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The Azores, is one of the two autonomous regions of Portugal (along with Madeira (Região Autónoma da Madeira). It is an archipelago composed of nine volcanic islands in the North Atlantic Ocean about 1,360 km (850 mi) west of continental Portugal, about 1,643 km (1,021 mi) west of Lisbon, in continental Portugal, about 1,507 km (936 mi) northwest of Morocco, and about 1,925 km (1,196 mi) southeast of Newfoundland, Canada. Its main industries are agriculture, dairy farming, livestock, fishing, and tourism, which is becoming the major service activity in the region. In addition, the government of the Azores employs a large percentage of the population directly or indirectly in the service and tertiary sectors. The main capital of the Azores is Ponta Delgada. There are nine major Azorean islands and an islet cluster, in three main groups. These are Flores and Corvo, to the west; Graciosa, Terceira, São Jorge, Pico, and Faial in the centre; and São Miguel, Santa Maria, and the Formigas Reef to the east. They extend for more than 600 km (370 mi) and lie in a northwest-southeast direction. All the islands have volcanic origins, although some, such as Santa Maria, have had no recorded activity since the islands were settled. Mount Pico, on the island of Pico, is the highest point in Portugal, at 2,351 m (7,713 ft). If measured from their base at the bottom of the ocean to their peaks, which thrust high above the surface of the Atlantic, the Azores are actually some of the tallest mountains on the planet. The climate of the Azores is very mild for such a northerly location, being influenced by its distance from the continents and by the passing Gulf Stream. Due to the marine influence, temperatures remain mild year-round. Daytime temperatures normally fluctuate between 16 °C (61 °F) and 25 °C (77 °F) depending on season. Temperatures above 30 °C (86 °F) or below 3 °C (37 °F) are unknown in the major population centres. It is also generally wet and cloudy. The culture, dialect, cuisine, and traditions of the Azorean islands vary considerably, because these once-uninhabited and remote islands were settled sporadically over a span of two centuries.

 

Map of Azores Islands

 

Capital City: Ponta Delgada


Currency

Climate

The northern coast of the island of São Miguel around Capelas and São Vicente (between Ribeira Grande and Ponta Delgada). The archipelago is spread out in the area between 37° N and the parallels of latitude that pass through the Lisbon area (38° 43′ / 38° 55′ N), giving it a generally tepid, oceanic, subtropical climate, with mild annual oscillations. Daily maximum temperatures usually range between 15 and 25 °C (59 and 77 °F). The average annual rainfall increases from east to west, ranging from 700 to 1600 millimetres (27.6–63 in) in the east, and reaching 6,300 millimetres (250 in) on Mount Pico, the highest Portuguese mountain at 2,351 m (7,713 ft). The Azores High, an area of high atmospheric pressure, is named after the islands. Under the Köppen climate classification, there are different local climates, one of it is “dry-summer subtropical”, often referred to as “Mediterranean”. Rivas Martinez data, presents several different bioclimatic zones for the Azores[38] Seasonal lag is extreme in the low-sun half of the year, with December being milder than April in terms of mean temperatures. Azores have the warmest winters in Europe (still within the European continental plate). During summer the lag is somewhat lower, with August being the warmest month. There has never been a frost, snowfall or freeze ever recorded at sea level on any of the islands. The coldest weather in winter usually comes from northwesterly air masses originating from Labrador in Canada. But because those air masses are modified as they pass across the warmer Atlantic Ocean, temperatures by day even then exceed 10 °C (50 °F).

 

Culture

The Festival of the Lord Holy Christ of the Miracles, in Ponta Delgada, São Miguel Island. 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. Religious festivals, patron saints and traditional holidays mark the Azorean calendar. The most important religious events are tied with the festivals associated with the cult of the Holy Spirit, commonly referred to as the festivals of the Holy Spirit (or Espírito Santo), rooted in millenarian dogma and held on all islands from May to September. These festivals are very important to the Azorean people, who are primarily Roman Catholic, and combine religious rituals with processions celebrating the benevolence and egalitarianism of neighbours. These events are centred around treatros or impérios, small buildings that host the meals, adoration and charity of the participants, and used to store the artefacts associated with the events. On Terceira, for example, these impérios have grown into ornate buildings painted and cared for by the local brotherhoods in their respective parishes. The events focus on the members of local parishes, not tourists, but all are welcome, as sharing is one of the main principles of the festivals. Some limited events focus on tourists, including a public event that the city government of Ponta Delgada on the island of São Miguel holds, which attracts visitors and locals.

Emigration

Since the 17th century, many Azoreans have emigrated, mainly to Brazil, Uruguay, the United States and Canada. Rhode Island and Southeastern Massachusetts, especially the cities of New Bedford, Bristol, Barrington, Pawtucket, Central Falls, West Warwick, Hudson, Marlborough, East Providence, River Point, Somerset, Taunton and Fall River have been, and remain, the primary destination for Azorean emigrants. Emigrants from the East coast returned to their homeland and taught the American dory fishing technique to the Portuguese who began catching cod again on the Grand Bank in the 19th century. Northern California was the final destination for many of the Massachusetts immigrants who then moved on to the San Joaquin Valley, especially the city of Turlock, just south of Modesto. In the late 1800s many Azoreans emigrated to the Hawaiian islands. The tuna fishing industry drew a significant number of Azoreans to the Point Loma neighborhood of San Diego, in Southern California. From 1921 to 1977, about 250,000 Azoreans immigrated to Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Many Azoreans also moved to Bermuda and Hawaii (Portuguese immigration to Hawaii). Florianópolis and Porto Alegre in the Southern Region of Brazil were founded by Azoreans, who accounted for over half of Rio Grande do Sul and Santa Catarina’s population in the late 18th century. As late as 1960 mass immigration currents were registered to Brazil, and many were from the Azores.

 

Geography

The archipelago of the Azores is located in the middle of the northern hemisphere of the Atlantic Ocean and extends along a west-northwest to east-southeast orientation (between 36.5°–40° North latitudes and 24.5°–31.5° West longitudes) in an area approximately 600 kilometres (373 miles) wide. The islands of the Azores emerged from what is called the Azores Platform, a 5.8 million km2 region that is morphologically accented by a depth of 2,000 metres (6,600 feet). From a geostructural perspective the Azores is located above an active triple junction between three of the world’s large tectonic plates (the North American Plate, the Eurasian Plate and the African Plate), a condition that has translated into the existence of many faults and fractures in this region of the Atlantic. The westernmost islands of the archipelago (Corvo and Flores) are located in the North American Plate, while the remaining islands are located within the boundary that divides the Eurasian and African Plates. The principal tectonic structures that exist in the region of the Azores are the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, the Terceira Rift, the Azores Fracture Zone and the Glória Fault. The Mid-Atlantic Ridge is the main frontier between the American Plate and the African-Eurasian Plates that crosses the Azores Platform between the islands of Flores and Faial from north to south then to the southwest; it is an extensive form crossed by many transform faults running perpendicular to its north-south orientation, that is seismically active and susceptible to volcanism. The Terceira Rift is a system of fractures that extends from the Mid-Atlantic Ridge to the Glória Fault that represents the main frontier between the Eurasian and African Plates. It is defined by a line of submarine volcanoes and island mounts that extend northwest to southeast for about 550 kilometres (342 miles), from the area west of Graciosa until the islets of the Formigas, that includes the islands of Graciosa, Terceira and São Miguel. Its northwest limit connects to the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, while the southeast section intersects the Gloria Fault southeast of the island of Santa Maria. The Azores Fracture Zone extends from the Glória Fault and encompasses a relatively inactive area to the south of the islands of the Central and Eastern groups north to the Terceira Rift, along a 45° angle. The Glória Fault, for its part, extends 800 kilometres (497 miles) along a linear line from the Azores to the Azores–Gibraltar Transform Fault.

 

Politics

Map of the European Union in the world with overseas countries and territories and outermost regions. Since 1976, the Azores is an autonomous region integrated within the framework of the Portuguese Republic. It has its own government and autonomous legislature within its own political-administrative statute and organic law. Its governmental organs include: the Legislative Assembly, a unicameral parliament composed of 52 elected deputies, elected by universal suffrage for a four-year term; the Regional Government and Presidency, with parliamentary legitimacy, composed of a President, a Vice-President and seven Regional Secretaries responsible for day-to-day operations. It is represented in the Council of Ministers by a representative appointed by the President of the Republic, which was created during the revision of the constitution of 2004 (which, among other things, removed the older Portuguese representative that was appointed by the President of the Republic, beholden to the Council of State and coincident with the President). Since becoming a Portuguese autonomous region, the executive branch of the regional authority has been located in Ponta Delgada, the legislative branch in Horta, and the judicial branch in Angra do Heroísmo. The islands of the archipelago do not have independent status in law, except in electoral law and are governed by 19 municipalities that subdivide the islands. In addition, until the administrative reform of the 19th century, the following civil parishes had municipal standing: Topo (today integrated into the municipality of Calheta, São Jorge); Praia (today integrated into municipality of Santa Cruz da Graciosa); São Sebastião (today an integral part of the municipality of Angra do Heroísmo); Capelas (now part of the municipality of Ponta Delgada); and Água de Pau (now a civil parish in the municipality of Lagoa). These civil parishes still retain their titles of “vila” in name only; the populations of Capelas and neighbouring parish still protest the change and promote the restoration of their status. The municipalities are further subdivided into several civil parishes, with the exception of Corvo (the only municipality by law without a civil parish, owing to its size).

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