Santarém, Pará

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Santarém Metropolitan Cathedral
Santarém Metropolitan Cathedral
Flag of Santarém
Official seal of Santarém
Location of Santarém municipality within Pará state
Location of Santarém municipality within Pará state
Coordinates: 2°25′48″S 54°43′12″W / 2.43000°S 54.72000°W / -2.43000; -54.72000Coordinates: 2°25′48″S 54°43′12″W / 2.43000°S 54.72000°W / -2.43000; -54.72000
Country Brazil
Region Northern Region
State Pará
Founded 22 June 1661
 • Mayor Alexandre Von (PSDB)
 • Total 22,887.08 km2 (8,836.75 sq mi)
Elevation 51 m (167 ft)
Population (2009)[1]
 • Total 276,665
 • Density 12/km2 (31/sq mi)
Demonym Santareno
Time zone UTC-3

Santarém (Portuguese pronunciation: [sɐ̃taˈɾẽj]) is a municipality in the state of Pará in Brazil. The Tapajós joins the Amazon River there, and it is a popular location for tourism. It is the second most important city in the state and the financial and economic center of the western part of the state. It is the head of the Santarém Metropolitan Area, which is made by Santarém, Belterra and Mojuí dos Campos. It was once home to the Tapajós Indians, a tribe of Native Americans after which the river was named, and the leaders of a large, agricultural chiefdom that flourished before the arrival of Europeans. The Brazilian city is the home to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Santarém. It is located some 800 km (500 mi) from both the largest cities in the Amazon, Manaus, and the state capital Belém.

Santarém has an estimated population of 299,419 people (2012 Census), being the third most populous city of the state. The city occupies an area of 22 887,087 km2² (14 304,42 sq mi), of which 77 km2 are urban areas.

The city was founded in 1661 as New Santarém (after the city in Portugal). It is one of the oldest cities in the Brazilian Amazon.

Because of the crystalline waters of the Tapajós River, Santarém has more than 100 km (62 mi) of natural beaches, like the village of Alter do Chão, known as the "Caribbean in Brazil" and chosen by The Guardian as one of the most beautiful Brazilian beaches and the most beautiful fresh water beach. Alter do Chão is also home to Sairé, one of the most important folklore festivals of the region which is held there every year in September.

Many seek to create a new Brazilian state by dividing the enormous state of Pará into western and eastern regions. The new state (the western part) would be called Tapajós, with Santarém serving as the capital.


Cannons from the Tapajós Fortress
Mirante do Tapajós Square

The very first written references to the Tapajós Indian settlement in the area date back to 1542, when Francisco Orellana sacked corn plantation from the Indians.[2]

In 1621, only ten years after the foundation of Belém, the Portuguese Explorer Pedro Teixeira along with Father Cristovão, 26 soldiers and many Indians set off to explore the Amazon River. They eventually found a Tupuliçus Indian settlement near the mouth of the Tapajós River and made port there. The expedition was a success since the Indians already had contact with white man, mainly Spanish explorers who had already been to the settlement.

Santarém was founded by Father João Felipe Bettendorff in 22 June 1661 with the name "Aldeia do Tapajós" (Tapajós village). After founding the city Father Bettendorff built the Chapel of Our Lady of Conception. The site where the first mass was celebrated in the city is now marked by a monument.

Eventually, Pedro Teixeira resumed his exploration and the Jesuits were left with the task of founding a village for missionary purposes on the site where Father Antônio Vieira had been in 1659. Upon the development of this village, many others were founded nearby including the Village of Borari which is known today as the Village of Alter do Chão.

After the progress made by the missionaries, Francisco da Mota Falcão started the erection of a fortress in 1693, which was then finished by his son, Manoel Mota Siqueira in 1697. The building had a square shape and featured bastions on each corner. The Fortress of Tapajós was the nucleus of the village which gave birth to the city of Santarém. Many attempts to renovate the fortress were made, the last being in 1867 and 6 cannons were sent to the fortress by the government. The renovation however, was never finished and the cannons were left in the street. Today not much is left of the fortress. A High School was built on the site in the year of 1900 and early in the decade of 2000, a touristic attraction called "Praça Mirante do Tapajós" was built behind the school. Two of the cannons from the fortress are currently in the city's airport where they can be seen from the passenger terminal, two other are in the Centenário Square and two in the SUDAM Campus of the Federal University of Western Pará (UFOPA).

Santarém received the title of City in 24 October 1948.


Santarém is bordered by the Amazon and the Tapajós rivers. Both run along many kilometers in the front of the city, side by side, without mixing. The Amazon's milky colored water carries sediment from the Andes in the East, while the Tapajós's water is somewhat warmer and has a deep-blue tone. This phenomenon is called "The meeting of the waters" by the locals.


Santarém has a tropical monsoon climate not subject to significant changes in temperatures due to its proximity to the equator. The average annual temperature varies between 25º and 28 °C, with a relative humidity of 86%. During the year the average rainfall is of about 1,920 millimetres (76 in), which becomes more intense during the wet season that spans from November to July when the average monthly rainfall varies from 70–400 mm. The dry season spans from August through October, in this season the lowest rainfall is recorded which averages a lower 60 mm.

Climate data for Santarém, Pará
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °F (°C) 86
Average low °F (°C) 72
Average rainfall inches (mm) 8.58
Avg. rainy days 26 25 28 26 25 19 15 10 10 11 13 20 228


Population by year
Year Population
1980 191.950
1991 265.062
1996 242.755
1997 242.390
1998 242.081
1999 241.771
2000 262.538
2001 264.992
2002 266.391
2003 268.180
2004 272.237
2005 274.012
2006 276.074
2007 278.118
2008 272.704
2009 281.397
2010 294.580
2011 297.039
2012 299.419
Santarém Metropolitan Cathedral, the Church of Our Lady of Conception

The total population of the city was of 294,580 people (2010 census). This made Santarém the seventh largest city in the north region of Brazil, behind Manaus, Belém, Porto Velho, Ananindeua, Macapá and Rio Branco. Of which 51,5% were men and 48.5% women.

Santarém saw a discrete decrease of population between the years of 1996 and 1999, mainly because of the evasion caused by the decline of the gold rush in the latter part of the decade of 1980. Moreover, between 1980 and 2000, there was a decrease of the rural population and an increase in urban population because of poor infrastructure.

Since the year of 2000, Santarém has an elevated increase of population due to the improvement of the urban infrastructure, health care, schools and others. However, in 2008, the village of Mojui dos Campos was given the title of City and caused the population of Santarém to drop.


Although Santarém was founded as a catholic city and the vast majority of the population is catholic, the city has a wide variety of religions without having any serious religious clashes or conflicts. It is possible to find many different denominations of Protestantism, along with the practice of Judaism, Spiritualism and Buddhism.

Santarém is an important regional market center in Lower Amazon located midway between the larger cities of Belém and Manaus. The economy is based on agriculture, cattle and mining. The city has seen many 'cycles' of development dominated by one or a few economic activities, including (in the last century) rubber tapping, coffee production and gold mining. Most recently, there has been a huge growth in the area of soy plantations.


Santarém Airport


Santarém is home to Santarém-Maestro Wilson Fonseca Airport, which is located between two of the most important airport in the region making it an alternative for international flights. 15 km away from downtown, the airport can be reached by car or bus in nearly 20 minutes from Fernando Guilhon Highway. The airport was opened in 1977 by the Brazilian Air Force until 1980 when it was transferred to Infraero, a government agency responsible for operating the busiest Brazilian airports. The airport handles traffic from 6 airlines connecting Santarém to the country and the world with their destinations and, as of September 2012, the airport is undergoing renovation and expansion of the Passenger Terminal Building and Parking lot to accommodate the increased passenger traffic.


Fernando Guilhon Highway during Rush Hour

BR-163 connects Santarém with the southern Brazil. A large portion of it is not paved which renders the highway nearly unusable during the wet season. BR-230 connects BR-163 to the state capital.


This is the most important method of transportation for passenger and cargo due to the poor conditions of the highways and the elevated price of airplane tickets. Most nearby villages have no roads and the only way to get there is by boat, on trips that can be as long as 12 hours depending on the boat. Santarém is a popular destination for Cruise ships which make port regularly in the City Docks. The docks are administrated by the CDP (Companhia Docas do Pará) and are the second most important in the state, second only to Belém, due to its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean.

The Cargill Port is a private port near the Docks. It exports soybean and has capacity for storing 60 000 tons of soy.

Theres also a makeshift port near Tiradentes Square administrated by the City, where small and medium-sized boats dock. As of 2012 a new Fluvial Terminal is being built and it will replace the current terminal.

Public Transportation[edit]

The Public Transportation System is made of: Urban bus service, Suburban bus service, Personal automobile transportation service (Taxi), Personal motorcycle transportation service (Known as MotoTaxi) and School transportation service.

The public transportation services are administrated by the Municipal Transportation Department, which plans and promotes the traffic development. Traffic safety is administrated by several governmental agencies such as: The Transit Police branch of the State Police (PTRAN), The Brazilian Highway Police based in Santarém, The DMV, and the transportation department itself through their fiscals and guards.


City museum

Santarém has 457 municipal schools accommodating 62 121 students, 44 state primary and high schools, 44 particular schools and twelve universities. The city museum is called Centro Cultural João Fona (João Fona Cultural Center) and is open to visitation free of charge. The museum is an 1853 building and throughout the history it was used as a Jail, City Hall and Municipal Courthouse.


The city administrates the Municipal Hospital, and as of September 2012 it maintains 35 rural health care posts, 50 health care centers in the urban area and six of which operate 24 hours a day. SAMU is also based in the city and it rescues victims of all kinds of accidents, working many times together with the State Fire Department, and in 2012 a whole hospital was built just to receive the victims rescued by SAMU and the Fire Department. The State Regional Hospital is also located in the city and receives patients from all the cities in the west of Pará.


Santarém has WiFi internet service providers. As of 2013, DSL is not yet available and internet connection is slow and expensive. The city maintains several WiFi hotspots in most squares, monuments and tourist attractions. The city is also home to many newspapers, TV stations and radio stations.

Radio amateurs maintain a VHF repeater operating on 146.950 MHz that is able to reach more than 100 km, covering the village of Alter-do-Chão and the cities of Belterra, Mojui dos Campos, Óbidos and Oriximiná.

Controversy around Cargill soybean port[edit]

In 2003, the US-based corporation Cargill completed a port facility for processing soybean in Santarém. The port has dramatically increased soybean production in the area due to the proximity of ease of transport. Although the company complied with state legislation, it failed to comply with a federal law requiring an Environmental Impact Statement. Instead, Cargill contested in court its need to comply. In late 2003 Greenpeace launched a campaign claiming the new port has increased deforestation of local rain forest as farmers have cleared land to make way for crops.[3]

In February 2006, the federal courts in Brazil gave Cargill six months to complete the environmental assessment. This ruling came as part of a broader popular backlash against the port; while it was initially supported by locals who hoped for jobs, opinion has turned against it as the jobs have not appeared. In July 2006, federal prosecutor Felícia Pontes Jr. suggested that the government was close to shutting down the port.[4]

Cargill responds to criticisms of the port by focusing on the need for economic development in the local province, one of the poorest in Brazil. It makes the claim that "extreme measures," such as closing the port, are not necessary because "Soybean occupies less than 0.6 percent of the land in the Amazon biome today." Cargill also points to its partnership with The Nature Conservancy to encourage farmers around Santarém to comply with Brazilian law that requires 80% of forest cover to be left intact in Amazon forest areas.[5]

Sister cities[edit]

Portugal Santarém, Portugal

Further reading[edit]

  • Allen, J. A. 1876. List of Birds Collected by Mr. Charles Linden, Near Santarem, Brazil. Bull. Essex Inst. 8(8): 78-83.
  • Bernard, E., and M. B. Fenton. 2007. "Bats in a Fragmented Landscape: Species Composition, Diversity and Habitat Interactions in Savannas of Santarem, Central Amazonia, Brazil". Biological Conservation. 134, no. 3: 332-343.
  • Easby, Elizabeth K. The Pre-Conquest Art of Santarem, Brazil. 1952.
  • Fearnside, Philip M. 2007. "Brazil's Cuiaba- Santarem (BR-163) Highway: The Environmental Cost of Paving a Soybean Corridor Through the Amazon". Environmental Management. 39, no. 5: 601.
  • Winklerprins, Antoinette M G A. 2006. "Jute Cultivation in the Lower Amazon, 1940-1990: an Ethnographic Account from Santarem, Para, Brazil". Journal of Historical Geography. 32, no. 4: 818.


External links[edit]