975-1980, 1986-1991 and 1995- 2000)
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Titre Figure 7. Roraima's main migration flows (2005-2010)
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Titre Figure 8. Roraima's Net Migration (2005-2010)
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Référence électronique

Alexandre Magno Alves Diniz et Elisângela Gonçalves Lacerda, « The Colonization of Roraima State, Brazil: an Analysis of its Major Migration Flows (1970 to 2010) », Espace populations sociétés [En ligne], 2014/2-3 | 2015, mis en ligne le 01 décembre 2014, consulté le 30 mars 2017. URL : ; DOI : 10.4000/eps.5817

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Alexandre Magno Alves Diniz

Professor at the Graduate Program in Geography
Pontifical Catholic University of Minas Gerais

Elisângela Gonçalves Lacerda

Doctoral student at the Graduate Program in Geography
Pontifical Catholic University of Minas Gerais

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Espace Populations Sociétés est mis à disposition selon les termes de la licence Creative Commons Attribution - Pas d'Utilisation Commerciale - Pas de Modification 4.0 International.

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