Brazil Travel: Beaches and Information Technology in Florianopolis
The Brazilian city of Florianopolis has blossomed into a magnet for world travelers seeking excellent beaches and a full complement of modern amenities. With an economy centered on services, primarily information technology, city officials are intent on making Florianopolis into the “Silicon Valley of Brazil, with beaches,” and they have certainly made progress in that direction. Travelers to Florianopolis today will find 42 beaches, a top surfing destination, and hints of the city’s colonial past.
In its pre-colonial history, the island was inhabited by peaceful Tupi indigenous groups. This changed in 1514 with the arrival of the Portuguese. The tiny settlement served as a supply port for ships sailing up and down the South American coast and remained so throughout the 17th century. Its location halfway between Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires gave it strategic importance. The character of the island changed slightly in the late 18th century with the arrival of Portuguese settlers from Azores and Madeira islands who introduced some industry.
In the years following Portuguese settlement, the island was known as Nossa Senhora do Desterro. In 1893, there was a revolt led by members of the Federalist Party, which was quelled by the heavy hand of the then president Floriano Peixoto, known as the Iron Marshal. Following these events, the town changed its name from Desterro to Florianopolis in honor of the president.
Things remained fairly quiet until the mid-20th century, when Florianopolis received a few universities, after which city officials concentrated on the development of roads and schools. Today, Florianopolis is one of the most developed cities in Brazil, which literacy and electrification rates both a nearly 100%. The city has become a center for technology and software development firms in Brazil.
Today, the city bears some notable reminders of its quieter colonial past. The southern part of the city remains mostly rural, and the population still retains a distinctive manner of speaking, produces handicraft activities, and convenes traditional festivals reflective of the Azorean influence. The village of San Antonio de Lisboa has some examples of colonial architecture; visitors to Ribeirao da Ilha are sure to hear the Azorean dialect; and women lacemakers can be found in Lagoa da Conceicao.
The focus on services attracted blue and white collar workers from other regions of Brazil. Florianopolis has also attracted foreign workers from all over the world; they have settled in the central and northern parts of the city which gives these areas a decidedly cosmopolitan feel. By some counts, Florianopolis population of 500,000 nearly triples during the summer months and the struggle these days is to maintain the infrastructure to keep up with this seasonal increase. There are direct daily flights from Buenos Aires.