Speaking of São Paulo implies, above all, to know its history, a trajectory so rich that tells the life of a nation.
Speaking of São Paulo also implies knowing the history of its pioneer and fearless people, a population who climbed mountains and forests with infinite courage to mark their territory.
Speaking of São Paulo implies revealing its remarkable conquests.
The Colonial Period
In safety terms, the topographical localization of São Paulo was perfect: it was at a high and flat hill that made it possible to defend against the attacks of wild native indians.
The colonization of São Paulo started in 1532 when, on January 21, Martim Afonso de Souza founded the settlement that would become Vila de São Vicente (São Vicente Village), one of the oldest villages in Brazil. Following through with the land exploitation and looking for new people to evangelize, with a view to accomplishing the mission that brought them to the New World, a group of Jesuits, among whom José de Anchieta and Manoel da Nóbrega, went up Serra do Mar and reached the Piratininga plateau, where they found, according to some letters sent to Portugal, a "very healthy and fresh land, with good waters".
The Jesuits opened, on January 25, 1554, a school, around which the first mud huts started being built, originating the settlement known as São Paulo de Piratininga. In 1560, it became a village.
At the beginning, São Paulo lived on the subsistence of agriculture, with native indians working as slaves in a frustrated attempt to grow sugar cane on a large scale basis. At that time, however, the explorers' real dream was to find gold and precious metals. Therefore, in the second half of the century, the expeditions to the country's interior region, known as bandeiras, started getting organized, capture indians and search for precious metals and stones in far away lands, thus initiating the exploitation of Minas Gerais.
In 1681, São Paulo became the center of the Captaincy, stretching over an area that was much larger than that occupied today by the state. In 1711, the village became a city. The successful exploitations of bandeiras led the Portuguese Crown to split the Captaincy to have stricter control over Minas's region. Because of that, during the 18th century, São Paulo continued to be the headquarters, that is, the departure point from where bandeiras used to leave. Bandeiras were responsible for expanding the Brazilian territory to the southern and southwestern areas beyond the Tordesilhas line. The more bandeiras advanced, the more they exterminated the native indians who showed resistance to this advancement. All of this led to the poverty faced by the province of São Paulo during the colonial period, since it had no profitable activity such as the production of sugar cane in the Northeast region, which used the native indians as labor force, and also because all men left to exploit Brazil's borders.
During the first 300 years of colonization, the number of indians and mamelucos (blend of white people with indians) far surpassed that of Europeans. Up to the middle of the 18th century, the population used to speak a common language based on tupi-guarani (the language of the native indians). During the period when the Iberian Crowns joined, from 1580 to 1640, it is said that Spanish was the second language in São Paulo.
After the Independence, in 1822, Africans represented approximately 25% of the population, and mulatos (blend of white and black people) reached more than 40%. The number of indians in colonized regions was insignificant, mainly in sugar cane crop areas, concentrated on the Northern coast and in Itu/Sorocaba. The great turnover of the state's economy would take place only in the end of the 18th century and beginning of the 19th century, at which time the coffee started to replace the sugar cane and became the most important crop in the whole country.
The Imperial Period
The colonial period comes to an end with the arrival, in 1808, of the Portuguese Royal Family in Brazil (escaping from the Napoleonic troops). Dom João VI introduced a number of reforms in several areas - architecture, university education, urbanization, artistic performances etc. - with a view to adjusting the country to be the headquarters of the Vice-Kingdom, which would be the home to the Portuguese Crown. These changes brought lots of benefits to São Paulo.
It was in São Paulo that, on September 7, 1822, the heir of the Portuguese throne, Prince Dom Pedro, declared the Independence of Brazil, was acclaimed Emperor and received the title of Dom Pedro I. Further to his resignation in the 30's, amid the political turmoil against the Portuguese domain, the Regency period took place. During the second half of the century, with D. Pedro II as the king, the country enjoyed a period of development and prosperity, mainly after the consolidation of coffee as the main Brazilian export product. It was at that time that São Paulo started to stand out in the domestic scene, with the development of the coffee crops thanks to the fact that the land in the state's Northern region was appropriate for its growing.
The development of coffee crops led to the expansion of the railways (1860-1861): Santos-Jundiaí railway, at that time called São Paulo Railway, started being built. It was a period characterized by major changes, marked by the crisis of the slavery system that would result in its abolishment in 1888, followed by the arrival of a large number of immigrants to work in coffee crops, thus solving the problem related to the lack of labor force.
During this period, São Paulo thrived and the province went through an actual urban revolution, a result of the need of transforming a modest city, a mere commercial supply center, into the capital of the new economic elite. In mid-1860, São Paulo was entirely different from the old colonial city: street lamps using castor-oil plant or whale oil were everywhere and the city had its first public park, Jardim da Luz, which would be entirely renovated at the end of the century.
As the city grew, some symbolic places such as São Paulo Railway Station and Jardim da Luz started being surrounded by urban centers. Nearby, some residential areas also started taking form, such as Campos Elíseos, with its Parisian-style boulevards, such as Avenida Tiradentes. Railways also contributed to the growing of new and popular areas next to São Paulo Railway Station, such as Bom Retiro and Brás, which expanded thanks to the opening of Hospedaria dos Imigrantes (Immigrant's Hostel). Public buildings multiplied: assembly, chamber, forum, schools, headquarters, prisons, shelters for homeless children. Dozens of churches, convents and monasteries, such as it used to happen during the colonial times, continued to spread all over the city. In cultural terms, circus artists, theater actors, poets and singers settled in São Paulo, together with the publishing of the city's first newspaper.
All these changes brought other positive aspects. The arrival of thousands of immigrants, aside from solving problems of lack of labor force in coffee crops, contributed to the occupation of the countryside region. Thanks to this, small factories, 'subsidiaries' of the coffee, could give the first steps towards industrialization. With the countryside growing together with the province, new roads started being built, allowing for the thriving of coffee crops and for the future prosperity during The Republican Period.
The Imperial period came to an end with the abolition of slavery in 1888. The lost of support from the conservative elite, aggravated by the lack of understanding between the Emperor and the Church as regards the so-called "Religious Quest", and the crisis in the Army after Guerra do Paraguai (Paraguay War), which gave rise to the "Military Quest", led to the fall of Dom Pedro II. He was dethroned by a military movement led by Marshal Deodoro da Fonseca in 1889. It was then that Primeira República (the First Republic) started.
Up to 1930, The Republican Period was under the control of São Paulo's, Minas Gerais's and Rio de Janeiro's agrarian oligarchies. The economic importance of coffee in São Paulo and cattle in Minas Gerais supported "política do café-com-leite" (the "coffee and milk politics"), reason why leaders from São Paulo (paulistas) and from Minas Gerais (mineiros) alternated themselves in occupying the presidency of The Republican Period. In fact, São Paulo just continued having the power it attained during the previous decades thanks to its economic prosperity. Railways helped coffee crops grow, attracted immigrants and allowed the colonization of new areas; meanwhile, in the cities, the industrialization expanded, giving rise to a new urban scene and making room for new social classes, namely, the proletariat and the middle class.
More prosperous than ever, a real State within the Federation, São Paulo witnessed new things on a daily basis: the electricity replacing gas lamps, the arrival of cars (the first one arrived here in 1892 and belonged to Santos Dumont's father); the expansion of electric trolley lines; the construction of large urban works, among which, Viaduto do Chá and Avenida Paulista.
This period was characterized by the intense multiplication of everything, from immigration, which supported the coffee industry, to the development of cities, which led São Paulo to leave behind its provincial characteristics and become the country's most dynamic economy.
The entire state went through a transformation. Santos, Jundiaí, Itu, Campinas and several other villages started getting used to the factory whistles and to a new labor class. Strikes and street riots became part of police reports; at the same time, it became clear that the urban infrastructure was too poor. Other major problem, which became the focus of attention by authorities, was the lack of electricity. In 1900, the Canadian firm Light Company was opened (and remained in operation until 1970). Thanks to this, the state's electric power generating capacity increased significantly, a decisive factor for the outstanding industrial growth from 1930 to 1940. With this, dozens of hydroelectric power plants started being built, using primarily foreign capital.
During Primeira República (First Republic), São Paulo's coffee aristocracy enjoyed its heyday. Revolução de 1930 (1930 Revolution), however, brought this leadership to an end. As a result, other minor states started standing out, such as Rio Grande do Sul, governed by Getúlio Vargas. In 1932, São Paulo's oligarchies organized Revolução Constitucionalista (Constitutionalist Revolution) to fight this movement but, despite the state's economic wealth, they did not succeed.
In 1930, railways reached the vicinity of Paraná River and more than one third of the state's territory was colonized. Cities multiplied. In social terms, the state became a Babel tower, deeply marked by the different cultures brought from more than 60 countries. But, in the last decade of República Velha (the Old Republic), the economic and political system that supported the power of São Paulo weakened. After the 1930 Revolution, the country went through an unstable period that favored the establishing of Getúlio Vargas' dictatorship, which lasted eight years and ended with the Second World War, followed by a democratization period and the establishment of the so-called Segunda República (the Second Republic).
Meanwhile, in economic terms, coffee overcame the crisis faced during the beginning of the 30's and, due to the war, enjoyed a rise in prices, thus favoring the recovery of São Paulo. The industrial sector started standing out mainly due to the investments that were allocated to it. Soon after, the country would see another major development with the arrival of the auto industry in São Paulo, flagship of the Brazilian economy since the 50's. Since then, despite the economic and political changes faced by the country, São Paulo has become the country's largest industrial center.
Source: Portal do Governo do Estado de São Paulo