The first settlement in Santarem was a Jesuit mission built in 1661. Following the American Civil War, a group of Confederates settled here and the American traditions they passed down are still evident in many of the local customs.
During the rubber boom of the 1920s, Henry Ford spent $80 million building an enormous rubber plantation in the area to supply his cars with the raw material to make tires.
Today Santarem is one of the Amazon's most important trading centres and is rich in legend and nature. The town is situated at the point where the Tapajos and the Amazon waters meet.
This is called the 'Wedding of the Waters' and is one of Santarem's major attractions. The lakes and forests of this area are home to numerous species of birds, particularly the white egret.