Santarem | Brazil

Santarém (Portuguese pronunciation: [sɐ̃taˈɾẽj]) is a city and municipality in the western part of the state of Pará in Brazil. Located at the confluence of the Tapajós and Amazon Rivers, it has become a popular tourist destination. It is the second-most important city in the state, and the financial and economic center of the western part of the state. It leads the Santarém Metropolitan Area, made up of Santarém, Belterra and Mojuí dos Campos. It was once home to the Tapajós Indians, a tribe of Native Americans after whom the river was named. They were the leaders of a large, agricultural chiefdom that flourished before the arrival of Europeans.

It is located some 800 km (500 mi) from the two largest cities in the Brazilian Amazon: Manaus, upriver in the state of Amazonas, and the Pará state capital Belém, located downriver at the mouth of the Amazon on the Atlantic Ocean. Santarém has an estimated population of 299,419 people (2012 Census), and is 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 by Portuguese colonists in 1661 as New Santarém (after the city in Portugal). It is one of the oldest cities in the Brazilian Amazon. This is the seat of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Santarém.

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

Some political activists have lobbied to create a new Brazilian state by dividing the enormous state of Pará into western and eastern regions. The new state to be established in the west would be called Tapajós, with Santarém serving as the capital.

Pedro Teixeira resumed his exploration. The Jesuits took on the work of founding a village for missionary purposes on the site, where Father Antônio Vieira was known to have visited in 1659. Santarém was founded by Father João Felipe Bettendorff on 22 June 1661 with the name "Aldeia do Tapajós" (Tapajós village). 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. The Jesuits founded other villages nearby, including the Village of Borari, known today as the Village of Alter do Chão.

After development from the missionaries, Francisco da Mota Falcão started construction of a fortress by the river in 1693, which was 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 that developed as the city of Santarém.

Over the centuries, the government tried to renovate the fortress were made, the last being in 1867, when the government sent six cannons to arm it. The renovation was never finished and the cannons were left in the street. Today not much remains of the fortress, as materials were taken for other building projects.

In 1900 a high school was built on the site. Early in the first decade of the 21st century, "Praça Mirante do Tapajós", a tourist attraction, was built behind the school. Two of the cannons from the fortress have been installed at the city's airport, where they can be seen from the passenger terminal; two others are located in the Centenário Square, and two in the SUDAM Campus of the Federal University of Western Pará (UFOPA).

Santarém received the title of City on 24 October 1948.

Santarém was founded by the Portuguese as a Catholic city and the vast majority of the population is catholic. New migrants have brought differing religions, including various Protestant denominations, Judaism, Spiritualism and Buddhism.

Santarém is an important regional market center in the Lower Amazon, located midway between the larger cities of Belém at the coast and Manaus upriver. The regioinal 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 rubber extraction (in the last century), coffee production, and gold mining. Most recently, there has been a huge growth in the area of soybean plantations.

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