Rio Grande do Sul

Rio Grande do Sul (RS) is the southernmost State of Brazil; it is situated in the border with Uruguay and Argentina (world map), it had around 11.1 million inhabitants in 2013 and a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of around BRL 310.5 billion (around  USD 134 billion) in 2013. It has four great regions:  

a) the metropolitan region of Porto Alegre, geared towards the production of goods, such as shoes, petrochemical products, components, as well as assembly of cars and computers; rubber and metal products; and also services mainly in the area of computer science, health, tourism and education; as well as poultry and tobacco production; it represents 40% of the State population, and produces around 50% of its GDP; amongst its more representative cities, we have, in addition to Porto Alegre, the following: Canoas, Novo Hamburgo, Gravataí, Cachoeirinha and São Leopoldo; as well as the cities a little further from the capital, Lajeado and Santa Cruz do Sul;  

b) the mountain region, dedicated to the production of poultry; furniture, clothes, kitchen equipment, grapes and wine, apples, buses and trucks, cutlery; as well as services, mainly tourism; it represents around 15% of the State population and 25% of its GDP; the following are amongst its more representative and known cities: Caxias do Sul, Bento Gonçalves, Farroupilha, Flores da Cunha, Gramado and Canela;

c) colonial northwestern region, devoted to the production of corn, soybeans, milk, fruit and other colonial products; as well as industrial products, mainly agricultural machinery and equipment; buses; it represents around 20% of the State population and 10% of its GDP; the following are amongst its more representative and known cities: Passo Fundo, Carazinho, Cruz Alta, Erechim, Ijuí, Panambi, Santo Ângelo, Santa Rosa, Três Passos and Horizontina;  

d) region of the campaign (also called "south half of the State"), more geared towards extensive livestock farming and the production of rice in large scale; as well as shipbuilding production and services; it represents around 25% of the State population and 15% of its GDP; the following are amongst its more known and representative cities: Pelotas, Rio Grande, Santa Maria, Bagé, São Gabriel, Alegrete, Uruguaiana and Santana do Livramento.

The people who were born or live in Rio Grande do Sul are known as gaúchos; they are a mix of peoples. The native Indians were later joined by multiple ethnicities of colonizers, such as Portuguese, Spanish, African, German, Italian, Polish, Russian, Ukrainian, Jewish and others who colonized this land.

RS was one of the last States to be part of Brazil; the Treaty of Madrid signed between Spain and Portugal in 1750 played an important role in the establishment of the State borders. From successive border wars, the gaucho people built a strong and distinctive personality. The State became involved in many wars, like the Guarani War, in the 18th century; Farroupilha Revolution, between 1835 and 1845; Federalist Revolution, after 1890; and the Revolution of 1930, which brought Getúlio Vargas to power for more than a decade.

The State stands out amongst the other Brazilian States, since it has one of the best Human Development Indexes (according to the UN), the lowest illiteracy rate, according to the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE); the population with the highest life expectancy in Brazil, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The typical customs, the climate, the mixture of races, and other factors, have made this people into healthy, well-educated and diligent citizens, who respect and cultivate their traditions and origins.

The capital of the State stands out for the quality of its Universities (UFRGS, PUCRGS, as well as the campuses of UNISINOS and ULBRA), of services offered in the areas of health and computer sciences, and of goods produced. Around it, industries, such as General Motors and Dell Computers, establish themselves and a highly competitive Petrochemical Complex in the Latin American scenario. The headquarters of the Grupo Gerdau is located in Porto Alegre. The company is currently one of the largest and most admired multinationals in Brazil.

This part of the State started being occupied after 1737, when Portugal made maneuvers to occupy the area that was being disputed with Spain. At the time, the region of the Prata River, more to the south, was considered of great strategic importance. Therefore, Portugal decided to occupy strategic points, which are currently the cities of Rio Grande, Porto Alegre, Santo Antônio da Patrulha and the village of Santo Amaro. This occupation was initially made with settlers from the Azores (of the Portuguese Archipelago of Azores); the territorial dispute was justified by successive skirmishes, wars and treaties, mainly, the Treaty of Madrid, from 1750. Later on, after the independence of Brazil in 1822, with the arrival of the imperial family, of which the empress Leopoldina, of German descent, was part of. The Brazilian government managed to occupy the region around Porto Alegre with German settlers. They established settlements that currently correspond to the cities of São Leopoldo, Novo Hamburgo, Lajeado, Estrela, Santa Cruz do Sul and many others, generally situated in valleys and plains, at "the foot of the mountains of Rio Grande do Sul". These cities constitute an extensive part of Serra Geral (a mountain range in southern Brazil), which runs along Brazil’s eastern coast.

The mountain region of Rio Grande do Sul, a bit further and to the north of the plains, at the “foot of the mountains”, later on, was intensely occupied by Italian settlers, who, in 1870, started coming to the state from the North of Italy, founding colonies that became the following important and dynamic cities: Garibaldi, Bento Gonçalves and Caxias do Sul (the fourth colony was established in the center of the State, near the university town of Santa Maria, which is currently the city of Silveira Martins). In this mountain region, we find highly developed companies, which export products to several countries, such as Tramontina, Marcopolo, Randon, Agrale, A. Guerra,  International Trucks, Vinícola Aurora, Vinícola Salton, Móveis Florense, Móveis Todeschini, Móveis Carraro, Mundial, Lojas Colombo and others. The region has more than 1 million inhabitants, and features many prosperous cities, like the leader Caxias do Sul (also known as "Turin of Brazil"), Bento Gonçalves, Farroupilha, Flores da Cunha, Garibaldi and others. In Antonio Prado, it is possible to go back in time to check how the village was in the end of the 19th century; Veranópolis is the city of the longevity, because it has the best life expectancy index in Brazil. There are also charming tourist cities, such as Gramado and Canela, which are among the most beautiful places in Brazil. Not far from these cities, you will find the so-called "fields from above of the hill", which feature truly amazing landscapes: the canyons of Aparados da Serra, where the green fields "are split" by enormous cracks in the earth surface, run over 30 km and more than 700 meters deep, connecting the mountains to the nearby ocean.

The south of Rio Grande do Sul, which cuts the State with an imaginary line that goes from Guaíba until São Borja (more specifically: Garruchos), is formed by extensive fields and never ending plains.  In the good old times, towards the end of the 19th century, this region already produced more than 50% of the State wealth; however, with its vocation devoted to livestock farming and large landholdings, it gave way to other areas, which were more intensively occupied and geared towards industry, commerce and services. On the east side, at the mouth of Lagoa dos Patos (the biggest fresh water lagoon in the world, with a total area of more than 13,000 km2), you will find the city of Rio Grande, founded by the Portuguese in 1737, in order to create a connection point with the settlement of Colônia do Sacramento, which is currently the city of Colonia, in Uruguay (situated 60 km west of Montevideo). The city of Pelotas is not very far, located northwest of this region, during the golden age of the charqueadas (great rural properties that handled the production of salted meat), in the end of the 19th century, it even competed with Porto Alegre in terms of wealth. The university town of Santa Maria is located in the center of the state, and the city of Uruguaiana is on the other side, in the so-called west border, between Rio Grande do Sul and Argentina. Other important cities of this "half south” of the State, are Bagé, Santana do Livramento, São Gabriel, Alegrete and São Borja (also called "land of the marshals", due to important names, who were born there and became national leaders, like former Presidents Getúlio Vargas and João Goulart).

In geographic terms, the northwest region of RS comprises extensive plateaus that incline forming a plan surface towards the Uruguay River, which cuts the State to the north and to the west, in the border with Argentina. Before the Treaty of Madrid , it belonged to Spain; the region of the Missions was initially occupied (in the 17th century) by Jesuit Missions that founded very developed indian settlements for the time. These places aroused the envy of the bandeirantes, causing the war between them and the indians, called Guarani War, which annihilated the civilization built. Vestiges of these missions can be found in the region of the current city of Santo Ângelo, mainly in the ruins of São Miguel das Missões, which constitute a world heritage site. In the end of the 19th century, a dense forest covered great part of that region, occupied by the remaining Guarani indians. Since the lands around Porto Alegre and Caxias do Sul were occupied, the descendants of German and Italian settlers had migrate in order to look for new areas. Therefore, they established "new colonies", and just as clouds advance, they began occupying areas more to the west of the State, until the border with Argentina. Initially, they occupied regions that are currently the cities of Passo Fundo, Carazinho, Cruz Alta, Erechim, Ijuí, Frederico Westphalen, Santa Rosa, Três Passos and many others. After all these areas had been occupied, the migrants started occupying the west region of Santa Catarina, later on, Paraná, Mato Grosso do Sul, Rondônia, Maranhão, and other States. They also migrated to Paraguay and, more recently, to Bahia, as well as to other States of the North and Northeast of Brazil. In these adventures, the migrants always keep in touch with the traditions and customs of Rio Grande do Sul, expressed by the language, the creation of the CTGs (Centers where the traditions of RS are celebrated), churrascarias,  the use of peculiar language and typical clothes,  the practice of “traditional dances from RS and, mainly, the habit of “drinking chimarrão” (Yerba Mate tea, served in a calabash gourd cup, and usually shared with friends during a get-together). Based on that, we have the following perception: "where there is somebody drinking chimarrão, there is also a gaúcho". Regions like the west of the State of Santa Catarina take the gaucho traditions even more seriously than many regions of the State of Rio Grande do Sul. There are academic thesis defending that the gaucho culture is one of the more characteristic and widespread in the world. There are hundreds of CTGs outside the State of RS, as well as more than twenty in other countries, even in cities like Boston (USA) and Tokyo (Japan).  

Rio Grande do Sul is formed by 497 cities. They represent around 8.8% of the Brazilian total. It has around 10.2 million inhabitants, who represent around 5.6% of the country total. The demographic growth rate of Rio Grande do Sul is 0.49% per year. The State area is around 282,000 km2, which is equivalent to 3.2% of the total area of Brazil. And its GDP of BRL 273.9 billion represent close to 6.6% of the national GDP.

Its 10 biggest cities, in terms of population (base year: 2010), are the following:

Rank

in terms of population

City Name

Population in 2010

1

Porto Alegre

1,409,939

2

Caxias do Sul

435,482

3

Pelotas

327,778

4

Canoas

324,025

5

Santa Maria

241,032

6

Gravataí

240,340

7

Viamão

227,873

8

Novo Hamburgo

206,459

9

São Leopoldo

190,359

10

Rio Grande

183,517

Its 10 biggest cities, in terms of GDP (base year: 2009), are the following:

Rank

in terms of population

City Name

GDP in 2009

(USD thousand/million)

1

Porto Alegre

37,787,913

2

Canoas

16,526,989

3

Caxias do Sul

12,509,582

4

Rio Grande

6,280,858

5

Gravataí

5,628,743

6

Triunfo

5,378,395

7

Novo Hamburgo

4,499,416

8

Santa Cruz do Sul

4,378,957

9

Pelotas

3,847,928

10

Passo Fundo

3,728,978

Other information about the cities of Rio Grande do Sul can be found on the IBGE addresses, as well as on the site Terragaúcha.

We also recommend that you check other sites, which have all sorts of information about the cities and the State of RS, indicated in the section of “camera 3 on this WCAMS site.

Luis Roque Klering (May 31, 2014)