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Paraná

State Flag of Paraná
  1. Introduction
  2. Capital: Curitiba
    1. City Parks
    2. Footprints in the Memory
  3. Iguaçu Falls
  4. Data Table for Paraná

Introduction

"Land of all peoples" is how Paraná has been known since becoming a territory comprising more than 30 races. Poles, Italians, Germans, Ukrainians, Dutch, Syrian Lebanese, Jews, Japanese - all these and many more besides have adopted it as their own land and have put down roots there. Even without finding the gold that attracted the first adventurers, since the beginning of immigration they have dug out of the soil the wealth that, in time, turned the state into Brazil's fifth largest economy.

For many years, the forests of Paraná have been devastated in order to make way for cattle-rearing. Today, reversing that initial course, the state is developing a recovery programme for rivers and areas that are suffering from erosion, acknowledged world-wide, and is mounting an intensive effort towards the conservation of its ecosystems. Favoured by a sub-tropical climate, with temperatures that generally vary from 10 to 22 degrees centigrade throughout the year, the vegetation of Paraná differs according to that climatic variation: in the coldest places, forests of Paraná pine (araucaria) predominate and in the coastal regions are preserved sanctuaries within the Atlantic Forest such as the Island of Mel, the Guaraqueçaba Ecological Station and the Superagui National Park where large areas of mangrove and animals threatened with extinction are conserved. Not to be forgotten is the Iguaçu National Park covering an area of 220,000 hectares - 170,000 in Brazil and 50,000 in Argentina - declared as being a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

CuritibaCuritiba

In recent decades, with the sudden swing towards concern for nature, the state capital, Curitiba, has also taken considerable trouble to preserve its greenness. Nowadays, the city - which has become known all over the world for its urban solutions - retains an area of 52 m2 of green per inhabitant which is considerably more than the 16 m2 recommended by the UN.

Paraná is situated in the centre of the most industrialized region of Latin America: contained within a 1,300 km band are Brazil's most important economic poles as well as the capitals of Uruguay, Argentina and Paraguay. Occupying a strategic point on the map of Brazil, the state has opened its doors to Mercosul and its market of almost 200 million inhabitants and has invested heavily in agro-industry. With an industrial base of 24,000 companies, it is aiming to process what has been established in the state itself and only then distribute what it produces via its own sea port, Paranaguá, the largest exit point for Brazilian grain. And speaking of grain, the state is responsible for 23% of Brazil's total production, particularly in relation to the growing of wheat, maize, cotton, soya, beans, potatoes and coffee. In addition, the state has 8.5 million head of cattle, producing 1.3 billion litres of milk a year.

Located in Paraná is the Brazilian portion of the Itaipu hydroelectric plant, on the River Paraná. Together with other plants such as those at Foz da Areia, Salto Santiago, Salto Segredo and Salto Osório on the River Iguaçu, the state produces 25% of Brazil's electricity. It takes advantage of the dams to attract tourists such as in the case of Itaipu Lake, an area bounded by around 1,300 km of shoreline, part of which faces the Iguaçu Falls.

CuritibaCuritiba

The economic and social integration of Paraná has been moving forward by means of the modernization and expansion of a well-structured road network. There are 15,300 km of roads and 3,370 km of rail track which fulfil a variety of functions such as drawing off agro-industrial production, linking the regions and promoting ecological tourism. In relation to the latter, by leaving the cosmopolitan city of Curitiba, the traveller will come upon the mystery and tranquillity of places such as Vila Velha; the Falls and the immense scale of Foz do Iguaçu; the pleasant climate of Cascavel, Londrina and Ponta Grossa; and travelling along the 98 km coastline, there is Paranaguá Bay covering an area of 300 km2 with the cities of Paranaguá and Antonina that form a splendid lake complex that is rich in mangroves.

Between the plains and the coast, one of the state's most alluring routes is the one followed by the Imperial Railway which since 1880, has linked Curitiba with Paranaguá. The precipices of the Serra do Mar in the middle of the Atlantic Forest are skirted by 100 kilometres of track, passing through tunnels, over bridges, viaducts and ravines washed by waterfalls. For those who prefer to go by road, the same section can be travelled by the Graciosa highway which still has stretches that have the original 1873 surface, adorned by kilometres of giant hydrangeas and where, during a pause to enjoy the view, the visitor can enjoy the state's most typical dish, barreado. A legacy of the Brazilian Indians, this delicacy is prepared with salted beef, bacon and spices which must be cooked together for ten hours in a clay pot with a crust of moistened cassava flour. The resulting shredded meat is accompanied by a succulent porridge and baked banana.

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Capital: Curitiba

The capital of the state of Paraná has become world renowned for its innovative urban solutions and the quality of life enjoyed by its inhabitants. Education and health have been treated as priority services. The transport system is a model for major cities. The green area - 52 m2 per inhabitant - is far in excess of the 16 m2 per inhabitant minimum recommended by the UN. Wide pavements, Rua 24 Horas (24 Hours Street), conservation of the architectural heritage and selective refuse collection have been conceived with the well-being of the population of Curitiba as the starting point.

CuritibaCuritiba

Curitiba was born in the shade of Paraná pines a little over three hundred years ago. Its name bears its native heritage: kur ity ba, as the Indians used to call the pine-kernels, the fruits of the Paraná pines and the symbolic tree of Paraná. The city came into being when the gold prospectors from the coast travelled up-river to the Serra do Mar arriving at the plains. The first nucleus settled on the banks of the River Atuba in a place called Vilinha. Soon afterwards, the urban centre was transferred to the site of the present Tiradentes Square. It was in this area that the town of Nossa Senhora da Luz do Pinhais had its beginnings, being officially founded on March 29th, 1693. In 1842, the town acquired city status with the name Curitiba, before being elevated to state capital in 1853.

During the course of its history, influenced by interbreeding, the capital of Paraná has managed to harmonize colonial mansions, daring architectural projects as well as nature. Pedreira Paulo Leminski, the location of the ópera de Arame - a theatre seating 1,800 in the stalls and 600 in boxes - and where an open-air stage has a disused stone quarry as a backdrop - is an example of that integration.

Holder of the title of Brazilian city offering the best quality of life, Curitiba is the forerunner in terms of concern for ecology, setting up Brazil's first environmental university, the Free University of the Environment, which runs projects relating to a sustainable economy, conservation of the ecosystem and environmental education. Deep in a native forest covering 37,000 m2, its researchers are highly aware and are influencing the growth of the city, which bases its economy on trade, the provision of services and processing industries, scattered across Curitiba's Industrial City. In addition, the city has one of Brazil's best public transport systems, having exported several of its schemes, such as the Integrated System, which was sold to New York. Curitiba was the first Brazilian city to implement the selective collection of refuse and publicize information on recycling processes.

CuritibaCuritiba

The well-being of the citizen is the main preoccupation of the city, whose urban expansion is planned so as to avoid stress for its inhabitants. In order for both residents and visitors to enjoy the numerous parks and the city's pure air, the local corporation has organized a special bus service. But the city's trademark is the pine-kernel footprint walk. This is a three kilometre route that can be walked,cycled or travelled along by a special bus running between the city's tourist spots. By following the enormous pine-kernels painted on the ground, the visitor can follow a cultural and historical route that forms part of the Footprints in the Memory projectz leading to churches, historic buildings and squares.

City Parks

Amongst the many parks that ensure Curitiba's greenness and pure air are the following:

  • Passeio Público

    Inaugurated in 1886 covering an area of 70,000 km2 of natural forest in the very centre of the city. The main gates are faithful copies of the Dogs' Cemetery in Paris. There is a lake, islands, floating stage, aquarium and grotto as well as several species of tree, including hardwoods such as bignoniacea and oak.

  • Birigui Park

    Covering an area of 1.4 million m2, this is the city's busiest park. It has a rustic appearance with barbecues, gymnastic equipment, a cycle-cross and miniature aeroplane track.

  • Botanical Garden

    a French garden with a lake covered in victoria-regias and an art nouveau hot-house, a replica of the Crystal Palace that used to stand in London, containing rare plants from all over Brazil.

Footprints in the Memory

Footprints in the Memory is a scheme that encourages residents and visitors to Curitiba to follow a historical and cultural route through the city. Curitiba has many historical attractions, including the following:

  • The Curitiba Minor Basilica Cathedral

    Situated in Tiradentes Square where the city of Curitiba was born, it was inaugurated in 1893, built in the neo-Gothic style and inspired by Barcelona Cathedral. The original image, dedicated to Our Lady of Light, came from Portugal in 1720 and is now in the Paraná Museum.

  • The Church of the Third Order of St. Francis of the Wounds

    The oldest in Curitiba, built in 1737. It has undergone several changes over the years and has been stripped of its original architectural features in the colonial style. Its present tower is reminiscent of Moorish or neo-Gothic architecture whilst its interior is colonial, with a high altar in gold leaf and Baroque carving from the early 16th century. The image of Christ has hair and glass eyes, typical of the Baroque style. It was registered as historical heritage in 1965.

  • The Church of Our Lady of the Rosary of St. Benedict

    This is the second oldest church in the city and was built by slaves in 1737. It is in Garibaldi Square in the historical district. It too has been rebuilt, losing part of its original style and only the tiled facade remaining, with original tiles taken from the former chapel.

  • Temple of the Muses

    In the classical Greek style, it is the world headquarters of the Neo-Pythagorean Institute, founded in 1909 by the Paraná-born Dario Vellozo. It is dedicated to the study and development of higher faculties, to the altruism inspired in the verses of Pythagoras, namely justice and peace. It has a specialist library and admittance must be authorized.

  • Museum of Paraná

    With neo-classical and art nouveau features, it was inaugurated in 1916 to house the city council which remained there until 1969. In 1964 it was registered by the Historical and Artistic Heritage of Paraná. It features exhibits concerning ethnology, history and hand-written and printed documents.

  • Romário Martins' House

    The second oldest building in the city, after the Church of the Third Order of St. Francis, it was built in the colonial style at the end of the 18th century. Its name is in posthumous homage to the Paraná-born writer and historian. It is used as an art gallery running exhibitions by state artists. It has been a wet and dry warehouse and since 1973 has housed the Memory Warehouse, with an exhibition of photographs telling the story of Italian immigration and the Menonites (an ethnic-religious group formed by Germans-Russians who came to Brazil in 1930).

  • Relógio das Flores (Clock of Flowers)

    Situated in Garibaldi Square, it measures six metres in diameter and consists of different flowers planted according to the season.

  • Rua das Flores (Flower Street)

    The first pedestrian street in Brazil, inaugurated in 1972, with well-tended pots of flowers and bars and confectioners in hundred-year-old buildings and lanchonetes.

  • Boca Maldita (Cursed Mouth)

    A pedestrianized area with a large mouth symbolizing the spirit of the place. A platform for political demonstrations, the reciting of poetry and a meeting place for debate, rumour, politics and football.

  • Rua 24-Horas (24 Hours Street)

    The first in Brazil with a glass ceiling and iron arch structure. It has a little of everything: restaurants, ice-cream parlours, confectioners, pharmacies and mini-markets. The excitement begins at nightfall when several tables are spread around the area with people enjoying a beer or a glass of hot wine on the coldest nights.

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Iguaçu Falls

Iguaçu FallsIguaçu Falls

Four times wider than Niagara Falls in the United States, and undoubtedly the most spectacular in South America, the Iguaçu Falls in Paraná is where the powerful river Iguaçu hurtles into a deep canyon, carved in the shape of a horseshoe in the gigantic basalt flow which, during the Triassic period, spread out from north-eastern Uruguay to the region. The thunder of the water and the brilliance of the rainbow crowning the fury of the torrent stay in the mind as a rare and unforgettable testimony to the grandeur of the Earth.

Starting its course near the Atlantic seaboard, the Iguaçu river crosses the western highlands of the states of São Paulo and Paraná and arrives at the edge of the plateau to discharge its waters at a rate which can reach 150,000 m³ per second. Various islands divide the colossal flow into 275 separate cataracts, ranging from 60 to 80 metres in height, with the refracted spray rising to more than 150 metres. The best known islands - San Martin and Isla Grande - are on the upper river, dividing it into two arms, which join together again immediately afterwards. The river then falls over rough formations of basalt and lava until it thunders into the Devil's Throat. From there it continues until it flows into the Paraná river and from there, via the Paraguay river, contributes to the formation of the Plate Basin.

The region comprises the Argentinian national park, created in 1934 and covering 50,000 hectares, and the Brazilian national park, created in 1939 and covering 170,000 hectares. The Brazilian side embraces four municipalities, including Foz do Iguaçu, a name of indigenous origin meaning big water. Even today, the legend of how the falls were formed is part of local folklore. The Indians Naipi and Taroba were a sort of Romeo and Juliet and were pursued by the irascible serpent of the waters, M'Boi, who transformed himself into the various cataracts.

The experience of living with the forces of nature and the scintillating and eternal spectacle of the waters combines with the exuberant tropical vegetation, which is home to various endangered species. In the park - where hunting is prohibited but fishing allowed - the forest itself (broadleaf subtropical) is not a bit inferior to the Amazon forest, which in itself is a reason for the growing ecotourism in the region. Since the 1970s, there have been more than 2 million visitors per year, and there is now a service of park guides and a network of national and international hotels.

Since its discovery by Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca in 1541, there have been successive studies of the region's geology (relating to the flow of volcanic basalt rock - Trapp-Parana), biology and even its business potential, especially in relation to its hydro-electric resources. All this has underlined the need to carry out binational and international studies in the area.

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Data Table for Paraná

Capital Curitiba
Area 199.709,1 km2
Towns 399
Location North of the south region
Population 9,558,454 inhabitants (2000)
Population in the Capital 1,650,000 inhabitants
Climate Sub-Tropical
Mean Annual Temperature (capital) 17º C
Time in Relation to Brasília The same
Density of Population 48 inhabitants/km2
Urbanization Index 81.4% (2000)
Infant Mortality 28.5 per thousand live-born (2000)
Illiteracy Rate 10.1% (2000)
Contribution to GDP 5.7%
Representation at National Congress 33 Members of Parliament
Vegetation Swamps along the coast, Atlantic forest, tropical rain forest to the west of swamps and groves of Brazilian pines to the centre

Sources

  • IBGE 2000 and Projections for 2002
  • Abril Almanac
  • Gabeira, Gabriel Luiz - "Synthesis of the Brazilian Economy", Rio de Janeiro, National Trade Confederation (CNC), 1999