Destination guide: Sao Paulo, Brazil
Sao Paulo is the most inhabited city in Brazil, with modern architecture that coexists in perfect harmony with the city’s greenery and white sandy beaches. On strolling through its streets, visitors witness a magnitude of culture and nightlife, as well being able to visit exclusive shops and art galleries.
Fly with LAN to Sao Paulo and get to know Guaruja Island, the legacy of the golden age of coffee and the place where the South American Grand Prix is held.
Sao Paulo - History Overview
The history of the city of São Paulo largely mirrors that of the history of the state. For the first three centuries after the arrival of Jesuits here in 1554, the city grew only gradually as a posting station for fortune hunters heading for the interior, as well as growers from nearby sugar plantations.
Upon Brazil’s independence in 1822, São Paulo was declared a state capital, a decision that in turn led to the founding of the College of Law – arguably Brazil’s first public institution of higher learning. An increasingly important political and intellectual center, the city was soon leading the fight both to end slavery and to found the republic.
The city’s fortunes began to rise in the late 19th century when the region’s planters began replacing sugar with the world’s new, favorite cash crop: coffee. Some of the coffee barons’ mansions still line Av Paulista today. The millions of descendants of immigrants who came to work those plantations – especially Italians and Japanese – are another legacy of the coffee boom.
When coffee prices plummeted at the beginning of the 20th century, there was enough capital left over to transform the city into an industrial powerhouse. Factory jobs attracted a new wave of immigrants from around the world, and the city’s population practically doubled every decade between 1920 and 1980. In the 1980s, foreign immigration slowed, but laborers streamed in from the drought-stricken Northeast. Many found work building the city’s new skyscrapers. Unfortunately, growth far outpaced investment in the city’s infrastructure. Today’s serious traffic congestion and poorly urbanized slums are the visible result.
In recent years, São Paulo’s explosive population growth has slowed, though it is now firmly established as Brazil’s banking, industrial and cultural capital. As such it is enjoying the lion’s share of Brazil’s current economic boom. The city is making strides toward modernizing its infrastructure, including significant expansions of its metro, suburban train and highway systems. It has also finally begun to protect its historic center as well as to improve the condition of its public spaces. Traffic, crime and pollution still flummox city leaders and remain serious problems. But the dynamism of its culture and economy is still attracting the best and brightest from all over Brazil and beyond.