Santa Maria Island
The arid coast of the western portion of the island of Santa Maria, location of the main settlement, Vila do Porto (as seen from Pico Alto)
|Official name: Ilha de Santa Maria|
|Named for: Blessed Virgin Mary|
|Nickname: Ilha Amarelo Claro|
|Location||Azores Platform, Mid-Atlantic Ridge, Atlantic Ocean|
|Municipalities||Vila do Porto|
|Civil Parishes||Almagreira, Santa Bárbara, Santo Espírito, São Pedro, Vila do Porto|
|Highest point||Pico Alto|
|- location||Facho-Pico Alto Volcanic Complex, Santa Bárbara, Vila do Porto|
|- elevation||586.64 m (1,925 ft)|
|Lowest point||Sea level|
|- location||Atlantic Ocean|
|- elevation||0 m (0 ft)|
|Length||16.76 km (10 mi), Northwest-Southeast|
|Width||10.29 km (6 mi), Southwest-Northeast|
|Area||96.89 km2 (37 sq mi)|
|Geology||Alkali basalt, Tephra, Trachyte, Trachybasalt|
|Wikimedia Commons: Island of Santa Maria (Azores)|
Santa Maria (Portuguese pronunciation: [ˈsɐ̃tɐ mɐˈɾi.ɐ]), Portuguese for Saint Mary, is an island located in the eastern group of the Azores archipelago (south of the island of São Miguel) and the southernmost island in the Azores. The island is primarily known for its white sand beaches, distinctive chimneys, and dry warm weather.
The first records of a group of islands in the Atlantic (aside from the legends of Atlantis) came from the voyages of Portuguese sailors during the reigns of King Denis (1279–1325) and his successor King Afonso IV (1325–1357). These were unsubstantiated accounts and unofficial, until 1427 when navigator Diogo de Silves found the island of Santa Maria (at that time referred to on nautical charts as Ilha dos Lobos or Ilha do Ovo) during his journey to Madeira. Myth tells that on the day of the islands discovery, Gonçalo Velho Cabral and his crew were celebrating mass (on the feast day of the Virgin Mary), when one of the lookouts spotted the distant island, declaring "Santa Maria": this name would become linked permanently to the island. Santa Maria's discovery was attributed to Gonçalo Velho Cabral in 1432 (rather than the pilot Silves), since discoveries were not "recognized officially" until they declared so by the Portuguese Crown, who registered them in Cabral's name, as commander of the voyage (he had already commanded two voyages of exploration in 1431-1432).
Cabral's crew disembarked on a small beach in the northwestern Ponte dos Canestrantes, where he encountered a population of Eared seals, proclaiming the beach Praia dos Lobobs (from the generic Portuguese lobos-marinhos, or sea wolves ). The Captain and his crew explored the island, collecting various examples of the native and unfamiliar plants, as well as canisters of earth and water to give to the Infante as proofs to their discovery. The Infante received these "gifts" in 1432, and immediately ordered that herds be sent to the island, while he organized a plan for its colonization. In settling the Azores, the crown applied a system that was successful on the island of Madeira in 1425: the new lands would be administered by title grants (donatário) to a noblemen and men of confidence (donatary-captains) that would oversee security and colonization, while enforcing the King's law. The master or Donatário for the Azores was the Infante Henry the Navigator (in his role as governor of the Order of Christ and Duke of Viseu), who was granted carte blanche to enforce the King's dominion (except to coin money and some judicial authority). The donatário also had the responsibility of selecting or sub-contracting local administrators to represent him, as some historians referred to as captains of the donatary; for his part, Gonçalo Velho, with the support of D. Isabella, was nominated the first captain of the island of Santa Maria and (later) São Miguel, where he arrived in 1439 with colonists, bringing their families and some cattle. By 1460, the chronicler Diogo Gomes de Sintra identified the island as Ilha de Gonçalo Velho, with the choicest lands in the hands of their commander.
Colonization progressed between 1443 and 1447, principally from settlers from the Portuguese Alentejo and Algarve, who populated the northern coast along the Baía dos Anjos (English: Bay of the Angels) and later in the area of Vila do Porto (in the southwest coast). This area would attain the title of Vila do Porto for the nestled anchorage that developed there, and the municipality would also adopt the name, by 1470 (as indicated on their floral). By the end of the 16th century, Santa Maria was divided into three parishes: Nossa Senhora da Assunção (Vila do Porto), Santa Bárbara and Santo Espírito. The governing classes, the families which controlled the politico-administrative organs of the municipality and parishes were all intermingled by marriage and class, and after the Iberian Union this concentration increased.
Similar to other islands of the archipelago, Santa Maria was a victim of repeated attacks by privateers and pirates. In one of the principal engagements, a Castilian carrack with 40 men disembarked in the port of Vila do Porto (in 1480), where they were confronted by residents under the command of the Captain-Major João Soares (nephew of Gonçalo Velho and heir to the Captaincy of Santa Maria and São Miguel), who took to hurl rocks from the cliffs above Calhau da Roupa at the invaders. João Soares was eventually captured by the Spaniards, who took him in irons as a prisoner to Castile. After successive pirate attacks, the population was very hostile to travellers: the travelling Christopher Columbus was greeted harshly by its residents, when he and his crew disembarked in the Baía dos Anjos (in February 1493) on their return from their famous "discovery" of the New World. Several of his crew were captured, and complex negotiations were undertaken to liberate the same. Thankful for their liberation, a mass was celebrated by him and his party in the old chapel before he returned to Spain. Although relatively far from the routes used by ships traveling to India, the island was repeatedly attacked by French pirates (1553), the island assaulted by French troops (1576), the English (1589) and Moors (1616 and 1675). By the 17th Century, a series of fortifications were constructed along the coast to defend the populace from these attacks, including the Fort of São Brás (Vila do Porto) and the (ruined) Fort of São João Baptista in Praia Formosa.
When the 1580 crisis of succession ushered in the Iberian Union in Portugal, the island initially supported António of Crato, but with pressure from Philip II of Spain in the Azores, António declined even to disembark in Santa Maria. During this period, the island came to depend on the Governor General of the Azores. After the Portuguese Restoration War (1640), the news was greeted with celebrations and excesses by the Captain-Major Brás de Sousa.
During the Portuguese Civil War (1828–1834) the citizens supported the rights of Maria II to the throne of Portugal, which differed immensely from the Governor General of the Azores (on the island of São Miguel) who supported Miguel. The Captain-major even attempted to raise arms from Terceira, insofar as sending a carrack to collect the weapons. In the interim, the São Miguel administration changed sides in the conflict. By the following year, several Marienses joined the expeditionary force disembarking on the continent along Arnosa de Pampelido beach (near Mindelo, Vila do Conde) during one of the crucial battles of the Civil War.
On 8 February 1989, an American chartered Boeing 707 of Independent Air Flight 1851 crashed at Pico Alto killing all 137 passengers and 7 members of the crew. There was confusion between tower and pilots as to the appropriate altitude during their approach.
The island of Santa Maria is oblong and measures 97.4 km², extending 12km from the northwest to southeast, and characterized by two geomorphological regions:
- A dry clay plain in the west, occupying two-thirds of the island, with its highest point 277 meters above sea level (near Piquinhos). Due to the impermeability of the soils, this regions is arid with fewer leafy plants or grasses. To the north and south the principal points of colonization occurred (Anjos and Vila do Porto, respectively), and 65% of the current population resides in this region, which includes the parishes of Vila do Porto, São Pedro and Almagreira. Airport lands represent the largest use of the space, as the Santa Maria airport is located along the western coast taking advantage of the plain and lack of natural obstacles. River valleys along the north and south divide many of the communities.
- The eastern one-third of the island is composed of eroded hills and mountains, covered by areas of thick vegetation, pasture lands and river valleys. The tallest points on the island, Pico Alto (590 m), Cavacas (491 m) and Caldeira (481 m) are located in this region, which includes the parishes of Santa Bárbara and Santo Espírito, the more rural and agricultural lands on the island. This is a region of higher levels of humidity, with greater instances of wind, fog and precipitation, resulting in rich vegetation and endemic plant species.
The island is located in the southeast corner of the Azores archipelago, 100 km south of São Miguel, and 600 km from the island of Flores (the western most island in the archipelago). Geologically, it is the oldest island in the archipelago, with formations that are 8.12 million years old. Due to its age, and no historical evidence of volcanism, the geography of the island tends to be more mature and includes larger deposits of sediments than can be found on the other islands of the archipelago. Similarly, marine fossils have been discovered on the island (in Prainha and Lagoinhas) that date back 117-130 million years (the Pleistocene epoch), and others (in Ponta do Castelo) dating back 5 millions of years (to the end of Miocene and beginning of the Paleocene. These deposits are evidence of an older island environment associated with both volcanic and sedimentary development. Generally, Santa Maria is known for the lack of volcanism during period of human intervention, although seismic events are common due to its proximity to the Glória Fault, an offshoot of the Azores-Gibraltar Transform Fault.
The island is volcanic in origin and characterized by a substrata of basalt deformed by a series of fractures in a northwest-southeast orientation. This is interlaced with lode and deposits of mafic silicate material. In addition, there are several calcium encrusted fossil deposits associated with marine formations, during a period of formation associated with Surtseyan activity. The presence of these deposits, unique in the Azores, gave rise to the lime (calcium oxide) industry during the 19th century.
The fossil deposits, usually located approximately 40 m above sea level, have been the subject of several palaeontological studies including Georg Hartung (1860), Reiss (1862), Bronn (1860), Mayer (1864), Friedlander (1929) and José Agostinho (1937). The Regional Nature Reserve of Figueiral and Prainha, which includes the Natural Monument of Pedreira do Campo, were created by decree of the Regional Assembly in order to preserve and protect this area of natural geological interest.
Soils in the drier western region are predominantly red clay, a consequence of natural alterations associated with pyroclastic deposits during the Palaeocene period, when the island's climate was warmer and more humid, and the median sea level was 100 meters below current sea levels. These conditions allowed the formation of a fine clay, used later to support the pottery industry and export market (primarily to Vila Franca do Campo and Lagoa on São Miguel to be used as matéria prima of their traditional pottery. In Barreiro da Faneca, the Regional Assembly decreed a protected plain of this arid soil in order to protect and preserve its characteristics.
Generally, the island coast is ringed by steep cliffs, finding their prominence in the area of Rocha Alta (340 m). In addition, several protected bays along the coast shelter white sand beaches or are guarded by many rocky islets. These include the villages of São Lourenço (and its islet), Praia Formosa (and its long sandy beaches) or the craggy islet of Lagoínhas in the north coast. Forestry, covering about 19 hectares, is confined to high-density Cryptomeria trees planted along the slopes of Pico Alto, and unkept parcels of wild plants dominated by mock orange (Pittosporum undulatum), common juniper (Juniperus communis), and laurel (Laurus azorica).
Several natural landscapes have been preserved or designated points of natural interest by the Regional Government in order to foster conservation and support endemic flora and fauna species, as well as provide communal forms of recreation and nature interpretation. On the 7 November 2008, the Regional Government legislated the creation (under Regional Legislative Decree 47/2008/A) of the Parque Natural da Ilha de Santa Maria (Nature Park of the Island of Santa Maria) in order to encapsulate and administer the various territorial units into one scheme, that includes thirteen protected areas. In addition, the Direcção Regional dos Recursos Florestais (Regional Directorate for Forest Resources), which is responsible for the administration of forest resources and parks on the island, maintain and promote the island's forest reserves. Much like other islands of the Azores, there are many pedestrian walking trails and hiking circuits throughout the island. The hiking circuits allow the user to experience a range of diverse ecosystems and protected areas of the island that are not easily accessible to most tourists.
Due to its low profile, the island is unique in the archipelago, being less influenced by humidity and having a more Mediterranean climate. In the summer it is generally dry and warm and in the winter it is milder with less precipitation. Median temperatures oscillate between 14 °C and 22 °C. The island received a direct hit from Hurricane Gordon in the early hours of August 20, 2012, with winds of 120 km/h gusting to 170 km/. Gordon was a category 2 hurricane shortly before landfall. As a result, extensive preparations were made and there were no deaths and damage was limited to vegetation. The last time a hurricane was named Gordon, it also hit the Azores in 2006. Gordon from 2006 crossed the Azores on Sept. 19-20 as a Category 1 hurricane, producing a wind gust of 82 mph on Santa Maria island.
|Climate data for Santa Maria Island|
|Record high °C (°F)||20.2
|Average high °C (°F)||16.8
|Daily mean °C (°F)||14.4
|Average low °C (°F)||12.1
|Record low °C (°F)||6.2
|Precipitation mm (inches)||100
|Avg. precipitation days (≥ 1.0 mm)||12||11||10||7||5||4||4||6||8||10||11||12||100|
|Mean monthly sunshine hours||94||101||133||157||218||197||247||243||187||149||109||98||1,933|
Due to the varying geomorphology, the population built homes dispersed throughout the island, forming small nuclei along zones with access to potable water (in the west) and in the valleys (in the east). Traditional homes were constructed from the ubiquitous black volcanic rock, painted white, with doors and windows accented in the available colors of the day. The chimneys of these homes are unique since, heavily influenced by styles from the Alentejo and Algarve, these were ornate or simple, but generally different from house to house.
Politically, the island is one municipality, Vila do Porto, with a population of 5,578 inhabitants (2001), divided into five parishes:
- Vila do Porto (parish), which includes one-third of the island, covering the western plain, the Airport and local communities such as Anjos and Santana encompassing 2,997 of the islands citizens.
- São Pedro. The northern parish, it includes the communities of Fátima, Paul and Pilar: 841 inhabitants (2001);
- Almagreira; the southern dry zone and transitional space that includes Praia Formosa and parts of the mountainous areas of Monteiro and Bom Despacho: 537 inhabitants (2001)
- Santo Espírito: the eastern corner covering Maia, Glória and Fontinhas: 723 inhabitants (2001)
- Santa Bárbara, the northern and eastern parish that includes Lagoínhas, Norte and the São Lourenço: 480 inhabitants (2001).
The island's economy passed through much of the cyclical evolution associated with the Azores. Initially, the economy was based on the production of wheat and woad, until the 16th century, evolving slowly to a subsistence economy based on cereal crops. This was also a period of pottery production, and export of the fine red clay to artisans on São Miguel (for the production of the same).
Generally isolated from the traffic between the New World and Europe, the island depended heavily on agriculture until the 20th century, when the U.S. military established the Airport in Ginjal. It became an international link after 1944, taking on a central position in trans-Atlantic air traffic during the mid-20th century. The island became dependent, almost absolutely, on the airport: first, during the phase of construction (when Marienses were involved in the construction or support) and later when air traffic control in the North Atlantic corridor was based in Santa Maria (FIR Oceânica de Santa Maria). For many decades, the airport at Santa Maria was the gateway to and from the Azores until the construction or renovation of smaller fields on other islands. Evolutions in the aviation industry (primarily of long-range airliners) removed the importance of Santa Maria as a trans-Atlantic stop, and other airports (such as those in Lajes, Horta and Ponta Delgada), better equipped and logistically advanced, diminished the importance of activities on Santa Maria. The European Space Agency (ESA) established a satellite tracking station at the end of the 20th century, rekindling the debate on the island's dependency on the aviation sector. Similarly, in 2012, a proposal by EDISOFT to install a "Galileo Sensor Station" (GSS) station in Santa Maria was successful: the Mariense station won out over other sites in Madeira and the Canary Islands. This continued the islands importance as a technological and communications hub in the Atlantic, following the installation of the Rede Atlântica de Estações Geodinâmicas e Espaciais (Atlantic Network of Geodynamic and Spatial Stations) VLBI antenna, on the heals of the protocol signed on 29 April 2010, between the Secretário Regional da Ciência, Tecnologia e Equipamentos (Regional Secretary for Science, Technology and Equipment) and the Diretor Geral do Instituto Geográfico Nacional de Espanha (Director-General of the National Geographic Institute of Spain).
In comparison with the other islands, the raising of cattle and milk production never attained the same level of development. Agriculture is still the predominant activity in the municipality, occupying 47.6% of the land. This activity is usually confined to small ventures, involving forging plants, small pastures and permanent holdings. There are several commercial species of fish in the waters around Santa Maria, such as Sheepshead, Vejas, Red Snapper, Grouper, Wrasse, Mackerel, Anchovies, Needlefish and Frigate tuna. Secondary industries are dominated by civil construction, sawmills, tile and block factories, and artisan/handicraft manufacture.
As with the rest of the Azores, tourism makes-up an important tertiary sector, associated with nautical activities such as sailing, windsurfing, water-skiing, sport fishing (Tuna, Swordfish, and Grouper) and scuba-diving, beach activities, pedestrian hiking and, for some, rabbit hunting. The villages of São Lourenço, Praia Formosa, Maia and Anjos are known as summer tourist centers, attracting visitors to the beaches, natural pools, summer cottages/homes and festivals.
Direct flights to the continent (Lisbon) are provided by SATA International out of Santa Maria Airport located close to Vila do Porto. The airport also provides some direct connections to the rest of the archipelago through SATA Air Açores.
An inter-island ferry, owned by Azorean maritime transport operator AtlânticoLine, services Santa Maria weekly during the summer. Similarly, inaugurated in 2007, the marina in Vila do Porto allows access to the island throughout the year.
The main power station is located close to the airport, and uses diesel generators: 3 X 1.5 MW MAN and 2 x CATERPILLAR 3516 1.5 MW, 1 x CATERPILLAR D398 0.8 MW. The MAN generators run on Heavy Fuel, while the Caterpillars use petroleum distillate. There is a CATERPILLAR 3408 300 kW diesel for black start.
The island also has access to 5 x 1.5 MW wind turbines, which are limited to 50% peak demand due to frequency control concerns. Wind provides 17% of power sent out over the year. The Power Authority is installing a 70 kW flywheel storage system taken from another island to increase wind proportion to deal with frequency excursions.
There are many examples (public buildings, churches and auxiliary structures, military constructions) of Santa Maria's cultural heritage that have been remodelled, conserved and preserved for their important histo-cultural value. Since Santa Maria was the first island to be colonized, there are older examples of these buildings and structures that have lasted longer, due to no historical volcanism and fewer incidences of earthquakes.
- LORAN Station of Santa Maria (Portuguese: Estação LORAN de Santa Maria), located in the locality of Norte, Santa Bárbara; the long-range navigation station was operated by NATO, deactivated and in ruins since 1980.
- Whale-Processing Station - located in Maia (Santo Espírito); in ruins since whale-hunting was prohibited
- Gonçalo Velho Lighthouse - located in Maia (Santo Espírito); also referred to as Maia Lighthouse.
- Lagar de Diogo Santos Faleiro - located in São Lourenço (Santa Bárbara); carved volcanic rocks used for squeezing grapes into wine.
- Residence of Captain João Soares de Sousa, 3rd Captain-Donatário (Portuguese: Casa do 3º Donatário da Ilha de Santa Maria), located in Vila do Porto; a villa of one of the island's Captains-major, who governed in the name of the crown;
- Fort of Baía de São Lourenço - located in São Lourenço (Santa Bárbara); ruins (mostly rock) of fort situated beside port of São Lourenço.
- Fort of Baixa do Vigário - located in Praia Formosa (Almagreira); ruins of fort east of the Bay of Praia.
- Fort of Figueiral - located in Figuerial (Vila do Porto); ruins overlooking the Ponte do Figueiral
- Fort of Forca
- Fort of Laje de Vila do Porto - located in Vila do Porto (Vila do Porto)
- Fort of Maia - located in Maia (Santo Espírito)
- Fort of Prainha
- Fort of Nossa Senhora da Praia dos Anjos
- Fort of São Brás da Vila do Porto - built in the 16th Century, during Spanish occupation, location of the Chapel of Nossa Senhora da Conceição and obelisk to the memory of Comandante Carvalho Araújo.
- Fort of São João Baptista da Praia Formosa
- Fort of São João Evangelista
- Fort of Cabrestante
- Fort of Marvão
- Convent of São Francisco (Portuguese: Convento de São Francisco/Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Vitória) - located in Vila do Porto (Vila do Porto); constructed in the 17the Century, containing ornate azulejo tiles of the period, today housing the seat of the municipality of Vila do Porto;
- Chapel of Jesus, Maria and Joseph - located in São Lourenço (Santa Bárbara)
- Chapel of Nossa Senhora da Boa Morte - located in (Santo Espírito)
- Chapel of Nossa Senhora da Boa Nova - located in Vila do Porto (Vila do Porto)
- Chapel of Nossa Senhora da Boa Viagem - located near Santana (Vila do Porto)
- Chapel of Nossa Senhora da Conceição - located in Largo Sousa e Silva, attached to the Fort of São Brás (Vila do Porto)
- Chapel of Nossa Senhora da Glória - located in Glória (Santo Espírito)
- Chapel of Nossa Senhora da Graça - located in Almagreira (Almagreira)
- Chapel of Nossa Senhora da Piedade - located in Malbusca (Santo Espírito)
- Chapel of Nossa Senhora da Saúde - located in São Pedro (São Pedro)
- Chapel of Nossa Senhora de Fátima - located in Fátima (São Pedro); in 1925, the first chapel to constructed following the visions at Cova de Iria (Fátima)
- Chapel of Nossa Senhora de Lurdes - located in Norte (Santa Bárbara)
- Chapel of Nossa Senhora de Monserrate - located in Paul (São Pedro)
- Chapel of Nossa Senhora do Desterro - located in Desterro, São Lourenço (Santa Bárbara)
- Chapel of Nossa Senhora do Livramento - located along Rua do Livramento, Vila do Porto (Vila do Porto)
- Chapel of Nossa Senhora do Monte - located in the (private) Quinta do Monte (Almagreira)
- Chapel of Nossa Senhora do Pilar - located in Pilar (São Pedro)
- Chapel of Nossa Senhora dos Prazeres - located in Maia (Santo Espírito)
- Chapel of Nossa Senhora dos Remédios - located in Praia Formosa (Almagreira)
- Chapel of Nossa Senhora Mãe de Deus - located in Vila do Porto (Vila do Porto)
- Chapel of Santa Rita - located in a (private) Quinta near Carreira (Almagreira)
- Chapel of Santo António - located in Santo António (Santo Espírito)
- Chapel of São Lourenço - located in São Lourenço (Santa Bárbara)
- Chapel of São Pedro Gonçalves Telmo - located beside the Largo Sousa e Silva (Vila do Porto)
- Church of Nossa Senhora da Purificação - located in Santo Espírito (Santo Espírito)
- Church of Nossa Senhora da Vitória - located beside (and joined to) the Convent of São Francisco, Vila do Porto (Vila do Porto)
- Church of Nossa Senhora da Misericórdia - located in Vila do Porto (Vila do Porto)
- Church of Nossa Senhora do Ar - located near Santa Maria airport (Ginjal), Vila do Porto (Vila do Porto)
- Church of Nossa Senhora do Bom Despacho (Portuguese: Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Bom Despacho), located in the locality of Bom Despacho, the building was raised from a chapel originally constructed by locals Manuel de Moura and his wife, Inês Pereira, from as late as 11 June 1702; - located in Bom Despacho (Almagreira)
- Church of Santa Bárbara - located in Santa Bárbara (Santa Bárbara)
- Church of Santo Antão - located in the Largo de Santo Antão, Vila do Porto (Vila do Porto)
- Church of São Pedro - located in Largo da Igreja, São Pedro (São Pedro)
- Church of Recolhimento de Santa Maria Madalena - located in Vila do Porto (Vila do Porto); constructed in 1594 by Father Corvelo Resende who, along with his brothers decided to establish a monastery to the Order of Santa Clara. The first mass was celebrated in 1600.
- Church of Recolhimento de Santo António - located in Vila do Porto(Vila do Porto)
- Church of Nossa Senhora da Assunção - located centrally in Vila do Porto (Vila do Porto); built in the 15th Century and remodeled in the 16th Century.
- Hermitage of Nossa Senhora dos Anjos (Portuguese: Ermida de Nossa Senhora dos Anjos) - located in Anjos (Vila do Porto); considered the oldest religious structure on the island, where Christopher Columbus celebrated a mass in honor of his discovery in the New World.
Mariense culture, much like the rest of the Azores, is heavily influenced by traditional religious festivals and feasts. In particular, the festival of the Divino Espírito Santo, closely tied to the 14th Century Queen Isabel, was implanted during the island's colonization by the Order of Christ and Franciscan monks and continues to mark the islands' calendars. These festivals include a religious ceremony, the "crowning" of one or more children with a silver-plated crown adorned with the symbols of the Holy Spirit, and culminates with a grand feast on seventh Sunday following Pentecost. On the occasion of these feasts, a traditional soup of bread soaked in a meat broth is distributed freely at the "Irmandades" and "Impérios" across the island.
In addition to parochial celebrations associated with local saints, the island celebrates a festival in honour of Senhor Santo Cristo dos Milagres. On 15 August each year, the municipality also celebrates a festival in honour of Nossa Senhora da Assunção (Our Lady of the Assumption), the patron saint of Vila do Porto.
During the last week of August, Praia Formosa is home to a world music festival: Maré de Agosto (August Tide Festival). The beach community is regularly overrun with tourists and local visitors, who travel to the island to listen to world music acts, who in the past have included: John Lee Hooker Jr., Kíla, Skatalites, Angélique Kidjo, Rui Veloso and Gentlemen.
Annual festivities come to a private close with the festival of the Confraria dos Escravos da Cadeinha, in Anjos, at the beginning of September. A secular celebration, it is a private fraternal social and cultural event that celebrates the defence of Santa Maria (and in particular Anjos) from pirate attacks, organized by the Centro Cultural Cristóvão Colombo.
The handicraft industry in Santa Maria is centred on pottery, ceramics and wool sweaters, ornate sheets, blankets, towels and other embroidery. Homespun garments include coarse woollen jerseys, embroidered linen shirts, embroidered women's jackets and estamin suits. Similarly, straw hats, baskets and various other objects traditionally made from wood, fish scales, corn flask and metal are sold as souvenirs. These activities have been organized by the Santa Maria Handicrafts Cooperative, which also promotes other unique Mariense products: bread, sweets, pastry-making and weaving.
Traditional music and folk dancing are heavily influenced by the styles of the Beiras and Alentejo regions. Several folk groups have developed on the island that reproduce the clothing styles, the music and traditional dance. Due to factors such as the climate and insular environment the style of music, songs, dance and instruments used (such as the viola de arame). Many of the dances have curious names, such as Pézinho da Garça (the Herons' Foot dance), Moda do Moinho de Mão (the Style of Hand Mill), Alfinete (the Pin), Balão (the Balloon), and Mouros (Moors). The Museu Etnográfico de Santo Espírito (Ethnographic Museum of Santo Espírito) relates aspects of the history and culture of the island.
Apart from the Sopas do Impéro (soups traditionally served during Pentecosts), Santa Maria has a rich gastronomic history that includes Sopa de Nabos (a turnip soup), Bolo de Panela (a pan cake), Caçoila (a thick meat stew in traditional ceramic pot), Molho de Figado (a liver stew/sauce), Sopa de Peixe (fish soup), and Caldeirada de Peixe (a mixture of fish or seafood in broth and/or bread). Sweet desserts, such as Suspiros (meringues), Melindres (honey cakes), Biscoitos Encanelados, Tigeladas (a pudding), Biscoitos de Orelha, Biscoitos Brancos, Biscoitos de Aguardente and Cavacas (sugar-coated biscuits), are also popular.
Similarly, the wines of the São Lourenço foothills, as well as other wines and sweet liqueurs, have been commercialized. These include Vinho Abafadinho and Vinho Abafado (both fortified wine liquers), Licor de Amora(mulberry liquer), Licor de Leito (milk liquer) and Aguardente, which are made using traditional techniques and favoured following a dinner.
Tourists generally favor the white sand beaches and rock pools in the communities of Anjos (Vila do Porto), Praia Formosa (Almagreira), Maia (Santo Espírito) and São Lourenço (Santa Bárbara). Praia Formosa, in particular, is known on the island for its white sand beach that stretches across the bay. In the remaining locals original natural rock pools have been replaced by concrete pools with seawater access.
- José Damião Rodrigues (1995), p.33
- José Damião Rodrigues (1995), p.2
- The year previous, Gonçalo Velho Cabral had actually discovered the small rock outcropping of the Formigas northeast of Santa Maria.
- Artur Teodoro de Matos, et.al. (2008), p.54
- Artur Teodoro de Matos, et.al. (2008), p.55
- José Damião Rodrigues (1995), p.34
- Carlos Melo Bento (2008), p.20
- José Damião Rodrigues (1995), p.33-36
- José Damião Rodrigues (1995), p.38
- José Damião Rodrigues (1995), p.39
- These families included the Velhos, Curvelos, Sousas, Andrades, Figueiredos, Alpoins, Mouras and Bragas initially, but also dynastic families, such as Manuel de Sousa Falcão, a magistrate whose descendants would hold a seat in various municipal governments for two decade (1660-1670).
- José Damião Rodrigues (1995), p.41
- The old chapel of Anjos is only survived by a ruined ornate window portico on the site of the relatively new chapel (constructed in the 18th century).
- Nine French warships while in the waters of Santa Maria, captured a fisherman near the Ponte de Carestante. He was able to escape to the waters of São Jorge, finding land, and reporting it to the local officials. A notice arrived in Terceira and preparations were made for the defense of the island. The preparations were so exaggerated that the pirates desisted, and made for the coasts of England instead.(FIGUEIREDO, 1990:75)
- A small group of boast (including a galleon and a carrack) disembarked on the island with several armed troops (equipped with arquebuses. After attacking several residents, they assaulted and burned down Vila do Porto. Then Captain-major Pedro Soares, in order to reinforce the defense, solicited his brother-in-law Rodrigo de Baeça, to travel to São Miguel for help from Captain-major D. Manuel da Câmara (who immediately sent troops under the command of Sergeant-major Simão do Quental. Following several days of skirmishes, wherein the troops pillaged, sacked and destroyed the Vila, they were confronted by Baeça's near Santo Antão. After ferocious fighting, the French troops then reembarked and abandoned the island. (FIGUEIREDO:1990:75).
- English pirates, after artillery fire from their two boats, disembarked in the port of Vila. They climbed the rocky cliffs of Conceição and were met by gunfire from the defenders, under the command of Captain-major Brás Soares de Albergaria and his adjunct André de Sousa (as recorded by Father Manoel Corvelo, who also an active participant; extorting the defenders while holding an image of the Virgin his hands). Throwing rocks from the cliffs, the Portuguese caused several injuries, disorder and confusion, eventually causing the English to desist, retreating and leaving behind small boats, muskets and cutlasses, as well as a trumpet (which was used by the defenders in their triumph).(FIGUEIREDO, 1990:75-76).
- In July 1616, 500 Muslims from the area of Algeria left to pursue carracks traveling to India. Unsuccessful, they guided their boats to Santa Maria, finding landfall in southern beaches (along Praia). Their captain, Tabaqua-raz (a renegade Genovese) spent the following weeks sacking and burning down churches, homes and public buildings (including the Convent of São Francisco), kidnapping many and collecting prisoners (who were sold into bondage in North Africa). Many residents hid in the caves near Santana while waiting for support from São Miguel.
- This assault was attributed to carelessness of sentinels, who were caught unawares when several Moors disembarked near Anjos. The Chapel of Nossa Senhora de Anjos was sacked, several women raped and eleven were taken into captivity (women and children).(FIGUEIREDO, 1990:76)
- Figueiredo, 1990:77
- José Rodrigues Ribeiro (1979)
- Maderia, 1986, p.107
- França et al., Geologia dos Açores: Uma Perspectiva Actual. Ponta Delgada: Sociedade Afonso Chaves, 2005. p. 21
- GRA, ed. (7 November 2008), Parque Natural da Ilha de Santa Maria
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- Ventura, Maria Anunciação; Queiroz, Rosé Emília; Resendes, Roberto; Marquet, Nathalie; Melo, José Andrade, Caracterização e Avaliação dos Percursos Pedestres da Ilha de Santa Maria (in Portuguese), Ponta Delgada (Azores), Portugal: University of the Azores
- "Gordon: Waiting for the storm in the dark of the night – Azores". Portuguese American Journal. 2012-08-20. Retrieved 2012-11-07.
- "Hurricane Gordon causes minor damage in Azores, losing intensity". Reuters. 20 August 2012. Retrieved 2012-11-07.
- "Gordon is a Goner in the Atlantic". Retrieved 2013-06-06.
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- CMVP, ed. (31 March 2000), "Ficha D-7", Inventário do Património Histórico e Religioso para o Plano Director Municipal de Vila do Porto (in Portuguese), Vila do Porto (Azores), Portugal: Câmara Muncipal de Vila do Porto, retrieved 30 October 2013
- Noé, Paula (2002), SIPA, ed., Casa do 3º Donatário da Ilha de Santa Maria (PT072107050002) (in Portuguese), Lisbon, Portugal: SIPA – Sistema de Informação para o Património Arquitectónico, retrieved 5 November 2012
- Noé, Paula (2002), SIPA, ed., Convento de São Francisco/Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Vitória (PT072107050003) (in Portuguese), Lisbon, Portugal: SIPA – Sistema de Informação para o Património Arquitectónico, retrieved 5 November 2012
- Noé, Paula (2010), SIPA, ed., Igreja Paroquial de Almagreira/Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Bom Despacho (IPA.00029938/PT072107010010) (in Portuguese), Lisbon, Portugal: SIPA – Sistema de Informação para o Património Arquitectónico, retrieved 6 May 2012
- Noé, Paula (2012), SIPA, ed., Capela de Nossa Senhora dos Anjos/Ermida dos Anjos e Treatro (PT072107050005) (in Portuguese), Lisbon, Portugal: SIPA – Sistema de Informação para o Património Arquitectónico, retrieved 5 November 2012
- Madeira, J. (1986). Geologia estrutural e enquadramento geotectónico da Ilha de Santa Maria (Açores). [Geological structure and geotectonic base of the island of Santa Maria (Azores)]. Tese apresentada às provas de Capacidade Científica para passagem a Assistente (in Portuguese) (Lisbon: Departamento de Geologia da Faculdade de Ciências da Universidade de Lisboa). p. 107.
- Figueiredo, Nélia Maria Coutinho (1996). As Ilhas do Infante: a Ilha de Santa Maria [The islands of the Infante: the island of Santa Maria] (in Portuguese). Angra do Heroísmo (Azores), Portugal: Secretaria Regional da Educação e Cultura/Direcção Regional da Educação. ISBN 972-8366-00-0.
- Ribeiro, José Rodrigues (1979). Dicionário Corográfico dos Açores (in Portuguese). Angra do Heroísmo (Azores), Portugal: SREC/DRAC. p. 268..
- Raposo, António G.B.; Reis, Victorino V. "A ilha de Santa Maria. História, clima e evolução da população". Relatórios e Comunicações do Departamento de Biologia (in Portuguese) (Ponta Delgada (Azores), Portugal: University of the Azores) (19): 1–13.
- João de Medeiros, Constancia. "A ilha de Santa Maria : evolução dos principais aspectos da sua paisagem humanizada (sécs. XV a XIX)". Arquipélago. Série Ciências Humanas (in Portuguese) (Ponta Delgada (Azores), Portugal: University of the Azores) (4): 225–244.
- Rodrigues, João Damião (1995). "Sociedade e administração nos Açores (século XV-XVIII) : o caso de Santa Maria". Arquipélago. História (in Portuguese) (2 ed.) (Ponta Delgada (Azores), Portugal: University of the Azores) 1 (2): 33–63. ISSN 0871-7664.
- GRA, ed. (7 November 2008), Decreto Legislativo Regional 47/2008/A (in Portuguese), Ponta Delgada (Azores), Portugal: Jornal Oficial da Região Autonoma dos Açores, retrieved 1 May 2012
- (English) The Azores Islands, Site with abundant information about Santa Maria Island
- (English) Photos of Santa Maria island, Azores