Settlement

 

At some point, following the discovery of Santa Maria, sheep were let loose on the island before settlement actually took place. This was done to supply the future settlers with food because there were no animals on the island. Settlement didn't take place right away, however. There was not much interest among the Portuguese people in an isolated island world hundreds of miles from civilization. But patiently Cabral gathered resources and settlers for the next three years (1433-1436) and sailed to establish colonies on Santa Maria first and then later on Sao Miguel.

 

Brush had to be cleared and rocks removed for the planting of crops; therefore, enslaved Africans were left alone on the island of São Miguel for a while. Grain, grape vines, sugar cane, and other plants suitable for settler use and of commercial value, were planted. Domesticated animals were brought, such as, cattle, sheep, goats, and hogs. Houses were built and villages established.

 

The first settlers were a mixed group of people from the Portuguese provinces of Algarve and Minho. Also, Madeirans, Moorish prisoners, enslaved Africans, French, Italians, Scots, English, Germans and Flemings were among the early settlers. There were petty criminals, Spanish clergy, Jews, soldiers, government officials, European merchants and sugar cane growers.

 

São Miguel was first settled in 1444, the settlers—from mainly the Estremadura, Alto Alentejo and Algarve areas of Portugal, under the command of Gonçalo Velho Cabral—landing at the site of modern-day Povoação. In 1522 Vila Franca do Campo, then the capital of the island, was devastated by a landslide caused by an earthquake which killed about 5,000 people, and the capital was moved to Ponta Delgada. The town of Vila Franca was rebuilt on the original site and today is a thriving fishing and yachting port. Ponta Delgada received its city status in 1546. Since the first settlement the pioneers applied themselves to the area of agriculture. By the 15th century Graciosa exported wheat, barley, wine and brandy. The goods were sent to Terceira largely due to the proximity of the island.

 

During the 18th and 19th century, Graciosa was host to many prominent figures including Chateaubriand, the French writer who passed through upon his escape to America during the French revolution; Almeida Garrett, the great Portuguese poet who visited an uncle and wrote some poetry while there; and Prince Albert of Monaco the famous 19th century oceanographer who led several expeditions in the waters of the Azores. He arrived on his yacht “Hirondelle”, and visited the “furna da caldeira”, the famous hot springs grotto.

 

The first reference to the island of São Jorge was made in 1439 but the actual date of discovery is unknown. In 1443 the island was already inhabited but active settlement only began with the arrival of the noble Flemish native Wilhelm Van der Haegen. Arriving at Topo, where he lived and died, he became known as Guilherme da Silveira to the islanders. João Vaz Corte Real received the captaincy of the island in 1483. Velas became a town before the end of the 15th century. By 1490, there were 2,000 Flemings living in the islands of Terceira, Pico, Faial, São Jorge, and Flores. Because there was such a large Flemish settlement, the Azores became known as the Flemish Islands or the Isles of Flanders. Henry was responsible for this settlement. His sister, Isabel, was married to Duke Philip of Burgundy of which Flanders was a part. There was a revolt against Philip's rule and disease and hunger became rampant. Isabel appealed to Henry to allow some of the unruly Flemings to settle in the Azores. He granted this and supplied them with the necessary transportation and goods.

 

The settlement of the then-unoccupied islands started in 1439 with people mainly from the continental provinces of Algarve and Alentejo. In 1583, Philip II of Spain, as king of Portugal, sent his fleet to clear the Azores of a combined multinational force of adventurers, mercenaries, volunteers and soldiers who were attempting to establish the Azores as a staging post for a rival pretender to the Portuguese throne. Following the success of his fleet at the Battle of Ponta Delgada, the captured enemy was hanged from yardarms, as they were considered pirates by Philip II. (This was added to the "Black Legend" by his enemies.) An English expedition against the Azores in 1597, the Islands Voyage, also failed. Spain held the Azores in what is called The Babylonian captivity of 1580-1642.

 

The Azores were the second-to-last part of the Portuguese empire to resist Philip's reign over Portugal (Macau being the last) and were returned to Portuguese control with the end of the Iberian Union in 1640, not by the professional military, who were used in the Restoration War in the mainland, but by local people attacking a fortified Castilian garrison (guarnición).