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Almost three quarters of
Brazilians live in cities

By Dr Paulo Bótas

Brazil has 22 towns and cities with more than half a million people. Some of them have many more. Some 15.2 million people live in the urban area around and including the city of São Paulo. For Rio de Janeiro, the figure is 9.6 million. Of Brazil's 155 million people, 115 million live in cities. Some 67 million Brazilians live in the country's 100 largest cities.

As recently as 40 years ago, less than half the population lived in cities. Today, three-quarters do. Brazil has changed from being a mainly rural society into a mainly urban one. The growth of the cities has put enormous pressure on housing and public services like water supply, sewerage, health care and education. Today the situation is much different. The number of permanent houses is growing rapidly in urban areas. Even so, for many of the newcomers and young people growing up in the cities, it is difficult to find somewhere to live. They cannot afford to buy or rent permanent housing, so they often resort to living in shanty towns called ‘favelas’. Shanty towns are common in other industrialising countries of the world where people are moving to cities in search of better living.

Houses in the favelas are often built of cheap materials and have no running water or proper sanitation. Some are built on land near the city centre which no-one else wants - such as steep hillsides or marshes. Others may be on the outskirts of the city where land prices are low but where the cost of travel to jobs in the city centre are high. After a while, the favelas develop into whole communities and in some places government-supported housing schemes replace the shacks with simple but better built houses.

In 1995 there were nearly 3,500 favelas in Brazil. Two-thirds of them were in and around Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. The favelas in Rio and outskirts contained 235,000 homes; around São Paulo the figure was 207,000.

Most of Brazil’s cities with populations of more than half a million people are located in the south and south-east of the country. The rest are strung out along the coast and only a few are inland. Several of the big coastal cities were founded when Brazil was first settled by the Portuguese in the 1500s. As time went by, these early settlements became ports for the export of products like sugar and coffee from nearby regions. They also became capitals of the states which developed around them. For instance, Salvador, the third biggest city, is the capital of the State of Bahia - in fact it was capital of the whole country for almost 200 years until 1763.

The inland cities developed as service centres for agriculture or industry. Curitiba, the capital of the State of Paraná, is the commercial centre for a rich agricultural region. Its factories process farm products. Manaus in the State of Amazonas stands where the rivers Negro and Solimões meet to form the Amazon, so it has always been a river port. It grew into a wealthy city at the end of the nineteenth century as the centre of the trade in natural rubber. That has now finished, but today Manaus has a free trade zone where hundreds of factories have been built - they pay no taxes and the products they make can be flown out directly from the airport.

The city of São Paulo has over 11 million people. If all the outlying suburbs and favelas are included - in other words, the whole metropolitan area, the figure reaches over 15 million. São Paulo is now Brazil's biggest city - and one of the world's biggest. It has large numbers of people of Italian, Spanish, German, Russian and Japanese descent. Most people in Brazil are Roman Catholic. In São Paulo one-third of the people follow other religions.

In other ways too it is a city of contrasts. It has a large central business district with skyscraper offices, a vast industrial park, and expensive housing. In addition, there are working-class suburbs and favelas which form a ring round the city. Here as many as five million Paulistas live in poor housing conditions.

Rio de Janeiro is a coastal city with a magnificent harbour and beaches - including the famous Copacabana and Ipanema beaches. The city's situation, between the sea and a series of sharp granite peaks (the most famous is the "Sugarloaf" mountain) makes it one of the most easily recognised cities in the world. Its beautiful site, plus a lifestyle and warm climate, have made it an attractive destination for tourists. Up to the 1950s though, it was a more important financial and economic centre than São Paulo and until 1960 it was the capital of Brazil.

So Brazil has become an urbanised country in a very short time, largely because of the development of industry and commerce. But the extremely rapid growth of the cities has created housing and other social problems for many of the migrants from the countryside. Brazil will need continued prosperity in the future to help solve those problems.

Brasília, a specially designed city on an empty site, took Rio's place as the capital of Brazil in 1960. Brasília is 1,200 kilometres inland from Rio de Janeiro. It is much more central, nearer to the heart of the country. The move was symbolic of Brazil's wish to develop the resources of the interior. It was also a way of constructing a new magnet for growth away from the South East Region. However, being so new, Brasília is still only the eighth largest city. Source: Brazilian Embassy in London

Brazil's 100 largest cities

Rank
Cities
Population
1
Sao Paulo
10,009,000
2
Rio de Janeiro
5,613,000
3
Salvador
2,331,000
4
Belo Horizonte
2,154,000
5
Fortaleza
2,139,000
6
BRASILIA
2,016,000
7
Curitiba
1,618,000
8
Recife
1,388,000
9
Porto Alegre
1,321,000
10
Manaus
1,285,000
11
Belém
1,200,000
12
Guarulhos
1,134,000
13
Goiânia
1,073,000
14
Campinas
962,000
15
Sao Gonçalo
880,000
16
Nova Iguaçu
873,000
17
Sao Luís
855,000
18
Maceió
806,000
19
Duque de Caxias
756,000
20
Sao Bernardo do Campo
742,000
21
Teresina
703,000
22
Natal
699,000
23
Osasco
671,000
24
Campo Grande
665,000
25
Santo André
631,000
26
Joao Pessoa
594,000
27
Jaboatao dos Guarapes
567,000
28
Contagem
529,000
29
Sao José dos Campos
524,000
30
Uberlândia
502,000
31
Feira de Santana
489,000
32
Ribeirao Prêto
478,000
33
Sorocaba
477,000
34
Niterói
462,000
35
Cuiabá
460,000
36
Juiz de Fora
458,000
37
Aracaju
451,000
38
Sao Joao de Meriti
441,000
39
Londrina
438,000
40
Joinville
437,000
41
Belford Roxo
433,000
42
Ananindeua
419,000
43
Santos
407,000
44
Campos dos Goytacazes
401,000
45
Mauá
385,000
46
Carapicuíba
366,000
47
Sao José do Rio Prêto
360,000
48
Caxias do Sul
357,000
49
Olinda
356,000
50
Campina Grande
356,000
51
Moji das Cruzes
347,000
52
Aparecida de Goiania
343,000
53
Diadema
338,000
54
Vila Velha
325,000
55
Piracicaba
324,000
56
Cariacica
324,000
57
Bauru
320,000
58
Pelotas
318,000
59
Betim
318,000
60
Porto Velho
314,000
61
Serra
312,000
62
Franca
297,000
63
Canoas
297,000
64
Jundiaí
296,000
65
Maringá
292,000
66
Montes Claros
290,000
67
Sao Vicente
289,000
68
Anápolis
287,000
69
Florianópolis
285,000
70
Itaquaquecetuba
284,000
71
Petrópolis
282,000
72
Ponta Grossa
272,000
73
Vitória
272,000
74
Rio Branco
269,000
75
Foz do Iguaçu
268,000
76
Macapá
267,000
77
Ilhéus
258,000
78
Vitória da Conquista
257,000
79
Uberaba
254,000
80
Paulista
253,000
81
Limeira
250,000
82
Blumenou
248,000
83
Caruaru
248,000
84
Caucaia
248,000
85
Nôvo Hamburgo
244,000
86
Ribeirao das Neves
243,000
87
Cascavel
243,000
88
Volta Redonda
242,000
89
Santa Maria
242,000
90
Santarém
241,000
91
Guarujá
240,000
92
Taubaté
231,000
93
Governador Valadares
231,000
94
Embu
230,000
95
Gravatai
228,000
96
Imperatriz
224,000
97
Varzea Grande
221,000
98
Barueri
218,000
99
Mossoró
217,000
100
Petrolina
216,000


THE LARGEST CITIES IN THE WORLD AND THEIR MAYORS 2010
Introduction
Cities by size: 1 to 150 | 151 to 300 | 301 to 450 | 451 to 550 |
Cities in alphabetical order: A to D | E to L | M to R | S to Z |
Cities by countries: A to D | E to L | M to R | S to Z |






The nominees for the 2012 World Mayor Prize have been announced. VOTE NOW FOR THE WINNER


Introducing
World Mayor

The City Mayors Foundation, the international think tank for local government, organises the World Mayor Project and awards the World Mayor Prize. The Prize, which has been given since 2004, honours mayors with the vision, passion and skills to make their cities incredible places to live in, work in and visit. The World Mayor Project aims to show what outstanding mayors can achieve and raise their profiles nationally and internationally.

The organisers of the World Mayor Project are looking for city leaders who excel in qualities like: leadership and vision, management abilities and integrity, social and economic awareness, ability to provide security and to protect the environment as well as the will and ability to foster good relations between communities from different cultural, racial and social backgrounds. The winner receives the artistically acclaimed World Mayor trophy, while the two runner-ups are given the World Mayor Commendation.

Mayors wishing to be considered for the World Mayor Prize will be asked to sign up to the City Mayors' Code of Ethics



2012 timetable
Nominations were accepted until the 17 May 2012. A shortlist of 25 nominees was published on 18 June. VOTING IS NOW TAKING PLACE and will continue until the middle of October. The winner of the 2012 World Mayor Prize and other results of the World Mayor Project will be announced in early December 2012.



Winners and runners-up
2004 to 2010

In 2004: Winner: Edi Rama (Tirana, Albania); Runner-up: Andrés Manuel López Obrador (Mexico City, Mexico); In third place: Walter Veltroni (Rome, Italy)
In 2005: Winner: Dora Bakoyannis (Athens, Greece); Runner-up: Hazel McCallion (Mississauga, Canada); In third place: Alvaro Arzú (Guatemala City, Guatemala)
In 2006: Winner: John So (Melbourne, Australia); Runner up: Job Cohen (Amsterdam, Netherland); In third place: Stephen Reed (Harrisburg, USA)
In 2008: Winner: Helen Zille (Cape Town, South Africa); Runner up: Elmar Ledergerber (Zurich, Switzerland); In third place: Leopoldo López (Chacao, Venezuela)
In 2010: Winner: Marcelo Ebrard (Mexico City, Mexico); Runner-up: Mick Cornett (Oklahoma City, USA); In third place: Domenico Lucano (Riace, Italy)