Tuesday, January 25, 2011

World City-Zen: São Paulo


On this day in 1554 two Jesuit missionaries named Manuel da Nóbrega and José de Anchieta founded a mission, with the intention of 'saving' the area's indigenous Tupi-Guarani people; from its humble beginnings as the village of São Paulo dos Campos de Piratininga, São Paulo became what is today the second most populous city in the Americas, and one of the five largest in the world. Given its prime location in the Brazilian Highlands close by the Tietê River - at the mid-point between the resource rich interior of the country and the port at São Vicente, overlooking the port city of Santos - São Paulo has always played a crucial role in the life of the country.

Formally recognized as a city in 1711, São Paulo's early economy was born from coffee; in 1822 it was also the birthplace of the country's independence, when the Prince of Beira defied his father João VI's order to return from exile to Portugal by declaring Independencia ou morte (Independence or death!) to became Pedro I.

Modern São Paulo - from its name alone, the most logical capital of the State of São Paulo - is centred on Avenida Paulista; a paulista, of course, is the name for a person from the state of São Paulo, while a resident of the city is both a paulista and a paulistano. The avenue is the location of some of the tallest buildings in Brazil, and has frequently been compared to Manhattan's Fifth Avenue. Among the other tourist attractions the city boasts are its highest point, Pico do Jaraguá, Ibirapuera Park, and the São Paulo Museum of Art - which was opened by Elizabeth II in November 1968. Tourists also flock to the city for the São Paulo Gay Parade, which makes its way down Paulista Avenue each June.
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