Curitiba (Tupi: "Pine Nut Land", or ) is the capital and largest city of the Brazilian state of Paraná. The city's population numbers approximately 1,760,500 people as of 2010, making it the eighth most populous city in the country, and the largest in Brazil's South Region. Its metropolitan area, called Curitiba Metropolitan Area (Região Metropolitana de Curitiba, in Portuguese), comprises 26 municipalities with a total population of over 3.2 million (IBGE estimate in 2010), making it the seventh most populous city in the country.
Curitiba is a cultural, political, and economic centre in the country and in Latin America. The city sits on a plateau at above sea level. It is located west of the sea port of Paranaguá and is served by the Afonso Pena International and Bacacheri airports. The city hosts the Federal University of Paraná, established in 1912.
In the 1700s Curitiba possessed a favorable location between cattle-breeding country and marketplaces, leading to a successful cattle trade and the city's first major expansion. Later, between 1850 and 1950, it grew due to logging and agricultural expansion in the Paraná State (first Araucaria logging, later mate and coffee cultivation and in the 1970s wheat, corn and soybean cultivation). In the 1850s waves of European immigrants arrived in Curitiba, mainly Germans, Italians, Poles and Ukrainians, contributing to the economic and cultural development of the city. Nowadays, only smaller numbers of foreign immigrants arrive, primarily from Middle Eastern and other Latin American countries.
The biggest city expansion occurred after the 1950s, with an innovative urban planning that changed the population size from some hundreds of thousands to more than a million people. Curitiba's current economy is based on industry and services and is the fourth largest economy in Brazil. The economy growth occurred in parallel to a substantial inward flow of Brazilians from other cities of the country, as approximately half of the population of Curitiba was not born in the city.
Curitiba presents one of the highest HDI of Brazil at 0.856, and in 2010 was awarded the Globe Sustainable City Award, given to cities and municipalities which excel in sustainable urban development around the world. According to the US magazine Reader's Digest, Curitiba is the best "Brazilian Big City" in which to live.
The first ten years of the 16th century marked the beginning of a war of conquest of Europeans (Portuguese colonists) against the indigenous peoples who inhabited the area of the city. Waves of European immigrants started arriving after 1850, mainly Germans, Italians, Poles and Ukrainians. In 1853, the south and southwest of the province of São Paulo were separated, forming the new province of Paraná, and Curitiba became its capital.
Curitiba in 1820 received a visit from a French scholar, savant Augustin Saint-Hilaire, who was stunned by the city.
During the 20th century, especially after 1950, the city rapidly increased in population and consolidated its position as a regional hub for trade and services, becoming one of the richest cities in Brazil and a pioneer in urban solutions. In the 1940s and 1950s, Alfred Agache, co-founder of the French Society for Urban Studies, was hired to produce the first city plan. It emphasised a "star" of boulevards, with public amenities downtown, an industrial district and sanitation. It was followed when possible, but was too expensive to complete.
From March 24 to 27, 1969, Curitiba was the capital of Brazil. The government of the Federative Republic of Brazil was settled in the Iguaçu palace under the presidency of Marshal Arthur da Costa e Silva.