Lesson 504: Brazil’s Pernambuco: The Forgotten Interior

Unlike much of Brazil, the interior of the northeastern state of Pernambuco is an arid semi-desert. Away from the great Río San Francisco, the countryside is called the sertão, an often drought-stricken scrubland. The inhabitants have fashioned their own culture and history, and still commemorate their fabled bandit-hero, Lampião. Their great interior market recapitulates this history.

Learning Objective

Students will learn about the people and way of life in Pernambuco, a state in the northeast of Brazil.

Social Studies Standards

Global Connections: A, B

Discussion Prompts

  • Why are grapes a logical crop to grow in the northeastern area of Brazil? What climate and conditions are needed to grow grapes? Explain what the grapes are used for.
  • In Pernambuco, it is common to use goat meat for food. If you were visiting, would you eat the goat meat? Why or why not? What factors might contribute to which animals are served as meat in different regions?
  • Why are bandits celebrated in Brazil? Explain why some residents believe they are heroes and what role they serve in the history and cultural identity of Brazil. Is there a bandit or folk hero in your regions that fits this description?
  • What are some of the reasons why residents of Pernambuco have struggled to survive? Are these challenges unique to their region, or are they common struggles for many throughout the world?

Lesson Activities

  • Create a museum study guide about Lampião and his girlfriend Maria. Explain the historical role they play in Brazilian culture. Show why they are celebrated by some people in Brazil.
  • Create a poem, song or collage that celebrates the work of sculptor Mestre Vitalino and musician Luis Gonzaga that explains how they elevated their craft and celebrated their regional culture through their art or music.
  • Write an informational report on why water is valued so highly in the Pernambuco area. Include information about the drought, and how water affects the economical and lifestyle choices of the residents.
  • If you were asked to serve as a class tour guide on a food tour in Pernambuco, create an itinerary of where you’d take your classmates, what you would eat and how you would describe the dish’s cultural significance.


  • acquired
  • bandit
  • exquisite
  • extracted
  • havoc
  • mirage
  • notoriety
  • recourse
  • ruthless
  • tapioca


In the Americas Season 5 Lesson Episode 4