The first settlement in Santarem was a Jesuit mission built in 1661. The next arrivals consisted of a group of Confederate refugees. They came to Santarem after the American Civil War in the hope of creating a new slaving state. Few of them stayed very long, but they left their mark in certain family and trade names. In the 1920s, during the rubber boom, Henry Ford spent $80 million to establish an enormous rubber plantation for the production of automobile tires. The project ended in disaster when many of his workers died from malaria and Ford realized that there were too many obstacles to overcome.
Over the years, SantarÐ ¹m developed into one of the region's most important trading centers. Today, it is the third largest city on the Amazon after Manaus and Belem. One of Santarem's major attractions is the 'Meeting of the Waters,' where the crystalline blue waters of the Rio Tapajos flow side by side with the muddy-brown Amazon without merging (similar to the Negro and Solimaes rivers near Manaus).
Points of interest include the Town Hall Museum with displays of pottery made by the Tupai Indians, the Municipal Market and the Casa da Farinha, an old manioc flour factory, where demonstrations can be seen on how to extract latex from rubber trees. Around Santarem there are lakes and lush forests that are home to numerous species of birds.
Your arrival into port already offers a good introduction to local color. Numerous river boats are tied up along the pier, some of them unloading goods and produce, others providing transportation for the local population to river communities for over 200 miles around, as well as long-distance services to Manaus and Belem.
Please Note: The tourism infrastructure is limited in and around Santarem.The only buses for sightseeing are intercity buses without air condition.