The Port of Santos rests on the alluvial plain of Sao Vicente Island in the State of Sao Paulo in Brazil. Just a few feet above sea level, a tidal channel cuts the island off from the mainland, and concrete channels drain the swampy island to keep the Port of Santos dry. The city lies on both the island and the mainland. The city lies on the shores of a bay deep enough for the biggest ships and has docks totaling six kilometers in length that can serve 50 ships at once.
The Port of Santos was once considered uninhabitable, but drainage canals, paved streets, and proper sanitation have made it a beautiful place. The nearby resort of Guaruja is popular with Brazilians, and Sao Paulo is only 80 kilometers northwest of the Port of Santos. In 2006, over 418 thousand people lived in the city, and almost 1.5 million called the metropolitan area home.
The Port of Santos was founded in 1532 by Bras Cubas and named after Lisbon’s Hospital dos Santos. Thomas Cavendish, an English privateer, sacked the city in 1591. The city and port benefited greatly by exporting coffee. In 1899, however, bubonic plague entered Brazil through the Port of Santos. It became the seat of the Catholic Diocese of Santos in 1924. In 2006, the discovery of oil in the Santos Basin off the coast promised a rich future.
The first Europeans landing at the Port of Santos, which was then called Goaio, found the indigenous people friendly and open to trade. In 1541, the port was established. In 1543, America’s first hospital was constructed here. In 1546, the Port of Santos received status as a village, and it became an official city in 1839. During the Brazilian abolition movement, the Port of Santos was a place of refuge for thousands of slaves who ran away from the coffee plantations around Sao Paulo.
The Port of Santos was long populated by a rich mixture of people and cultures. Home to Portuguese and Spanish settlers, indigenous peoples, Africans, immigration from Europe increased sharply in the early 19th Century. Italians, Syrians, and Lebanese added their cultures to the mix. In the late 20th Century, migrants from northeastern Brazil arrived, and a large working class population was established.
The smell of coffee permeates the Port of Santos, and it was built on coffee exports through the port. Other important exports include bananas, sugar, beef jerky, maize, oranges, hides, and seafood as well as autos and auto parts, machinery, iron and steel products, textiles, and clothing. Industries in the Port of Santos include canneries, sawmills, and manufacturers of candy, soft drinks, soap, cement, and canvas products. Santos is also home to the famous Santos Soccer Club, with a large stadium dedicated to its most famous player, Pele. It also boasts the world’s largest beach-front garden stretching for over five kilometers along the shore.