Nocturne view of Copan Building (left), Sao Paulo Hilton Hotel (right) and Consolacao Street (center). Sao Paulo was founded by the Jesuits in 1554, on a plateau 2,493 feet (760 meters) above sea level, but only 45 miles (72 km) from the coast, as a mission center. For a long time it was rather a small town. Around 1850 it began to grow and became richer thanks to the highly productive coffee plantations in the state. The city’s Latin motto is Non ducor, duco, which translates as “I am not led, I lead”. A famous nickname for the city is “Sampa”.
Sao Paulo is also known for its smog, the sheer size of its helicopter fleet, unreliable weather, and multitude of skyscrapers. Sao Paulo is officially inserted in a larger metropolitan region named “Grande Sao Paulo” (“Greater Sao Paulo”). The region holds 39 towns in total, and a population of more than 19 million inhabitants. It is the world’s third largest city and the largest in South America. Sao Paulo and its rival Brazilian city, Rio de Janeiro, have often been compared to New York and Los Angeles respectively.