This little colonial village founded in the early 17C was quickly settled by aristocratic families from Maranhão. Its heyday came at the same time as São Luis', with the boom in the cotton trade in the 1770s. But practically all of Alcântara's inhabitants, both masters and slaves, left after the abolition of slavery - hence its strange ghost town feel, with houses lying in ruin and overgrown with vegetation. The majority of the remaining population are descendants of African slaves. The slow pace of life here is typical of Brazil's rural provinces.