The Azores

History of the Azores

Note: The image above is that of a woodcut whose author is unknown that dates back to 1878. It represents a sailboat sailing towards the island of Pico.

The discovery of the Azores is unknown, but historical data point to the discovery in 1427, by Diogo Silves. Some years later, in 1432, Gonçalo Velho Cabral rediscovered the Azores and discovered São Miguel. Between 1439 and 1444, the first settlers appeared in São Miguel, that disembarked in the Povoação. The first settlers came mainly from Continental Portugal, more precisely from Estremadura, Algarve and Alto Alentejo, and later from foreign countries, mainly from France (an explanation for the name "Brittany", a parish located on the Northwest coast of the island). Flanders and Moors from North Africa.

São Miguel

As a fertile island with good climate and situated in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, it helped produce wheat to export to the Portuguese colonies in Africa, pastel to Flanders and sugar cane, which contributes to strengthen the islands expanding economy .

The first capital of the island of São Miguel was the Vila Franca do Campo, due to the proximity of the village, the sea, and the extensive and fertile fields. But unfortunately the expansion and prosperity phase lasted only a short time, because in 1522 a violent earthquake completely destroyed the capital, and approximately 5,000 people died. Ponta Delgada, located 25 km west of Vila Franca do Campo, already the center of the county, became the first city and capital of the island in 1546.

Filipino Domain

At the end of the 16th century and beginning of the 17th century the Azores was the center of French, British, Algiers pirate attacks. Between 1582 and 1640, Portugal and the islands were occupied by Spanish troops, who used the Azores as a stopping point for refueling products and water for the trip to America. Finally, in 1640, national independence was reestablished and the Azores returned to the Portuguese monarchy, and the development time of the Archipelago returned.

Port of Ponta Delgada

The construction of an artificial port in Ponta Delgada, the development of fishing, and milk production were the main means of development of the island of the twentieth century. Nowadays, São Miguel is the political and administrative center of the Region. It has a diverse economy in expansion, in which tourism is the new and more dynamic sector.

The exploitation of the orange

In the middle of century XVI, they introduced the first oranges in S. Miguel. Production began to grow and in the eighteenth century the first oranges were exported to England, becoming the main crop. Later, they were exported to America and to some European countries.

The first traders to export the orange were foreigners, but then the local producers, seeing it as a profitable business, began to produce and export, thereby becoming very rich and building palaces and plots around the island. In 1842, accidentally brought through the caravels that came from Brazil an insect called "colchanero" (a mosquito that attacks the leaves of the orange), reduced drastically the production, plus the competition of the Continent and Spain, ruined the business of the orange of the island. Thus, the island began to enter a period of decadence.

As a consequence, the first people began to emigrate to America, where important Azorean communities formed.

In the nineteenth century, to replace orange, other crops were introduced, such as: Pineapple, Passionfruit, Tobacco, Beetroot and Sweet Potato (for distillation of alcohol).


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