• Brazil;
  • historical geography;
  • Rio de Janeiro;
  • SÃo Paulo;
  • urbanization

ABSTRACT. Contrasting models of urban development characterize the historical-geographical evolution of Brazil's two leading cities, viewed in an updating of the seminal 1933 article by Preston James. Native to Rio de Janeiro is a distinctive Luso-Brazilian style of irregular coastal urbanization, whereas SÃo Paulo displays a more uniform, modern type of inland commercial-industrial expansion. Even as Rio de Janeiro and SÃo Paulo sprawl today to form a virtual megalopolis in southeastern Brazil, they retain distinguishing roles in the national city system. Both metropolises are experiencing increasing functional decentralization and socioeconomic polarization, but in their own characteristic fashions. Generalized models of “Latin American city structure” are of limited value, unless they take into account such significant historical-geographical variations in urban form.