views updated May 14 2018


Santos is the Spanish name for sacred images of the Catholic saints, the Virgin Mary, the Magi, Christ, and other religious characters and episodes from the Bible and Catholic folklore. These images are usually carved in wood and then decorated with paint, metal, and precious stones. They are commonly found in Catholic churches and household altars throughout Spain, Latin America, and Latino communities in the United States. Santos were extremely popular in Puerto Rico, especially in rural areas with limited access to priests and churches. This entry will focus primarily on the folk art of carving saints (santería) on that island.

Hand-made images of saints played a key role in Catholic devotions in Puerto Rico until the middle of the twentieth century, when they were displaced by industrialization, urbanization, and migration. In addition, Protestant missionary efforts since the U.S. invasion of 1898 sought to eradicate the cult of the saints from Puerto Rico. Most traditional santos are now held in private collections, galleries, and museums, and have become objects of commercial consumption and speculation, especially by art collectors and tourists.

The earliest surviving examples of santos were probably brought from Spain and other European countries, such as Italy and France, during the sixteenth century. These painted sculptures followed closely the academic models of the time with regard to materials, techniques, scale, composition, and color. The first known Puerto Rican santos imitated the baroque style prevalent in Spain at the end of the eighteenth century. Like their Spanish prototypes, these images sought to reproduce as realistically as possible the human body, the landscape, and other aspects of the physical environment. The oldest Puerto Rican santos did not differ greatly from the folk religious sculpture of Spain, Mexico, Guatemala, and Santo Domingo during the Spanish colonial period.

Roughly between 1750 and 1898, Puerto Rican santería developed a distinctive style. The images gradually lost their natural appearance, while their posture adopted a frontal, rigid stance, either sitting or standing. Their anatomical proportions were deliberately deformed to stress their supernatural character. Traditional costumes were often abandoned; facial expressions were softened; and new characters and scenes were portrayed. Puerto Rican santeros increasingly represented local religious traditions such as the Miracle of the Virgin of Hormigueros, the Three Kings and the Three Maries, and the Lonely Soul. By far the most popular figure during the colonial period was the Virgin of Monserrate, transplanted from Catalonia but transformed into a black or mulatto woman. Other favorite subjects were the Three Kings, the various apparitions of the Virgin (especially at Candlemas and Bethlehem), Saint Anthony of Padua, the Nativity, and the Crucifixion.

The nineteenth century witnessed a veritable explosion of Puerto Rican santos to satisfy a growing demand for objects of worship, particularly in the most isolated peasant areas. The art of sculpting saints was especially popular in the inner highlands, along the central mountain range. There, a subsistence farming population of mixed Spanish, African, and indigenous origins developed a folk version of Catholicism centered on the cult of the saints in domestic shrines. Hence santos tended to be small—typically fewer than twelve inches high—because they had to fit within a humble niche.

Today most of the santeros remain anonymous, although several have become well-known artisans. The majority still learn their craft informally, usually by becoming apprentices to older family members, friends, or neighbors. Formerly, santeros used simple tools and indigenous woods (such as cedar and mahogany) to carve their images; they are now manufactured in a wide array of materials. Since the 1950s the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture has promoted the carving of saints through folk art festivals and museum exhibits. Santos represent a rich cultural patrimony, primarily of Hispanic Catholic origin, but mixed with African and indigenous traditions. As such, they have become symbols of Puerto Rico's national identity, as well as the most significant religious icons for Puerto Ricans and other Latino groups in the United States.

See alsoMary; Sainthood; SanterÍu; Roman Catholicism; Virgin of Guadalupe.


Curbelo de Díaz, Irene. El arte de los santerospuertorriqueños (The art of the Puerto Rican santeros). 1986.

Lange, Yvonne. "The Household Wooden Saints of Puerto Rico." Ph.D. diss., University of Pennsylvania. 1975.

Quintero Rivera, Angel G., ed. Vírgenes, magos y escapularios: imaginería, etnicidad y religiosidad popular enPuerto Rico (Virgins, Magis, and Scapulars: Imagery,Ethnicity, and Popular Religiousity in Puerto Rico). 1998.

Tió, Teresa. Esencia y presencia: artes de nuestra tradició (Essence and Presence: Arts from Our Tradition). 1993.

Tsang, Jia-sun. "A Closer Look: Santos from Puerto Rico." Electronic document. July 1998.

Vidal, Teodoro. Santeros puertorriqueños. (Puerto RicanSanteros). 1979.

Jorge Duany


views updated Jun 11 2018


Santos, one of the most important of Brazil's deep-water ports. First in Brazil in exports and second only to Rio de Janeiro in imports, Santos is the world's largest coffee-exporting port. The neighboring countries of Bolivia and Paraguay have free ports at Santos.

Located in the state of São Paulo, Santos is approximately 30 miles southeast of São Paulo, Brazil's largest city, and 200 miles southwest of Rio de Janeiro. The city itself is 3 miles from the Atlantic Ocean on São Vicente Island, in a tidal inlet called the Santos River. Its modern dock and warehouse facilities, the largest in Latin America, now handle over 40 percent (by value) of Brazil's imports and over half its exports, which include bananas, beef, oranges, and hides, in addition to coffee. The suburb Guarujá is one of Brazil's principal seaside resorts.

Modern-day Santos stands near the site of Brazil's first permanent European settlement, São Vicente, which was founded in 1532. The city of Santos itself was settled between 1543 and 1546. Linked to the city of São Paulo by railroad, Santos became the fastest-growing port in Brazil by the late nineteenth century as coffee cultivation developed in the interior of the state of São Paulo. Its population grew from 30,000 in 1900 to 295,000 in 1960 and to 429,000 in 1990.

Just outside Santos is one of Brazil's major industrial areas that houses oil refineries, chemical plants, and the hydroelectric plant at Cubatão. Severe pollution resulted in the area being called the "Valley of Death" by the local populace. However, a loan from the World Bank facilitated the reduction of pollution from petrochemical and fertilizer plants to a fraction of their previous levels.

As a result of changes in world shipping after September 11, 2001, the port of Santos has begun to upgrade its security system entering in an agreement with Verint Systems of New York to enhance security with wire and wireless networks for video monitoring. These upgrades will bring Santos in line with the new International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code regulations for surveillance.

See alsoCoffee Industry .


Burns, E. Bradford. A History of Brazil (1970).

Honorato, Cezar Teixeira. O polvo e o porto: A Cia: Docas de Santos, 1888–1914. São Paulo: Editora Hucitec; Santos, Brazil: Prefeitura Municipal de Santos, 1996.

Poppino, Rollie E. Brazil: The Land and People (1968).

                                         Mary Jo Miles

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