This page is part of © FOTW Flags Of The World website

Santa Maria, Rio Grande do Sul (Brazil)

Last modified: 2020-08-08 by ian macdonald
Keywords: rio grande do sul | santa maria |
Links: FOTW homepage | search | disclaimer and copyright | write us | mirrors

Santa Maria, RS (Brazil) image by Ivan Sache, 4 August 2020

See also:


The municipality of Santa Maria (261,031 inhabitants in 2010, 95% in urban area; 17,881 ha) is located 300 km west of Porto Alegre and 250 km north-east of Rivera, the closest border town in Uruguay.
The municipality is composed of the districts of Santa Maria (seat, divided in 41 boroughs), São Valentim, Pains, Arroio Grande, Arroio do Só, Passo do Verde, Boca do Monte, Palma, Santa Flora and Santo Antão.

Santa Maria emerged in a territory settled by Jesuit missions until the Treaty of Madrid, signed in 1750 by Portugal and Spain; accordingly, the missions were suppressed and their territory was shared between the two colonial empires. The Treaty of San Ildefonso, aka Preliminary Treaty of Reciprocal Restitutions, signed in 1777, was expected to solve the issues left by past border wars between the two powers.
The first written record of the region is found in the "Diário da Demarcação de Limites da América Meridional" (Report of the Demarcation of Southern America Limits) published in 1787 by the astronomer José Saldanha, member of the binational commission. At the same time, the region assigned to Portugal was settled by colonists coming from Paraná and São Paulo. Santa Maria emerged in 1784 around a military camp established on the territory of Cachoeira do Sul.

On 26 April 1819, Cachoeira was granted the status of "vila", Santa Maria being elevated to its 4th district. Visiting the town in 1821, the French naturalist Auguste de Sainte-Hilaire noticed some 30 houses, a beautiful natural environment and intense trade. The first census, organized in 1826, yielded 304 dwellings and 2,128 inhabitants.

To watch the border, the 28th Foreign Battalions and the 1st Battalion were established in Santa Maria in 1828 and 1831, respectively. Composed of German professional soldiers, these units significantly contributed to the settlement of the region; at the end of their service, several soldiers established German colonies, such as São Leopoldo, initiating a cycle of German settlement in the region. The strategic value of Santa Maria remained important even after the transfer of the border to river Uruguai.

The parish of Santa Maria da Boca do Monte was established by Law No. 6. promulgated on 17 November 1837. The municipality of Santa Maria da Boca do Monte was established by Law No. 400, promulgated on 16 December 1857, and inaugurated on 17 May 1858. The new town was designed in 1861 by land surveyor Otto Brinckmann.
Santa Maria was granted the status of "cidade" by Provincial Law No. 1,013, promulgated on 6 April 1876. In 1887, the municipality counted 11,000 inhabitants, 3,000 in the town proper. The first municipal Constitution was adopted on 8 October 1892.
Santa Maria Development Agency

Ivan Sache, 4 August 2020


A white flag with the municipal arms in the centre.
Dirk Schönberger, 22 March 2012

The flag of Santa Maria is prescribed by a Municipal Law, unfortunately not specified:
The municipality flag shall have a rectangular field, charged in the center with the heraldic symbol (or coat of arms) of Santa Maria.
White symbolizes the spirit of peace of the Santa Maria community.
Santa Maria Development Agency


The coat of arms of Santa Maria is prescribed by Municipal Law No. 785 promulgated on 20 December 1958.

A Portuguese shield, argent the Maria Santíssima monogram in blue, surrounded by 12 stars of the same in base two mounts proper. Supporters: two lances with red pennants charged with a white lozenge crossed in saltire. The shield superimposed to two indigenous lances arranged in the same pattern linked by a Gaúcho boleadeira.
Motto: on a scroll to the colors of the flag of Piratini, the black writing "SANTA MARIA, CIDADE CORAÇÃO DO RIO GRANDE DO SUL".
Crest: A five-towered mural crown argent.
Leis Municipais database

According to Aristilda Rechia (Santa Maria: Panorama Histórico Cultural. Associação Santamariense de Letras, 2006), the indigenous lances and the boleadeiras recall the first inhabitants of the region, consecrated in the Imembuí legend. The military lances with pennants recall the occupation and defense of the region by governmental regular forces and the Gaúcho bellicose tradition.
The five-towered mural crown indicates the status of "cidade".
The Marian monogram is a tribute to the town's patron saint and namesake, as well as the argent and blue colors.
The base represents the small hills characteristic of the town's topography.
Santa Maria Development Agency

Boleadeiras, throwing weapons made of weights on the ends of interconnected cords, were widely used by natives to capture game. Gaúcho borrowed boleadeiras from the Pampa tribes and made of them their emblematic tool, used to capture cattle.

The Imembuí legend is Santa Maria's founding myth.
Imembuí was a young Indian woman, born on the bank of river Taimbé from a tribe living peacefully in the Ybitory-Retan (Tupi-Guarani, Land of Joy) region. Threatened by Portuguese pioneers, the Tape and Minuano tribes set up an ambush and caught the invaders. Imembuí fell in love with prisoner Rodrigo and saved him from death; he married her under the name of Morotin and they had a son names José.
In an article published on June 2001 in the review "Letra de Hoje", Pr. Orlando Fonseca explains that the origin of the legend has been lost in the mists of times. Its first written record is credited to the writer Cezimbra Jaques in the novel "Assuntos de Rio Grande", published in 1912. The historian João Bélem reported the mythic origin in Santa Maria in the book "História do Município de Santa Maria – 1797-1933", published in 1933.
"The Imembuí legend" is a mural painting (14.5 m x 2.8 m) designed in 1976 by Eduardo Trevisan in the main campus of Universidade Federal de Santa Maria (UFSM). The project was pushed by the Rector of the newly established university, José Mariano de Rocha Filho, on the model of the famous mural paintings designed by Diego Rivera in Universidade de México (UNAM). The work was completely restored in 2018 by Flamarion Trevisan, the designer's son.
UFSM, 21 November 2018

Santa Maria, RS (Brazil) image by Ivan Sache, 4 August 2020

The official description of the arms of Santa Maria lacks the ipê-roxo tree featured in the shield's base. This was indeed a later addition prescribed in Municipal Law No. 3,079 promulgated on 13 December 1988.

Article 1.
The tree species colloquially known as ipê-roxo shall be considered as the symbol tree of the municipality.

Article 2.
The symbol shall be included into the coat of arms of the municipality.
Leis Municipais database

Ipê-roxo, Handroanthus heptaphyllus (Vell.) Mattos (pink trumpet tree, pink tab) is a medium-sized tree that profusely flowers from June to August. Widely used by landscape gardeners to embellish urban environments, the tree is also of economic significance due to its wood ("pau-brasil") and medicinal properties of its leaf extracts.
Pink tab was proclaimed Paraguay's national tree on 10 May 2012.
Santa Maria Development Agency

The Santa Maria Municipal Historic Archives feature a photo the the municipal flag "produced between 1980 and 1999", with, as expected, the coat of arms lacking the ipê-roxo tree.


The use of the colors of the flag of Piratini - also the colors of the flag of Rio Grande do Sul on the scroll is a straightforward reference to the Riograndese Republic (1836-1845), proclaimed in Piratini by the Gaúcho oligarchy as a secession from the Brazilian Empire. Gaúchos consider the Republic as the historic symbol of their idiosyncrasy and Rio Grande do Sul State as a kind of continuation of it.

Ivan Sache, 4 August 2020