Santa Catarina shares a similar pattern of settlement with other parts of southern Brazil, the indigenous Indians having been rapidly displaced by outsiders. In the eighteenth century the state received immigrants from the Azores who settled along the coast; cattle herders from Rio Grande do Sul spread into the higher reaches of the mountainous interior around Lages and São Joaquim; and European immigrants and their descendants made new homes for themselves in the fertile river valleys. Even today, small communities on the island of Santa Catarina, and elsewhere on the coast, continue a way of life that has not changed markedly over the generations. Incidentally, to prevent confusion with the name of the state (though barely succeeding at times), most people call the island of Santa Catarina Florianópolis, which is actually the name of the state capital – also situated on the island. Elsewhere, cities such as Blumenau and Joinville, established by German immigrants, have become totally Brazilianized, but in the surrounding villages and farms many people still speak the language of their forebears in preference to Portuguese.
On the coast, tourism has become very important and facilities are excellent, though the considerable natural beauty is in danger of being eroded by the uncontrolled development that has been taking place in recent years. Inland, though, visitors rarely venture, despite the good roads and widely available hotels. Here, with the minimum of discomfort, it’s possible to get a sense of the pioneering spirit that brought immigrants into the interior in the first place – and keeps their descendants there.