Liberdade, a Japanese neighbourhood in São Paulo.

Let’s Talk about São Paulo

You know, Rio & Learn might be a school based in Rio de Janeiro, but that doesn’t mean we cannot appreciate the whole country. Yes, yes, I know. São Paulo is a bit of a controversial subject among us cariocas, just like Rio is a touchy topic for paulistas too. But we can put that rivalry aside to talk about our neighbor’s history. And how would you like to know some fun things to do in São Paulo as well? Check it out!

Origin and History

São Paulo’s history starts in the beginning of the 16th century. One of the very first villages to be founded in the state was Santo André da Borda do Campo. That village, however, was constantly under the threat of indigenous people of the region.

Around the same time, a group of Jesuit priests from the Society of Jesus climbed the Serra do Mar and arrived at the Piratininga plateau. There they felt at home. The fresh and tempered air reminded them of Spain. They had plenty of fertile land and two rivers crossed the plateau. The location was simply perfect. And that’s where the city of São Paulo began to take its shape.

The official celebratory date of the founding of the São Paulo is January 25th of 1554. That was when the first mass was held at a school built by the Jesuits. In 1560, the village was granted its first rights as a town. However, being so distant from the coast and isolated in terms of trade routes, the town was disregarded for decades. Yet in 1681 it was recognized as an important part of the Captaincy of São Paulo and in 1711 the town was promoted to the category of city.

Coffee Industry and Immigration

In 1727 coffee came to Brazil. Originally cultivated in Belém, it arrived in Rio de Janeiro and then expanded to São Paulo. In the state, the coffee industry consolidated its position as one of the main exports of Brazil from the 19th century to the first decades of the 20th century. Because of the growth of the coffee production, the city began to grow as well.

The coffee industry was responsible for the first railways of São Paulo. It also brought around 4 millions immigrants from Europe (particularly Italians, Germans and Greeks) and a great number of Japanese, Arab, Chinese and Korean people. By the time the coffee industry began to lose its power, the city was already full of immigrants and had branched out into producing other things.

São Paulo’s City Hall developed an itinerary that allows you to understand the social, economical and cultural changes that the money from the coffee brought to the city. These are some of the places included in that itinerary:

  • Palace of Justice (Palácio da Justiça)
  • Guinle Building
  • Bank of Brazil Cultural Center (Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil)
  • Luz Station (Estação da Luz)
  • Pinacoteca

Pinacoteca in São Paulo.

Fun Facts about São Paulo

  1. São Paulo is the largest city in Brazil (and one of the largest in the world!) with over 12 million inhabitants
  2. São Paulo houses the largest Japanese community outside of Japan
  3. The city has two nicknames: Sampa (abbreviation of São Paulo) and Terra da Garoa (land of drizzle).
  4. To prevent traffic congestion and decrease pollution, the city has implemented a system of road space rationing, based on the vehicle registration plates.
  5. If you were born in the city of São Paulo, you are paulistano, whereas paulistas are those born in the state of São Paulo.
  6. The Formula 1 driver Ayrton Senna is from São Paulo.
  7. Paulistas refer to cookies as bolachas while in Rio we say biscoito – and this is serious stuff here!

The City Nowadays

São Paulo continues to be a city that embraces different people and cultures. You can easily experience different parts of the world within it. For example, you can have some of the best Japanese food in Brazil in Liberdade, a neighborhood with Japanese stores and restaurants, fully decorated in a Japanese way.

You will also come across different cultures by walking around Bom Retiro. There you can find Armenian churches and restaurants, like Yeran, as well as Jewish synagogues, like Kehilat Israel. Besides that, there are South Korean bakeries and the Hallyu Culture Center that helps promote Korean culture in the city.

São Paulo and cultural diversity.

But that’s far from being all there is to know about this city. Maybe it’s not quite like the fun things to do in Rio, but here are some great places to visit in São Paulo:

  • Parque Ibirapuera: a historical park with beautiful scenery, it offers a multitude of activities to do and access to it is completely free.

Parque Ibirapuera in São Paulo.

Variety of the Parque Ibirapuera in São Paulo.

  • Rua 25 de Março: have you ever wondered how the biggest commerce area in Latin America looks like? This street is every shopper’s paradise.
  • Beco do Batman: for urban art appreciators all over the world, here’s something! This is a great place to chill and check out some graffiti art.
  • Mercado Municipal: made for foodies and shoppers alike. This is the place to be if you want to try the best food there is in São Paulo!

Mercado Municipal in São Paulo.

  • Autódromo de Interlagos: how about seeing a Formula 1 race first-hand? Many world titles were decided in this circuit.
  • Zoo Safári: this is no old boring regular zoo! At this zoo, you drive in with your car while the animals roam free outside. Quite a role reversal, no?

Now, we know more about São Paulo and its history. Should we spend a weekend there for one of our RioLIVE! activities? Tell us about it!
See you next time!

Ler esta Dica em Português           Leer esta Dica en Español
Click in the links below to see more related Dicas
Brazilian States and their Capitals
Brazilian Football History
Pretérito Imperfeito in Portuguese

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