On August 28, 1888, the town until then known as Brejo Alegre became the city of Araguary. Three days later, San Pedro de Uberabinha, later called Uberlândia, became independent. A little over 111 years later, in January 2000, I first set foot in Uberlândia. A Brazilian acquaintance had visited my university only a few months prior and really talked up the city, to which he’d moved not long before. In those days I was looking to begin full-time, career mission service in Brazil and was considering which city to take as a base of operations. Campinas might have been my first choice, although a missionary in the far-northern city of Belém was very insistent I check out the work there. When I first heard “Uberlândia” I thought, “Uber where?”
It was more or less love at first sight for me when I saw the city. My first experience in Brazil had been in Campinas, a city I still have an affection for, and followed by Belo Horizonte. This latter always seemed horrid to me, seeming violent, dirty and disorganized. The former was good, though violent crime was a problem. Uberlândia, on the other hand, had a small town feel with a lot of truly modern conveniences.
Taken from the “backwoods region” called Sertão of Farinha Podre – nowadays known as the Triângulo Mineiro, this growing city has a lot to offer, including a quality of life that I’d say is far better than that of larger cities in this country, such as São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Its vibrancy over the years has come from investments in infrastructure and private enterprise.
The driving force that distinguished the region early on was the implementation of the Mogiana Company of Railroads in Uberlândia, in 1895. With the link to São Paulo coffee production the economy of the city took a leap forward. In following years Uberlândia took its place as a center of wholesale distribution, and with the boom in commodities and increased foreign investment since the end of the military dictatorship in Brazil in the 1980s, agribusiness has become a major concern in the area as well. Companies like Monsanto and Cargill maintain major operations in the Uberlândia area.
As I’ve noted in a previous post, Uberlândia shows promising signs of becoming a technological outpost. The presence of major tech and telecom companies in this city, including the homegrown Algar Group, push innovation and development in the region. Additionally, there are numerous smaller digital agencies and web development operations around the city. Someone in North America or Europe looking to outsource software and web development would do well to look here. Recently the first annual Project Management seminar for the region was held in Uberlândia, which I was pleased to attend.
Aside from the Uberlândia Federal University (UFU), numerous other private universities now have thousands of students enrolled in the city. Young people from here, from surrounding cities and even from other states come to attend UFU. Those from larger cities enjoy a smaller, usually safer experience than they’d have in their home cities, while young people from smaller cities get their first taste of something akin to “big city life.” All have an opportunity to build their future through hard work and dedication.
With two malls and a third on the way, along with a variety of smaller shops and restaurants, shopping and eating out in this city is facilitated by a range of good options. Someone who’s lived in a major metropolitan area will miss some conveniences, though I personally believe this lack is compensated by a generally better quality of life.
Despite not having any beaches or major tourist attractions, Uberlândia is a great city for making a life and raising a family. In fact, my children were both born here. Yes, there are the issues typical of Brazilian cities, such as crime and poverty. These are far less significant here, however, in comparison to other places in the country.
Happy Birthday Uberlândia.