Manaus is the capital of the State of Amazonas and the hub of the wholeAmazon region. Located on the banks of the Rio Negro, the 'Meeting ofthe Waters' takes place four miles from Manaus, where the Rio SolimÑesmeets the Rio Negro to become the Amazon.
The city we seetoday is primarily a product of the rubber boom. When steam navigationin the mid-19th century opened up the jungle, it spurred the rubberindustry and mass immigration. Under Governor Eduardo Ribeiro thefamous Opera House and broad Parisian avenues were built. For the richit was a place of sheer luxury. Palaces and grandiose mansions wereerected, and time was passed with elaborate entertainment, dances andconcerts. By the turn of the century it was an opulent metropolis runby elegant people who dressed and housed themselves as fashionably astheir counterparts in any large European city. In fact, the year 1899saw Manaus as the first Brazilian city to have trolley buses and thesecond one to have electric lights in the streets. But the splendor ofthe 'Paris in the Jungle' lasted barely thirty years and when in 1914the rubber market began to collapse the city fell into a rapid decline.
Today,Manaus has acquired new prosperity, largely due to the creation of afree trade zone in 1966. Many new industries moved in, a moderninternational airport opened in 1976, and the floating port wasmodernized to cope with the new business. Manaus has become anaggressive commercial and industrial center for an enormous region.Over half of the country's televisions are made here, and electronicgoods can be bought at around a third of what they cost elsewhere inBrazil. This has earned Manaus her new name - 'Hong Kong of the Amazon.'
Asa river port, Manaus presents an unforgettable spectacle. Although thereal attractions lie in the surrounding forests and tributaries, thecity's most famous attraction is no doubt the opulent Teatro Amazonas.Completed in 1896 after 17 years of construction and at a cost of $3million, the Opera House recently underwent a lengthy restorationprogram and now shines once more in its original splendor. There arealso several interesting museums with exhibits geared to provideinsight into the human life and ecology of the Amazon region.