Brazil Travel

Sao Paulo History

The high status and importance that Sao Paulo holds within Brazil is reflected in its amount of excellent museums, from those that house great European collections to the excellent collections of the Brazilian art museums. The diversity of the city is reflected in the museums of Sao Paulo as well, with examples such as the Immigrant Museum and the Japanese Immigration Museum.

History of Sao Paulo
The Portuguese just freshly discovered Brazil in the beginning of the 16th century. The area that became home to Paulistanos (people from Sao Paulo) was inhabited by the Guaianas indigenous population. The first white settler was Joao Ramalho, a sailor who survived a shipwreck and married a native woman. He was the one who helped Martim Afonso de Souza and his men (the first colonial expedition sent from Portugal) set up the first village.

On January 20th, 1532, Martim Afonso de Souza founded Sao Vicente, one of the earliest settlements in what is now Brazil. This was done so the land would not fall into foreign hands and be assured Portuguese control. The Portuguese at this time were one of the richest countries in Europe, holding colonies throughout much of Africa and having successful financial relations with Asia. The Portuguese did not build any cities and lacked intention to settle the new land. In 1554 the Jesuits formed a school in the Sierra del Mar area (Sao Vicente) as one of the main missions of the Jesuits. These early colonists converted large numbers of Indians to their Christian faith. Around the school, houses were built, and from this small urban settlement slowly emerged the future megalopolis that is present day Sao Paulo.

Right behind the Jesuits came the Bandeirantes who pushed the western boundaries of the land that was granted to the Portuguese in the Tratado de Tordesillas, and in this way gained for Brazil a vast amount of territory that is currently theirs. In search of gold and precious stones, many mines were discovered that helped to develop many modern cities, including Sao Paulo. The Monument of the Bandeirantes by Victor Brecheret in Sao Paulo is a testament to the importance of the role of the Bandeirantes in the formation of Brazil.

The first gold was discovered in Minas Gerais state, which drew more attention to the colony from the Portuguese crown. Sao Vicente was then bought by the Portuguese from the Jesuits and given to the descendants of its first owners. It gained city status in 1711 and was renamed Capitania de Sao Paulo e Minas Gerais.

An ensuing gold rush brought a lot of wealth to the Paulista explorers, who invested in sugar-cane plantations and started building of the first processing plants. This is what formed the agricultural foundation that enabled the future coffee plantations. In 1808 during the Napoleonic era, the Portuguese crown relocated itself to Brazil, yet several crises made Pedro I declare independence for Brazil in 1822 on the bank of the Ipiranga River in Sao Paulo. Sao Paulo then started to become an intellectual and political base for the rest of the country.

The 19th century saw the growth of sugar cane farms along the Tiete and Paraiba do Sul rivers, which are situated next to the city. Farmers, who soon realized that coffee would be a much more profitable and successful product then the sugar cane, replaced the pioneering Bandeirantes. The revenue from the coffee plantations was largely responsible for the rapid industrialization of Sao Paulo. In 1888 came the abolition of slavery, ending a three hundred year old practice. Yet people were still needed to work the farms and plantations, and so waves of immigrants were pulled in. The first wave were Italians who formed the unique Paulista accent that is unlike Portuguese spoken anywhere else in Brazil. Between 1882 and 1934 4.5 million people immigrated to Brazil; 2.3 million of which were third class workers coming into Sao Paulo. In 1889 Brazil became a republic.

The beginning of the 20th century saw Sao Paulo as not only the richest Brazilian province, but as one who had the most educated and well trained population. As Sao Paulo became more and more industrialized and as railroads were built that connected it to the other main cities in the country, a large number of industries came to view Sao Paulo as extremely profitable. Reflecting President Vargas' policy of nationalism and self-sustenance development during WWII, in the 1950's Kubstcheck expanded on the industrialization of the country, and companies such as General Motors, Ford and Volkswagen were attracted and set up plants in Sao Bernardo do Campo.

Internal immigration replaced the foreign one, as millions of Brazilians- especially from the Northeast- migrated to Sao Paulo in search of a better life. Most were uneducated and thus took jobs in lower ranking positions: many of the skyscrapers in the city were built by the hands of these nordestinos: people from the North.

The cultural diversity of the city can thus be more clearly understood from this enormous stream of people that flooded the city from the end of the 19th century. The culture of the nordestinos and the many international immigrants was absorbed and incorporated into greater Sao Paulo.

Sao Paulo is now the most multi cultural state in all of Brazil and is the second largest city in the world.

Modern day Sao Paulo bursts with people from all wakes of life: the rich and poor are made up of citizens that represent most of the nationalities of the world. If you love people watching, just stroll through Sao Paulo's many diverse and rich neighborhoods and your observational eye will be bursting with faces, conversations and sights. Sao Paulo, unlike Brasilia, is a pedestrian city- just be careful of all the motorbikes.

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