In 1530, Brazilian territory - up to that time ruled by the Portuguese court - was divided into hereditary captaincies. One of the captaincies, corresponding to the current State of Rio Grande do Norte, was granted to João de Barros and Aires da Cunha.
However, the colonization of these lands occurred only five years later, with the arrival of the first Portuguese expedition sent to Brazil.Around 60 years later another Portuguese expedition arrived in Brazil, to expel the invading French once and for all and to retake the captaincy.
With the completion of the fort the first settlement of the captaincy was formed, initially called the 'City of the Kings' and later being named the City of Natal (Christmas City in English). The origin of the name of the city has two versions: the day that the squadron entered the Potengi River, or the date of demarcation of the land by Jerônimo de Albuquerque on December 25, 1599.
Today, Natal is the gateway to the Americas, being the Brazilian capital closest to Europe and Africa. In 2005 it was considered the most peaceful city in Brazil, according to a survey by the Institute of Applied Economic Research (IPEA).
One of the main economic activities of Natal is tourism, which supports the city's economy along with oil and salt. Export products such as coffee, sugar, coconut and shrimp also feature in the local economy.
Hostelry and catering are important to the State capital. Natal appears in eighth position in the census of Brazilian hotels in terms of availability of beds, with 1.2% of the national market.
The Natal Tourism Center, an old jail house from the 19th century converted into a regional crafts market, is a popular destination for Brazilian and foreign tourists.
Another interesting attraction is the 'Barreira do Inferno', the only rocket launching base in Brazil, which offers guided tours of its facilities. Câmara Cascudo, a famous literary critic and chronicler from Natal, has two collections in his honor: the Câmara Cascudo Memorial - where his life's works are documented, and the Câmara Cascudo House - where he lived for most of his life and which now guards his furniture and personal belongings.
Brazilians and foreign visitors are amazed by the 400 kilometers of Atlantic coastline in Rio Grande do Norte, especially the paradisaic dunes.
Natal has numerous beaches and lush green dunes. One of the main attractions on the dunes is a beach buggy ride, which takes the visitor to visit some amazing scenery.
Among the most outstanding beaches are Ponta Negra, Via Costeira, Areia Preta, Artistas, Forte and Redinha. Each one has its own particular features; many offer activities for the tourist such as diving, surfing, sailing, windsurfing and kitesurfing.
Founded: 25 December, 1599
Area: 170 km²
Population: 806,203 inhabitants
Population Density: 4,734 inhabitants/km²
Gross Domestic Product (GDP): R$ 7.5 billion
Principal football teams: América and ABC
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