In the legendary plan, there are those who intend to associate the Azores with Atlantis, the mythical insular kingdom quoted by the philosopher Plato. Historically there are references to nine islands in approximate locations of the Azoreans in the Atlantic Ocean, in books and cartographic maps since the middle of the fourteenth century. But it is with the Portuguese maritime epoppe, led by Infante D. Henrique, that the Azores enter definitively on the map of Europe. It is unknown whether it was the first navigator to reach the archipelago – Diogo de Silves in 1427 or Gonçalo Velho Cabral in 1431. The origin of the name Azores is also the point of several theories and controversy.
Since then, settlement has spread throughout the fifteenth century (eastern and central Islands) and sixteenth century (western Islands). Jews, Moors, Flemings, Genoese, English, French and African slaves join the people of Continental Portugal to face the hard obstacles of the task.
The epic endeavor forges a people that, for centuries, resists to volcanic eruptions and earthquakes, isolation, invasions of pirates, political wars, diseases infestantes. Resistance to Spanish rule in the crisis of dynastic succession of 1580 and support for the liberal cause in the civil war (1828-1834) are revealing of the courage of the Azoreans. Already in the twentieth century, this bravery survives in the whaling epic, when the men throw themselves in small wooden boats for the confrontation in the immense blue sea with the sperm whales.
The nine islands of the Archipelago of the Azores are all of volcanic origin and lie in the middle of the North Atlantic, scattered along a 600 km stretch from Santa Maria Island to Corvo Island. Between 37° and 40° latitude north and 25° and 31° west longitude. There are 246 772 inhabits (data for 2011) in this territories of 2 325 km2, is 1 600 km away from the Europe and 2454 km from the North American.
The islands of the archipelago were divided in three geographic groups: the Eastern Group, composed of Santa Maria and São Miguel, the Central Group integrates the islands Terceira, Graciosa, São Jorge, Pico and Faial, and the Western Group constituted by the islands Corvo and Flores. The Azores, together with the archipelagos of Madeira, the Canaries and Cape Verde, define the biogeographic region of the Macaronesia, a designation that means “lucky Islands”, for those who inhabits and visits it.
The Azores are since 1976 an autonomous region included in the Portuguese Republic. The Region has its own government and operates with a extensive legislative autonomy, based on the Political-Administrative Statute of the Autonomous Region of the Azores. The governing bodies are the Legislative Assembly, the Parliament composed of 57 deputies elected by universal and direct suffrage every four years. The Regional Government consists of a Government President, a Vice President, and seven Regional Secretaries.
The Azorean economy is mainly based on agriculture (including milk production), and on fishing. Tourism began to grow in the mid-1990s and has become an important economic sector, and according to the latest statistics, this sector grows at rates above 20% (SREA, 2017). The numerous recreational and leisure activities are the main tourist attractions, where recreational boating activities and maritime-tourist activities (e.g. cruises, diving, whale watching, swimming with dolphins, sport fishing) and nature tourism (e.g. hiking) (Bentz et al., 2016a, Bentz et al., 2016b).
Information available: http://www.azores.gov.pt/Gra/srrn-ambiente/menus/secundario/PRAC/
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