Geography

Paraná is a state in southern Brazil that embraces an area of 215,127 sq. km. To the north, the Paranapanema River forms the border with the state of São Paulo, to the west, Paraná is bordered by Argentina and Paraguay, and to the south by the state of Santa Catarina. To the east lies the Atlantic Ocean.

Today, Paraná has almost 10 millions inhabitants, of which 15% live below poverty line, although the state's capital, Curitiba, has one of the highest HDI ratings in the world. The state is also Brazil's greatest producer of grains, with a high degree of farming efficiency thanks to climate and soil fertility.

A portion (15%) of the Guarani Reserve - biggest reserve of underground water in the world - is located in this state. This body of water has the greatest hydroelectric output on the planet, as well as many natural wonders, such as the Iguaçu Falls, the Superagüi National Park and the Canyon of Guartelá, which receive thousand visitors from all over the world.

The Colonial Era (1530-1822)

Paraná was in strategic position to absorb the diverse cultures from southern South America, since it was the center of this commercially integrated region. But, in the beginning of Brazilian colonization, the territory of Paraná showed poor prospects to the eager interests of mercantilist Portugal. This lack of interest on the part of the Crown allowed the formation of the Jesuits MissionsSpanish priests teaching native Indians to work, as well as the Christian faith. The Spanish priests were so successful in controlling the native Indians that they began to threaten another group that was growing quickly, and which lived in the Piratininga Plains in Sao Paulo, the bandeirante*.

The Bandeirante were moved by two objectives: Taming unknown lands with native Indians to enslave and trade, and wealth in the form of gold, silver and precious stones. The Paulistas organized expeditions mostly formed by allied Indians tribes and, to a lesser extent, by mestizos** and Portuguese.Bandeiras, as they were called, were the major military force of their time in southern America.

The Jesuits, seeking to enlarge the number of Indians in the missions, adventured into the Piratininga Plains, capturing more and more Indians. This was the spark that led the Paulistas to organize Bandeiras to attack the missions. Experience in combat combined with the diseases the Indians received from the white men, it wasn’t difficult for the Bandeiras to destroy the fourteen Christian missions and to seize their Indians, which measured between 3,000 and 5,000 in each mission. The Indians captured from the Jesuit Missions were of more value than those encountered in pure "savage" state, since they had already acquired some “culture”.

The defeat of the missions meant the end of Spanish progress in the region and allowed the colonization of southern Brazil by Portuguese and its mestizo descendants. The cultural borders that would later form Brazil were beginning to be settled.

After the war, Paraná was again forgotten. Only with the expansion of Brazilian economy caused by the discovery of gold mines in Minas Gerais by the Bandeirantes, in the XVIII century, and the fact that Paraná was the halfway point for mule herds in Rio Grande do Sul, Uruguay and Argentina, and the growing consumer center in Minas Gerais was Paraná to regain importance.

The mule’s troops were conducted from south to center-east by roads that passed for many cities of Santa Catarina, Paraná and São Paulo, those cities development was made possible by the lucrative economy of the Gold Cycle, and that, if by one side diminished the relevance of Brazilian Northeast, by other side made possible the formation of a new commercial polar region and a new culture.

This caravan crossed the country had also the function to propagate news, to mediate letters and orders, and to build agreements. That caused a synthesis of many peoples and cultures, fortifying the importance and the identity of new culture.

At the time of the Brazilian Empire (1822-1889)

Since the Gold Cycle Paraná’s economy didn’t stop growing, the population growing, attracted by Erva-Mate cycle and by Coffee cycle. In beginning, in this cycles was utilized slave work, but, with the prohibition by England of the slaves traffic of Bill Aberdeen Act - and the migration of the most part of this man power to São Paulo, greater coffee producer - it was necessary to supply the man power lack. Because of this, measures were taken that favored immigration of European workers to Paraná.

Came to Paraná Germans, English, Frenchmen, Italians, Swiss, Poles, Ukrainians, Spaniards, Austrians, Danish, Russians, Swedish, Dutches and Syrian-Lebaneses. In the beginning of twenty century, the Japanese immigration started.

Besides bringing new techniques for land cultivation and cattle exploration, the European immigrants helped to complete the settling, fortifying the paranaense economy and mustering diverse cultures with the local one, thus forming Paraná’s population.


*Expeditions were organized by people of São Paulo to escape from social poverty, the so-called Bandeiras that save the Paulistas, and inspired the name Bandeirante. **Mestizo was how were called the one having both Portuguese and Indian blood.

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