São Paulo (souN pouˈ lŏ) [key], state (1996 pop. 34,055,715), 95,713 sq mi (247,897 sq km), SE Brazil. It is Brazil's most populous and economically important state. The capital is the city of São Paulo, (1996 pop. 9,816,776), on the Tietê River. The largest city of Brazil and of South America, with a metropolitan area population that exceeds 18 million, São Paulo is an ultramodern metropolis with skyscrapers, palatial homes, and spacious parks and recreational facilities. Its tropical climate is moderated by the city's altitude (2,700 ft/6,823 m).
São Paulo, which dominates the vast hinterland of one of Brazil's wealthiest agricultural states, is Brazil's commercial, financial, and industrial center. Through its Atlantic Ocean port of Santos, it ships the farm produce of the interior. São Paulo is the center of Brazil's automobile industry; other important manufactures are textiles, processed foods, metal products, electrical equipment, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, furniture, and computers. Printing and publishing are also important. Abundant hydroelectric power has spurred industrial growth. The city is a major road, rail, and air transportation hub and has a modern subway system. Its rapid economic development and population growth since the 1960s have been accompanied by serious air and water pollution and overcrowding.
São Paulo was founded by Jesuit priests on Jan. 25, 1554, on the site of an old native village. In the 17th cent. it became a base for penetration into the Brazilian interior by expeditions ( bandeiras ) seeking mineral wealth and Native American slaves. In 1681, São Paulo was made the administrative capital of the surrounding area, and in 1711 it achieved city status. The independence movement was strong in the city; in 1822 at São Paulo, Brazilian emperor Dom Pedro I proclaimed the country independent of Portugal. The city, however, remained a minor commercial center for a sugarcane and diversified agricultural region until the 1880s, when widespread coffee cultivation in São Paulo state brought sudden growth, prosperity, and an influx of European immigrants.
The city has been a prominent cultural and intellectual center since the 19th cent. It has four universities, a medical school, a law school, and the noted Butantan institute, where snake serums are prepared. The art museum features a fine collection of old masters, and the museum of modern art is famed for its Bienal, an international competition held every two years. Near the Ipiranga Museum is a monument commemorating Dom Pedro's independence proclamation.
See R. M. Morse, From Community to Metropolis (1958).