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Interpreting the Evidence

Street in Business Section of Sao Paulo, Brazil, 1921

  • Documents in this Activity:
  • Historical Eras:

    Turn of the Century and WWI (1890 - 1930)

  • Thinking Skill:

    Historical Analysis & Interpretation

  • Grade Level:

    Lower Elementary
    Upper Elementary
    Middle School
    High School
    College University

  • Topics:

    Global History and Geography

  • Primary Source Types:


  • Regions:


  • Creator:

    NYS Archives Partnership Trust Education Team

  1. Load Street in business section of Sao Paulo, Brazil, 1921 in Main Image Viewer

Suggested Teaching Instructions

Document Description
One of the streets of "The Triangle" in the business section of Sao Paulo, 1921.
Historical Context
Brazil is a vast country.  Covering almost half of South America, it is the fifth largest country in the world in size and population.  It has the largest rainforest in the world, but also one of the world’s largest cities.  The Portuguese settled the country in the sixteenth century and named it Brasil after the brasilwood tree, which was used to make red dye.  Today, Brazil is a republic with twenty-six states.  It is a melting pot of cultures and a country of contrasts – modern and primitive, rich and poor, industrial and agricultural, urban and rural and wild.

Brazil's largest city, Sao Paulo, is the largest city in South America and one of the largest cities in the world.  Founded in 1554 by Jesuit priests as a mission for Indians, Sao Paulo boomed with the coffee industry in the second half of the 19th century and continued to grow with the rise of manufacturing in the 1900s.  Today, half of Brazil’s industry is located in Sao Paulo and its suburbs.  Immigrants from Europe, Asia, and the Middle East have helped to make Sao Paulo one of the world’s most diverse cities.  Sao Paulo’s museums, theaters, music, dance, fine dining, shopping, and entertainment make the city a popular tourist destination.

This photograph was taken in the center of Sao Paulo’s business district, called the Triangle.  In the 1500s, long before the buildings in the photograph were constructed, three mission buildings stood on the site.  They were connected by three paths that formed the shape of a triangle, giving the location its name.
Essential Question
How does geography impact human settlement and economy?
Check for Understanding
Describe Sao Paulo using evidence from the photograph and discuss the impact of geography on the development and economy of the city.
Historical Challenges
How did missions and missionaries affect the history of Brazil? Are there still missions in Brazil today?
Interdisciplinary Connections
Math: If the population of Brazil was about 184 million people in the year 2005, and the population of Sao Paulo's metropolitan area was about 18.6 million, what percentage of Brazil's population live in its largest city?
Science: Why is Sao Paulo one of the world's most polluted cities? What could be done to fix the problem?
English Language Arts: Research immigration in Brazil. Make a timeline showing when and from where immigrants came to Brazil. Pretend you are one of these immigrants. Describe your reasons for moving to Brazil.