Manaus, Brazil

Living in Manaus

Iyna Bort Caruso

In the late 1800s, when candlelight and gas lamps still illuminated much of Europe, a city in the heart of the Amazon rainforest had electricity. Manaus, Brazil, was in the middle of a rubber boom. The unlikely spot became one of the richest cities in South America, its wealth ushering in a period of opulence and modernization.

The symbol of Manaus’ prosperity was the opera house, Teatro Amazonas, built with materials imported from Europe and topped with a dome covered in 36,000 enamel ceramic tiles in the colors of the Brazilian flag.

This period, when Manaus was known as the Paris of the Tropics and its architecture and culture reflected the wealth of Europeans who settled here, lasted until the rubber market collapsed in the 1920s. Decades of hard times followed. But Manaus’ fortunes once again changed when the city established itself as a duty-free zone in 1967.

Manaus, the largest city in northern Brazil with a population of about two million, is a major inland port on the Negro River about 900 miles inland from the Atlantic Ocean. Tourism is an important industry for this urban center in the wild, and in recent years it’s become a launch pad for Amazon River excursions and gateways into the jungle.

As a result of its status as a free-economic zone, Manaus is now the home of hundreds of factories and numerous multinational companies. In 2014, its visibility rose further as one of the host cities of the 2014 FIFA World Cup.  

Many of the city’s most affluent neighborhoods are located in its central historic districts and in areas like Adrianópolis where buyers can find highly amenitized condominiums and villas. Those seeking more land further afield have their choice of farmhouses, ranches and plantations.