Santa Maria, Rio Grande do Sul
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|Municipality of Santa Maria |
Município de Santa Maria
|Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil|
|State||Rio Grande do Sul|
|- Mayor||Cesar Augusto Schirmer (PMDB)|
|- Total||1,823.1 km2 (703.9 sq mi)|
|Elevation||113 m (371 ft)|
|- Density||151.8/km2 (393.2/sq mi)|
|Time zone||UTC-3 (UTC-3)|
|- Summer (DST)||UTC-2 (UTC-2)|
|Website||Prefeitura de Santa Maria|
It is known for the Federal University of Santa Maria and a number of other private universities and colleges. Because of the large number of college age students, the city has a relatively young population. Santa Maria is also known for its military contingent - the second largest in Brazil.
Santa Maria is also known in the region for being the host city of an important Roman Catholic festival dedicated to Nossa Senhora Medianeira, called "Romaria da Medianeira" (Medianeira is a name of Our Lady that was created in Venice, Italy). Every year, hundreds of thousands of people from all over Brazil join in the celebrations.
Santa Maria is the location of a Brazilian Air Force base, the Base Aérea de Santa Maria, which in 2005 had the following elements:
- 1° Esquadrão do 10° Grupo de Aviação (1º/10º GAv), Poker Squadron, reconnaissance and attack unit with RA-1A e RA1-B (AMX) airplanes.
- 3° Esquadrão do 10° Grupo de Aviação (3º/10º GAv), Centauro Squadron, with attack planes A-1A e A-1B (AMX).
- 5° Esquadrão do 8° Grupo de Aviação (5º/8º GAV), Pantera Squadron, with H-1H (Bell UH-1H Huey) helicopters.
The base also had a T-25C (Neiva Universal) and two L-42 (Neiva Regente) for administrative functions. 
The city is the seat of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Santa Maria.
It is the largest city in the central region of the state, concentrating 36.40% of the region's population. During the period between 1981 and 2000, Santa Maria had a demographic growth rate of 1.86%.
The municipality contains 10 districts. The city of Santa Maria itself is located in the urban Seat District (Distrito Sede), which is divided into 8 regiões administrativas (administrative regions), and further subdivided into 41 bairros (neighbourhoods). About 95% of the municipality's total population is concentrated in the Seat District.
The economy is based on services, light industry, government services, and agriculture. In 2006, there were 934 transformation industries employing 6,344 workers. Commerce employed 12,180 workers, public administration employed 4,783 workers, the health sector employed 3,799 workers, and education employed 6,362 workers. In the agricultural sector, there were 2,335 establishments employing 7,000 workers. The main activities are cattle raising with over 100,000 heads in 2006, and growth of rice, corn, soybean, and wheat. 
- BR-158 - connects Santa Maria to northern and southwestern Rio Grande do Sul, allowing access to Uruguaiana, in the Argentinian border, and to Rivera, Uruguay.
Railways are used for cargo transportation, mainly of agricultural products, automobile parts and food.
Santa Maria is 110 km far from the River Terminal of Cachoeira do Sul, which allows ship transport until the port of Porto Alegre through the Jacuí River, and from there to the Atlantic Ocean, through the Lagoa dos Patos.
The city has a domestic airport located 12 km far from downtown, in the neighborhood of Camobi. It has capacity for large airplanes and offers daily flights to Porto Alegre, Florianópolis and Curitiba. 
Highway Distances to Other Cities in the state
- Santa Maria—Porto Alegre: 286 km.
- Santa Maria—Pelotas: 337 km.
- Santa Maria—Cruz Alta: 135 km.
- Santa Maria—Uruguaiana: 365 km.
- Santa Maria—Passo Fundo: 293 km.
- Santa Maria—Caxias do Sul: 307 km. 
Health and Education
In 2005, there were 113 health establishments, comprising 8 hospitals with a total amount of 866 available beds. In the educational sector, there were 112 primary schools and 34 secondary schools. Six higher education institutions enrolled approximately 20,000 students. The most important are the Federal University of Santa Maria - UFSM, the Franciscan University Center - UNIFRA, and the Methodist University of Santa Maria - FAMES.
Santa Maria has a humid subtropical climate and its annual average temperature is 18 °C. In January, the warmest month, highs rarely surpass 30 °C with the average low dropping to 19 °C. In June, the coldest month, highs reach 19 °C and lows usually go below 9 °C, reaching up to -5 °C, but snow is a rare occurrence. Rainfall is distributed evenly throughout the year with a monthly average of 140 mm. 
Santa Maria is often referred to as the "heart of Rio Grande do Sul" (from Portuguese: "cidade coração do Rio Grande"), because the geographical center of the state is located in a rural District of Santa Maria called Passo do Verde. Santa Maria is also given the nickname of "culture city" (Portuguese: "cidade cultura"), mostly because of the local universities, which host a large number of students and young adults who engage in many cultural and political actions, social entrepreneurs, and a number of academic researchers of international reputation.
The first inhabitants of Santa Maria were the Minuano Indians, who lived in a region of the municipality known as Coxilha do Pau Fincado, and the Tapes, who lived in the hills.
With the arrival of Spanish and Portuguese this border region was a witness to innumerable battles between rival groups. Finally in 1797 the border between the two colonies was established by a commission (1ª Subdivisão da Comissão Demarcadora de Limites da América Meridional). This commission set up camp on the site of present-day Santa Maria.
The camp was known as Acampamento de Santa Maria, later adding Boca do Monte to the name. 1828 saw the arrival of the 28th Battalion of Foreigners, made up of hired Germans to fight against the inhabitants of present-day Uruguay in the Cisplatine War. After the war many of the soldiers decided to stay in Santa Maria beginning the cycle of German colonization.
Santa Maria was elevated to the condition of Vila, separating from Cachoeira do Sul, in 1857. The municipality was created on 16 December 1857 and installed on 17 May 1858. 
Quality of Life
According to the United Nations (PNUD 2000), Santa Maria ranks 45th in quality of life in Brazil and 9th in the state. According to data from 2006, from Fundação de Economia e Estatística - FEE, life expectancy at birth is of 74.01 years and the demographic density of the municipality is 145.4 inhab/km².
The level of atmospheric pollution in Santa Maria is low, since the urban area, for the most part, is composed of retail commerce and services, without polluting sectors. 
The city is the birthplace of Paleorrota and paleontology in Rio Grande do Sul and Brazil. In 1902, a Rhynchosaur was collected in Santa Maria, on what is considered to be the first fossil to be found in South America. Llewellyn Ivor Price, a Santa Maria-born paleontologist and one of the first Brazilian ones, collected a Staurikosaurus, the first Brazilian dinosaur. The city is located on a huge deposit of fossils, with more than 20 Paleontological Sites.