Porto Alegre

The city (city map) has around 1.46 million inhabitants and it is the 10th most populous city in Brazil; it has a GDP (Gross Domestic Product, 2010) close to USD 18,7 billion, which makes it the 7th richest city in Brazil in terms of GDP. Porto Alegre is the capital of Rio Grande do Sul (RS). This is the southernmost state of Brazil, having borders with Argentina and Uruguay (world map). The state has around 11.1 million inhabitants and a GDP (2013 base year) of USD 135 billion (IBGE, 2014).

The State of Rio Grande do Sul comprises 4 macroregions: the first region is (known as Half South of RS) more dedicated to extensive livestock rearing and rice production in large scale; the second region (known as Colonial Northwest) produces mainly milk, fruit, corn, soybeans, as well as other services, colonial and industrial products; the third (known as serra gaúcha, Portuguese for mountain region of RS) is directed to services and industrial production, with companies like Marcopolo, Randon and Tramontina, which export products to dozens of countries; and the Metropolitan region of Porto Alegre, geared towards the production of shoes (surrounding areas of the city of Novo Hamburgo), petrochemical industries and services.

The people who were born or live in Rio Grande do Sul are known as gaúchos; They are a mix of peoples. Multiple ethnicities of colonizers, such as Portuguese, Spanish, African, German, Italian, Polish, Russian, Ukrainian, Jewish and others (laçador statue) who joined the native indians; from this mix, a rich and distinctive culture was formed, which was disseminated throughout Brazil by successive groups of migrants. Among the more characteristic manifestations of the gaúcha culture (culture of Rio Grande do Sul) we have the habit of drinking chimarrão (a hot drink made of a native and bitter herb); the formation of the CTGs (Centers where the traditions of RS are celebrated)) and churrascarias (restaurants that serve churrasco, the typical barbecue of RS), the use of typical expressions and clothes, a rich folklore, the practice of traditional dances from Rio Grande do Sul, such as cana verde (green sugar cane) and pezinho (little foot).  

The city of Porto Alegre is located in the east part of the State, at the margins of the Guaíba River (formed by 4 rivers) and Lagoa dos Patos (praia de ipanema), which is the biggest fresh water lake in the world.  Porto Alegre’s Metropolitan Region comprises 23 cities and around 3.5 million inhabitants.

Porto Alegre has many titles, which make it stand out in Brazil:  

- the capital with the best HDI (Human Development Index) in Brazil, according to the UN;

- the cultural capital of Mercosur;

- the city with more trees in Brazil, featuring 700 squares, 2 biological reserves, and 7 urban a style="color: blue; text-decoration: underline; text-underline: single" href="http://www.wcams.com.br/DCP_0278.jpg"> parks ;

- the city with the biggest rural area among the Brazilian capitals

The city history begins in the 18th century, when a small dock was built at the margins of the  River or Lake Guaíba, in order to facilitate the communication with the village of Viamão, 15 km away, which was the main village of the Captaincy (or Province) at that time. From this event came the name of Porto de Viamão (Port of Viamão) (see the current image of the port). When 60 couples from the Portuguese Azores Islands settled in the area, the name changed to Porto dos Casais (Port of the Couples).  

In 1773, the village was chosen to be the headquarters of the captaincy government, which was located in Viamão until that moment.  

In 1809, a royal provision granted the settlement the status of village, and on October 7, 1809, it became the city of Porto Alegre (Portuguese for Happy Port).

Around 1820, the French biologist August Saint-Hilaire passed by the city, masterfully registering some characteristics verified at that time, including many which are a trademark of the city until the present day (POA-1820). Praça da matriz (main square), from where he saw magnificent views to the west, north and south, is a reference center in the city and state to this day. The main offices of the executive, legislative and judicial branches of the state government are located in this square, as well as the Catholic Cathedral. Catholicism is the religion of the majority of the population. People from Porto Alegre are kind and hospitable, and are always questioning and debating the social situation of the state and the country; who historically have been divided into groups that are for or against facts, like farroupilhas (the ones who rebelled against the imperial forces) or imperialists, maragatos (name given in Brazil to those who initiated the Riograndense Revolution of 1893) or chimangos (as the antagonists of the maragatos were called), gremistas (fans of the soccer team Grêmio) or colorados (fans of the soccer team Internacional).

Porto Alegre has always had an active participation in the national scenario in terms of politics, economics, sports and culture.  

It is the Brazilian capital with the highest educational level - 20% of heads of household have university degrees.

There are two important universities in Porto Alegre - Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS) and the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio Grande do Sul (PUCRS).


 UFRGS is among the three main universities in the country, mainly because of the quality of its graduate programs. In the Metropolitan Region, there are two important universities (ULBRA and UNISINOS), and many university centers. The city has two soccer teams - Grêmio and Internacional, which are part of the 13 most important soccer clubs in the country. Grêmio has around 6.7 million fans in Brazil, and Internacional has 5.8 million; each with its victorious past, both with many national and international titles, including the World Championship (Grêmio in 1983 and Internacional in 2005).

Among the main companies located in Porto Alegre, we can mention Gerdau, Sicredi, Banrisul, Zaffari and RBS. Other companies operate in neighbor cities, but have their administrative headquarters in Porto Alegre (FIERGS, Federasul). The petrochemical complex of Triunfo, installed in the metropolitan area, stands out in the petrochemical area, mainly by the qualified manpower available in the region. For similar reasons, the company Dell Computers, from the United States, chose the nearby city of Alvorada to install its plant. In the city of Gravataí, also in the metropolitan area, General Motors operates one of its most advanced plants. The city and its metropolitan area also stand out for the quality of its medical services (Santa Casa, Hospital de Clínicas), varied and qualified shopping options (Rua da Praia, Shopping Iguatemi), technological capacity (featuring highly innovative ventures, such as Tecnopuc, Tecnosinos, Ceitec), being clean and organized, its cultural events, preservation of the environment and historical heritage (Igreja das Dores), and diversified gastronomy. Its sunset is described as one of the most beautiful in the world. Lately, it has been chosen to host scientific and cultural events, and also many companies opted for setting up their administrative headquarters or branches in the city, in order to facilitate commercial and industrial operations in the Mercosur region. More than 20 hotels are being built to accommodate the growing number of tourists, business people and self-employed professionals.

See more information about Porto Alegre on the site IBGE-cidades.

Luis Roque Klering (updated on: May 31, 2014)