The culture of the Azores is
unique in many ways. Its strongest influence came from the original
settlers—colonists brought in sailing ships from southern continental
Portugal to populate the islands beginning with Santa Maria in 1439.
By 1493, the major city Vila do Porto received a visit from Christopher
Columbus on his way back from his first transatlantic voyage where
he was mistaken for a pirate, arrested and interrogated.
settlements on a second island, São Miguel were populated by colonists
from continental Portugal, as well as from France. These colonists
were farmers and settled in the fertile agricultural areas of the
islands. Export of wheat, oranges, sugar cane and dyes provided
the main economic force in the islands.
Throughout the next two centuries,
agricultural pursuits continued. The French influence came into
the island along with the troops to fight off the pirate attacks.
A third major industry, in addition to the agricultural and military
provisioning aspects of Azores culture, was added with the blossoming
of whale hunting. The seaports were busy places, with the unique
components of sailors and whalers being added to the mix of agricultural
and military culture. A fourth major industry came with the importation
of wine grapes into the islands.
So, the culture today is
an interesting mix of agricultural, whaling, military and wine
growing peoples, mostly of Roman Catholic faith. The festivals
are mainly religious, with parades of saints’ images and of the
Christ. Museums display exhibits based on the seafaring days
and the whale hunting days.
more about Azorean festivals
The best known whaling museum
which commemorates the artistic talent of the Basque whaling crews
who carved intricately beautiful pieces of scrimshaw from the
teeth and bones of sperm whales and the baleen of other whales
as well as from walrus tusks is “Peter” Scrimshaw Museum located
on the island of Faial. Two other world class whaling museums
are found on the island of Pico.
Given the isolation of the
islands, their long history and the significant hardships involved
in battling earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and pirate invasions,
it is not surprising that the people of the Azores have a unique
culture. While the people of the Azores enjoy their culture and
lifestyle, they share it in smaller doses than the more defiantly
tourist attraction destinations. The hotels and lodging for tourists
for example might be built into a centuries old monastery or palace,
rather than a high-rise beach condominium. The culture reflects
the lifestyle where it was necessary to be independent, yet to
learn to band together just in order to survive.
is consistent with the raw materials on the island, mostly black
lava rock and limestone, whitewashed and decorated with glazed
tiles from both Flemish and Moorish influence.
Music and dance
of the Azoreans culture is enjoyed by both men and women. Many
of the men play the most common musical instrument, the viola,
singing verses created on the spot. These verses sometimes are
treated as a form of musical contest. The lyrical character of
the people is reflected in the works of several well-known Azorean
poets. Azorean writers are widely read in Portugal and by way
of translation to the English speaking world as well.
See our restaurant
guide to spot
There is a large variety of local
cheeses, mostly made from cow's milk. Some cheeses are
famous throughout Europe. Worthy of a special mention
is the “Queijo da Ilha” from
São Jorge. Try them on any of the many local breads or
greenhouses are unique to the Azores. The island of
São Miguel has more than 6,000 greenhouses. The local
pineapple is different from any other. It has a small
crown, an intense flavour and is grown year-round.