In its 95,346 km², the state of Santa Catarina is home to 6,248,436 inhabitants (IBGE 2010) that live in 295 different municipalities, including the capital, Florianópolis. People from Santa Catarina – also known by the gentiles as barriga-verde (green belly) – reap the benefits from the natural conditions of the land. The climate is subtropical humid mesothermal with temperatures that are milder than in the rest of the country, and well-distributed rainfall throughout the year.
The seasons are well defined. The summer heat, reaching almost 40° C, attracts many tourists to the beautiful beaches along the coast of the state, while winter temperatures that are below freezing make Santa Catarina’s mountain range even more charming, especially when it snows. The lowest temperature ever recorded in Santa Catarina was -17° C at Morro da Igreja, in Urubici. This city is also home to the highest point in the state, the Morro da Boa Vista, which is 1,827 m high.
Incidentally, Santa Catarina is one of the Brazilian states with the highest average elevation: at least half of its territory is more than 600 m above sea level. Hills, valleys, canyons and plateaus are part of Santa Catarina’s landscapes. And the state is also well connected by rivers, streams and waterfalls. Twelve watersheds form the Atlantic Slope, with waters flowing towards the ocean, and are responsible for 65% of supply to the population.
The Atlantic Forest and coastal vegetation are bathed by the rivers that make up this slope. Across from the Serra Geral and Serra do Mar, the Interior Slope consists of 2 large water basins that flow towards the west of the state and supply the other 35% of the population. Araucaria forests, fields and subtropical vegetation can be found covering these watersheds.
The main types of vegetation in Santa Catarina include the araucaria forest, fields, subtropical forests, coastal vegetation and the Atlantic Forest. Among the beautiful trees that are part of these biomes, the highlights include the Guarapuvu (scientifically known as Schizolobium parahyba, it displays yellow flowers and reaches 30 meters high) and the Araucaria tree, a symbol of Santa Catarina’s highlands, from which the pine nut is extracted, a fruit that gave rise to various local dishes and inspired the famous National Festa do Pinhão (held in Lages during the winter).
But the plant that officially symbolizes the entire state of Santa Catarina is the gorgeous Laelia purpurata, orchid, which used to be found in large quantities along the state’s coast. The Joinville Flower Festival is celebrated annually during the flowering of this species, in November.
The fauna of Santa Catarina also draws attention. 169 species of mammals and 569 species of birds have been identified in Santa Catarina.
To preserve this natural wealth, the state has 24 protected areas, 15 of them established by the federal government and another 9 by the state. The state parks and some other federal units are open to visitors.
Anhatomirim Environmental Protection Area
Marinha do Arvoredo Biological Reserve
Baleia-Franca Environmental Protection Area
Carijós Ecological Station
Caçador National Forest
Ibirama National Forest
Três Barras National Forest
Serra do Itajaí National Park
Araucárias National Park
São Joaquim National Park
Extrativa Marinha do Pirajubaé Reserve
Area of Relevant Ecological Interest of the Serra da Abelha and the Rio da Prata
National Parks of Serra Geral and Aparados da Serra
Acaraí State Park
Aguaí Biological Reserve
Araucárias State Park
Canela Preta Biological Reserve
Fritz Plaumann State Park
Rio Canoas State Park
Sassafrás Biological Reserve
Serra do Tabuleiro State Park
Serra Furada State Park
Archaeological studies show that the state of Santa Catarina has been inhabited for thousands of years. At least three major indigenous groups lived in the area before Europeans began arriving in 1500. The first inhabitants of the state only began to emerge, however, around 1660, with the founding of the Vila de Nossa Senhora da Graça do Rio de São Francisco (now the city of São Francisco do Sul). Whereas, in 1675, the Island of Santa Catarina (currently Florianópolis) began to become occupied. The following year, Santo Antônio dos Anjos Laguna (current city of Laguna) was founded. Since 1750, thousands of Azoreans were sent to occupy the territories of Santa Catarina, which were coveted by the Spaniards. Thus, in 1775 the first group of non-coastal residents emerged, in the Vila de Nossa Senhora dos Prazeres do Sertão das Lagens (current city is named Lages, in the Santa Catarina Mountains). Even still the dreaded Spanish invasion took place in February 1777, during the war between Portugal and Spain. At the end of the same year, the Treaty of Ildefonso ended the animosity between the two countries, returning possession of the occupied lands to Portugal.
In 1822 the Independence of Brazil was declared. Starting in 1829, Santa Catarina began receiving another wave of immigrants: Germans, who began by founding the colony of São Pedro de Alcântara, in the Greater Florianópolis region. Ten years after the start of German immigration, the state faced another historical event. Laguna was occupied by members of the Farroupilha movement, from Rio Grande do Sul, which declared the city as the capital of the Juliana Republic. The idea was to form a confederation with the newly proclaimed Republic of Rio Grande do Sul, but the Brazilian government retook control of the city in 1839. Almost 30 years later, starting in 1875, Italian immigrants also began to establish themselves in the state, even before the proclamation of the Republic in Brazil, which would only take place in 1889. But the political turmoil continued to shake the country. And, in 1893, in Rio de Janeiro, there was the Revolt of the Armada, (“Armada” was the old name of the Navy) which, expelled from the former Brazilian capital, eventually landed straight in Desterro (currently, Florianópolis). The island was occupied by the rebels and proclaimed the provisional capital of the Republic until April 1894, when the rebels were defeated by the federal government. The episode became known as the Federalist Revolution. So that the victory of President Floriano Peixoto stay forever marked in the memory of the people, the city’s name was changed to Florianopolis, beginning October 1, 1894.
Another fact of national importance that happened in Santa Catarina was the Contestedo War (1912-1916), one of the major social conflicts in the country’s history. What triggered the people’s revolt was the granting of land that the Brazilian government gave to a U.S. company, the Brazil Railway Company, who, in exchange for building a railroad between the cities of São Paulo (SP) and Santa Maria (RS), could exploit a distance of 30 km along the railroad. The families who lived on these lands were displaced; they may have been able to work on the construction of the railway, but they would ultimately have no jobs and no land when the work was finished. A spiritual leader motivated the unsatisfied population to revolt and, despite having been killed in the first war, in 1912, his memory instigated civilians to fight until 1916, when the last leader of the rebels was captured by the federal government. Today, museums, monuments, memorials and cultural centers, spread throughout the state, preserve the memory of their many colonizers and the national and regional historical events.
The population of Santa Catarina was formed by people from various ethnicities. The indigenous Guarani, Xokleng and Kaingang groups inhabited the lands of Santa Catarina before Portuguese explorers arrived in Brazil. The Azoreans began arriving on the coast Santa Catarina, in large numbers, in the eighteenth century, in order to occupy the Portuguese lands and protect them from possible invasion. After the country’s independence, German immigrants spread across the northern region and the Itajaí Valley. Later, Italian immigrants also arrived in Santa Catarina, settling mainly in the southern region. These were the major migratory currents that participated in the formation of Santa Catarina’s cultural identity. In fewer numbers, Africans, Poles, Ukrainians, Japanese, Austrian, Dutch, Hungarians and others, also contributed to the multicultural character of this population. Another highlight is the influence of the drovers from Rio Grande do Sul and São Paulo, who crossed Santa Catarina in the nineteenth century, transporting livestock between RS and SP.
Currently, about 45% of Santa Catarina’s population is of Italian descent. In cities like Urussanga, Nova Veneza (New Venice) and Nova Trento (New Trento), typical architecture, abundant cuisine drizzled with fine wines and other typical Italian traditions can still be found. The cities of Blumenau, São Pedro de Alcântara and Pomerode are places where one can appreciate the influence of German settlers on the architecture, on the holidays, the games, brewing traditions and typical cuisine. About 35% of Santa Catarina’s population is of German descent. The Azoreans have also left their mark, especially in coastal cities like Florianopolis, Imbituba, Itajaí and São Francisco do Sul, where you can still see the typical colonial houses, in addition to traditions such as artisanal fisheries, bobbin lace and seafood-based cuisine. Treze Tílias is a good example of the Austrian colonization, while Frei Rogério is home to a Japanese colony, among other cities representative of various colonization. Furthermore, there are around 10 thousand Indians living on lands in Santa Catarina, on almost 30 reservations scattered across the state. Plus, Santa Catarina continues to attract people from all over Brazil and abroad. Proof of this is that 15% of the current residents are not originally from Santa Catarina.
The young profile is another striking feature of the diverse population of the state. Today, approximately 60% of the inhabitants are less than 40 years old, and 30% have not yet reached the age of 20. On the other hand, only 10% of people living in Santa Catarina are 60 years old or older. The people here are young and hardworking, cheerful and hospitable, and are accustomed to receiving visitors from all over the country and the world.
Santa Catarina is at the top of the human and economic development ratings. The quality of life of the state is one of the best in the country and the rate of life expectancy is higher than the national average. Moreover, Santa Catarina has the best distribution of income among all states and the lowest rates of poverty, illiteracy and violence. In the past three decades, the state’s economy grew 340% and now the state has the 4th highest GDP per capita in Brazil. All this is the result of a decentralized development model and a diversified, export-oriented economy, great potential for tourism and a strong emphasis on innovation, but without neglecting the agricultural and industrial strength of the state.
Santa Catarina’s industrial park is the 5th largest in the country, especially the furniture center and the textile park, which are the largest in Latin America. The state is also the 5th largest producer of food products. Agribusiness is characterized mainly by small family farms. Apples, onions, oysters, pork and fresh produce are the products in which the state leads the national production, including others that also stand out. Industrial and agricultural products from Santa Catarina are exported to 190 countries, making the state the 8th largest exporter in Brazil. The domestic trade calls attention to the recipe: a consumer market with great potential, Santa Catarina commerce earns the 6th highest revenue of the country. The service sector is right behind: the 7th largest revenue of the country is in Santa Catarina, with an emphasis on services related to transportation and technology.
Another one of the state economy’s strengths is tourism. Considered the best tourist destination in Brazil, the state annually receives about 5 million visitors, including foreigners, Brazilians from other states and from Santa Catarina itself, who travel throughout the state as tourists. The gorgeous beaches found along the 560 miles from the coast of Santa Catarina are the main attractions of the busiest season: summer (December through February). In the winter, Santa Catarina’s Mountain Range is the busiest destination, especially when there is snow. Moreover, there are destinations in Santa Catarina that attract visitors throughout the year, such as Beto Carrero World Park, in Penha, and the Sanctuary of Santa Paulina, in Nova Trento.