History - How was the Delta discovered?

More than 420 years ago, the Portuguese navigator Nicolau de Resende lost tons of gold, in a shipwreck on the northeast coast of Brazil. The accident was near the mouth of the river parnaíba, which divides the states of piauí and maranhão. For 16 years he tried, in vain, to rescue his precious cargo. But he discovered an even greater treasure: "a great river forms a verdant archipelago as it flows into the Atlantic," he said. Nicolau de Resende discovered the only open ocean delta in the Americas, the Parnaíba river delta.

The Foz do Parnaíba, in the form of Delta (the Greek letter, represented by a triangle), is divided into 5 arms. Other open ocean or ocean deltas occur at the mouth of the Nile (Africa) and Mekong (Asia) rivers.


Like the palm of the hand
Pedro Pintor

The map of the Delta of the Parnaíba River, looks like the drawing of the palm: the river divides into 5 mouths, whose waters flow into the ocean that, in the west-east direction, are called: Tutóia, Melancieira or Carrapato, Caju, all of Maranhão - and Barra do Rio Igaraçu, which flows into the Piauí municipality of Luís Correia.

The total area of the delta is estimated at 2,700 km², distributed rectangularly, has 90 km of base - the border - 30 km wide, where are the creeks, mangroves, dunes, islands and islets.

The estimated 80 islands and islets, among them the great islands of Paulino, Caju, Canarias and Ilha Grande Santa Isabel occupy about 80,000 ha. it is estimated that 65% of the delta is in Maranhão territory. The other 35%, in Piauí.


How to get there?

The support base for tourists is the Piauían city of Parnaíba considered the gateway to the Parnaíba river delta, 366 km from Teresina (piauí), 487 km from Fortaleza (Ceará), 501 km from São Luís (Maranhão ) and the cities of Araioses (1 hour by car from Parnaíba) and Carnaubeiras (1 ½ h by car from Parnaíba) (Maranhão) and also the city of Tutóia (Maranhão) approximately 2 hours by speedboat (speedboat aft engine) or 1 hour drive from the city of Parnaíba. The Tatus Harbor (Piauí) is a 20-minute drive from the city of Parnaíba and is the main ferry port for the Parnaíba River Delta.

All tours are conducted according to the tides!


A large nursery

In addition to dunes, beaches, rivers and streams, the Parnaíba River Delta is formed by extensive mangrove forests. The mangrove is one of the richest and most vital ecosystems for the environmental balance of the coastal zone, where marine life feeds and reproduces.

Mangroves are considered a kind of "motherhood of the sea". It is in this environment populated by exotic plants and curious animals where shrimp, crabs, clams and many species of birds and fish find abundant food and safe shelter to breed. Mangroves are also very useful for man. It is an important source of food and economic resources. They are used as a source of vegetal extractivism through the use of wood from the species and the extraction of tannin, a substance used in the tanning of hides, skins and in the painting of the sails of the vessels. The explanation for the high productivity of mangroves is simple: the large amount of organic matter that reaches the bays and inlets through the mouths of rivers by the tides.

The vegetation consists of basically three types of mangroves:

  • Red Mangrove - has a profusion of roots, which have small holes called lenticels where plants breathe;
  • Black Mangrove - also known as Siriba or Siriúba, grows where the mud is firmer and much less oxygenated, hence the roots grew out in search of air;
  • White Mangrove - occurs in sandy terrains, near the mainland.

Click to download (PT_BR): The Importance of Mangrove to Man



Ordinance of IBAMA - Brazilian Institute of the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources in the States of Maranhão and Piauí, prohibited, from February 21 to 28, 2004, the capture, transportation, processing, industrialization and commercialization of the crab. The reason is the so-called "walk," the reproductive period in which males and females leave their mating dens.

About 4,000 families surviving the crab tasting will be without their main, and most, the only source of income in this period. As the class has no association and no union, it is difficult to register the crabs so that they can have access to the unemployment insurance of the fishing, as it happens with the class of fishermen in the periods of the piracema and closed of the lobster and the shrimp.

Crab inventories have declined considerably in recent years, due to the increase in demand, insufficient equipment to inspect illegal tasting and mainly due to the lack of environmental education programs. The release of the "cambito" has contributed greatly to the decline of these stocks in other states and with Piauí and Maranhão, states that only recently released this type of fishing, the same thing will happen, since most collectors have not yet has the necessary awareness that an environmental imbalance may occur.

Source: IBAMA - PI


Cities in the Delta

Parnaíba - PI



Around 1669 Leonardo de Sá and some of his companions broke the region where the city of Parnaíba is today and gained, by virtue of the feat, a land sesmaria on the banks of that river. In 1758, the Portuguese Domingos Dias da Silva started the trade of charque (cattle) and through the ships of his property he made the import and export of the product with other states of Brazil and with several countries of Europe like Portugal and Spain. The business grew so much that the place became known as "Porto das Barcas". Several warehouses were built around the port that stocked the imported goods and for export. The origin and development of Parnaíba is directly linked to this trade.

In the middle of this century, the demand for carnauba wax (carnauba wax replaced by synthetic wax) and babaçu in the international market, the beginning of road construction, leading to the decay of the Port of Barcas.

In addition to commercial activities, Porto das Barcas was notable for the export of carnauba wax, a tree native to the region, becoming the seventh in Brazil. James Frederick Clark, a pioneer in the region, began investing time in the carnauba tree that proved to be more than a mere tree. It was in fact a gold mine and sustained the manufacture of vinyl records for years. Today carnauba wax is used in the cosmetics industry (eg lipsticks, ...) and as an insulator in the electronics industry (eg, computer chips).


Araioses - MA



When the Araio Indian, of the Tembembéns or Teremembés tribe, died courageously trying to prevent a landing of the Dutch at Arpoador beach, near Tutoia, together with a group of 26 Tremembés Indians, his 20-year-old son Arinha, reunited his mother , his brother Ahriman and some of the closest relatives and separated from the tribe in 1699 and embarked on a trip to the east of the province toward the Parnaiba River Delta. They passed through the places where they are now populated or cities (Barro Duro, Água Doce, Carnaubeiras and Frecheiras) heading for the Magu River.

In January 1701, they crossed the Magu River in small canoes made by themselves and arrived in the vicinity of Ponta Grossa, on the right bank of Lago Grande do Magu, settled definitively, where today is the hamlet of Aldeia. Arinha, head of the group, organized the formation of a new tribe that was renamed Araios in honor of the old Araio Indian, Arinha's father.

In 1702, Arinhã married Arinã, because according to the customs of some tribes, in the marriage, the wife receives the same name of the husband, being born to them two children: Aritã and Arivã.

The Arawian Indians lived from fishing, hunting, making canoes, clay objects cooked in the sun. They planted manioc and corn, used bow and arrow, macuque (ax), jequi, landuá and labrebra (small corral made of buriti).

The Araios, like the Tremembés, spoke tenetehara, a dialect originating in the Tupi language.

Later, the young cacique Arinhã joined his name, the name of the river, being called Arinhã Magu, that in the tenetehara dialect means a resident of the river's edge or the lake.

João de Deus and Silvestre da Silva was born in Bahia, on July 23, 1701, a descendant of Diogo Alvares (Caramuru). He was a mestizo for being the son of a white man with a black slave girl. Very intelligent, courageous and adventurous, he made a journey through the backlands of Piauí, reaching the river Parnaiba penetrated Maranhão in 1728, arriving on the banks of the Itapecuru River where he met the Canelas Indians who inhabited the Serra da Canela, being taken to the village of these, city ​​of Alcântara.

Continuing his travels, John of God reached the sources of the Magu River and near his mouth, on the river Parnaiba, discovered the Araios Indians on April 22, 1741, when they celebrated the "Feast of Waters," one of its folk manifestations.

The chieftain Arinhã motioned for him to come and made him sit down beside him. Soon after the first contacts, João de Deus, then married to Mariana, they made a pact of friendship with the Araios Indians. To reaffirm this alliance, John of God united his name to the name of the cacique, being called JOÃO DE GOD MAGU AND SILVESTRE DA SILVA.

Because of the ease with which he dealt with the Indians, he promoted the settlement organized in the form of a civilization: he divided them into family groups, dressed them and together they built houses, including a country house for the cacique. Next to the house, they made a large agricultural field and taught them cotton planting in 1743.

In addition to the cotton planting that thrived, he taught them how to weave cloths for their own clothing. Cotton at this time became one of the main sources of income in Maranhão.

In 1748, John of God built a chapel under the invocation of Our Lady of the Conception, an image given to him by his mother-in-law as a wedding gift. It was an image richly adorned with gold and silver, coming from Portugal in 1730, having been carved in the city of Guimarães.

In 1751, the old village already had the aspect of a "civilized" community, because it had twenty houses. By virtue of this, John of God went to St. Louis to ask the Bishop to send a priest to baptize the Indians.

On August 15, 1752, Father Inácio Pereira da Fonseca enthroned the image of Our Lady of the Conception in the Chapel and baptized all the Indians, thus beginning the foundation of the village, which was called ARAIOSES by John of God after a short speech .

In the same year, 1752, a small school was built next to the chapel, where João de Deus and Dona Mariana taught the Araios the alphabet of the Portuguese Language, the catechism of Christian doctrine and notions of Arithmetic, as well as notions of carpentry in the manufacture of tables and stools. João de Deus also produced a small Tenetehara-Portuguese dictionary that was lost after his death in 1765.

On April 12, 1763, the old cacique Arinhã Magu died at the age of 84, causing great sadness in all the tribe. However, the new settlement was growing as cattle and horses were raised and shellfish were practiced on the beaches of the Caju and Carrapato Islands, transporting them in canoes to the village. The sugarcane, cotton, maize, cassava, and beans were grown in such a way that they began to sell them in other regions, especially in Piauí.

On November 10, 1765, two years after the death of Arinhã Magu, João de Deus fell ill and after a few words died at the age of 64 and was buried next to his friend in the village cemetery. A year later, on November 20, 1766, Dona Mariana died, and the founders of Araioses were extinguished.

As the chief and João de Deus died, many Indians dispersed throughout the region, which today constitute the genealogical tree of most of the families that inhabit the regions of the Magu River.

Years after the death of João de Deus, the lands he had donated to the saint on April 12, 1764, the donation was considered null because it was made without the formalities of paragraphs 15 and following of the Law of September 9, 1769, the which generated much controversy in the year 1844.

After the recognition of the legality of the donation, a new chapel was built on the left bank of the Santa Rosa River, where the Matriz is today, serving as the maternal cell of the Arraial, becoming Parish on November 10 of 1851 through State Law No. 299, which was headquartered in the first place of the Indian village, and was based in the new settlement known as "Enjeitado", since it already had more expression than the decadent Village that originated the true history.

On May 15, 1893, 42 years later, it was elevated to the category of Vila, being governed by Intendants, Sub-Intendants, and city councilmen of the Town Hall in accordance with Laws No. 23 of October 24, 1892 on October 31 May 24 of the same year. From August 1893 to December 31, 1918 the Villa had six Intendants.

45 years later, on March 29, 1938, he was elevated to the category of City by State Law No. 45, living a long period of Interventions, from December 6, 1930 to July 30, 1937.

When the "Revolution of 30" broke out in Rio de Janeiro, Araioses also suffered its impacts, as Mayor Domingos Freitas Diniz was deposed, and Dionísio da Silva, the merchant Dionísio da Silva, was appointed by Major José Luso Torres, Federal Comptroller in Maranhão.



The catholic religion is predominant in the municipality being celebrated annually the Patron of Araioses Our Lady of the Conception from November 29 to December 8 in the Mother Church of the city and several other saints in the headquarters and in the interior of the municipality.

Its economy was based on the production of sugar cane, carnauba wax, cotton, rice and other temporary foodstuffs. Araióses today differs from the past, its development presents itself of a vegetative growth in the face of globalization for being near the Delta of Parnaíba.



The municipality is located in the northeast region of the State of Maranhão, and is one of the gateways to the Parnaíba River Delta.

It covers an area of 1,782.5 km². Including the continental and insular part (Canary Island, Ilha do Caju, etc). It is located at an altitude of six meters above sea level. It is located to the east, in the micro-region of Baixo Parnaíba, it is limited to the North with the Atlantic Ocean, to the South with the municipalities of Magalhães de Almeida and São Bernardo, to the East with the River Parnaíba, and to the West with the municipalities of Water Doce and Santana do Maranhão. Its population, according to the Census-2010, is of 42,505 inhabitants, being 12,045 in the urban part and in the rural area 30,460 people. Its demographic density is of 23,84 hab / km ².



The municipality is located on the banks of the Santa Rosa River (affluent of Parnaíba) and is cut by the Magu River, this river that has springs in the municipality of Santana do Maranhão.



Farol Beach, Ilha do Caju; Barra do Meio; Guarás Island; Island of the Poldros, Canary Island.

Nearly 60 islands of the Delta are within the limits of the municipality: Balneário de Barreiras; Cana Brava Spa; São Raimundo beach resort; Balneário de Ponta Grossa; Balneário Mangueira; Balneário Mexeira; Balneário Melancias


  • January - Festivities of São Sebastião.
  • February - Traditional Carnival of Araioses (Largest Carnival of Lower Parnaíba).
  • March - Birthday of the City, March 29.
  • June - Araioses Gang Festival.
  • July - Carnations - Carnival Out of the Age of Araioses.
  • August - Festivities of Saint Raimundo Nonato.
  • September - Crab Festival. (Greater Gastronomic Festival of the Interior of Maranhão, several musical attractions).
  • December - Festivities of Our Lady of the Conception.