Portugal’s Age of Discovery: The Azores Islands

Map Of The Discoveries Routes In Lisbon, PortugalThe discovery of the nine islands, which became known as the Acores or Azores, was not accomplished all at once with many legends behind their existence before the Portuguese colonized them in the 1430s. The first island to be discovered was the small island of Santa Maria on the Azores’ southernmost tip in 1432. ribeira grande county sao miguel azores lookoutIt is said that here, on the island of Santa Maria, the crew landed after a horrible storm that had been beating and battering their boat all day and into the evening. Later that evening, that land was seen, and the crew yelled to the captain of the ship Goncalo Velho Cabral “Land in sight, Land insight.” It is here they found refuge and docked, taking shelter in a small bay. In thanks for their survival, the crew all took mass and named the island after the patron saint and mother of Jesus, Mary, calling it Santa Maria.Azores_old_map In 1435 the first families began to arrive in Santa Maria. They began populating the island thanks to hundreds of herd animals’ release years earlier in 1432, which allowed the island to flourish. This was a process that was subsequently followed in all discovered islands in the Azores. In 1439, Sao Miguel, which is directly north of Santa Maria, became the 2nd island in the region to begin colonization, with the island’s heavily forested interior’s clearing and burning.azores rain forest trees sao miguel In 1444, the first families were sent to live on the island of Sao Miguel, arriving in Villa Franca in the county of Povoacao. The islands’ control and governorship were given to Goncalo Velho Cabral as the “Commander of the Azores.” Since Goncalo had no descendants and was a very religious monk at the time devoting his life to the church and state, he passed on his wealth and the governing control to his nephew Dr.João Soares De Albergaria. In the subsequent years, the remaining seven islands all to the north of Santa Maria and Sao Miguel were discovered.  Azores discovery history islandsAs Portugal was soon becoming a much larger, more powerful nation with all its wealth and discoveries, the King needed to associate his control over his new territories. He appointed Donatary Captains on the islands, 13 captaincies in total for 13 families. This governorship system on the Atlantic islands remained until the 18th century when the Marques de Pombal abolished the Donatary Captain system. The Marquee was obsessed with the influence and power that individual noble families were accumulating in the Azores. The system of government which then had a governor-general for the 3 districts of the Azores was incorporated and had lasted until the revolution in the Azores in 1976 when they were granted full autonomy from Portugal. azores portugal law

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