History in Porto Alegre

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Beginning as a large farm, Porto Alegre was turned into a small village in 1752 by immigrants mainly from the Azores, Portugal. The Azorean colonists were sent here by the King of Portugal to guard Southern Brazil from neighboring invaders.

The city was then known as Porto dos Casais, meaning "harbor of the couples” as these colonists were mostly married couples.

 In 1773, the bishop of the newly formed parish of São Francisco do Porto dos Casais changed the name of the village to Nossa Senhora Madre de Deus do Porto Alegre. The city became the seat of the provincial government.

The majority of the inhabitants of Porto Alegre at this time were Azoreans and their African slaves. Then in 1824, came the first non-Portuguese immigrants – the Germans who were sent away to settle 28 km away in the city now known as São Leopoldo.
Porto Alegre’s location placed it at a disadvantage as it was at some distance from the sea. However, from the 19th century onwards, with the coming of the Germans who built the  first railways, it began to grow rapidly.

By 1822, the year of Brazil’s independence, Porto Alegre was a city of 12,000 inhabitants and by 1860, the main port facilities were in place. In 1930, a native of the city, Getúlio Vargas made an unsuccessful bid for the presidency by attempting to overthrow the government.

In 1875, the city attracted its second largest group of immigrants from the Northern Italian Veneto region. As with the Germans, this group was sent out to rural communities, but like the Germans, they would be back.

Then came the minority communities such as Arabs from Syria and Lebanon; Asians from Japan; Eastern Europeans from Ukraine and Poland; and Jews.

By the late 19th century, Porto Alegre was largely a European city. In fact, most of its inhabitants today are Brazilians of European descent.

With the hosting of the World University Games in 1963, Porto Alegre came to the world’s attention. In 1985, one of the largest demonstrations in the city took place with the people joining the free elections movement.

Today, Porto Alegre is one of the leading economic, cultural and political hubs of Southern Brazil. It is the headquarters of the Brazil South Network (Grupo RBS) Brazil's third largest communications network.

Porto Alegre is also home to one of the leading educational establishments – the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul. And there’s the Mário Quintana Cultural Center, a major tourist attraction which offers both plays and cinema and has libraries as well as an art gallery.

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