São Paulo (State)

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São Paulo (State)

The first settlement in what is today the south-central state of São Paulo was established at the coastal island of São Vicente in 1532 by the explorer Martim Afonso de Sousa. Until mid-century settlements hugged the coast, producing a thriving enclave based on exports of sugar, brazilwood, and agricultural products second in prosperity only to the captaincy of Pernambuco in Northeastern Brazil. The interior was officially settled in 1554, when Jesuit priests climbed the steep sierra to the inland plateau and founded São Paulo do Campo de Piratininga as a base for proselytizing among the indigeneous. For the remainder of the sixteenth century, the captaincy was subject to attacks by the Tamóio people in league with the French from "Antarctic France" (today Rio de Janeiro) and by foreign raiders along the coast.

In the first half of the seventeenth century, explorers from the town of São Paulo made expeditions, known as bandeiras, into the unexplored interior, drawn by the chance to enslave Amerindians and by persistent rumors of gold deposits. The Jesuits of São Paulo condemned slave-hunting raids against the Tupi-Guaranís of the Jesuit missions in the southwest (today Paraguay), and were forced to leave the São Vicente captaincy by a citizen uprising in 1640.

The discovery of gold in what became Minas Gerais resulted in a frantic gold rush, led by longtime São Vicente residents, who abandoned the sugar mills along the coast, and swelled by European fortune seekers who flocked to Brazil. Paulistas lost control of the gold fields to Portuguese foreigners in the War of the Emboabas (1708–1709). Now displaced, paulistas pushed deeper into the interior, opening up new areas for exploration. Mining and population growth led the government to create the captaincy of São Paulo and Minas Gerais in 1710. Gold exports during this period shored up Portugal's sagging economy and contributed to Great Britain's industrialization. Mining declined through the eighteenth century, however, and the captaincy of São Paulo was thrown back on commerce in mules, cotton cloth, and sugar.

The modern chapter of the state's history dates from the early nineteenth century, as coffee cultivation gradually replaced sugar cultivation. After mid-century, coffee wealth and republican sentiment grew in tandem, such that São Paulo's upper class led the opposition to the emperor. By the 1880s São Paulo had the strongest Republican Party in Brazil. With the advent of the Republic in 1890, the paulistas formed the "coffee with cream" political alliance with Minas Gerais (so called because of São Paulo's coffee and Minas's dairy products) that dominated Brazilian politics until 1930. The paulista oligarchy was ousted from national power by the Revolution of 1930, though it still retained considerable political clout.

The period after 1930 was defined by continued coffee exports, greater agricultural diversification, and the coffee-financed industrialization that had begun around 1900. Together these made the state of São Paulo the dynamo of Brazil's modernizing economy until the present day.

The importance of the state of São Paulo in Brazilian history cannot be underestimated. The bandeirantes expanded Portuguese territorial claims well beyond the line separating Portuguese from Spanish America (established by the Treaty of Tordesillas in 1494), and were the basis of the Brazilian myth of rugged individualism that lives on to this day. The rise of paulista republicanism, colored by patriarchy and exclusionary political practices, was at the center of Brazilian politics between the mid-nineteenth century and 1930. Finally, São Paulo has been a driving economic force in the twentieth century.

The state of São Paulo comprises an area of approximately 248,800 square kilometers (95,700 square miles). It had a population of around forty million (21.5% of the population of Brazil) in 2006, making it the most populous country subdivision in the Western Hemisphere.

See alsoBrazil, Political Parties: Republican Party (PR); Brazil, Revolutions: Revolution of 1930; Mining: Colonial Brazil; Slavery: Brazil.


A good background is available from Richard Morse, From Community to Metropolis: A Biography of São Paulo, Brazil (1974). Morse also has a useful book on the bandeirantes, The Historical Rule of the Brazilian Pathfinders (1965). Clodomir Vianna Moog has an interesting comparative study of the United States and Brazil in Bandeirantes and Pioneers (1964), focusing on Brazilian and U.S. national character. Joseph Love, São Paulo in the Brazilian Federation, 1889–1937 (1980), is the standard study of regional political history. Warren Dean, Rio Claro: A Brazilian Plantation System, 1820–1920 (1976), usefully details a São Paulo coffee community and its incorporation into an export economy.

Additional Bibliography

Andrews, George Reid. Blacks & Whites in São Paulo, Brazil, 1888–1988. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 1991.

Domínguez, Jorge I., ed. Race and Ethnicity in Latin America. New York: Garland Publishing, 1994.

Fausto, Boris. Historiografia da imigração para São Paulo. São Paulo, Brazil: IDESP, Editora Sumaré, 1991.

Monteiro, John M. Negros da terra: Índios e bandeirantes nas origens de São Paulo. São Paulo, Brazil: Companhia das Letras, 1994.

Moura, Carlos Eugênio Marcondes de. Vida cotidiana em São Paulo no século XIX: Memórias, depoimentos, evocações. Cotia, Brazil: Ateliê Editorial, 1999.

Romeu Landi, Francisco. Science, Technology, & Innovation Indicators in the State of São Paul, Brazil 2004. São Paulo, Brazil: FAPESP, 2005.

                                          Brian Owensby