Bento Gonçalves

Bento Gonçalves is a city on the state of Rio Grande do Sul, on Brazil’s southernmost region. The area used to be home of some of Brazil’s native populations such as the Kaingangs, that used to live by the rivers, but on the beginning of the nineteenth century they were driven out by imperial forces, and the government began the process of populating the region with European immigrants. The Empire’s project was successful, and by the end of the nineteenth century thousands of immigrants, most of them coming from Italy, with smaller groups coming from Germany, France, Spain and Poland, crossed the sea and settled here, on the northeastern highlands of Rio Grande do Sul.

The immigrants, despite the initial struggle, managed to established what became a prosperous city, with an economy based on agriculture, specially viticulture, that helped the city expand significantly on the first half of the twentieth century. At the same time, the rural roots of the community began to shift as urbanization started to develop more and more, opening up the city to further integration with the rest of the country. Under President Getúlio Vargas’ government, conflict arose between the immigrants and the rest of the country, with strongly nationalistic policies repressing cultural and political expression of foreign origin. After the Second World War the situation was settled, with Brazilians and foreigners interacting peacefully once again. In 2016, the city adopted the Talian, the dialect of Italian spoken by the descendants of the immigrants, as a co-official language along with Portuguese.

Bento Gonçalves is currently the 18th most populous city in Rio Grande do Sul and the 264th most populous city in Brazil. Its economy is based on grape cultivation and wine production, tourism, and the furniture industry, of which it is the largest pole in Brazil.