We present the first high resolution, approximately ∼4 years sample spacing, precipitation record from northeastern Brazil (hereafter referred to as ‘Nordeste’) covering the last ∼3000 yrs from 230Th-dated stalagmites oxygen isotope records. Our record shows abrupt fluctuations in rainfall tied to variations in the intensity of the South American summer monsoon (SASM), including the periods corresponding to the Little Ice Age (LIA), the Medieval Climate Anomaly (MCA) and an event around 2800 yr B.P. Unlike other monsoon records in southern tropical South America, dry conditions prevailed during the LIA in the Nordeste. Our record suggests that the region is currently undergoing drought conditions that are unprecedented over the past 3 millennia, rivaled only by the LIA period. Using spectral, wavelet and cross-wavelet analyses we show that changes in SASM activity in the region are mainly associated with variations of the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO) and to a lesser degree caused by fluctuations in tropical Pacific SST. Our record also shows a distinct periodicity around 210 years, which has been linked to solar variability.