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History of the Azores

The discovery of Azores is unknown, but historic accounts appoint the discovery in 1427 by Diogo de Silves. A few years later in 1432, Gonçalo Velho Cabral rediscovered the Azores and discovered Sao Miguel. In between 1439 to 1444 came the first population to Sao Miguel that disembarked in Povoação. They came mainly from "Estremadura", "Algarve", "Alto Alentejo" and, then later from foreign countries, specially from France (explanation why Bretanha, a village on the North-West coast, is named that way).

Being a fertile island, with good climate and situated in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean helped to produce wheat to export to North Africa; sugar-cane and dyes to Flanders, and helped to strengthen the economic expansion of the island.

The first capital of Sao Miguel was "Vila Franca do Campo". Unfortunately, the development and prosperity didn't last too long, because, in 1522, a violent earthquake destroyed completely the capital, and approximately 5000 people died. After that, "Ponta Delgada", located 25 kilometres west of "Vila Franca do Campo" and already the centre of the municipality, became a city and the capital of the island in 1546.

At the end of the sixteenth century and beginnings of the seventeenth century, Azores provided the centre stage for French, English and Algerian pirate attacks. From 1582 to 1640, Portugal and the islands were occupied by the Spanish troops that used the Azores as a stop point to recharge or refill products and water to go to America. Finally, in 1640, national independence was restored and the Azores returned to the Portuguese monarchy, and with that also came back the development of the archipelago.

In the middle of the sixteenth century, oranges were firstly being produced in the island. Then, the production started growing and in the eighteenth century the first oranges produced in the island were exported to England. Later, the orange exportation was enlarged to America and to other European countries.

The first business people to export oranges were foreigners, but then the local producers, seeing it a very lucrative business, produced and exported oranges as well, and with this they became very rich, constructing palaces and mansions around the island. In 1842, brought by accident in the boats from Brazil, the "colcha nero" mosquito pest reduced dramatically the production, and competition from the Mainland and Spain. That destroyed and ruined the orange business on the island.

By consequence, the first people started emigrating to America (Brazil, U.S.A., Canada, etc) where they established important Azorean communities.

In the nineteenth century, in order to replace the orange production, other cultures were introduced, such as: pineapple, passion fruit, tobacco, sugar beat and sweet potato (to distil alcohol).

The construction of an artificial harbour in "Ponta Delgada", the development of fishing, and dairy production were the main factors of the development of the island in the twentieth century. Nowadays, S. Miguel is the centre of politics and administration in the Region. It has a diverse economy in rich progress, in where tourism becomes the most dynamic sector.

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