When I left my place,
I did not leave, I lost myself,
but I thought I had left.
Poor me, I never left.

Carlos Drummond de Andrade (1902-1987)

To understand the contrasts and the blend of cultures in the state of São Paulo, it is necessary to talk about migration. Here, tourists can get surprised with the strange mixture of feijão-de-corda (a dish made of beans) with pão-de-queijo (a bread made of cheese), together with forró (a typical rhythm from the Northeastern region) and country music. All of this together with a delicious barbecue and chimarrão (typical tea from the Southern region). In São Paulo, it is possible to find every little "piece" of Brazil, together with their different accents and cooking styles. After all, the state has become one of the most important migratory centers in the country. The region's fast development, the chance of finding a job and the dream of having a better life are characteristics of São Paulo: a huge Babel Tower. A survey carried out in 1959 showed that the migratory flow into São Paulo started in 1901, when the inflow of migrants into the state reached 1,434 people. During that same period, the number of foreigners coming to São Paulo totaled 70,348 people. And, from 1923 on, the flow of people coming from the Northeastern region and from the states of Minas Gerais and Rio de Janeiro increased significantly.

In 1935, the Government of Armando Salles de Oliveira decided to encourage the migration to São Paulo with a view to meeting the needs of labor force in the rural area. The government adopted a system of making agreements with private companies: these companies would pay for the tickets and baggage, in addition to a small salary to the family. The companies contracted out by the government to bring workers from other states operated mainly in the country's Northeastern region and in the North of Minas Gerais. In 1939, Departamento de Imigração e Colonização (Department of Immigration and Colonization) was reorganized and the government established Inspetoria de Trabalhadores Migrantes (Department of Inspection of Migrating Workers) with a view to substituting the private companies as regards the supported migration service. At the time the families arrived in São Paulo, they were sent to Hospedaria do Imigrante (Immigrant's Hostel) and then sent to different parts of the state. With these governmental incentives, lots and lots of people came: the number of migrants in 1939 alone reached 100,000 people.

From 1941 to 1949, Departamento of Imigração e Colonização de São Paulo sent alone 399,937 workers from other states to São Paulo's rural areas. At that time, Europe was facing the Second World War and the immigration of Europeans decreased sharply. The 12 municipalities that were home to the highest number of immigrants (399,927) were Presidente Prudente, Rancharia, Marília, Martinópolis, Andradina, Presidente Venceslau, Santo Anastácio, Pompéia, Valparaiso, Araçatuba and Presidente Bernardes. However, it was from 1950 to 1960 that the state went through a real industrialization process and the job marketplace expanded significantly, since the industrial growth led to a substantial expansion of commercial activities. In 1950, the migration scene in the country was as follows: almost 50% of migrants came from Minas Gerais; 17.56% from Bahia, that is, these two states alone represented 65.04% of all migration flow; yet the migrants from Pernambuco, Alagoas, Ceará, Sergipe, Paraíba, Rio Grande do Norte and Piauí represented less than 15% of the people who settled in São Paulo.

The proximity between São Paulo and Minas Gerais was one of the reasons for the high flow of mineiros to the state. The increase in the number of people coming from the Northeastern region was mainly due to the droughts that affected the region during the 50's; another factor was the completion of Rio-Bahia Highway in 1949, with the subsequent 'creation' of pau-de-arara - trucks precariously adjusted to transport human beings. Migrants settled throughout the state, but primarily in the metropolitan region of São Paulo, reason why the population in this area increased by 56.6% from 1960 to 1970.

The opening of industries in the metropolitan region of São Paulo took place mainly after the Second World War, more specifically after the 50's, at which time imported items started to be substituted by domestic products, one of the major factors that encouraged the industrial development in the region.

As time went by, the migratory flow reduced. In the 60's, migrants totaled 128,000 people, and from 1980 on, the yearly average dropped to 68,000, according to data from Seade.

Thanks to this "melting pot," to visit São Paulo today is to get in contact with different traditions. Brás, for example, a former redoubt of Italians, now concentrates Northern migrants. Yet Carapicuíba concentrates 70% of migrants from both the country's Northeastern and Northern regions. In the municipality of Embu, people from the Southern state of Rio Grande do Sul are everywhere, enjoying their barbecues and traditional musical instruments, not to mention the traditional rustic and craft furniture.

More information

Memorial do Imigrante
Rua Visconde de Parnaíba, 1.316 - Moóca
CEP 03164-300
São Paulo - SP
Fone: (0xx11) 6693-0917

Memorial do Imigrante

Gastronomy is also a highlight: thanks to the migration, in São Paulo it is possible to find sweets made of the most exotic fruit from Amazônia, a tasteful acarajé prepared by a typical baiana (woman from the state of Bahia), a delicious doce de leite with cheese from the state of Minas Gerais, to drink a hot chimarrão prepared with typical herbs from the state of Rio Grande do Sul, to taste leitão à pururuca, vaca atolada, galinha ao molho pardo, moquecas from the state of Espírito Santo, mutton, pork ribs with canjiquinha and angu, arroz de cuxá from Maranhão, manioc soup with dry shrimp from Belém do Pará or even tucupi with jambu. In fact, the hardest part is to list all available options.

Whether escaping from the drought, seeking the dream of a better life or looking for better educational conditions, those who came to São Paulo had a reason for that. And all of them adopted the state as their home. With this, São Paulo got not only urban problems but also hardworking people full of determination and, above all, the richness of several cultures.