Sao Paulo - History
São Vicente, in the coast of São Paulo, was the first city founded in Brazil, on January 20th, 1532; the main reason for Martin Afonso de Sousa to found the village was to guarantee the possession of the area, constantly visited by foreigners.
Cane was the first economic activity, but the farmers from São Paulo couldn´t compete with the northeasterns, because of the climate and, more important, because the coast of São Paulo is much narrower (the coast is separated from the interior by the Serra do Mar; see
Geography of São Paulo).
On January 25th 1554, jesuits on a mission to convert the indians walked up the Serra do Mar and founded a college, which would become the city of São Paulo. The jesuits were followed by another group which also had intereste on indians: the
bandeirantes, who chased indians to be enslaved in the cane plantations (later on, the bandeirantes, in search of gold, would explore the unknown lands of what today is western Brazil.
The toponomy of the state shows how important was the influence of jesuits and bandeirantes in the History of São Paulo; no other state has so many cities and rivers named after saints (thanks to jesuits) or after indian names (thanks to bandeirantes).
The jesuits were the only means of access to education for ordinary people (indians and non-indians) during colonial times (the Portuguese had no interest at all in providing education). The bandeirantes were men who, despite all problems, and independent of official support, would put ahead their own enterprises (here, the isolation of the city of São Paulo helped the bandeirantes, who had more freedom from the Portuguese administrators). These two groups, jesuits and bandeirantes, were fundamentals for the paulistas to shape a character of perseverance and self-determination which distinguishes the state from all others, and were the basis (along with the influence of immigrants, which would arrive a few centuries later) of the prosperity of the São Paulo.
Until the end of the 17th century, the bandeiras (the exploratory expeditions organized and led by the bandeirantes) were the main economic activity of São Paulo; initially, the bandeiras chased indians, but after the traffic from African slaves was established, the goal of the bandeirantes was shifted to prospecting gold and combating fugitive blacks.
They indeed found gold, but in the lands of Minas Gerais (see
History of Minas Gerais); many paulistas moved to the gold regions, in search of quick richness, and the incipient farms felt the lack of workers. In 1711, the area of Minas Gerais, which was part of the capitany of São Paulo, was dismembered; the province of São Paulo remained under explored.
The necessity to control the production and commerce of gold was the main reason to turn Rio de Janeiro into administrative center of Brazil; a consequence of this was that São Paulo lost much of the former independence. With the decline of the gold activity (which was never found in São Paulo), the Portuguese decided to incentivate the culture of cane in the state. The situation then was much different from the 1500s: there was a path between São Paulo and the littoral; the interior lands had been already explored by the bandeirantes, and several villages had been founded; the state was much more populated, and, in a situation similar to Minas Gerais´, there were many people who had abandoned the gold quest and were looking for an alternative occupation.
In the beginning of the 19th century, the sugar cane farms gradually occupied the banks of rivers Tietê and Paraíba do Sul, near the city of São Paulo (not by coincidence, these areas were the first ones to see coffee farms, later on). São Paulo was going through a major change: the adventurous bandeirantes were giving way to the cane farmers and sugar producers; however, while in the northeast the farms had an almost feudal structure (the patriarchs had nearly absolute power), in São Paulo there was a co-existence between the farms and nearby urban cities; the prosperity of the farmers was accompanied by the progress of cities.
The coffee. Soon, the cane farmers realized the much better potential of coffee; as the cane plantations are completely removed during the cropping, in little time much of them had been replaced by coffee. Also, the region between Campinas and Ribeirão Preto proved to have a soil (called terra roxa, or purple soil) particularly well adapted to the coffee; the railways, necessary for the quick exportation of the product, followed the coffee; the port of Santos also saw a fast growth. By the middle of the 19th century, São Paulo was the largest producer of coffee in Brazil; so profitable was the activity, that an official report of 1887 indicated that São Paulo was already the province with the highest income levels.
In 1888, slavery was altogether abolished in Brazil; the abolishing law (Golden Law) followed the Law Eusebio de Queiros (1850), which had forbidden traffic, the Law of the Free Newborns (1871), which had freed the offsprings of slaves, and the Law of Sexagenaries (1885), which had freed the elderly. Aware from the inevitability of the abolishion, the São Paulo farmers, since the 1870s, had been contracting Italian immigrants to work with the coffee.
São Paulo was much less affected by the Golden Law than the northeast and even Rio de Janeiro, which had been relying on slave workforce for centuries. Even today, it´s noticeable that São Paulo had a much weaker influence from black culture than the northeastern states or Rio de Janeiro (cariocas often say that São Paulo is the graveyard of samba.)
On the other hand, São Paulo is the most multicultural state of Brazil; not only was there a large influx of many diferent immigrants, but most of them were promptly incorporated to the society (in opposition, many immigrants who headed to other states formed colonies, which made the miscigenation more uncommon). The number of immigrants had an exponential growth: in the 1860s, there were 1,681 people; in the 1870s, 11,730; over the following decade, about 184,000 immigrants entered São Paulo. During the coffee cycle, the absolute majority of immigrants was Italian.
Despite not being among the richest provinces, São Paulo was one of the most politically influential during the Brazilian Empire; families like Andradas, Paula Sousa and Vergueiro were important before the Independence and all through the Empire period. Moreover, while it was common to see Representatives of a same province fighting each other, the paulistas disregarded punctual differences they might have and acted united to the defend the interests of the Province.
So, in the beginning of the 20th century, São Paulo was the richest Brazilian province, had the most educated and skilled population, and with politicians eager to assume power. The State was ready to become economic and political leader of the Brazilian Republic.
Brazil became a Republic in 1889; the first two Presidents were militaries who commanded the republican revolution. Afterwards, Presidents were elected; São Paulo elected the first three civilian Presidents, who ruled from 1894 to 1902: Prudente de Morais, Campos Sales and Rodrigues Alves.
From 1902 to 1930, a period known as Republica Velha (Old Republic), São Paulo divided powers with Minas Gerais, another State which had benefited from the coffee culture and from the production of milk and dairy (the period was also known as Republic Coffee-and-Milk); there was a clear predominance of these two States, with an alternance in the Presidency.
During the Old Republic, São Paulo consolidated the economic supremacy. The coffee farms reached a much larger area; benefited by the railways, many cities thrived; by 1930, about 2,5 million immigrants had entered São Paulo (57% of the total number of immigrants to Brazil), most of them with crafts learned at their home countries.
Another major change was happening in São Paulo: industrialization. A mass of free, well paid salary men was being formed in the State, for the first time in the History of the country. Using the financial savings of the coffee barons, entrepreneurs (often, immigrants with specialized skills) started small factories to supply goods for this growing internal market; an extra boost came with the World War I, when importation of several products became harder or impossible.
Despite of this industrial growth, the economy was still heavily dependent on coffee in 1929, and the State was deeply hurt by the collapse of prices.
The economic crisis triggered political changes: unhappy with the supremacy of São Paulo, other States insurged against the results of the Presidential elections (which had been won by the paulista Júlio Prestes), and Brazilians saw the Revolution of 1930.
took the Presidency and ruled the country until 1945; during this period, Getulio managed to weaken the political influence of São Paulo, but, after the oposition was tamed, he had no interest in harm the economy of the State, and the growth continued.
After the collapse of the coffee, farmers and Government looked for alternative cultures. Official institutions researched a selected variety of seed, which proved to adapt well to the soils of the State and became the main agricultural product; the cotton occupied not only much space previously taken by coffe, but also advanced westwards, reaching lands still clear.
At the same epoch, many other cultures were introduced in the state; the old trend of large monocultural farms gave place to smaller, policultural farms. Meanwhile, immigration continued, this time with a predominance of the Japanese; most Japaneses went to work in agricultural activies, and applied their experience with the preparation of soil and with the experimentation of new products.
The industry kept growing; the coffee capitals were replaced by government and foreigner capitals. Getulio Vargas adopted (particularly during the World War II period, when US and UK governments wanted to have Brazil as an ally) a nationalist policy, focused on the creation of a heavy industry and substitution of importations; by 1950, the industrial production represented 80% of the economy of São Paulo.
The basic industries (steel, oil refineries), the large consumer market, the educated labor force, among other factors, kept attracting industries. During the 1950s, when President Juscelino Kubstcheck gave incentives to foreigner car makers come to Brazil, General Motors, Volkswagen and Ford established plants in São Bernardo do Campo (and were followed by many auto parts makers). The region of São Bernardo became the center of the Union movements in Brazil; Luis Inacio Lula da Silva, who would become President of Republic, was an union leader here.
In the 1980s, a movement of economic decentralization began to be observed, and only became stronger afterwards. Factors like a nearly chaotic traffic, the growth of markets in other cities, the cost of terrains, the constantly growing demands of unions, among others, pushed many new businesses to the interior. Cities like Campinas, Ribeirão Preto and São José dos Campos became important industrial, commercial and university centers; many other places had fast development, but not enough to outplace the capital.
After the first decades of the 20th century, foreigner immigration slowed down, but another phenomenon became more and more clear: the internal immigration; attracted by the prosperity, millions of Brazilians (mostly from the Northeastern States) migrated to São Paulo, especially the capital city; lacking education and other skills, the absolute majority ended up working in lower jobs, such as civil construction; São Paulo (known, during the 1980s, as the fastest growing city in the world) had many of their sky-scrapers built by the nordestinos.
The internal migration had cultural impacts. Recent census show that São Paulo has more northeasterns than most capital cities in the Northeast. Vocabulary, culinary and general habits of other Brazilians were incorporated to the culture of São Paulo, mixing up with the cultures of the indians, Portuguese, blacks and other immigrants who had come before. Besides being the richest, São Paulo is the most multicultural State of Brazil.
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