Area: Surface area 2 346 km²
Population: Population 246,746 at a density of 106 inhabitants per square kilometer (270/sq mi).
Language: Portuguese and the dialect is very special to other parts of Portugal. Portuguese from the main land jokes and said, that the people from the Azores " speaks Russian." Few Azorean speaks English or French.
The Azorean regional legislative assembly, since it was first instituted, has maintained its seat in the city of Horta.
Leader: Presidents of the Government of the Azores are heads of government for the autonomous local authority of the Azores, since the Carnation Revolution that installed the democratic Third Portuguese Republic. Today Mr Vasco Cordeiro is the president of the Azorean government.
Political regime: Officially the Autonomous Region of the Azores (Região Autónoma dos Açores) is one of the two autonomous regions of Portugal.
An autonomous region of Portugal is defined as having its own government and political and administrative statutes
Religion: Given the strong Roman Catholic faith of the Portuguese people, it is hardly surprising that most of the festivities in the Azores are associated with religious holidays or Saint’s Days. A few of the festivities are unique to one of the Azorean Islands, but most are celebrated throughout the Islands with only minor differences in techniques and forms.
The Portuguese arrived in 1427 with the discovery of the islands of Santa Maria and São Miguel. The original settler brought in sailing ships from southern continental Portugal to populate the islands beginning with Santa Maria in 1439. By 1444, 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. Due to its strategic geographic position, the archipelago was to become one of the axis of navigation between Europe, the Orient and America during the course of the 16th and 17th centuries. This period saw many major naval battles take place off the Azores as a result of pirate attacks. The French influence came into the island along with the troops to fight them off. Subsequent centuries saw the development of the islands, the introduction of new agriculture and the development of cattle breeding and fishing. A third major industry, in addition to the agricultural and military provisioning aspects of Azores culture, was added with the blossoming of whale hunting (today prohibited). 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. Having constituted an integral part of Portugal from the very outset, today the Azores is an autonomous region endowed with its own parliament and government.
Azores islands are composed of nine volcanic islands situated in the North Atlantic Ocean about 1,360 km (850 mi) west of continental Portugal.
You will find a numerous of varieties of flower on the Azores. More that 55 very rear you will find only on this place on the earth. This makes the Azores to a very exiting Botanic Garden with Cedar, Heather, Wild Grapes, Wild Ginger, Mahogany, Japanese Pine, Hortencias, Azalea, Camellia. The most common is Hortencias. It grows wild all over the islands.
Birds are the most attractive animal in the local fauna, in which many species are only to be seen here on the Azores. Several species of the eagle-family and seabirds. The ocean around Azores is an aquarium with hundreds of different fish and shellfish and the oceans big mammals.
Terceira contains the historical capital of the Azores—the oldest city in the Islands—where the historic core is classified as a World Heritage Site. 50,000 inhabitants call Terceira home, mostly in the western part. The north end of the island is a volcano.Graciosa is a very small island mostly important for its cereal, wine, fruit and cattle crops. The nickname is White Island, and the name means ‘enchanting’. The unique Sulphur Cavern is unlike anything else in the world.
São Jorge is long and narrow and is also volcanic in origin. Its population is about 10,000 people in two major districts. The typical crops are fruits, cereals and cattle.
Pico Island contains the tallest mountain in the Azores, and in all of Portugal. Ponta do Pico is volcanic. The last major eruption was in 1963. Pico has a significant tourism presence and a remarkable wine (Vinho do Pico). The island was known for its whaling industry until 1980.
Faial Island is The Blue Island, named for the abundant growth of hydrangeas which bloom in early summer. This area of the Azores is mainly agricultural land.
The climate of the Azores is a tepid, oceanic, subtropical climate, with mild annual oscillations making a whenever stay delightful. Azores islands are lying in the same general climatic zone as Lisbon. Moderate rainfall with little season variation, daily maximum temperatures usually ranging between 15 and 25 °C make it particularly attractive.
Azoreans have developed their own distinct regional identity and cultural traits, from a combination of continental Portuguese customs brought by various waves of immigration and local political and environmental factors.
Architecture 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.
There is a large variety of local cheeses, mostly made from cow's milk. Pineapple 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.
Holy Ghost Festival
This festival celebrates the third person of the Godhead and is a day for some lucky poor person to be named Empress or Emperor for a day. The royalty is crowned and escorted through the streets to the local church where a Mass is said. The celebrants then move to the local fellowship hall where a special meal of ‘Holy Ghost Soup’ and sweet bread known as Pao Doce is served. The feast is followed by dancing and general merriment. These festivities are generally held seven weeks following Easter.
The largest religious festival in the Azores is the “Festa do Senhor Santo Cristo dos Milagres”, (meaning the Festival of the Christ of Miracles). This festival takes place on the 5th Sunday after Easter, in the city of Ponta Delgada. A statue of the Christ is paraded through the city, and then returned to the convent at Esperança. In addition to the religious aspects of the festivities, there are street booths, a fair, and general merrymaking.
The Maré do Agosto Festival on Santa Maria, is one of the most famous festivities in the Azores. Many cultural activities, among which are concerts, take place on the small Praia Formosa. This festa is normally visited by well-known names from the national and international music world, attracting thousands of youngsters that during the days of August 23rd and August 26th, vibrate with joy and vivacity.
The largest festival in Santa Maria, with traditional and religious characteristics, takes place at Vila do Porto on August 15th in honor of it's patron saint, Our Lady of Assention.
The festivals of Saint John is better known by the people of Terceiras as Sanjoaninas.This group of festival days occurs between June 21 and June 30 and is meant to honor the patron saint of the island of Terceira, Saint John. The festivities are based in the city of Angra do Heroisimo. Each day, triumphant marches, decorated cars, and parades rich in folklore and ethnic emphasis portray the joy and enthusiasm for living that is held by the people of the Azores.
The Danças de Carnival are groups of people who perform in comedy and dance routines at the thirty theatres on the island. Almost the entire population of the island fills the seating.
The Cultural Week of Velas is the most popular event on the island of Sao Jorge. This celebration takes place during the first week of July annually. Conferences and speeches from people who are well known in São Jorge and in the Azores in general go on during the entire week. There are concerts both by local artists and artists from the mainland. There is a bullfight festival and the Horta – Velas – Horta Regata which attracts dozens of boats.
In addition to these and other festivities which may be specific to one or more various islands, there are the usual religious and political holidays such as New Years Day, Easter, Christmas Day, National Day of Portugal, and Autonomy Day.
On Pico the festivals of São Roque do Pico take place in the last week of the month of June with musical concerts, cultural activities and exhibitions. These festivities attract thousands from Portugal and other parts of the world, during the last week of June. There are many musical concerts, exhibitions and other cultural activities.
The week of the Sea is held each year on Faial during August. Many sea-related festivities take place, and thousands of visitors from the Portuguese mainland arrive to take part in the musical and cultural activities. During Sea Week musicians from other islands and from mainland Portugal attend to participate in cultural events, pageants and other celebratory performances of the ethnic background and history of the people.
With a duration of two days with the start on the first Sunday in August, we have the Santa Cruz festival on Flores. During this festival there are many arches with flowers, decorating the streets and creating a marvellous atmosphere of colour and happiness. With the presence of crowns from the 27 Holy Ghost shrines in the island, it is considered the largest festival in the Azores in honor of the Holy Ghost.
The Folares Festival on Easter and the processions of Our Lord of the Paces, on Good Friday, are done with great enthusiasm by all parishes. It is joined with the Sanjoaninas Festival, in Santa Cruz, that attracts many outsiders and immigrants from other islands, but also form other parts of the world. The Lady of Flores Festival, which takes place in the Matos Chapel, is the most participated of all the island. Finally we have the Emigrant Festival in Lajes das Flores, which takes place on the second weekend of June.