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Located about 100 km south of the island of São Miguel and about 600 km from the island of Flores, Santa Maria is the easternmost and southernmost island of the archipelago. It is comprised between the parallels 36º 55 'N and 37º 01' N and the meridians 25º00 'W and 25º 11' W. Its shape is substantially quadrangular and the maximum length of the respective diagonal is about 15.5 kilometers between the tip of the Castle and the Southeast and the tip of Restinga, to the northwest.
Geologically it is the oldest of the Azores, with formations that surpass the 8.12 million years of age, being for that reason the one of more remote volcanism. This comparatively advanced age confers maturity to the relief and explains the presence of extensive formations of sedimentary origin where marine fossils can be found.
Although it is the only one in the archipelago that does not present recent volcanic activity, it is also subject to relatively high seismicity due to its proximity to the final section of Glacial Fault (Azores-Gibraltar fracture zone). This is demonstrated by the strong earthquakes of November 1937 and May 1939 and the recent seismic crisis of March 2007.
Like the other islands of the archipelago, the climate of Santa Maria is temperate oceanic. The Atlantic and the Gulf Stream function as temperature moderators - maritime - giving the island and the archipelago in general a small thermal amplitude. Rainfall is distributed regularly throughout the year, although it is more abundant in the cool season.
In winter, as well as the other islands of the archipelago, it is ravaged by strong winds that blow predominantly from the southwest, while in the summer they move to the North quadrant. The sky is generally cloudy, which causes variable sunshine.
As in other Azorean islands, one of the most outstanding cultural activities is the celebration of the Divine Holy Spirit, which goes back to the beginning of the settlement and to the outstanding role that the Order of Christ and the Franciscans played in the religious life of the archipelago. The festivities include the coronation of one or more children, in which the "Emperor" wears a scepter and a silver crown, symbols of the Holy Spirit, culminating in a great feast on the seventh Sunday after Easter on Pentecost Sunday. On occasion, the "Empires" are held in honor of the Holy Spirit, when the so-called "soups", cooked according to the ancient traditions, are distributed free of charge.
In addition to this feast, celebrated in all parishes, the celebration of the Lord Santo Cristo dos Milagres takes place in Vila do Porto.
On August 15 the festivities take place in honor of the patroness, Our Lady of the Assumption.
Also in August, usually on the last weekend, the Maré de Agosto Festival, one of the most popular of the archipelago, has been held since 1984, at Praia Formosa, with national and international musical attractions.
In summer, Formosa beach and São Lourenço beach are the most popular not only for swimmers but also for water sports.
The season ends with the party of the Confraternity of Slaves of Cadainha, in the Angels, in the month of September.
At the handicraft level, the most important are the making of crockery and other pieces of pottery in red clay (whose tradition is currently sought to recover), handmade wool sweaters, colorful patchwork blankets and linen cloths, straw, wicker baskets and various objects in wood and iron. In addition to several cooperatives of artisans, the island has a museum to expose the historical and cultural aspect of this production: the Museum of Santa Maria, located in the parish of Santo Espírito.
The gastronomy of the island is rich, highlighting the broth of turnips, the cake in the pot, the cabbage, the liver sauce, the soup and the fish stew. Among the clams are the chipfish, barnacles and barnacles. In the field of sweets, we can mention the enchiladas biscuits, the earrings, the white, the brandy and the cavacas. Among the drinks, the wine of smell, the muffled wine, the abafadinho, the liqueurs of blackberry, of milk and the brandy, are typical.
About the typical talk of Santa Maria, perhaps the first recorded collection of words and expressions is the one of the Miguelista official António Bonifácio Júlio Guerra, condemned to the exile in the island, dated of 1834.