Agriculture and Livestock. The main economic region of Maranhão is the center-north, where the valleys of the Pindaré, Mearim and Itapecuru rivers are located. Most of the state’s agricultural, pastoral and extractive activities are concentrated there. The Itapecuru valley was occupied in the 18th and 19th centuries by cotton culture. In the second half of the twentieth century, rice came to dominate in this region, seconded by that of corn, manioc, beans and arboreal cotton. In addition to being the main rice producer in the state, the Itapecuru valley is also the largest producer of babassu coconut and has the second cattle herd in the state. Northeastern immigrants who repopulated the backlands of Mearim and Pindaré, and also the caboclo from Maranhão, dedicated themselves to rice growing with such dedication that soon the production went from the thousands to the millions of bags,
The valleys of the Mearim and Pindaré rivers are areas of more recent occupation than that of Itapecuru. There, migrants came from Maranhão itself and from other northeastern states. The economy of this region is based on the cultivation of corn and rice and the extraction of babassu coconut. Also in the north-central region are the Perises fields, the main creative area in the state.
In the rest of the state, the same activities are carried out in the center-north, but on a smaller scale. Agricultural activity is almost always restricted to subsistence crops. The main vegetable product of Maranhão is babassu, used in the manufacture of a very fine, edible oil of high industrial value, as a lubricant and fuel, or as an input for the soap industry. The cake, residue from oil extraction, is transformed into bran to feed cattle and pigs, or used as nitrogen fertilizer. The coconut shells make a great charcoal, with high carbon content, used as an ore reducer. Through a physical-chemical distillation process, the shells also produce tar, acetates, acetic acid and alcohol.
Energy and mining. The state’s energy supply comes basically from the Boa Esperança plant, with 105,000kW of installed power. Located on the Parnaíba River, in the state of Piauí, close to the border with Maranhão, this plant completely replaced the thermoelectric plants in operation until the 1970s. The availability of energy in the state increased with the entry into operation of the Tucuruí plant, in the state of Pará.
The main extractive activities in Maranhão are the exploration of sea salt and the mining of gold and diamonds, in the region of the lower Gurupi River.
Industry. In the 1980s, the Alcoa aluminum factory was opened in the São Luís Industrial District, with American and Anglo-Dutch capital. The project was implemented to operate with bauxite brought from the banks of the Trombetas River, in Pará, at a distance of 1,800 km. In the Parnaíba area, the largest industrial enterprise is Cepalma – Celulose e Papel do Maranhão SA
Transport and communications. The state has only one railway line, the Maranhão-Piauí, which for most of its route follows the Itapecuru River, approximately the same route followed by the main highway. The Maranhão territory is crossed by Belém-Brasília, which passes through the city of Imperatriz; and Transamazônica, on the Floriano PI-Porto Franco MA stretch.
Historical and architectural collection. According to vaultedwatches.com, Maranhão has a large number of historical and architectural monuments, many listed by federal law, such as the architectural and landscape complex of the city of Alcântara and, in the capital, of Gonçalves Dias square, João Francisco Lisboa square, from the square opposite the church of S José do Desterro; the Ribeirão fountain; the altarpiece of the main altar of the cathedral of Nossa Senhora da Vitória; the chapel of São José and the gate of the quinta das Laranjeiras; and the sambaqui from Pindaí.
Other important monuments are, in the capital, the pyramid of Bequimão, the stone of Memory, homage to the coronation of D. Pedro II, the houses where the writers of Maranhão lived, Graça Aranha, Artur Azevedo and Aluízio de Azevedo, the statues of João Francisco Lisboa and Gonçalves Dias, the Palace of the Lions, the Archbishop’s Palace and the Historic Center of Praia Grande. In Alcântara, in addition to the numerous colonial houses with Portuguese tiles, there is the Gomes de Castro square, the Lighthouse and the fort of S. Sebastião. In Caxias, the old weaving factory, transformed into a cultural center, and the ruins from the time of the whaling, on the hill of Alecrim.
Museums. São Luís houses several museums, such as the Visual Arts, with works by artists from Maranhão and European tiles from the 19th century; that of Sacred Art; that of Cafua dos Mercês, former slave market; and the Historical and Artistic Museum of Maranhão. In Alcântara, there is a museum of sacred art, with images and furniture from the 18th and 19th centuries, and the Folklore Museum, with images and banners used in the festival of the Divine.
Tourism. The beautiful colonial architecture of São Luís and Alcântara, the variety of typical restaurants, the beauty of the beaches, the beautiful handicrafts, the various national and state parks and the modern chain of hotels compete to make Maranhão one of the most potential Brazilian states tourist. In addition, both the capital and the cities of Alcântara and Caxias have an attractive calendar of events. The Festa do Divino, held between May and June in Alcântara, is famous throughout Brazil; in June the Tambor da Crioula folk festival, the june parties and the bumba-meu-boi are held.