History of the City
Curitiba was born from the combination of natives and Portuguese immigrants, on the first plateau of the State of Paraná, at an altitude of 934 meters above sea level. Its name comes from the language of the Guarani Indians and means pine grove. The name refers to the predominance of ´pinheiro-do-Paraná (Paraná´s araucaria pines) in its territory.
Curitiba's ´birth certificate´ dates back to March 29th, 1693, when its City Council was founded. At the end of the 17th century, Curitiba had an agriculture of subsistence and its economic activities were based mainly on mineral extraction.
The next economic cycle in the region was based on the ´tropeiros´: cattle drivers who traveled with their herds from Viamão, in the southernmost state of Rio Grande do Sul, to the fair in Sorocaba, in the state of São Paulo. From there, the herds were then taken to the state of Minas Gerais. The cattle drivers would spend winter periods in the middle of the journey, in the ´campos de Curitiba´ (fields of Curitiba), and these campsites were set up would only be dismantled when the cold season gave way to spring. These cattle drivers would take advantage of their stay to carry out businesses, and by doing so, they led Curitiba to become an important intermediary trading post.
The use of the mate plant to produce a bitter type of tea called ´chimarrão´, the tradition of wearing wool ponchos, roasting meat and kindling bonfires led to the agglomeration of circles of men and the eventual creation of settlements.
Two other economic cycles were happening simultaneously in the history of Curitiba: the cycles of the mate plant and of wood. This expansion, at the end of the 19th century, stimulated the construction of the Paranaguá-Curitiba railroad, this being the first link between the capital of the then Province of Paraná and the coast. Having been built in five years (from 1880 to 1885), this railroad represents one of the greatest works in national engineering, made possible thanks to the engineers and brothers Antonio and André Rebouças. Man labor of immigrants was heavily used, for they had come since the middle of the 18th century.
Curitiba benefited, during the beginning of the 20th century, from the wealth that came from the maté mills. The owners of these mills, known as ´Maté Barons´, built residential mansions in the capital, which have been preserved, to a large extent, in two important areas, in the districts of Batel and Alto da Glória.
The next economic cycle that came was that of the monoculture of coffee, which made cities crop up in the northern region of the State of Paraná, having an evident impact on the capital's economy.
Suffering the relentless effects of bad weather, coffee crops were gradually substituted by soybeans. Eventually, coffee crops were completely wiped out in the worst frost documented in the region, known as the Black Frost of July, 1975.
The mechanized agriculture of soybean crops drove agricultural workers off of the land. Curitiba received great waves of immigrants. The city had to make swift decisions in order to avoid urban chaos and to foresee future demands. Curitiba invested in urban planning and in city management focused on the dwellers.
The cycle of cattle drives lasted for more than two centuries. With it, came many distinct cultural features now part of the Paraná region, especially the unique accent noticeable by pronounced Es and Ts.
Up until the 19th century, the inhabitants of the city of Curitiba were natives, mixed-raced, Portuguese and Spanish immigrants.
Immigration became appealing as of 1808, when - in a decree promulgated by the then Ruling Prince Dom João VI - foreigners were granted the right to ownership of land. After Brazil's Declaration of Independence, in 1822, the country began to worry even more about its territory and the settlers on its lands. In Curitiba, this concern became even worse as of 1853, when Paraná, which belonged to the Judicial District of São Paulo, became an independent Province. During this period, European immigrants began arriving in hordes.
The first immigrants to settle in Curitiba were Germans. The couple Michael Muller and Anna Krantz arrived in 1833, after having immigrated initially to Rio Negro in 1829. They brought new elements to the daily life of Curitiba's inhabitants, such as European fruits diets and a type of potato that came from England, which they grew on their small farms. With the profits earned, they bought the whole area which currently spans the streets Riachuelo and Carlos Cavalcanti and also from Barão do Serro Azul St to 19 de Dezembro Square.
The Germans settled in the most central and urbanized area of Curitiba. They began the process of industrialization - in metalworking and printing - increased commercial activities, introduced changes in the city's architecture, spread the notion of associations and had a strong influence in the creation of an art scene and even gymnastics.
Polish immigrants arrived in 1871 and founded the colonies of Tomás Coelho (now the city of Araucária), Muricy (now the city of São José dos Pinhais), the districts of Santa Cândida, Orleans, Pilarzinho and Abranches. They worked mainly with agriculture and in commerce. Today the descendants of these Polish immigrants that dwell in Curitiba represent the largest Polish colony in Brazil.
The first Italian immigrants arrived in Curitiba in 1872. They were responsible for the creation of the of Santa Felicidade district in 1878, these lands having been bought from the Borges brothers and named in tribute to Felicidade Borges. Made up of factory workers, artisans, skilled professionals, merchants and farmers, the Italians left strong influence in the local architecture, in the local cuisine, in crafts made of straw and wicker, in sports such as ´bocha´ (similar to bowling) and a game known as ´Mora´.
Ukrainians migrated in 1895. They settled in Campo de Galícia (now square 29 de Março) and spread their lands reach. Their influence has many common traits with that of the Polish and Russians, when it comes to architecture (churches with onion-shaped domes, for example) and religious beliefs.
The first Japanese immigrants came to Curitiba in 1915, with the arrival of Mizumo Ryu. In 1924, a great number of Japanese migrated to the city, settling in districts such as Uberaba, Campo Comprido and Santa Felicidade. Among their many contributions it is worth mentioning the introduction of new farming techniques and martial arts.
During the 20th century, Syrians and Lebanese arrived. They were skilled merchants that set up textile stores in the central region of the city. The pioneers were called mascates (peddlers), who would travel mounted on donkeys selling their items from door to door.
In Curitiba, people eat cornbread with "vinas". Nowhere else in Brazil do people know what a "vina" is, only curitibanos know that it is a wienerwurst, a type of sausage originally produced in Vienna. Applesauce, stuffed cabbage rolls, many-layered flaky pastries, apffelstrudel, pies made from poppy seeds, and horseradish are also regional dishes.
We can also find signs of integration in the city's architecture. Strolling through the city one can come across churches with Byzantine domes. One can also see houses with lambrequins (an adornment that is fitted just underneath the roof of Polish houses), another influence from the immigrants.
The Easter festivities include pysanky with filigrees (hand-painted eggs, a tradition brought from Ukraine) and Christmas season is represented with pine trees dotted with cotton and Santa Clauses, the North American figure derived from Saint Nicholas, bearing heavy Byzantine clothes in the middle of summer.
Curitiba set off its development as the Province of Paraná, becoming independent from São Paulo in 1853.
Curitiba, the capital, needed to adapt to the political and administrative changes that were being demanded by the Empire, to satisfy its newly gained position of independence. In order to do so, in 1855, the French engineer Pierre Taulois set foot in the province, having been contracted as the general inspector for measuring public lands, accompanied by a group of land surveyors, scribes and other workers required for his commission to begin carrying out its activities.
First traces of the city and its planning
In 1857, only two roads intersected each other perpendicularly: the road where the Legislative Assembly was located (now Doutor Muricy) and that of the commerce (now Marechal Deodoro), according to the document drawn up by Taulois. All other roads spread out somewhat in that direction and Taulois defined the manner in which to straighten out the roads, through a gradual expropriation of lands for public use.
Taulois designed a series of measures to be adopted in order to make the streets straighter and also parallel. These measures demonstrated a growing concern with the circulation within the urban network.
The city also received French influence in its second largest urbanism plan. The ´Agache Plan´ dictated a network with a radial layout around the city. This gave the city large avenues, pluvial systems and determined that new constructions should mandatorily be set back 5 meters from the streets.
Curitiba's third large urban plan is the one that is still currently in effect. It was created in the 60s, when the notion of global and integrated planning was gaining force. A bid was established, on a nationwide basis, to choose a company that would create a Master Plan for Curitiba. The Serete company, from the state of São Paulo, won the bid. This company carried out the work in São Paulo and, twice a month, held meetings in Curitiba with a local group, that later became known as IPPUC.
The Master Plan of Curitiba was put into practice in 1971. It regulated three basic transformations occurring in the city, being them physical, economic or cultural.
In the project, the main roadways of Curitiba had been defined, as well as the large North-South and East-West structural road axes. The IPPUC team refined the concept by adopting a ternary system, which was implemented in the following manner: a two-way road with a slower flow of traffic, and an exclusive lane for vehicles providing public transportation, and two parallel roads, each moving in one direction (one leading to and the other deriving from the central area), both aiming at a high speed traffic flow.
Another idea that derived from the Master Plan was that of the creation of parks. It was determined that, instead of creating land developments in the large empty urban areas, a priority would be maintained to expropriate areas and set up parks, preventing the city from suffering a great impact due to floods and implementing its water and sanitation system.
Curitiba's Master Plan brought economic changes, with the creation of the Industrial City of Curitiba in 1973, in a sparsely populated and humid area, measuring 43.7 million square meters, in the western part of the city. Currently, Curitiba S.A. is responsible for 50,000 jobs, 150,000 indirect jobs and for 25% of the industrial ICMS (State Value-Added Tax on Sales and Services) tax revenues of the State of Paraná.
Culture for Everyone
Culture has always held a crucial role in the development of the city of Curitiba and that granted the city nationwide attention, during the 1970s.
With the inauguration of the Teatro Paiol - a deactivated warehouse formerly used for stocking army ammunition - many different artists came to performe in its arena, ranging from local artists of various genres.
In January, 1973, the Fundação Cultural de Curitiba was officially set up, with the aim of promoting culture and of acting as a facilitating agent in the cultural production of the city.
The Fundação Cultural de Curitiba currently has a broad infrastructure, made up of a specialized staff, 150 sites for cultural events in 50 different buildings throughout the city.
Culture pervades all of the city's districts, through the set up of cultural centers, libraries, museums, movie theaters, theaters, exhibit rooms, and studios, all equipped to meet the needs of the artists and of the community that these cultural spaces attend.
The foundation is also responsible for the preservation, conservation and research of the cultural heritage of Curitiba. Its headquarters are located in a building registered and protected as part of the State's Historical Patrimony, the Palacete Wolf (Wolf Mansion), built in 1877, in the Largo da Ordem, a Historical Area of Curitiba. In the Foundation's courtyard, there is the Piá Theater (piá being a local term used to refer to youngsters). This theater was inaugurated in 1973 and is the first public space in the country for puppet and marionette shows.
The Historical Sector is another innovation brought by the new policies regarding culture in the city. In the 1970s, when people were still talking about preserving individual buildings, Curitiba passed a law to preserve the city's entire historical sector, an innovative policy which later was adopted throughout the entire country.
The cultural spaces that Curitiba boasts are tourist attractions in themselves. The Parque das Pedreiras (Quarries Park), for example, includes an area that was once a stone quarry and has now been named the Pedreira Paulo Leminski, as well as a theater called the Ópera de Arame (an opera house built entirely of metallic structures and glass), that can accomodate audiences of 30,000 people. Performers that have been on its stage include names such as the Spanish tenor José Carreras, stars from the Brazilian Popular Music movement, Paul McCartney and others.
The Guaíra Theater, maintained by the state government, is one of the largest theaters in all of Latin America. The Oscar Niemeyer Museum is one of the most impressive projects created and carried out by one of Brazil´s architecture masterminds, Oscar Niemeyer.
The Frans Krajcberg Cultural Space lies in the Botanical Gardens, one of the city's most famous parks. This space holds 114 large-scale sculptures and three carvings in relief made out of trunks of trees, these works are in the process of being donated to the city. It is the first place in the world that was specifically designed to house the works of this Polish.
The Cultural Complex Solar do Barão, located in the downtown area of Curitiba, features the Photography Museum, the Engravings Museum and the Posters Museu. There is also a space called ´Gibiteca´, a comic books library. The Gibiteca, inaugurated in 1982, is a national pioneer and holds exhibits, comic strips contests, fairs and workshops. It has more than 10,000 members and around 45,000 books.
The MuMA - Museu Metropolitano de Arte (Museum of Metropolitan Art) displays its permanent collection of artists from the state of Paraná as well as renowned Brazilian painters such as Pancetti, Guignard, Di Cavalcanti, Djanira, Portinari, Mário Cravo, Burle Marx.
When it comes to music, the Brazilian Popular Music Conservatory deserves all the attention. The institution maintains wind and string orchestras, not to mention the Brasileirão and the Brasileirinho choirs. The city also proudly maintains the renowned Curitiba's Camerata Antiqua, which is the most important ensemble in Brazil when it comes to musica antiqua. The Fundação Cultural de Curitiba has been hosting the largest music workshop in Latin America every year since 1982. It lasts 20 days and around 2,000 students take part in its activities, while a total public of 21,000 people attend the more than 100 concerts.
Several cultural events also take place at Curitiba's parks, paying tribute to its various ethnic groups that have settled in the region since the 19th century. At the Tingüi Park you will find the Ukrainian Memorial. The architectural complex includes a portal and a replica of the old Saint Michael chapel, built at the top of the Serra do Tigre mountain range. The chapel is adorned with a golden dome and is made of wood, in a typical Byzantine style. Visitors will always find a permanent exhibit of the famous pysanky (Ukrainian decorated Easter eggs), religious icons and embroidered items.
The Polish Immigrants Memorial, also known as The Pope's Woods, offers an enjoyable area surrounded by trees - which makes it a perfect choice for a stroll. Visitors can get to know more about the Polish traditions kept by generations of immigrants, their art, religious beliefs and more. The Pope himself blessed the first replica of the traditional Polish houses that beautifully make up the Bosque do Papa when he visited the city in 1980.
So, that's the way culture spans in Curitiba, with sites that have become part of the population's heritage and have in fact transformed themselves into part of the city's cultural legacy.
In 2003, Curitiba received the ´American Capital of Culture´ title, granted by the OAS ('Organization of American States').
Parks are our 'beaches'
There are no beaches in Curitiba, but there is, what we call, a 'green sea'. There are over 30 parks and woods as well as dozens of squares, playgrounds, gardens and other green areas.
Back in the early 70s, a strategic decision was made regarding the empty urban spaces: instead of dividing these areas up into land developments, the City Hall decided to use such areas as an environmental "market reserve". From 1972 on, parks and woods have been set up on these empty stretches of land. This strategic move aimed at better environmental conservation, sanitation and recreational purposes, and the prevention of floods. At that time there was only one park in the entire city, the old Passeio Público located downtown, built in 1886.
The city was the first in Brazil to introduce the separation of domestic garbage on a wide-scale basis. The acclaimed program 'Lixo que não é Lixo' (literally, ´Garbage that isn't Garbage´; a successful recycling program) created in 1989 has become a paradigm of care for the environment.
The coverage of green areas became well preserved and expanded as trees were planted. Added to the existing sparse vegetation, it ensures a ratio of 51 m² of green area per inhabitant.
In 1989 Curitiba introduced, on a wide-scale basis, before any other town in the country, the separation of domestic waste into different types of garbage through the 'Lixo que não é Lixo' program. Later on, new variations of the program were created such as the Câmbio Verde (Green Exchange program) - through which recyclable garbage could be exchanged for fresh produce that was in season - and the Compra do Lixo program (through which recyclable garbage is bought) in more remote locations.
Amongst all environmental programs, it is worth mentioning the Programa Olho d´Água (literally, Spring Stream Program) a partnership scheme between the City Hall and the community. Students from public schools, supervised by municipal technicians, monitor the quality of the water found in Curitiba's major hydrographic basins.
Curitiba's best endeavors to continually and proactively preserve and enhance the space of collective life of its inhabitants cover a wide range of actions: from the simple planting of trees up to large scale complex vegetal production; from small ornamental shrubs up to huge parks; from the individual attitude of citizens of "se-pa-ra-ting" garbage at home up to an industrial process through which plastic, tin and paper are transformed into new products. All these actions aim at better standards of quality of life while unselfishly caring about future generations.
Here progress travels by bus
Thirty-two out of every one hundred curitibanos make daily use of mass transportation.
The Vermelhos (Red Buses), the Expressos (Express Buses), Articulados (Articulated buses) and Biarticulados (Biarticulated buses) daily crisscross the city's North-South, East-West and Boqueirão neighborhood urban axes, covering the city's boundaries in all directions. The circular-downtown line white buses cover the downtown area. Other points of relative importance on the city's map are linked by Interbairros (inter-district buses), lines that cover concentric circles that connect far points of the city.
The speedy silver 'Ligeirinho' (literally, speedy), with its modern design, has fewer stops, therefore shortening times when compared to Direct Line buses. The integration of all the lines is provided by the orange-colored feeder bus, linking terminals and intermediary stations, while the yellow Conventional bus continues to follow pre-1970 routes, which are shorter and more central. Those yellow lines were once the only option available for mass transportation, with lines arranged in a radial and diametric layout.
The City's mass transportation system aims to be, above all else, humane. Senior citizens are entitled to seats specifically designated for them and physically disabled individuals in wheelchairs have their own area on vehicles as well as elevators to get on and off the buses.
In a coordinated effort, the timetables of industry, commerce, services, schools and civil servants were adjusted to begin their activities at different times during the peak hours from 7:30 AM to 9:30 AM, thus offsetting possible traffic jams while distributing the need for mass transportation. The best measure taken at the level of the Metropolitan Area transport administration however, was the adoption of affordable bus fares, still in effect. Whoever gets on a bus may choose to follow an integrated route using other buses in the system without paying another bus fare. Shorter trips, often more central ones, subsidize the longer and more peripheral trips, especially the ones coming from neighboring municipalities that make up Curitiba's Metropolitan Area.
The first RIT bus line began to circulate on July 14th, 1993, linking Curitiba to São José dos Pinhais (around 15 miles from downtown). The official opening of the fully integrated network connecting Curitiba and its Metropolitan Area through mass transportation would only take place on April 9th, when the first Ligeirinho arrived in the city of Almirante Tamandaré. Less than one year after this first line, on August 19th, 1995 something totally unprecedented happened: the arrival of the 'Ferrari red' bi-articulated bus, two buses connected by a pliable, folded connecting device, measuring almost 22 meters long with five entrance/exit doors. The bi-articulated bus circulates along the itineraries of the direct lines, plexi-glas tube-station stops for timely entering/exiting maneuvers. Each bi-articulated bus can carry 270 passengers.