Paraná in Brazil

Paraná is most famous for the Iguaçu Falls, the largest and most magnificent waterfalls in the Americas. No guidebook can do justice to the spectacle and they are a must on any itinerary to Brazil. Besides Iguaçu, Paraná has a great deal to offer those in search of pristine nature: the largest area of coastal rainforest in Brazil swathes the mountains of the northern coast, while little beach-fringed islands, such as Ilha do Mel, sit a short way offshore. Both are easily reached from the neat and tidy capital, Curitiba, on one of the continent's most impressive railway journeys. The interior of the state is dotted with villages and towns founded by the European settlers that flocked here at the end of the 19th century.

The area of what is now Paraná was neglected by the Portuguese until the beginning of the 17th century when gold was discovered. The region fell under the control of São Paulo, but there was no great success in the extraction of gold, partly because of a lack of indigenous labour (they had all been sent elsewhere or had died of disease). As soon as the precious metal was discovered in Minas Gerais, the mines shut down in Paraná. Instead, the colonists turned to agriculture and cattle- raising and, in the 18th and 19th centuries, the state was dominated by fazendeiros and drovers. Until 1853, the area was controlled from São Paulo. When the new province was created, cattle and maté-growing were the most important activities, but with the coming of the railways at the end of the 19th century, timber became equally significant.

When it became apparent in the second half of the 19th century that the province of Paraná would not develop without a major increase in the population, an official immigration policy was launched. The Italians were the first, but later settlers came from all over Europe and, since the start of the 20th century, from Japan, Syria and the Lebanon.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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