The First Inhabitants

The history of human presence on the Island of Santa Catarina dates back to approximately 4.500 years ago and is closely linked to the sambaquis culture. Sambaqui is a word of Tupi-Guarani origin, which means "heap of shells" and designates archaeological sites formed by deposits of mollusk shells such as oysters and cockles.

The sambaqui builders, or sambaquieiros, were sedentary fishermen and gatherers. These first human groups basically fed on fish, molluscs, crustaceans, vegetables and small game. They they accumulated mollusc shells and other food scraps, sometimes for generations. As they live close to the sea, these groups even lived on top of these sambaquis, as they were dry places, free of venomous animals and ideal for viewing the sea and the surroundings of the houses. The oldest sambaqui was found in the locality south swamp.

Around the XNUMXth century, two hundred years before the arrival of Europeans, the Carijós arrived. Divided into several tribes and villages, they occupied most of the coastal area. The Carijós were excellent potters and already knew about agriculture. They planted manioc and produced flour, in addition to cultivating species of corn, yams, cotton, peanuts, pepper, tobacco and gourd.

They received the whites with great cordiality and curiosity, showing no hostility. That is why they were later imprisoned by the Portuguese and sold as slaves in the markets of São Vicente and Bahia de Todos os Santos.

Names of some Florianopolitan regions, such as Pirajubaé, itaguaçu e anhatomirim, are some of the historical references left by them. Meiembipe, or "mountain along the canal" and Yjurerê-Mirim, or "small mouth", were denominations that the Carijós used to call their land.

The gradual extermination of these indigenous tribes on the coast of Santa Catarina began to take place at the end of the XNUMXth century, due to slavery and poor resistance to diseases brought by Europeans, such as influenza, measles, smallpox, tuberculosis, etc. Despite the efforts of Spanish and Portuguese Jesuit missionaries to save them, the Carijós were left with one last role: that of European slaves on the sugar mills that were beginning to be installed here.


The Village Foundation

The first settlers to settle on the Island of Santa Catarina were shipwrecked and deserters from some maritime expeditions. However, the foundation of the city itself only took place in 1675. It was in this year that the bandeirante Francisco Dias Velho arrived on the island, who, in addition to boosting the emergence of the settlement, ended up having a tragic end, worthy of an adventure film. With Dias Velho came his wife, five children, another family, two priests from the Society of Jesus and another 500 indigenous people.

The bandeirante, born in the Captaincy of São Vicente (currently Santos-SP), had his career marked by land disputes with indigenous peoples and with pirates of various nationalities. The founder already brought information about the existence of a small trade carried out in the place where the city would be installed and about the people he would find in the region.

The first step was the construction of a small church where today the Florianopolis Cathedral, with the protection of Santa Catarina. Next, the best region for the village was chosen, starting the construction of houses and starting the planting of new crops.

Metropolitan Cathedral of Florianópolis
Metropolitan Cathedral
The tragic fate of Dias Velho

However, Dias Velho's determination to protect his land was crucial to its tragic end. A pirate ship from Peru and commanded by Robert Lewis docked in Canasvieiras with a shipment of silver in their holds. In a short time, Dias Velho managed to expel the corsairs, keeping the ship's cargo. However, the pirate commander took revenge a year later. Lewis returned, recovered his cargo of silver, raped the founder's three virgin daughters, and killed him. With that, the family of the pioneer and all his companions returned to São Paulo, not before completing the construction of the chapel.

The village of Nossa Senhora do Desterro

After Dias Velho's death, the Island remained abandoned for a few years. But the need to settle the region, to guarantee their domain, was a concern of the Portuguese. Florianópolis was just a town with 27 houses. The name of the locality was Nossa Senhora do Desterro; the elevation to the condition of parish took place in 1714 and to the category of village in 1726. At that time, some people from São Paulo were authorized to occupy the state. However, on the Island, the concern remained insignificant. This picture only changed substantially about 20 years later, with the arrival of the Azorean settlers.

The Azorean Colonization

The Portuguese Crown created the Subaltern Captaincy of Santa Catarina in 1738, transferring its link from São Paulo to Rio de Janeiro. But it was in the period between 1747 and 1756 that the occupation of the Island really took off. The constant earthquakes on the islands of the Azores archipelago, in Portugal, as well as the overpopulation, served as a stimulus for about five thousand Azorean immigrants to be taken to colonize the Island and the coast of Santa Catarina. The first immigrants to disembark settled in the street next to the Church, which today is called Rua dos Ilhéus in their honor. Gradually, the first parishes were created, such as Nossa Senhora do Rosário da Enseada do Brito, the latter on the mainland, facing the south of the island.


The development of the Center

Access to the interior of the island was difficult and, because of this, the urban center developed along the part closest to the mainland. Subsistence agriculture was the first activity developed by the colonizers, with emphasis on the cultivation of manioc, which would later serve the foreign market on a small scale.

The most powerful class at the time was the military and, due to their presence in the then Port of Desterro, it was necessary to import clothes, food and consumer objects to serve them. Thus, near the port, a small shopping center for the sale of food and artisanal products made by the residents appeared.


Whales were constant visitors to the coast of the Island and, in the second half of the XNUMXth century, the Portuguese Crown authorized their hunting. However, whaling did not represent an increase in trade in the region, since most of the product was sent to Portugal. The most significant impetus to the Port of Desterro with whaling was the need to supply water and food to many North American whalers, who also took advantage of it to smuggle slaves. It didn't take long for predatory activity to decline. The first reason was the flight of the whales to the extreme south and, later, the substitution of animal oil for kerosene and then for petroleum as a source of lighting. The power of the military in the region began to decline in the early XNUMXth century, when merchants began to prosper, most of them owners of commercial vessels that operated along the coast of Santa Catarina.

Florianopolis downtown

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