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State of Santa Catarina


The State of Santa Catarina is located in southern Brazil, between the States of Paraná (N) and Rio Grande do Sul (S), the Atlantic Ocean (E) and Argentina (W).


It occupies an area of 95 442 9 sq km and its capital is the city of Florianopolis.


The state’s most populous cities are: Joinville, Florianopolis, Blumenau, Criciúma and Chapecó.


Santa Catarina is one of the most mountainous regions of the country: 52% of its territory is located 600 meters above sea level.


Santa Catarina’s main rivers are: Uruguay, Canoas, Pelotas, Negro, do Peixe, Itajaí, Iguaçu, Chapecó and Tubarão. Its climate is mild.


The state’s economy is based on industry (agriculture, clothing manufacture, ceramics, machinery and equipments), mineral extraction and cattle breeding.


Santa Catarina was donated to Pero Lopes de Sousa, in 1534. In 1675, Domingos Dias Velho founded Nossa Senhora do Desterro, present Florianopolis, in Santa Catarina.


In 1739, the captaincy of Santa Catarina was separated from São Paulo and, ten years later, the first Azoreans arrived by the hands of governor Silva Paes, who gave a boost to the development of the region.


In 1777, Santa Catarina was conquered by the Spanish. One year later, and thanks to the Saint Ildefonso Treaty, the Portuguese took control of the island. In 1829, the first colony of German immigrants was founded.


During the empire period, Santa Catarina was the scenario to many rebellions, including “Guerra dos Farrapos”, which reached the province.


In the late 19th century, the discovery of mineral coal gave a boost to the development of the south of the state. Later, huge waves of German and Italian immigrants arrived in Santa Catarina to work in small farms and on wine production.


The State of Santa Catarina has 5 356 360 inhabitants (2000 census), and covers an area of 95 443 9 sq km.


Florianopolis municipality has 342 315 inhabitants. 


Colonization of Meridional Brazil in Santa Catarina

The waves of Azorean immigrants to Meridional Brazil were the result of a conscientious procedure, with set objectives.


The recruitments done on the islands of the Azores after 1746 (Terceira, Faial, Pico, S. Jorge, Graciosa, S. Miguel, S. Maria and Flores), offering money, land, agricultural tools, seeds, cattle and fire guns to the families who wanted to emigrate to Brazil show the importance given by the Portuguese Crown to this emigration.


Many were the causes which led these Azoreans to cross 8000km in such bad conditions; but surely the promise of good fields and help to have them produce were decisive.


The preference for young couples, or couples with young children, was determinant for the success of colonization. It originated and guaranteed a secure increase in population during the years to come.


The arrival of Azorean couples to Desterro (Florianopolis), in the middle of the 18th century (1748-56), was part of a systematic policy of occupation in south Brazil.


The communities chosen to organize and reinforce the population in the Captaincy of Santa Catarina had already been defined by the Portuguese Crown, through colonel José Silva Paes, the Crown’s representative.


After having chosen the best location, the communities were established according to a triangular system of mutual supports, which aimed at the survival of this colonization system.


At the arrival, and after having recovered from the long journey and being installed with the minimum conditions, the Azorean immigrants were transferred to a definitive place. 


The island of Santa Catarina and surroundings up to Laguna were chosen to implement the ambitious project of Azorean colonization in South Brazil.


In only 8 years (1748-56), six new organized communities (parishes) appeared in Santa Catarina captaincy, 100% more than in the last 150 years.


With a triangular system, surrounding the west coast of Santa Catarina Island and the mainland, the parishes of Santo António (1750), S. José (1750), S. Miguel (1752), Enseada de Brito (1750) and Desterro were established at a distance between one another of approximately 18 miles.


The parishes of Lagoa da Conceição (1750) and Santana da Vila Nova (1755), on the other hand, didn’t abide by this triangular system. These two communities were first supported by Desterro and Laguna, and after by other parishes with a similar system established as a result of the expansion of the Azoreans and their descendents.


The State’s Potentialities

In the coastland, mainly in Florianopolis, we can point out Administration, Education, Culture, Tourism and Computer Industry (programs and software); in the south, mineralogy connected to the thermoelectric industry, ceramics, mainly, floor and wall tiles; in the valley of Itajaí River, metal, mechanic and textile industries; in the plateau, from north to south, cattle breeding, and furniture industry; finally, in the western region of Santa Catarina, we can point out the swine, chicken and in-laid work industries.



Florianopolis – Capital of the State of Santa Catarina – Santa Catarina Island

Santa Catarina Island is located at 23º 32’ 57’’ West longitude (these coordinates refer to the Administrative Centre of Florianopolis). It has an area of 431 sq km, distributed from the north to the south, along the mainland (it is considered a continental island, once it is located at only 500 and 1800 meters off the continent). It has a length of 54 km and a width of 18 km. With a coastline carved with lagoons, bays, beautiful coast beaches, with countless islands, Santa Catarina has an area of 172 sq km. The highest points are Morro do Ribeirão, with 540 meters and Morro da Lagoa, with 490. There are also two lagoons on the island: Conceição Lagoon, with 19, 71 sq km of salty water, and Peri Lagoon, with 5, 12 sq km of drinkable water.

The first inhabitants of Santa Catarina were the Tupis-guaranis, an indigenous ethnic group. They were known as MEIEMBIPE (which means mountain along the canal) or JURERÊ-MIRIM (which means small water passage between the island and the continent). Their origin goes back to 3000 b. c., and the proof of their existence can be found in the Sambaquis (remains of seashells).These Indians were known among the Spanish by Carijós.


By the time of its discovery, Brazil was known among the Spanish navigators, who were searching for a route to India through the Pacific Ocean, and around the American continent, by Ilha dos Patos. This designation was attributed to Juan Dias de Solis, who arrived in the area in 1516.


By this time, Brazil sheltered many explorers who needed to refuel, repair their ships and rest. The importance of the island was evident by its natural conditions: two calm bays and natural ports and beaches, ideal to disembark. For its strategical position, between Rio de Janeiro and Rio de Prata’s estuary, the island sheltered many navigators in search of gold and treasures in an unknown land.


The discovery of Santa Catarina Island was attributed to the navigator Sebastião Cabouco, in 1526, who was in the area for 4 months, preparing his fleet for an expedition to Rio de Prata. The island was named after his wife or after the day of Saint Catherine of Alexandria (November 25).


The legal ownership of these lands was attributed to Francisco Dias Velho, a nobleman who left the captaincy of S. Vicente (present State of São Paulo) and came to the region he baptized as Desterro. There, he built the church to honour Nossa Senhora do Desterro (present Metropolitan Cathedral), in 1673. Francisco Dias Velho had a tragic and, at the same time, heroic ending, defending Nossa Senhora do Desterro from pillagers and pirates that invaded the island in 1687. After that, Dias Velho and his family left to the newly founded Santo Antonio dos Anjos da Laguna village, and Santa Catarina Island was left in the hands of the few who decided to stay.


On March 23, 1726, Desterro was elected to the village category. A few years later, in 1739, General José da Silva Paes arrived in the island and started the construction of a few number of fortresses to assure the safety of the land. The defensive triangle imagined by Silva Paes (São José da Ponta Grossa fortress – 1740, Santo António fortress on Ratones Island – 1741) fortified the entrance of the North bay and, years later, the South bay with Nossa Senhora da Conceição fortress in Araçatuba island – 1742.


The need to recruit a military force to occupy this defensive system and restrain the militias soon became evident. Considering this need and the requests of many Azoreans, 6000 settlers from the archipelago disembarked in Santa Catarina Island, between 1748 and 1756.


Once established in Santa Catarina, many Azoreans left to the coastland, and founded new villages. Presently, there are 42 municipalities, with a population of approximately 1500 000 inhabitants and an area of 500 sq km.


Azorean Cultural Legacy in the State of Santa Catarina  

The Azorean cultural legacy in Santa Catarina is present in its people’s daily life, in family names such as Silva, Pereira, Alves, Dias, Machado, Moreira, Cabral, Meneses, Ramos, etc.


The Portuguese colonial architecture is still seen in some houses and public buildings, and mainly in churches and chapels.

Surely, the devotion to the Holy Spirit is the most realistic bond with the Azorean cultural heritage.

In mythology we can point out the popular believes and sayings, adagios and guessing, werewolf and witch legends.


Professor Franklin Cascaes developed a very important work, which consists in small statues made up of clay and plaster, with drawings and writings about Santa Catarina’s culture.






The Municipality of Itajaí is located at 98 km from Florianopolis. It has an area of 303 sq km and 147.494 inhabitants.


Settled mainly by Azorean immigrants, Itajaí has always been concerned with the preservation of its ancestors’ culture. In fact, the municipality’s social development and the preservation of its natural and cultural characteristics are linked to one another.


Every year during the month of October, Itajaí hostess the major Portuguese and Brazilian fishing festivity called “Marejada”, a result of the gastronomic tradition of the first Portuguese immigrants who lived in the region, in the middle of the 17th century. This festivity began in 1986, which objective is reviving and honouring Azorean and Portuguese traditions, the basis of Itajai’s colonization.


Today, and 17 years later, Marejada attracts approximately 200 000 visitors each edition and is considered the major festivity of the kind in Brazil.



Founded in 1876, the municipality of Araquari occupies an area of 141 sq km and has a population of approximately 23 547 inhabitants. It is located in the micro region of Azorean ancestry, in the north of Santa Catarina coastline, at 182 km from Florianopolis. It was settled mainly by Azorean immigrants that arrived in Santa Catarina coastline between 1748 and 1756. Azorean culture is deeply rooted in Araquari, along with other cultures, such as indigenous and African, which are very important in the region. Together, they originate a unique cultural and religious mosaic.



The municipality of Penha, founded in 1958, has 17 678 inhabitants, occupies an area of 60 sq km and is located at 121 km from Florianopolis.


This region was first settled by Portuguese fishermen – mainly Azorean – searching for new places for whale hunting, in the 18th century. Penha became the seat of one of the major whale hunting structure in south Brazil.


Penha’s future and past are linked by folklore and other traditional Azorean festivities.


S. José da Terra Firme

The settlement of São José da Terra Firme began in 1750, with 182 Azorean couples. São José was elected to the city category in 1856. It has 169 252 inhabitants and is located at 10 km from the state’s capital.


São José has experienced a significant transformation during the last few years, performing a very important role in the state and national scenario.

It has a strong and diverse economy, with more than 15 000 business in the municipality, offering 60 000 jobs. It has a privileged location in regards to the large business centers of Mercosul.


Every year São José hostesses the Azorean Cultural festivity.



Founded in 1833 and colonized by Azoreans, Biguaçu covers an area of 302 sq km, has approximately 47 776 inhabitants and is located at 17 km from Florianopolis.


Biguaçu appeared in 1748 to house the Portuguese immigrants coming from the Azores.


In this same century, the disputes between Portugal and Spain over the lands in south Brazil forced the Portuguese to increase population in Santa Catarina coastline. In 1748, 461 Azoreans arrived in Santa Catarina Island and founded São Miguel da Terra Firme.


At the time, navigators stopped on the island to refuel their ships with drinkable water.


One of the best folklore groups with Azorean roots, “Arcos”, is from Biguaçu.



Located at 79km from the state’s capital, Garopaba has an area of 111 sp km and approximately 13 164 inhabitants.


Garopaba means “the place of the boats”. The first settlement appeared in 1666, by Azorean immigrants, who took advantage of the natural creek and were attracted by whale hunting.

The Azoreans living in the region worked in whale hunting and in the trade of oil and whale fins. However, it is only in the 17th century, with the arrival of a great number of Azorean couples, that immigration to Garopaba increases in a significant and disorganized manner.



Laguna occupies today an area of 353 sq km. Located at 120 km from south Florianopolis, it has approximately 70 000 inhabitants.


In 1494, Laguna played a very important role in the signature of the Tordesilhas Treaty. In 1748, the Portuguese Crown started to encourage Azorean immigrants to the region, which lacked men to work in their projects. As a consequence, the city has always preserved important characteristics of Azorean history, seen in its geographical location, buildings and houses.


Laguna is considered a historical heritage of Brazil and is registered in the book “Livro do Tombo Arqueológico, Etnográfico e Paisagístico”.


Porto Belo

The Municipality of Porto Belo, located at 60 km from Florianopolis, has approximately 10 704 inhabitants and occupies an area of 93 sq km. It is considered the best natural port in Brazil.


In the city centre there is Praça dos Pescadores (Fishermen’s Square), with strong Azorean characteristics.


Other presence of Azorean culture in Porto Belo is the folklore festivities, houses, fishing nets, colorful boats and small villages of fishermen.



Sombrio covers an area of 155 sq km, has approximately 22 962 inhabitants and was elected to the city category in 1953.


Sombrio’s inhabitants descend from Azoreans and Italians.


The Municipality of Sombrio is included in the hydrographical ecosystem of Manitoba River, and has one of the largest lagoons in Santa Catarina.


The major festivity of the municipality is Santo Antonio, the patron, and Arrailfest, whose main objective is the rescue of Azorean culture. This festivity offers great entertainment, Azorean traditional food and a parade of thematic cars.







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