About São Tomé
São Tomé was
once known as "the island in the middle of the world,"and
in a way it was.
The Portuguese first landed here on St. Thomas Day, December 21, 1470, back when the world
was thought to be flat.
The Equator runs right across the little island off the south coast, and the
Prime Meridian is only a few degrees to our west. São Tomé was in the middle of the world as it
was known at the time of Portuguese exploration.
São Tomé is near the equator and the Prime Meridian. Learn more
about the country by following the link to the Wikipedia entry for
For the next five centuries, it was
primarily used as a slave trading post and as an agricultural station,
producing sugar cane first and later cocoa for chocolate production. Portuguese colonial rule was
primitive at best, with the result that when
people and no infrastructure outside of the plantation economy developed around single-crop
In 1975, Socialists
assumed power, nationalizing all productive enterprises. The Portuguese largely
left, and for 15 years the economy slowly disintegrated. In 1990, for the first time, democratic
elections were held, and a new government took over. However, it still has not been able to mobilize
resources to combat the chronic poverty and lack of health facilities and educational possibilities that
plague the islands.