Ribeirão Preto (Black Brook or Black Stream) is a municipality in the Northeastern region of the state of São Paulo in Brazil. It is nicknamed Brazilian California, because of a combination of an economy based on agrobusiness plus high technology, wealth and sunny weather all year long. According to 2010 Census Ribeirão Preto is the eighth largest municipality in the state, and in 2012 it’s estimated to be 658,746 inhabitants. With a total area of 652.2 km² (251.8 sq mi), its coordinates are 21° 10’ 42" South latitude and 47° 48’ 24" West longitude; and it is situated 313 km (194 mi) from the city of São Paulo and 706 km (439 mi) from Brasília, the federal capital. Mean altitude is 546.8 meters high (1,794 ft).
The city’s average temperature throughout the year is 23,2 °C (73,75F) and the predominant original vegetation is the Atlantic forest. Of the total inhabitants 99.7% of its population lives within city boundaries, and in 2009 there was 319 health establishments. Its IDH is 0.855, considered elevated and the sixth highest of the state. There are numerous highways linking Ribeirão Preto to other cities, such as Anhanguera Highway and Cândido Portinari Highway, alongside the railroad and the Doctor Leite Lopes Airport.
The city was originated around 1856 as the region received many miners that had left their already depleted lands because of the mining, looking for pastures for cattle. In the beginning of the 20th century the city began to attract immigrants that had come to work in the agriculture or in the recently opened industries. The coffee was for a long time the principal activity and main source of income until 1929, when it lost its value and lost space to other cultures and the industrial sector. Along the second half of the 20th century there was some investment in areas such as health, biotechnology, bioenergy and information technology, that lead the city to be declared in a Technological Center in 2010. These activities have caused the city to have the 30th biggest GNP in Brazil.
In addition to its economic importance, the city is also an important cultural center. The Prefeito Luiz Roberto Jábali Park, the Maurilio Biagi Park and the Zoo Garden are important preservation areas, while the Pinguim Choperia, the Dom Pedro Theatre and projects as the Ribeirão Preto’s Cinema Center are relevant sightseeing points, along the cultural events as Agrishow, and the National Book Fair.
The city was founded June 19, 1856, by farmers coming from the southeast of São Paulo State in search of good climate and soil for coffee growing. The city was laid by a stream called Black Creek, and was named after it (Ribeirão Preto means black creek in Portuguese, sometimes the city name is translated as "Black Stream", which is also the name of a hotel in the city). Eventually the farmers’ choice revealed itself as very adequate and the fertile soil of the Ribeirão Preto region allowed the highest crop productivity in Brazil.
The rapid development of the coffee cultivation brought wealth and progress to the city, which by the 1880s had become the largest coffee producer in the world. Coffee, the “green gold” as it was called, was responsible for a kind of “gold rush” in the region, which attracted workers and adventurous people from several parts of the world. This movement was helped by the new Mogiana Railway, which linked Ribeirão Preto to São Paulo and to the port city of Santos, and by the abolition of slavery in Brazil, in 1888. The end of slavery created a strong demand for labor and the “coffee barons”, as the coffee farmers were called, stimulated European immigration - mostly from Italy but also from Portugal, Spain and Germany - to Ribeirão Preto. Later, after the stock market crash of 1929, several of these immigrants bought the farms from their indebted former employers.