Cuiabá is the capital city of the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso. It is located in the exact centre of South America and forms the metropolitan area of the state, along with the neighbouring town of Várzea Grande.
The name is of obscure South American Indian origin, reportedly meaning "arrow-fishing", and alludes to the Bororo custom of using arrows to fish. Another version says that there was an Indian tribe called Ykuiapá. Others say that, while a Portuguese man was once taking a bath in the river using a kind of plate made with half a coconut (named cuia), the stream carried it away, prompting the man to exclaim "Cuia ba" (something like "the cuia is gone"). Cuiabá is the largest centre for tourism, business, agribusiness, trade, and culture in Mato Grosso.
The new Marechal Rondon International Airport connects Cuiabá with many Brazilian cities and also operates some international flights.
The city is home to the Federal University of Mato Grosso.
Cuiabá was founded on January 1, 1727 by Rodrigo César de Menezes, then the "captain" of the captaincy of São Paulo in the aftermath of the discovery of gold mines. It was given township status in 1818 and became the capital in 1835.
From the late eighteenth century, until the time of the Paraguayan War, the town remained small and was in decline. The war, however, brought some infrastructure and a brief period of economic boom, supplying sugar, foodstuffs and timber to the Brazilian troops.
After the war, the town was once again forgotten by the rest of the country, to such an extent that the Imperial and later the Republican governments of Brazil used to use it as a site of exile for troublesome politicians. Isolation allowed it to preserve many of the oldest Brazilian ways of life until well into the twentieth century.
Starting in 1930, isolation shrank with the construction of roads and later with the advent of aviation. The town became a city and would grow quite rapidly from 1960 onwards, after the establishment of the newly built Brazilian capital in Brasilia.
In the 1970s and 1980s, the pace of growth would continue to increase as agriculture became commercialized, using the roads to transport soybeans and rice produced in the state in order to be sold abroad. The growth was such that from 1960 to 1980 the small town of 50,000 inhabitants grew into a giant, with more than a quarter of a million inhabitants (including those from the surrounding area and towns).
Since 1990, the rate of population growth has decreased, as other towns in the state have begun to attract more immigration than the capital. Tourism has emerged as a source of income and environmental issues have become a concern for the first time.