World Facts Index > Brazil > Sao PauloSituated 760m above sea level, the city of Sao Paulo, in the state of Sao Paulo, represents today an area of approximately 1500 km², consisting of 900 km² of urban area and a rural area of approximately 600 km². These two areas together are known as Grande Sao Paulo (Greater Sao Paulo), the biggest population in South America with almost 15 million people.
It consists of the old centre, the suburbs and a huge number of districts which make up this megalopolis, and tell the history of the city and its population. Initially inhabited by indigenous natives and 16th century Portuguese colonisers, the city also recieved, in the 17th century - as did almost all the south central and north-east regions of the country, a considerable African slave population, the main source of manual labour for the coffee and sugar-cane plantations. Its population, though, grew very slowly until the middle of the 19th century. At this time, the area which is now formed by Greater Sao Paulo was still made up of small population areas, the future districts of Pinheiros, Freguesia do Ó and Lapa.
As coffee became the biggest commodity in the area in 1870, the city prospered, railways linked Sao Paulo with neighbouring Santo's harbour, banks and export businesses brought in more wealth and raised the population, which brought about the building of new districts. From 1870 onwards, the urbanization of the city took place with swamps being transformed into gardens. Brás, one of the oldest districts, and the area where the land belonging to the Portuguese tradesman José Brás used to be, as well as the Mooca and Lapa districts, was home to the great Italian immigration at the end of the 19th century, responsible for the great cultural boost of the city, which included the paulista accent, very peculiar and different from other regions of Brazil. At the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th many farms were divided, and new districts such as Santa Efigênia, Bom Retiro, Consolaçao and Campos Elísios, (the wealthy family district at that time) were formed.
The construction of the first electrical power station in 1890 allowed the introduction of electrical streetcars from the 1900's. And in the 20th century, the industrial development created new urban areas towards the east, west and south directions of the city following the railway lines and the river-beds from Tietê, Tamanduateí and Pinheiros rivers. The Japanese immigrants that arrived in the beginning of the 20th century to work in agriculture went to what is today one of the most traditional districts of Sao Paulo, the Liberdade district, where all the customs and culture from their country is now kept. Sao Paulo has some of the best Japanese restaurants in the whole world.
Smaller, older centres around the city were incorporated into the metropolitan region of the city as time went by, and very elegant districts appeared from 1915, like the districts of Jardim Europa, Jardim América and Jardim Paulista which are known collectively today as the most sophisticated commercial centre Jardins. The Avenida Paulista, considered the Wall Street of Sao Paulo, where the most expensive offices are located, is a division in time and space that particularly characterises de development of the city. On one side there are the historical and old centres, with their ex-libris such as the Teatro Municipal, Viaduto do Chá and the Vale do Anhangabaú. On the other side of the avenue you will find the residential and modern office areas, with well thought-out architecture and engineering, notably the Jardins itself. On the same side are the Jóquei Clube and the Morumbi district, where besides the big mansions and luxurious residential buildings you can find the Morumbi Stadium, one of the football stadiums chosen by FIFA for the 1st World Club Championships tournament.
Another district that is notable for its culture and gastronomy is Vila Madalena, with a a high number of bars and restaurants, intense nightlife, inhabited by professionals, university students and artists. The majority of the districts acquired a unique personality, like the Bela Vista (also known as Bexiga) where, besides bars playing forró music (typical from the north east part of Brazil), you can find most of the city's theatres.
History of Sao PauloIn the beginning of the 16th century Brazil had just been discovered by the Portuguese, and the paulistano (from Sao Paulo) area at the top of the Serra do Mar mountain range (southeast region) was inhabited by the Guaianás indigenous population. The first white man to settle there was the Portuguese sailor Joao Ramalho, survivor of a shipwreck in 1510 on the Sao Paulo shore. Ramalho married a native woman, Portira (or Bartira), daughter of the tribal chief Tibiriçá, and started a family. In 1532, Joao Ramalho helped lord Martin Afonso de Souza, commander of the first colonial expedition sent to Brazil by the Portuguese government, to establish the Piratininga village on the upland, subsequently changed, in 1553, to the village of Santo André da Borda do Campo.
One of the main missions of the Jesuit priests that arrived in Brazil on the 16th century, along with the first Portuguese colonisers, was to introduce the local natives to the fundamental principles of Christian faith. In 1553, the superior Jesuit priest of Brazil, Manuel da Nóbrega, planned to reach the banks of the river Paraná to convert the brave tribe of the Carijós. To do so, he needed a base in the upland region of the capitania, (the first administrave areas in Brazil), so Sao Vicente (the future state of sao Paulo), a shelter where the priests could live and initiate the conversion, was chosen. In January 24th 1554, a group of 13 Jesuit priests, commanded by the priest José de Anchieta started building on the banks of the Tamanduateí river, next to the Vale do Anhangabaú (now the centre of Sao Paulo). The building received the name of Colégio Sao Paulo and, from there, the biggest city of South America, and one of the biggest in the world, was slowly built up.
In 1560, the neighbouring population of Santo André da Borda do Campo received an order to move to the Colégio Sao Paulo area in order to help fight a possible attack from the Tamoios native tribe, who were allies of the French, who had invaded Rio de Janeiro area. The Santo André da Borda do Campo village was extinct, and the Colégio Sao Paulo was elevated to town status. During the 16th and 17th century Sao Paulo was still a poor town, with a small part of the population dedicated to meagre agriculture (only for their own survival) and it was practically isolated from Portugal and the rest of the colony.
During those years, many expeditions to the interior of the country were organised from Sao Paulo in order to find gold and precious stones and also to capture natives for slavery. These expeditions were named entradas e bandeiras (entries and flags). When gold was found in Minas Gerais state, the Portuguese crown showed more interest in the colony, and the capitania of Sao Vicente was bought by them and given to the descendents of its first owners. After that it received the name of Capitania de Sao Paulo e Minas Gerais, and the headquarters were in the town of Sao Paulo.
In 1711 the town was promoted to the city category. The gold rush in Minas Gerais, a similar phenomenon to the gold rush in California years later, made the paulista explorers very rich. Through this, from the second half of the 18th century, the sugar-cane agriculture was developed and the first processing plants were built. At the time of the Napoleonic wars in Europe, the Portuguese royal family was forced to move to Brazil, in 1808. Once here, and after several constitutional and political crises, the regent prince D. Pedro I proclaimed the independence of Brazil from Portugal in 1822, on the bank of the Ipiranga river in Sao Paulo. According to the French naturalist Saint-Hilaire, who was visiting the city in that year, Sao Paulo had, then, more than 4000 houses and a population of about 25,000 people. The real urbanization of the city began in the 1870's, stimulated by the impressive industrialization of the first half of the 19th century, which was partly due to the profit from coffee production.
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