SAO LUIZ, or in full, SAO LUIZ DE MARANHAO (also spelt MARANHAM), a seaport of northern Brazil, capital of the state of Maranhao, on the W. side of an island of the same name, in 2 30' S., 44 17' W., about 300 m. E.S.E. of Belem (Para). Pop. of the whole island (1890) 29,308; (1908, estimate) 32,000. An important part of the population is made up of the planters of the state, who live in town and leave their estates to the care of overseers. The island of Maranhao lies off the mouths of the rivers Mearim and Itapicuru, between the Bay of Sao Marcos on the W. and the Bay of Sao Jos6 on the E., and is separated from the mainland by a small channel called the Canal do Mosquito. It is irregular in outline, its greatest length from N.E. to S.W. being 34 m., and its greatest breadth 19 m. Its surface is broken by a number of low hills and short valleys. The city is built upon a tongue of land between two small estuaries, Anil and Bacanga, which unite and open upon the Bay of Sao Marcos. It covers two low hills and the intervening valley, the transverse streets sloping sharply to the estuary on either side. These slopes make it difficult to use vehicles in the streets, but they afford a natural surface drainage which makes Sao Luiz cleaner and more healthy than the coast towns of tropical Brazil usually are. The city is regularly laid out with comparatively wide longitudinal, and steep, narrow transverse streets, roughly paved and provided with sidewalks. The buildings are of the old Portuguese type, with massive walls of broken stone and mortar, having an outside finish of plaster or glazed tiles and roofs of red tiles. The principal public buildings are the cathedral, a large and severely plain structure, the episcopal palace, the Carmelite church, the government palace, town hall, custom-house, hospital, and a number of asylums, convents and charitable schools. An excellent lyceum and a church seminary are the most important educational institutions, and Sao Luiz long enjoyed a high reputation in Brazil for the culture of its inhabitants. The trade of Sao Luiz was once very important, but the commercial activity of Para and Fortaleza, the decay of agricultural industry in the state, and the silting up of its harbour, have occasioned a decline in its commerce. Its exports comprise cotton, sugar and rice. Communication with the mainland and interior towns is by means of small steamers.
Sao Luiz was founded in 1612 by La Rivardiere, a French officer commissioned by Henri IV. to establish a colony in this vicinity. The French colony was expelled in 1615 by the Portuguese, who, in turn, surrendered to the Dutch in 1641. In 1644 the Dutch abandoned the island, when the Portuguese resumed possession and held the city to the end of their colonial rule in Brazil. The city became the seat of a bishopric in 1679.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)