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Building detail, São Paulo

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More than 5 million Paulistanos—residents of São Paulo, Brazil—live in working-class suburbs in crowded buildings known as cortiços. The workers’ districts illustrate the changes that have taken place in São Paulo as it has grown from 250,000 inhabitants in 1900 to more than 20 million today. Now the largest urban center in Brazil and all of South America, this megalopolis occupies 3,100 square miles (8,000 km2), more than three times the size of greater Paris. It is home to 41% of Brazil’s industry, provides half of manufactured goods in the country, and houses nearly 45% of the Brazilian work force. Yet since 1970 another type of residence has spread here in the country’s most prosperous city: favelas, slums that today house 20% of Paulistanos. The increasing inequality between rich and poor, along with its attendant social ills, is a problem throughout the nation and the entire continent.

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