Santa Catalina is the capital of Wagondia and seat of the Wagain royal family, as well as one of the largest cities in Latin America. The city covers an area of just over 1,100 square kilometers (425 sq. mi) along the banks of the Rio Sanlúcar, straddling the divide between the Espinhaço Mountains in the west and the Brazilian Atlantic Forest in the east. With an estimated population of 6.8 million within the city limits, Santa Catalina is the 9th largest city in Wagondia, though its urban area extends to numerous neighboring municipalities within the Federal District. Santa Catalina is a world cultural, financial, and commercial powerhouse, known mostly for its tropical climate, broad diversity, academic institutions, and achievements in the arts and entertainment.
Historically home to the Guaraní people, the environs of Santa Catalina were first ranged by Europeans in 1727, principally by the gold-seeking bandeirante Sebastião Lima do Prado. In 1811, the Portuguese lieutenant Juliao Fernandes established a frontier trading post on the slopes of Monte Formosa, which later evolved into São João da Vigia, the area's first settlement. Later known as Almenara, this town engaged in the trade of gold, beef, coffee, corn, beans, and cassava throughout the Sanlúcar Valley. In 1891, Parliament selected Almenara as the site of the Empire's new capital, commencing a period of design and construction which would rival any public works project before or since. On March 1st, 1896, the city was incorporated as Santa Catalina, and Parliament was formally installed at their new seat. Spurred by land distribution programs and generous investment by the government and private entrepreneurs alike, Santa Catalina experienced heavy immigration during the 20th century, quickly evolving into a cosmopolitan world city with a culture reminiscent of both Europe and the New World. In the 21st century, Santa Catalina has emerged as a global node of creativity, high technology, environmental sustainability, media, and transportation.
a. Colonial period
c. Union with Wagondia
c. Vegetation & wildlife
b. Civil parishes
b. Green spaces
c. Military installations
7. Culture & contemporary life
11. Government & politics
A popular tourist destination, Santa Catalina is famous for its wide boulevards, sprawling green spaces, warm riverine beaches, and distinctive landmarks, including Morro do Cruzeiro, Verghetti Market, San Beltrán Cathedral, Leopoldina Palace, Little Osaka, and the Halls of Parliament. Santa Catalina is also famous as the home of Aymaville, a major center of the global entertainment industry, and Curiango, which ranks among the world's most vibrant arts districts. Home to the headquarters of the United Council of Peoples, Santa Catalina is also an important center for international diplomacy.
As of 2021, Santa Catalina is the highest rated Latin American city on world liveability rankings. It is classified as an "Alpha +" level world city by the Globalization and World Cities Study Group, in recognition of the city's high degree of integration with the world economy.
The pre-Columbian inhabitants of the Federal District were the Maxakalí people of the Macro-Jê language family. The Maxakalí, who referred to themselves as Kumanaxú, were semi-nomadic peoples who ranged from the Rio Pardo to the Rio Doce in southeast Brazil, placing the Federal District at the northern end of their territory. Their diet consisted of sweet potatoes, cassava, maize, and beans, supplemented by hunting and gathering of fruits and nuts. Tamed otters, said to be a gift from the creator god Topa, were used to catch fish in the montane rivers.
Maxakalí dwellings were dome-shaped single-family houses, typically made of palm fronds matted over a framework of branches anchored in the ground. They were known to use the fibre of the embauba tree to make nets, baskets, bags, hammocks, and cord. Their preferred weapon was the bow, typically made from pau d'arco, though they were familiar with a wide variety of pharmacologically active substances, including fish poisons and hallucinogens.
As with the rest of Latin America, contact with Europeans posed an immediate challenge to the indigenous peoples of the Federal District. The first encounter between natives and Europeans in Brazil occurred in 1500, when the Portuguese navigator Pedro Álvares Cabral landed on the shores of southern Bahia. Exploitation of the region's natural resources, most notably pau brasil (brazilwood), began shortly afterward. The first permanent Portuguese settlement in the region, Porto Seguro, was established in 1534. Fearing French designs on Brazil, the King of Portugal demarcated all land between the mouth of the Rio Pardo and Rio Mucuri, extending inland to the Tordesillas line (46°30′ W) as the Captaincy of Porto Seguro, governed by a Portuguese nobleman. The thin margin of coastal settlement had excellent soil for the cultivation of sugarcane, but came up against fierce resistance from the native Aimoré people.
In 1553, an expedition led by Francisco Bruza de Espinosa and the Jesuit priest João de Azpilcueta Navarro penetrated the hinterland in search for rumored gold and emerald deposits. These were the first Europeans to explore the valley of the Rio Sanlúcar, making it as far as the Serra do Espinhaço. While ultimately unsuccessful in their mission to unearth riches, Navarro became the first European to study the language of the indigenous peoples, and wrote extensively on the beauty and abundance of the land he traversed. In 1573, another voyage was undertaken by Sebastião Fernandes Tourinho, who managed to collect tourmaline, sapphire, topaz, and aquamarine, definitively proving the existence of precious metals in the colony's interior.
Despite promising signs of mineral wealth, further encroachment into the Sanlúcar Valley was hampered by combative relations with the native people. Fortune-hunting bandeirantes led private expeditions into the interior, exterminating entire tribes and enslaving any prisoners. These early profiteers did not intend to replicate the fixed plantation system of the coast, nor were they interested in long-term settlement. With the discovery of gold in the Serra do Espinhaço at the end of the 17th century, their attention shifted further inland. The Sanlúcar Valley quickly became a principal artery for the transport of people and goods between the coast and the new mining centers upriver in Diamantina, Serro Frio, Minas Novas, Ouro Preto, and Grão Mogol.
In 1808, the Portuguese court arrived in Rio de Janeiro under British escort, fleeing Napoleon Bonaparte's invasion of Portugal. Brazil assumed a new significance as the central seat of empire, and efforts were made to enlarge and secure its colonial borders, which remained limited in large part to the Atlantic coast. The middle Sanlúcar valley, still covered in virgin forest and inhabited by Maxakalí and Aimoré, was vulnerable to both smuggling and native attack. Hoping to secure the vital transport corridor, as well as open it up to permanent agriculture, the colonial authorities ordered Lieutenant Julião Fernandes to pacify the region in 1811. Traveling downriver, his contingent of sixty soldiers established a military headquarters at the junction of the Sanlúcar and Rio São Miguel, at what is today the extreme southwest corner of the Federal District. The town of Jequitinhonha — a native word meaning 'wide river full of fish' — grew from this site, formalizing the Portuguese presence and beginning a prolonged campaign of indigenous subjugation.
Portuguese soldiers gradually cleared the landscape, evicting its native inhabitants and introducing grasses for the grazing of cows and oxen. While the Maxakalí were somewhat open to trading with the settlers, the warlike Aimoré resisted all attempts at pacification, fleeing into the surrounding forest and resorting to guerrilla tactics. Persistent allegations of cannibalism, though unfounded, were used by the Portuguese to justify the righteousness of their continued campaign against native tribes. Several leaders of this resistance, most notably the cacique Joaíma, are today recognized as folk heroes for their courage in defying colonial rule.
To facilitate trade and surveil native communities, Lieutenant Fernandes established a string of watchtowers along the course of the Rio Sanlúcar. Fifty kilometers downstream from the Jequitinhonha, a barracks and observation post was established in the shadow of Morro do Cruzeiro, overlooking the right bank of the river. This modest outpost, consisting of a small building, some straw-covered mud houses, and a stand of fruit trees girded by a fence, was the first landmark within the future city of Santa Catalina.
The city of Santa Catalina covers a total area of 1,109 square kilometers (428 sq. mi). It comprises only one-quarter of the total area of the Federal District, though it accounts for 70% of the District's population. The perimeter of the city is 520 km (323 miles).
Santa Catalina is located along both banks of a 70km stretch of the Rio Sanlúcar, varying between 100 and 400 meters in width. In addition to numerous sandbars and smaller rock outcrops, the river contains five islands accessible to pedestrians. From west to east, they are Ilha Garajuva (in the parish of Jaiobazinho), Ilha Anacoreta (in Curiango), Ilha Girassol (in Lameira), Ilha Cimino (in Vila Clementina), and Ilha Pelcastre (in Barlaimont). Ilha do Pão, which lends its name to a major airport and the city's westernmost parish, is no longer classified as an island, having been connected to the mainland to accommodate runway expansion. The Sanlúcar meets the Atlantic Ocean at the resort town of Belmonte, 230 km downstream from the capital.
There are two tributaries which meet the main branch of the Sanlúcar within Santa Catalina. The larger of these is the São Francisco River, which forms the backbone the Cedro Valley. The smaller Rubim River is located further downstream, where it forms the border between Santa Catalina and several eastern suburbs.
Beyond the relatively flat riparian zone, Santa Catalina is dominated by hills which rise sharply into the surrounding mountains. The city's distinctly hilly topography has given rise to numerous miradouros, or scenic overlooks. Often tucked behind residences amidst the urban sprawl, they are popular gathering spots at sunset, and focal points for community life. This rugged terrain is most pronounced in the north and west, where four major ridges frame the built-up urban core. Beyond these serras is the broken landscape of the Charneca (English: 'moorland'). Outside of a handful of bedroom communities, the upland Charneca is largely undeveloped, devoted mainly to rustic eco-lodges, wildlife preserves, and scattered ranches. This region is best-known for being the location of Yigüirro Castle, the rural retreat of the Wagain royal family.
Santa Catalina's most prominent peaks are Morro do Cruzeiro (760m), located just south of the river in São Sepé, and Monte Formosa (670m), north of the river in Barra Velha. Though they are the capital's most recognizable natural landforms, the tallest point within the city limits is actually Morro de Maçarico (915m) in the northern parish of Nova Saboia. Both Monte Formosa and Morro do Cruzeiro are accessible by cable car, and have developed into major tourist attractions in their own right.
Santa Catalina has a tropical savanna climate (Köppen Aw, bordering on Am), characterized by warm winters and hot, humid summers. There is a pronounced 'wet season' between October and January, in the height of the Southern Hemisphere's summer. While the rest of the year is markedly drier, rainfall is not uncommon, and drought is very rare. There will be around 102 days of precipitation in a typical year.
Due to the protection of the surrounding mountains, Santa Catalina enjoys relatively stable temperatures year-round, hovering around an average of 23 °C (73 °F). Temperatures will generally stay below 33 °C (91 °F) in summer and above 18 °C (64 °F) in winter.
Santa Catalina is rich in native plant and animal life, partly because of its diversity of habitats, including beaches, restinga shrubland, montane savanna, and moist tropical forest. The Brazilian Atlantic Forest, which traverses part of the eastern Federal District, is a region of global significance for biodiversity. Around 30% of the Mata Atlântica's animals, and 40% of its plants, are found nowhere else on earth.
Plants native to the Federal District include a variety of myrtles, willows, laurels, legumes, bromeliads, orchids, cacti, and ferns, as well as palms, which thrive in the region's sandy, relatively acidic soil. Tropical hardwoods found there include the endangered Brazilian rosewood (Dalbergia nigra) and pau brasil (Paubrasilia echinata).
The ipê tree (genus: Handroanthus), prized for its brilliantly colored flowers, was widely introduced through the mid-century beautification efforts of Emmanouil Riga. Along with the jacaranda (Jacaranda mimosifolia), it has become something of a symbol for the city and its inhabitants. Other common urban trees include the Japanese cherry (Prunus serrulata), Seville orange (Citrus × aurantium), imperial palm (Roystonea oleracea), stone pine (Pinus pinea), and tamarind (Tamarindus indica), as well as the native sibipiruna (Caesalpinia pluviosa) and jequitibá (Cariniana legalis).
The warm climate of Santa Catalina is conducive to the cultivation of many edible plants, including the malagueta pepper, watermelon, coconut, cassava, mango, pineapple, banana, passionfruit, acerola cherry, guava, and papaya. The city is proximate to both the Chapada de Minas and Bahia Planalto coffee regions, where the arabica variety is dominant.
The fauna of the Santa Catalina area is exceptionally rich, owing to the proximity of several major ecological corridors and wildlife preserves. The Federal District is home to dozens of bird species, including the harpy eagle, black hawk-eagle, ornate hawk-eagle, mantled hawk, solitary tinamou, cinnamon-vented piha, and white-eared parakeet, among others. Finches, parrots, woodpeckers, and hummingbirds are all common within the city's built-up urban core. Threatened bird species include the Bahia spinetail, red-browed amazon, saffron toucanet, and purple-breasted parrot, each of which is protected at the local level.
Large mammal species include the capybara, tapir, cougar, jaguar, and puma, which all thrive in the upland Charneca. Modern conservation efforts have seen the reintroduction of the vulnerable maned sloth, which now inhabits the tropical forests of the eastern Federal District. The capital is also a vital refuge for several critically endangered primate species, including the northern muriqui, golden-headed lion tamarin, coastal black-handed titi, northern brown howler, golden-bellied capuchin, and Wied's marmoset. The Imperial Simian Research Center at Mata Escura, in the far southwest of the Federal District, is one of the foremost primatology institutes in the world.