Located in a region of fertile soil rich in phosphates, with excellent highway and railway connections, and watered by several rivers, the municipality has been experiencing rapid growth in recent years and is the third largest payer of state taxes.
The city lies a short distance north of the border with the state of Minas Gerais where a large dam over the Paranaíba River, the Barragem de Emborcação, separates the two states. It is connected by paved highway with Goiânia (253 km.), Brasília (330 km.), and Uberlândia (114), in the rich Mineiro Triangle.
Municipal boundaries are with:
Catalão is connected to the East West railroad system and to the future North-South system, which begins in Anápolis. It also has an airport with a runway for small and medium sized planes, 1,400 meters long, paved, and lit at night.
The municipality is one of the most prosperous in the state. In a study carried out by Seplan of competitivity in municipalities in the state of Goiás Catalão was ranked third after Anápolis and Rio Verde. See Seplan
Catalão got a score of 0.818 on the UN Human Development Index, ranking it 3 out of 242 municipalities in the state. Nationally it was ranked 253 out of 5,507 municipalities. (All data are from 2000.)
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Data are furnished by IBGE
The economic success story of Catalão has been partly attributable to the installation of an industrial park where major enterprises like John Deere (producing sugar cane harvesters) and Mitsubishi, with capacity to produce 27,000 cars a year. This first automobile assembly plant in the Centerwest of Brazil generates 900 direct jobs and approximately 2,700 indirect.
In addition there are three major fertilizer plants, Copebrás, controlled by the Anglo-American group, Fosfértil, and Mineração Catalão De Goiás, which extract phosphate rocks from the subsoil and transform them into fertilizers.
In the social area the city is showing signs of continuous development. It is already a medical center for the southeast region of Goiás, with several hospitals and specialized clinics.
Catalão began to be occupied around 1722 or 1723 when one of the bandeirantes, Bartolomeu Bueno da Silva planted cropos for his supply.
The settlement began around 1728, with the construction of a few huts to support the troops who were penetrating this region. Near Catalão, one of the chaplains of the force, Frei Antônio, a native of Catalunia and called "o Catalão" decided to start a rest point near a small stream.
By 1828, the settlement had five houses with tile roofs and twenty grass covered huts.
In 1859, Catalão became a legally constituted city. Today the municipality has an area of 3,789 km²,. corresponding to 1.1% of the state territory
The story of the , Catalão's popular festival began in 1820, when semi-free slaves arrived in the Vila of Catalão to work in the coffee plantations. The slaves brought with them their customs, one of which was the cult of Our Lady of the Rosary. Her commemoration included a mixture of Afro and Catholic rites. Now these dances, with strong influences from the Congo and Moçambique, are celebrated in Catalão in the largest festival of Congadas in Brazil.
The festival takes place on the last Friday of September and lasts until the second Sunday of October, when the dancers go to the strees in their colorful costumes, filling the city streets with their songs, which give thanks to their patroness for the blessings given.