Novo Hamburgo

Novo Hamburgo

[naw-voo ahm-boor-goo]
Novo Hamburgo is a city in the southernmost Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul. Its population is 250,800 (2005). The city covers an area of 217 square kilometers, and the average temperature is 19°C, a mild one for the region. In the decade of 1980 it received the nickname from "National Capital of Skateboard", detaching many athletes, tracks and companies directed to the sport. The Sinos River (Rio dos Sinos) runs through it. The city is the industrial center of the Sinos River Valley, the economy of which is based mainly on the manufacture of shoes and the associated leather goods supply chain. It is considered a rich city by Brazilian standards, although it has some impoverished areas.


The area of the city was first settled by Portuguese immigrants in the mid 18th century, but it would grow to the status of village only with the arrival of the first German immigrants in 1824. At that time, Novo Hamburgo was part of São Leopoldo, the cradle of German immigration in Brazil. The Germans established a prosperous agricultural colony and eventually started to supply the state's main urban centers at that time with food.

Some of the immigrants also brought handicraft skills, valuable for a self-sufficient, isolated economy, as the valley and the state were at that time. In Novo Hamburgo, the first urban agglomeration appeared around the Hamburger Berg, circa 1870, where there was a little commerce. The city was emancipated from São Leopoldo on April 5, 1927, and soon joined the rest of Brazil in its run to industrialization. The city was made the seat of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Novo Hamburgo in 1980.


Novo Hamburgo is one of 13 charming cities on the Rota Romântica, a scenic bypass of Brazilian cities in the state of Rio Grande do Sul with heavy Germanic influence. Other cities on the Rota Romântica are São Leopoldo, Estância Velha, Ivoti, Dois Irmãos, Morro Reuter, Santa Maria do Herval, Presidente Lucena, Picada Café, Nova Petrópolis, Gramado, Canela and São Francisco de Paula.

Economy and Society

Those German craftsmen eventually started to manufacture shoes and machinery on a large scale and in the 1960s began to export goods, a process that transformed the city into a magnet for internal immigrants from impoverished areas around the state and the country. This caused large demographic growth that was not accompanied by the needed structure to accommodate the recently arrived population; favelas then formed, which are the source of many of today's social problems. Today's Novo Hamburgo depends heavily upon shoe exports, although it diversified its industrial and commercial base in the early 1990s.

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