Vila Nova de Santo André, usually just called Santo André, is a city located near the Atlantic Ocean and belonging to the municipality of Santiago do Cacém, Alentejo Litoral in Portugal.
Santo André, first a parish then a village, started to turn into a meeting point for people of the land and people of the sea.
The main income source was the rice culture. The rice cycle, that started in 1804, would only end in 1974, when the Gabinete da Área de Sines (an organism created on June 19, 1971, that created and managed the Santo André as an Urban Center up until the December 29, 1988, when it was extinct) started a new cycle that would come to be known as concrete cycle.
In the beginning of 1973, taking advantage of the oil exploration in that was taking place in Cabinda and providing huge amounts of oil, the Portuguese government decided to create and industrial complex destined to implant the petrochemical exploration in the country, and thus make a stand in the European context where industries of this type were already being developed and used to create wealth.
Thus, the Urban Center of Santo André was born, which would be raised to city on July 1, 2003.
As there was a preoccupation with the environment as well as with the health of the industrial complex's workers, Santo André was kept at a minimum distance of 10 km and a pine forest that works as a protection from eventual catastrophe.
Santo André is located in the region of Alentejo, in Portugal, and belongs to the municipality of Santiago do Cacém, in the subregion of Alentejo Litoral.
It is very near the sea (2 km) and also near the Alentejo Southwest and Vicentina Coast,a protected area. Its climate is temperate, ranging from 8°C–18°C in the winter and 20º–35º in the summer. Thin-sand soil can be found in some places and in the city there are a lot of pine trees.
There are some extensive sandy beaches within. The extensive forest that protects Santo André is a good example of possible respect between the protection of the environment and the industrial development.
Santo André was built during the 1970s to answer the housing needs of the workers of the industrial complex of Sines. For the next two decades it attracted inhabitants from all over the country and especially people from Portugal's African ex-colonies. These people were mainly skilled technicians and people with an average education (9th–12th grade) or higher (university). This originated a very young population with a wealth considerably higher than the national average. Santo André's inhabitants enjoy a higher-than-average living quality, for which the beaches, as well as the proximity of the Natural Park of Southwest Alentejo and Costa Vicentina, help contribute. Sines, only a few minutes from Santo André, by car, is one of the most dynamic cities of the Alentejo, having kept all its historical charm. It still represents a main center for development in the province of Alentejo, especially since the University was built in Santo André.
Before Santo André was built the locals made their livings from fishing (in the sea and in the lagoon), agriculture (mainly rice) and fairs.
Nowadays, industry is very important to the economy, giving work to thousands of the people of Santo André. Local commerce is also important, but on a smaller scale.
There are beaches of fine sand and a sea of infinity blue. The golden sand beaches seems to have no limits. The paths of the "Blue Coast" (as it is classified) seem to characterize the landscape of Alentejo. The first impression one has (when in Portugal) when talking about the Alentejo is the image of a burning plane (this is one of Portugal's hottest regions). However there are dozens of kilometers of beach all throughout the seaside of Alentejo's coast, ranging from Sado's southern margin (in Tróia) to the beginning of the Algarve. The giant extension of sand that connects Tróia to Sines, with over 60 km, has some of the best beaches in Portugal (better water quality, cleaner sand and water, as well as good surf spots, than most of the country). They are of a very thin sand, and of a bluish tranquility:
"Costa" (Coast) beach – has watchers; good for surfing, windsurfing and fishing
"Areias Brancas" (White Sands) beach – ideal windsurf conditions.
"Fonte do Cortiço" (Cork Fountain) beach – good windsurf conditions and considered one of this area's natural sanctuaries.
"Monte Velho" (Old Mountain) beach – good windsurf conditions; classified by the Environment Ministry as a Golden Beach for presenting itself as one of the best-preserved beaches in the country; it is a part of the protected area of the Lagoons of Sancha and Santo André and contains several walking trails through its dunes, that lead to places of natural and ecological value.