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Its metropolitan area comprises 26 municipalities with a total population of over 3.5 million (IBGE estimate in 2006). Curitiba is an important cultural, political and economic center in the country. The city is sits on a plateau at 932 metres (3,060 ft) above sea level. It is located 105 kilometres (65 mi) west of the sea port of Paranaguá and hosts the Afonso Pena International Airport.
Growth was based on the cattle trade, being half way between cattle breeding country to the South and markets to the North. Waves of European immigrants started arriving after 1850, mainly Germans, Italians, Poles and Ukrainians contributing to the economic and cultural development of the city.
Currently, only small numbers of foreigners migrate to Curitba, and these are mainly immigrants from Middle Eastern and South American countries, but there is a substantial inward flow of Brazilians from other States of the country (it is estimated that nowadays about half the population of Curitiba was not born in the city).
Curitiba hosts the Universidade Federal do Paraná (Federal University of Paraná), the first in Brazil, was established in Curitiba in 1913, the same year in which electric streetcars were first deployed.