Caxias do Sul, Brazil

Liaisons: Denver Peacock and Robert Zeiler

Caxias do Sul has been a Sister City to Little Rock since 2017.

Caxias do Sul is the second largest city in the state of Rio Grande do Sul in southern Brazil. It is located in the mountains of the Serra Gaucha and has a subtropical highland/oceanic temperate climate. According to the IBGE (Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics) survey of 2017, Caxias has a population of 483,377.

History

The region was populated by indigenous peoples, the Kaigang, before the arrival of European colonists. Italian immigrants, mostly farmers, arrived in 1875. The colonial headquarters was named Caxias Colony and the town was established in 1890 following new waves of immigration. It was elevated to the category of city in 1910 due to rapid industrialization and expanding urbanization. In the same year, the first train arrived, connecting Caxias with the capital of Rio Grande do Sul.

Caxias was called the “Pearl of the Colonies” as it was seen as the center of Italian presence in southern Brazil.

Economy

As the city grew, the reliance on subsistence agriculture gave way to commercial farms, metallurgic industries, and service provision.

Caxias is still known as “the land of grapes and wine.” Stemming from its Italian heritage, grapes, wine, and cheese remain a central cultural and economic feature of the city and its surrounding areas; the vineyards of the surrounding areas are considered to be Brazil’s best. Legumes, vegetables, fruits, beef, and poultry production are also important agricultural products.

Services and industry constitute 57% and 25% of economic activity in Caxias, respectively. Metallurgic industries are the largest industrial sector, making it the second largest metal-mechanical hub in Brazil. The city is home to two of the largest vehicle manufacturing companies in the world.

There is an increasingly diversified small business sector, with government support of micro entrepreneurship. The Municipal Department of Economic Development, Labor, and Employment (SDETE) directs the Entrepreneur Room, a service that aims to simplify the opening, downsizing, and operating processes of companies in the city.

There has also been a focus on sustainability and improvement of human life by the city – education, sanitation, healthcare, transportation, etc. Per capita income of Caxias is one of the highest in Brazil, as are its quality of life indicators and life expectancy statistics.

Culture

Portuguese is the official national language of Brazil and is therefore the primary language in Caxias. Tailan, a regional language based on Venetian but influenced by other Italian dialects and by Portuguese, is a minority language still spoken in some areas.

Caxias is renowned for its food, which includes some Italian traditions. Festa da Uva, also known as the National Grape and Wine Festival, is held every other February and celebrates the city’s Italian heritage, including wine and cheese production.

Historic architecture is protected by the city for its cultural and aesthetic value. These landmarks include the Cathedral and Chapel of Santo Sepulcro (Sacred Tomb) and many old chapels in the rural areas. City parks and museums are open to the public, and dancing, theater, rodeo, and horseback riding are important parts of the cultural landscape.

Caxias do Sul is home to the S.E.R. Caxias and Juventude football clubs. There are two stadiums in the city.

Colleges and Universities

Caxias is an educational hub for the region, with universities focused on the textiles sector, mechatronics and automobiles, commerce, civil construction, and more.

Universidade de Caxias do Sul (UCS) was founded in 1967, making it the oldest university in the region. It offers degrees in communications, philosophy, medicine, engineering, business, design, and tourism, among others.  The university also sponsors an art gallery, extensive library, and symphony orchestra.

Exchange

The first student exchange between the cities occurred in 2018.