The Hemisphere: Hope in the Northeast

One of the first areas of the New World to be colonized, Brazil's Northeast reigned as sugar king for 200 years until Caribbean producers dethroned it in the 18th century. Then its markets dried up, and the land went backward, ignored by the rest of the nation. In this "other" Brazil, a bare, beaten region more than twice the size of Texas, 26 million Brazilians live in misery, almost 80% of them illiterate, disease and hunger holding the average life span to an appalling 35 years. Most nordestinos wring a grudging subsistence from the...

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