Encyclopedia Britannica, 1842
ARAIBA, or PARAHYBA, a province of Brazil, in South America, bounded on the south by Pernambuco, on the north by Rio Grande do Norte, on the west by Sera, and on the east by the Atlantic Ocean. It comprehends about two thirds of the old captaincy of Itamaraca, and has between eighteen and nineteen leagues of seacoast, whilst towards the interior it extends westward about sixty leagues. It derives its name from the river Paraiba or Parahyba, which, originating in the Serra da Jabitica, in Cayriris Velhos, not far from the source of the Capibaribe, runs to the north-east, and discharges itself into the Atlantic by two mouths on either side of the island of St Bento […]. It is about fifty yards in breadth at the junction, flowing with a rapid and turbid current, over a sandy channel eminently auriferous. Caldcleugh informs us that the current of the Paraiba is also very rapid, being about seven miles in the hour, and the water cool, being twelve degrees under the temperature of the air. "The road was excessively bad, being extremely narrow, with a gulley down the centre; and the soil being a red clay, was very insecure, from the humidity. From the summit the views on all sides were magnificent; but more particularly the one which extended along the valley of the Paraiba. Here and there the eye caught a glimpse of the river glistening amidst the deepest and most luxuriant vegetation." This description does not agree with the account sometimes given of Paraiba, that two thirds of the whole surface are incapable of any kind of culture. Mr Southey justly characterizes this statement as very erroneous; and recent travellers confirm the fact, that a great part of it possesses a prolific soil, and an agreeable although hot climate. The surface of the country, however, is very uneven, elevated ridges traversing it in various directions. Mr Koster travelled to Paraiba from Recife, by way of Goiana. The road between Goiana and Paraiba, a distance of thirteen leagues, presents nothing particularly interesting. The hills are steep, but not high; the principal objects are woods, plantations, and cottages. Returning by the sea Paraiba coast, he found a considerable portion of it uninhabited; but wherever the land was low, and the surf not violent, cottages were seen, and the banks of the rivers were partially settled. When the action of the tide ceases, the streams all become insignificant, and most of them quite dry. Nearly the whole of Brazil is celebrated for its vegetable productions, particularly timber; and Paraiba is not deficient in this respect. It is noted for the excellence of its Brazil wood, and its sugar, the culture of which, however, has much declined, on account of the droughts which are frequently experienced here; and cotton has taken its place, that plant being said to endure a want of water better than the cane. In the year 1820 a few Britons established themselves here, in connection with some merchants at Pernambuco, for the purpose of reviving and extending the trade. The exports of sugar at one time exceeded nine hundred chests annually, but in 1819 it had sunk to less than half that quantity; whilst in the same period the cultivation of cotton had increased in proportion as the cane had decreased.
Paraiba, the capital of the province, is situated on the south bank of the river Paraiba, about ten miles from the sea, the river being navigable for a considerable way above the town. The port is capacious and secure, and defended by two or three forts. Vessels of one hundred and fifty tons can pass the bar j sumacas can ascend to the capital, and canoes as far as the town of Pilar, which is situated about forty miles higher up. When this captaincy was taken possession of by the Dutch in 1634, it contained only seven hundred families and twenty engenhos. They changed the name of the capital to Ferdinand, in honour of the Prince of Orange; and gave a sugar loaf for its arms, in allusion to the great quantity of sugar obtained from the district, and in conformity to a plan then adopted for granting armorial bearings significant of the principal leading articles in the different captaincies under their dominion. The principal street is broad and well paved; the houses are mostly of one story, but some of the buildings are described as handsome. There are several large and respectable convents here, but of late years they have fallen into decay. Indeed the same thing may also be said of the city, for much of the commerce which it once enjoyed is now centred in Recife, a seaport in Pernambuco. The lower town, which consists of small houses, is situated, Mr. Koster states, upon the borders of a spacious basin or lake, formed by the junction of three rivers, which discharge their waters into the sea by one considerable stream. These rivers are probably the Paraiba and its two confluents the Guarahu and the small river Unhaby. "The banks of the basin," he adds, "are covered with mangroves, as in all the salt-water rivers of this country; and they are so close and thick that there seems no outlet. I did not follow the river down to the sea, but I understand that there are in it some fine islands, with good land, quite uncultivated". One of these has since been cleared, and some salt-works erected upon it. Paraiba lies out of the road from the sertam to Recife; that is, out of the direct way from the towns upon the coast farther north; the inhabitants of the interior will therefore, in preference to Paraiba, make for Recife, as the more extensive market for their produce. Notwithstanding the richness and fertility of the lands of this province, a decided preference is given to plantations nearer to Recife, so that those of Paraiba are to be purchased at a much lower price. The population of this small city may amount to three thousand.
Besides the capital, this province contains seven towns in the eastern part, or that next the ocean, with a few arraials; and two in the western part. The names of those in the east are, Pilar, Alhandra, Villa Real, Villa do Conde, Villa da Rainha, St Miguel, and Montemor; and those in the west are Pombal and Villa Nova de Souza. None of them are of any extent or material importance. Villa da Rainha, commonly called Campina Grande, stands in an extensive plain, one hundred and twenty miles northwest from the capital, near a lake which supplies the inhabitants with water. In seasons of drought, which are by no means rare, the lake is dry, and the inhabitants are compelled to fetch their water a distance of six miles. The river Mamanguape, whose embouchure is ten miles north of Point Lucena, but dry in summer a few miles up from the sea, gives its name to a settlement near its banks, which is larger than most of the towns of the province. It is a thriving place, and forms a convenient stage between Rio Grande and Goiana. The population of Paraiba was estimated in 1812 at 122,000. From the census of 1830 it is stated at 240,000, which appears to be too large an allowance of inhabitants for such a small tract of a country so thinly peopled as Brazil is, considering its vast extent.