Sao Paulo

Short history

São Paulo, initially founded by Jesuit missionaries in 1554, has evolved from a modest mission village into a sprawling megacity. This evolution was influenced by the discovery of gold in the nearby regions in the 17th century, attracting Portuguese settlers and adventurers. The city’s growth was further propelled in the 19th century with the coffee boom. The abolition of slavery in Brazil in 1888 led to a workforce vacuum, filled by a wave of European and later Japanese immigrants.

Throughout history, São Paulo has been a crucible of political activism and cultural movements, influencing Brazil’s future paths. In the 20th century, the city emerged as an industrial powerhouse, driving Brazil’s economic boom and attracting a diverse workforce from across the country and the globe. More recently, São Paulo hosted the largest environmental protest in Brazil’s history in 2019, highlighting its citizens’ concern and active engagement with global climate change issues.

Geography

São Paulo is situated on a plateau known as the Planalto Paulista. This geographical positioning grants the city a relief featuring rolling terrain interspersed with a series of hills and valleys.

It is located within the state of São Paulo, which is not only its namesake but also one of the most economically significant states in Brazil.

The city’s climate is classified as subtropical, characterized by warm summers and mild winters. January typically stands out as the hottest month, while July often marks the coldest period of the year in Sao Paulo.

São Paulo’s vast expanse is delineated into zones that cater to its residential, commercial, and industrial needs, while its parks and green spaces break up the urban sprawl, providing residents a reprieve from the city bustle. 

Population

São Paulo is the most populous city in Brazil, with an impressive and diverse population that exceeds 12 million inhabitants. This sprawling urban center is culturally heterogenous, reflecting its history of immigration from Italy, Portugal, Japan, and many other nations. The ethnic and racial composition of the city features a significant representation of these immigrant groups, with approximately 60% of the population identifying as white, 30% as mixed race, and 10% as Black, according to data from the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE). Additionally, São Paulo has the largest Japanese community outside of Japan.

Religion in São Paulo is as diverse as its people, with the majority identifying as Roman Catholic, followed by Protestant Christians, but there is also a presence of Islam, Buddhism, and Judaism, in accordance with the city’s cosmopolitan nature.

The primary language spoken is Portuguese: Sao Paulo is the largest Portuguese- speaking city in the world. a consequence of Brazil’s colonial past. On the other hand, many other languages, including Spanish, English, Italian, and Japanese, are commonly heard on its streets. 

Main sights

  • Ibirapuera Park: Often likened to Central Park in New York, Ibirapuera Park is São Paulo’s largest green space, with lakes, performance spaces, and museums.
  • Paulista Avenue: This avenue is the financial heart of São Paulo and Brazil. Lined with businesses, cultural institutions, and shopping areas, Paulista Avenue is a vital part of the city’s daily life.
  • Municipal Market of São Paulo: Known locally as Mercadão, this market is a gourmet’s delight, with plenty of local and exotic fruits, vegetables, meats, and spices. It’s also famous for its mortadella sandwiches and pastel de bacalhau.
  • São Paulo Museum of Art (MASP): Renowned for its impressive collection of Western art, MASP hosts works from the Renaissance to contemporary pieces. The building itself, supported by four red pillars, is an architectural landmark.
  • Liberdade district: Home to the largest Japanese community outside Japan, Liberdade is a mix of cultures with its markets, traditional decorations, and authentic culinary experiences.
  • Cathedral da Sé: A beautiful example of Gothic-Renaissance architecture, the São Paulo Cathedral stands at the city’s central point.
  • Pinacoteca do Estado: This oldest art museum in São Paulo has a vast collection of Brazilian art, ranging from 19th-century paintings to contemporary pieces. Its location near the Luz train station makes it an easily accessible cultural destination.

Food

  • Feijoada: Usually referred to as Brazil’s national dish, this stew combines black beans with pork or beef and is traditionally served with rice, collard greens, and orange slices.
  • Virado à Paulista: A typical dish of São Paulo cuisine, comprising tutu de feijão (a paste made from beans and manioc flour), sautéed collard greens, pork chops, and slices of sausage, accompanied by a fried egg.
  • Pastel de Feira: A popular street food, these are crisp, deep-fried pastries filled with cheese, ground beef, or heart of palm, found at local street markets.
  • Pão de Queijo: These addictive cheese bread rolls are a common snack throughout Brazil but are especially popular in São Paulo. Made from tapioca flour, they are gluten-free and deliciously chewy.
  • Coxinha: A beloved Brazilian snack, coxinhas are tear-shaped, breaded, and fried dough filled with shredded chicken and often cream cheese, then molded to resemble a chicken leg.
  • Mortadella Sandwich: Traditionally served in the Mercado Municipal, this sandwich is made with thinly sliced mortadella, melted cheese, and served on a French roll.

Fun facts

  • São Paulo is known as the “Pizza Capital of the World,” with over 6,000 pizzerias in the city. It is said that São Paulo has more pizzerias than any city in Italy, serving approximately 1.4 million pizzas daily.
  • The city hosts the largest Japanese diaspora in the world. The Liberdade district is particularly famous for its Japanese cultural influence, including restaurants, shops, and festivals.
  • The São Paulo Art Biennial, founded in 1951, is the second oldest art biennial in the world, after Venice, making it a pivotal event in the international contemporary art circuit.
  • The city is home to the São Paulo Gay Pride Parade, one of the largest pride parades in the world, attracting millions of visitors each year.