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How did the emerging paulista elite make sense of the rapid changes in the region’s fortunes? This chapter explores the precocious formation of a discourse of paulista exceptionalism that began with the post-1870s coffee boom. This boom fueled a vision of São Paulo as uniquely inclined to modernity and undergirded the paulistas’ rise to political dominance. Drawing on the colonial figure of the bandeirante, paulista elites fashioned a regional identity that, combined with the influx of European immigrants, led to the whitening of the paulista population. The chapter then discusses paulista “modernity” as envisioned by visitors from abroad, new political...

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