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São Paulo city profile | city data

Founded by Jesuit missionaries in the early 18th century, the city of São Paulo is now the largest in Latin America, and the economic powerhouse of Brazil. The city’s growth and industry was driven by a vibrant immigrant population, and the people of São Paulo are proud of their multicultural roots. This cosmopolitanism has enabled a dynamic music scene. From samba and hip hop to the avant-garde rock movement ‘Vanguarda Paulista’, São Paulo has nurtured musical forms from across Brazil and the world. São Paulo has always been at the cutting edge of culture. At the beginning of the 20th century, the Brazilian modernist literary movement was driven by writers from São Paulo such as Mário de Andrade and Anita Malfatti. The city houses a wealth of major cultural institutions, including the Pinacoteca State Gallery of São Paulo, São Paulo’s Museum of Art (MASP), Municipal Theatre of São Paulo and Mário de Andrade Library. However much of São Paulo’s culture is found on the streets of the city. São Paulo is an ‘open air museum’, with many architectural styles, including Neo-Gothic and modernist buildings by Oscar Niemeyer. São Paulo is famous for its carnival, and the municipality actively encourages street art, festivals and activities by citizens in the public realm.

The cultural sector suffered financially during the Covid-19 pandemic. However additional support through the Federal Law ‘Aldir Blanc’ supplemented the City’s contingency budget by 50 million RBS. Cultural investment continues to be a longer-term challenge across Brazil. The municipality increased the cultural budget to 1% of their total revenue for 2022, and hopes this can continue to grow to meet the city’s needs.

Cultural access and mobility is an ongoing challenge which the municipality is taking active steps to address. The city is increasingly decentralising its budgets and planning, to enable more equitable access to cultural resources, and promote a more decentralised cultural economy. In order to better understand the needs of their communities, the municipality is investing in better data frameworks for policymaking. São Paulo is creating the Municipal System of Cultural Information and Indicators, which will also be available for public access online.

The Municipal Culture Secretariat of São Paulo (SMC) is the key city-level organisation which manages public libraries, theatres, municipal schools of art, museums and other infrastructure. SMC works closely with other organisations such as São Paulo’s Film and Audiovisual Company (SPCine), Municipal Theatre Foundation (FTM), and São Paulo Tourism (SPTuris). And there is a strong culture of private funding for culture in Brazil, so the city works closely with organisations such as Itaú Cultural, and Brazil’s Bank Cultural Centre. SMC sees an important role for itself in working collaboratively with public and private stakeholders, and state and federal governments, such as the State Culture & Creative Economy Secretariat. It is also looking to restructure to better work across other sectors including human rights, technology and innovation, education and health.

The city’s 10 year cultural plan was developed collaboratively in 2016 in alignment with the National Culture Plan and National Culture System. There are 5 key priority areas:

  • State and social participation: Prioritising human rights through cultural participation, inclusion, cultural and digital citizenship; and embedding cultural participation across all levels of funding and management.
  • Cultural infrastructure: Developing infrastructure through shared management structures, public engagement and decentralised planning.
  • Cultural heritage and memory: Safeguarding and sharing heritage assets.
  • Cultural diversity: Cultivating diversity through activities such as cultural exchange, cultural education, programming and funding mechanisms.
  • Economy of culture: Supporting economic development through culture and its entire ecosystem.