Although there’s not much to hold your interest inland from São Paulo, Santa Bárbara d’Oeste has traces of Confederate history, while more recent Dutch immigrant arrivals have had a far greater impact on nearby Holambra. Further into the interior is coffee country, where it’s possible to visit some old fazenda houses. To escape the summer heat, the resort of Campos do Jordão, northeast of the city, offers some attractive hill scenery and hiking possibilities.
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During the late nineteenth-century coffee boom, the interior of São Paulo state was synonymous with coffee, and the area around São Carlos, now a bustling university city 140km northwest of Santa Bárbara d’Oeste, was particularly productive. Today the farms around the city are largely given over to sugar cane and oranges, and little evidence remains of the area’s coffee-producing past. However, the Fazenda Pinhal, one of the oldest surviving and best-preserved rural estates in the state of São Paulo, is well worth a visit. The casa grande, the main house, was built in 1831 and, typical of the period, modelled after the large, comfortable Portuguese city dwellings of the eighteenth century; it still retains its original furnishings and there are numerous outbuildings, including senzalas, the slave quarters. It’s possible to stay the night in tasteful, country-style rooms on the estate. The fazenda is an easy day-trip from Campinas – and, at a stretch, São Paulo – but you’ll need your own transport. Located off the SP-310 highway, at Km 227 take the exit for Riberão Bonito and then turn immediately onto the much smaller Estrada da Broa. After about 4km you’ll see a sign marking the fazenda’s entrance. It’s essential to call in advance; the entrance charge is R$15, plus R$40 for an excellent two-hour tour – a fixed fee for either a large group or an individual.
Confederates in São Paulo
Confederates in São Paulo
In the face of humiliation, military defeat and economic devastation, thousands of former Confederates from the American South resolved to “reconstruct” themselves in often distant parts of the world, forcing a wave of emigration without precedent in the history of the United States. Brazil rapidly established itself as one of the main destinations, offering cheap land, a climate suited to familiar crops, political and economic stability, religious freedom and – more sinisterly – the possibility of continued slave ownership. Just how many Confederates came is unclear; suggested numbers vary between 2000 and 20,000, and they settled all over Brazil, though it was in São Paulo that they had the greatest impact. While Iguape, on the state’s southern stretch of coast, had a large Confederate population, the most concentrated area of settlement was the Santa Bárbara colony, in the area around present-day Santa Bárbara d’Oeste.
The region’s climate and soil were ideally suited to the growing of cotton and the Confederates’ expertise soon made Santa Bárbara d’Oeste one of Brazil’s biggest producers of the crop. As demand for Brazilian cotton gradually declined, many of the immigrants switched to sugar cane, which remains the area’s staple crop, though others, unable to adapt, moved into São Paulo city or returned to the United States. Today as many as 100,000 people claim descent from these Confederate exiles.