The “Santa María” and its twin “Vera Cruz” were two 20,000 GRT packets, with capacity for 1,182 passengers and a crew of 350 men, operating on the line linking Spain and Portugal, with Brazil, Venezuela and the United States , which was operated by the Portuguese Colonial Company of Navegecao.
The “Santa Maria” entered service in 1953 and was scrapped in Taiwan in 1973.
During his years of service he was very well known and important in Portugal and Galicia, because during this time the flow of emigrant travelers to America was very abundant. But the fact that brought this ship to fame was the event that took place on January 9, 1961 when the “Santa María” under the command of Captain Mario Simoes da Maia sailed from Lisbon to Central America arriving on the 20th of that same month to the port of Guaira in Venezuela.
Among the passengers that sailed that day in the Santa María were 24 members of the DRIL (Revolutionary Iberian Liberation Directory) with false identities, commanded by the Captain of the Portuguese Army Henrique Galvao who had been exiled in Venezuela for years, together with two Galicians, José Mosquera de Xunqueira de Ambia and José Fernández de Soutomaior.
When the ship made its stopover the day after sailing from La Guaira in the port of Curacao, in the early hours of January 22, the ship was taken by arms by the command of DRIL, within Operation Dulcinea whose objective was to protest Before the world and call attention to Franco and Salazar’s dictatorships over Spain and Portugal, the ship was forced to change course and changed its name to “Santa Liberdade”.
After a journey full of bizarre incidents and an unusual expectation worldwide and due to successful negotiations the ship arrived at the port of Recife in Brazil surrendering the members of the Command to the Brazilian authorities who granted them political asylum. The reception in Recife was tremendous and the aim of attracting the world attention fully achieved after almost a month in the foreground of all the media of the time, being recorded as a more romantic event.