Pôrto Alegre

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Pôrto Alegre

Pôrto Alegre, Brazil's tenth largest city (estimated 2006 population, 1,440,939), fourth largest industrial center, and capital of the state of Rio Grande do Sul. On the Guaíba estuary, with access to the region's navigable central rivers and, through the Lagoa dos Patos, to the sea, Pôrto Alegre is the natural entrepôt to the agricultural economy of northern and central Rio Grande do Sul. Its history, dating to 1732, was shaped by divisions between the region's agricultural north and pastoral south.

Formerly Pôrto do Viamão and Pôrto dos Casais, it was renamed Pôrto Alegre after the capital moved there in 1773. By 1814 exports from local Azorean wheat farms boosted population to 6,000, but after 1820 the collapse of the wheat trade and growth of a cattle economy shifted the region's economic balance south. The city was held by imperial forces for most of the Farroupilha Revolt (1835–1845), in opposition to the rebel south. In the late nineteenth century, when the pastoral economy stalled, the region's economic center moved north again, and the city regained importance, first as an outlet for the agricultural production of immigrant farms that spread across its hinterland, then, after 1890, as their supplier of industrial goods. Population growth peaked from 1900 to 1910. German and Italian immigrants played leading roles in the city's growth, leaving a distinctive imprint. By 1920 the population topped 100,000, and Pôrto Alegre consolidated its position as the state's industrial center and point of articulation for its two distinct subregions.

In subsequent decades, economic decline in its agricultural hinterland due to loss of markets, soil exhaustion, and subdivision of small farms undermined the city's economic base, slowed its industrial growth, and swelled its population with migrants from the countryside. Pôrto Alegre maintained its position of commercial and industrial preeminence within the state but saw its share of Brazilian industry much reduced as São Paulo consolidated national industrial dominance.

See alsoBrazil, Geography; Rio Grande do Sul.


Francisco Riopardense De Macedo, Pôrto Alegre: Origem e crescimento. Porto Alegre: Liv Sulina, 1968.

Paul Singer, Desenvolvimento econômico e evolução urbana: Análise da evolução ecônomica de São Paulo, Blumenau, Pôrto Alegre, Belo Horizonte e Recife (1968).

Additional Bibliography

Baiocchi, Gianpolo. Militants and Citizens: the Politics of Participatory Democracy in Porto Alegre. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2005.

Kittleson, Roger Alan. The Practice of Politics in Postcolonial Brazil: Porto Alegre, 1845–1895. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2006.

Lazarri, Alexandre. Coisas para povo náo fazer: Carnaval em Porto Alegre (1870–1915.) Campinas, SP, Brazil: Editora de UNICAMP: CECULT, 2001.

Lourieiro, Isabel Maria; José Corréa Leite; Maria Elisa Cevasco. O espírito de Porto Alegre. Sáo Paulo: Paz e Terra, 2002.

                                             Joan Bak