Santa Barbara residents tend to think of our city as something unique. After all, we had an eponymous soap opera, put on an annual film festival, and justifiably pride ourselves on the area’s natural beauties. Santa Barbara, however, is not unique – at least not in name.
Around the world, there are at least twenty other Santa Barbaras, not counting states, provinces, and counties. Like our own, these are, for the most part, scattered about through those areas inhabited or colonized by the Spanish or the Portuguese, with the exception of one in Italy: Venezuela, Colombia, Mexico, and Honduras contain Santa Barbaras, for example, as well as Spain and Portugal themselves. There’s also two each in Brazil, the Philippines, and Guatemala.
One of the most remote is on the island of Brava, in the nation of Cape Verde. Cape Verde, which achieved its independence from Portugal in 1975, is an island chain about 500 miles off the coast of Senegal in North Africa. The island on which Cape Verde’s Santa Barbara is located is, according to Wikipedia, the smallest in the chain to be populated. The Cape Verdean Santa Barbara, as far as photographs can show, resembles our own Santa Barbara in some ways. This photo, for example, shows an aloe plant growing out of a rock wall, with a tile-roofed house in the distance; behind the house are ocean and another hilly island. The terrain is strongly reminiscent of ours, and the architecture visible in the photograph is strikingly similar.
Although exact population figures for each of these scattered Santa Barbaras are hard to come by, it appears that most of our namesake towns are relatively small, like the one in Cape Verde. One of the Brazilian Santa Barbaras has an estimated population of 200,000, but some of the others have populations of less than 1,000. Our Santa Barbara, although it may not be unique in name or in landscape, is at least one of the most populous, and is undeniably the most famous.
Of all of the international Santa Barbaras, our own has the most web presence, at least; the only other Santa Barbara with an easy to locate web page is the one in Honduras. Their site was built by a pair of Peace Corps volunteers, and contains a wealth of information about our namesake to the south. Like our Santa Barbara, the Honduran town’s economy is built on tourism, to a large extent. Local female artisans produce a variety of goods, including hats and pottery, and the town is also known for its coffee. One relatively new attraction of which the site makes much is their introduction of a karaoke night at one of the local bars.
It seems that people with the desire to stand up in front of a crowd and look silly can be found almost anywhere – just like towns called Santa Barbara.