Os Açores em 1919
THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE
Volume XXXV –June 1919, p. 514 to 545
Picturesque and Historic Half-way House of American
BY ARMINIUS T. HAEBERLE
FORMERLY AMERICAN CONSUL AT ST. MICHAELS
The picturesque Azorean archipelago, situated between the 37th and 40th degrees of latitude, lies in the path of steamers plying between New York and the Mediterranean, as well as in the course of those sailing between Panama and the ports of northern Europe.
The central cluster of this group, formed by the islands of Fayal, Pico, São Jorge, Graciosa, and Terceira, lies more than 840 miles directly west of Lisbon. About 150 miles northwest of this centrally located group are Flores and Corvo, and approximately the same distance to the southeast Santa Maria, and the largest and most important of all, St. Michaels (São Miguel).
The Azores are not, as is generally supposed, a colonial possession, but form an integral part of Portugal. For political and administrative purposes, they are divided into three districts, each sending its representatives to congress at Lisbon.
Owing to their location, the Azores have played a very important part in the history of sea navigation," just as they have within the last few weeks played a vital role in aerial navigation as the half way house in the epochal transatlantic flight by American naval officers in the American seaplane NC-4, and as ports of safety for the equally daring aviators who piloted the less successful NC-1 and NC-3.The keen interest that the Azoreans manifested in the first transatlantic flight had a deeper cause than mere curiosity. They remember that the first sailing vessel that crossed the Atlantic, over four hundred years ago, landed at one of their islands. They were the first to receive from Columbus the news of the discovery of a new world, and they hailed with delight the opportunity to welcome to their shores the first man to win the title of "Columbus of the Air."
HISTORY OF THE AZORES
The discovery of Madeira, the Canaries, and the Azores Islands was a direct result of the persistent efforts of Prince Henry the Navigator, of Portugal, to double Cape Bojador and to discover a new route to India. It was during the glorious period of Portuguese explorations that Gonçalo Velho Cabral discovered Santa Maria, the most southerly of the Azores, in 1432. In the course of succeeding years, covering a period of more than a decade, the other islands were discovered.
From that time on down to modern days the Azores, or Western Islands, became the scene of many an historic event. The first of these was the visit of Columbus on his return from America, in 1493.
Tossed about by a severe tempest, the great Italian navigator and his men made a vow that if their lives were spared they would worship, stripped of a part of their clothes, in the first church they reached. A few days later they sighted the Island of Santa Maria, where Columbus anchored and sent a part of his men to a small chapel near the shore to attend mass, in fulfillment of his vow. Today this chapel is one of the most interesting historical places on the island.
After the discovery of Brazil, the Azores were visited by ships plying between Portugal and South America. Vessels returning from the Western Hemisphere and from India, loaded with gold, silver, and spices, sought their way among the islands that became, in accordance with the turbulent spirit of the sixteenth century, the scene of many gallant fights for the ownership of these precious cargoes.
Those interested in the naval exploits of Drake, Sir Richard Granville, Frobisher, and other bold spirits of the sixteenth century, will find abundant romance in the early history of the Azores. Here they fought with vessels of the Spanish Armada of Philip II, and it was here that the U. S. privateer, General Armstrong, was sunk in the harbor of Fayal during the war of 1812.
Today the Azores are important as a coaling station for vessels engaged in peaceful commercial pursuits.
ORIGIN OF THE AZORES ISLANDS
Although much has been written about the origin of the islands, this is still a matter of conjecture. Interesting arguments have been advanced to prove they are remnants of the lost continent, Atlantis. One theory is that the islands are the topmost peaks of a subterranean range of mountains extending north and south, and another that they were at one time a part of the continent. English geographers have taken a deep interest in the study of the islands, and it is not improbable that botanical investigations will prove that the latter theory is correct.
But whatever may have been the origin of the islands, they are certainly the result of tremendous volcanic eruptions that have continued to change their physical aspect ever since their discovery in the fifteenth century. On every hand are evidences of former upheavals, from the gray lava stones that are used in the construction of houses and the building of roads to the underlying streaks of ashes that are visible in places where the surface soil has washed away, and the many cup-shaped craters and beautiful lakes on the tops of the mountains.
According to a Moorish account, written before the thirteenth century, an Arabian caravel started from Portugal to discover new lands. Sailing westward for eleven days, the sailors suddenly found themselves in a sea of "fetid gases" and confronted by dangerous rocks and shoals, which so frightened them that they turned southward. It is quite possible that these daring Arabian sailors reached the Azorean waters during a volcanic disturbance, which prevented their further discoveries.
It is most interesting to compare with this account a strange phenomenon that is described in the early archives of the Azores Islands in connection with the discovery of St. Michaels. Upon leaving the shore of this newly found land, the discoverer made a sketch of the island and noted especially the presence of two peaks that towered high above the others, one on the eastern and the other on the western extremity.
Soon afterward, he returned from Portugal to establish a settlement, but when he approached the island he was surprised to find that during his absence the western peak had entirely disappeared. Trees and large quantities of pumice-stones were seen floating in the sea. Today the town of Sete Cidades, built in the hollow of a crater, marks the site of the old peak.
The violent earthquakes that disturbed the Azores during the succeeding centuries down to the eighteenth are too numerous to mention. But the annals of the islands vie with those of Italy in graphic accounts of the ever-interesting and terrible volcanic phenomena. Cities were buried, mountains disappeared and sent their ashes to unbelievable distances; islands hundreds of feet high suddenly appeared and as suddenly disappeared, and flames of fire illuminated whole islands and their intervening waters.
Pico, 7,613 feet high, on the island bearing the same name, is interesting as the central and the highest volcano of the islands. It is considered by some as the principal communication of this region with the interior of the earth. Light clouds of vapor occasionally rise from its summit and the ashes at the top are still warm.
St. Michaels has perhaps suffered more from volcanic disturbances than any of the other islands; but Santa Maria, only 53 miles south of St. Michaels, has always been free from eruptions and even heavy earthquakes.
AZOREAN EMIGRATION TO THE UNITED STATES
There is perhaps no country in the world that has such a heavy tide of emigration, in proportion to the number of its inhabitants, as the Western Islands. Some of the emigrants go to Brazil, but by far the majority to the United States. During the year before the world war 6.000 Azoreans emigrated to the United States and it is estimated that there are 35,000 Azoreans in California and over 60,000 in New Bedford, Massachusetts, Providence, Rhode Island, and other parts of New England, making a total of almost 100,000. The population of all the Azores is scarcely 300,000. Many of the emigrants return home, and almost all of the inhabitants of some of the islands have been in the United States.
It is not unusual, even on the small islands, remote from foreign influence and the busy world of the twentieth century, to hear a boy of 17 discuss his contemplated trip to Massachusetts, a gray-haired senhor speak of the bark Sarah that carried him to American shores in 1850, or an aged mother refer to her son in the far-off land of California.
Most of these emigrants sail from Ponta Delgada, the capital of St. Michaels, where they gather from all the islands. Two Portuguese steamers make their monthly rounds to the various Azorean ports, bringing back to St. Michaels old men who have visited relatives and are now returning to America, and young men and young women, boys and girls, about to seek their fortunes in the New World.
Those are busy days in the port of St. Michaels. On first view, the Azorean emigrants, gathered on the wharf, differ little from those of other countries; but an opportunity to study them more closely will reveal many interesting faces and figures. These peasants have lived in a healthful, mid-ocean climate and led their simple lives among the hills and rugged mountains of their native land. Dejection is not pictured on their faces. Many of them are tall and strong. But perhaps the most notable feature to a stranger is the healthy glow of their faces.
Unfortunately, many do not find the fortune they seek in America. Some go to the western part of the United States and continue to lead a healthful life on the ranches in California and Nevada, but others seek employment in the manufacturing centers of the eastern States.
Not accustomed to the cold climate and indoor work, or the result of denying themselves some of the necessaries of life in order to accumulate enough money to return home, it sometimes happens that they contract consumption. While this is by no means the rule, the government of St. Michaels has, in connection with its hospital, a special department for those afflicted with this disease.
ST. MICHAELS "A VISIT TO PARADISE"
"You are going to a paradise," was the information I received from a friend when he heard of my contemplated trip to the Azores. Naturally, my expectations ran high. Unfortunately, when our boat anchored off St. Michaels, February clouds, sending down sudden squalls, were hanging low over the hills. But, even with high expectations and the interference of low clouds, the scene was not disappointing.
A sudden burst of glory is not essential for a terrestrial paradise. St. Michaels does not overwhelm you with the grandeur of a Rocky Mountain scene. It captures you subtly. Little by little impressions pile up in your memory until your fancy lingers in the beautiful gardens, whose walls are covered with wisteria and climbing roses, in the magnificent parks, and among the extensive hedges of hydrangea that bloom along the country roads.
By way of contrast, St. Michaels will fret and frown amid fearful, stormy seas. But you are compensated when, on a sunny day, you stand on the summit of one of the many peaks and behold the tranquil scene below you. Then you will see the island studded with towns and villages, the verdant hills laid out in checkered fields and cultivated to the very tops, picturesque dome-like windmills turning their long wings, and the harbor and surrounding ocean dotted with sails that glisten in the bright sunshine.
PONTA DELGADA, THE MID-OCEAN TERMINAL FOR AVIATORS
Ponta Delgada, the largest city in the Azores, has 17,600 inhabitants. Fortunately, it has preserved some of its old features, the inheritance of past centuries just enough to breathe an atmosphere of quaintness and to make the place so delightfully attractive that the jumble of high, massive chimneys, the tall walls, and the small balconies that overhang the streets become a part of one's life.
Modern buildings there are, such as the imposing hospital, the quarantine station, the Governor's Palace, and many private residences. But it is not these one cares to talk about in a place that can boast interesting relics of the past.
Ponta Delgada still has a number of houses that have been handed down through generations in accordance with the law of the morgados. The morgado was the oldest son, who inherited the estate of his father and upon whom devolved the duty of providing for the other members of his family.
The architecture of these houses is the same as that used in olden times by the morgados of northern Portugal. Here they are built of massive lava rock. The interiors are divided into spacious rooms, provided with many windows and doors that often connect with long rows of balconies. Ornamental designs worked in plaster of Paris decorate the painted walls and ceilings. Large chimneys stand like sentinels on the roofs. These chimneys, having long, narrow openings, are in some cases eight feet wide at the lower part, where they rise from the fireplace in the kitchen.
The date showing when the house was built and a coat of arms made of plaster of Paris are sometimes found above the entrance. Many of the morgado residences are provided with a special chapel for the members of the family. The best example of this class of architecture in St. Michaels is the old palace of Santa Catharina.
Back of the houses are flower gardens surrounded by high walls. These walls, sometimes 15 feet high, are found everywhere on the island, often inclosing the roads for a long distance. Some writers have attributed these walls to the necessity for fortification against foreign invaders in the early days of the island, but in reality they were built to protect the orange groves from the wind. Next to the walls, Faya, or beech trees, were planted as a further shelter. Like the houses, these walls are made of lava stones, skillfully piled on top of each other and the crevices filled with small pieces.
THE ROMANTIC STORY OF THE CHURCH OF HOPE
Many of the gardens have high stone towers that command a view of the sea and surrounding country.
There are several historical churches and convents in Ponta Delgada, of which the Church of the "Colégio" and the Church and Convent of "Esperança" are of greatest interest. The former was built by the Jesuits in 1625. When, in 1760, the Jesuits were expelled from the Azores during the reign of Don José, this church and the adjoining property were sold at public auction. In. this way they came into the possession of one of the principal families of St. Michaels. Although a private church, it is open to public worship. The architecture is that of the Jesuit churches of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The Colegio Church is frequently visited by tourists because of the elaborate wood carving of the interior.
But the church that holds the foremost place in the hearts of pious Azoreans is "Esperança," or Church of Hope. It is the abode of their most devoutly worshiped image, "Santo Christo," the origin of which dates back to the founding of the convent connected with this church. No one can remain long in St. Michaels without becoming acquainted with the truly important part this image plays in the religious life of the people a worship peculiar to the island of St. Michaels.
In the sixteenth century twenty-seven nuns founded a convent in Caloura, a small town in the southern part of the island. Eighteen of these, fearing the ravages of Moorish invaders, entered the more securely protected convent in Villa Franca, the old capital, while the less timid decided to remain at Caloura.
Two noblemen of that town, feeling compassion for the faithful nine who refused to leave, undertook to raise sufficient money to build a convent in Ponta Delgada.
Two of the nuns were sent to Rome to make the necessary arrangements with the Pope. They brought back not only the desired permission to found a new convent, but also the image of Ecce Homo, or Santo Christo, which was placed in the new convent upon its completion, in 1541.
Years ago the Portuguese Government abolished all convents and prohibited women from taking the vow. But the Convent of Esperança was placed in the hands of a religious society and allowed to remain open under the auspices of an abbess. Today about forty women live there, performing their religious duties, but free from the usual vow and strict rule.
Many of the inmates of Esperança earn their living by making confectioneries that have become famous in the island.
TWO FAMOUS FESTIVALS
The procession of Santo Christo takes place on the fifth Sunday after Easter. In the afternoon of the day before, the image is taken out of the convent, where it remains all year. It is carried into the adjoining church, which is kept open all night for the 15,000 people who come from far and near, many of them from other islands, to worship and witness the great procession of the year. The pilgrims walk long distances, and make their beds in the park in front of the church or sleep in the vestibule itself. Nor do the faithful worshipers in the United States forget their beloved image. Generous contributions arrive from America, and, in remembrance of absent friends, the American flag is produced in the form of pyrotechnical displays in the Park of San Francisco.
Santo Christo is often spoken of by the islanders as being "rico," * or rich, which is certainly true; it is impossible to estimate his wealth; but the costly jewelry and precious stones that have been offered at his shrine and with which he is adorned represent a value of thousands of dollars.
* This term is used in a most respectful manner by the Azoreans.
The second of the great religious festivals is the Império do Espírito Santo, or Holy Ghost, which extends over a period of ten or more weeks, from Easter Sunday until Saint Peter's Day. The season is marked by a series of processions, but the principal and most interesting feature is the poor people. On the last Sunday mordomos, or chiefs, whose duty it is to collect money and other gifts, are selected for the ensuing year.
A SEASON" OF CHARITY
Generous quantities of flour, wheat, beans, and cattle are frequently received from those whose fortunes enable them to bestow freely. The money is used to purchase wine and food.
During the Espírito Santo holidays the wheat and flour are converted into bread, the cattle are killed, and everything is distributed among the poor. The residents of certain streets form so-called impérios, or unions, each one electing its mordomo and distributing the collected gifts among its members. The food is placed in carts drawn by oxen, and both carts and animals are decorated with garlands and rosettes of bright flowers.
The festivities of Santo Christo and Espírito Santo are eventful days for the inhabitants of the rural districts, who think little of pleasure during the year. The husband or father leaves his home at daybreak to till the soil, while the female members of the family attend to their domestic duties, carry their corn to the nearest windmill, and bring back the meal for the week.
Mass on Sunday morning and a walk or visit in the afternoon constitute, in many cases, the only change in their simple lives until the approach of the festivities of Santo Christo and Espírito Santo. Then the men take out their violins, guitars, and accordions and lead their families to Ponta Delgada to worship, to see the decorations, and to sing and dance.
The native dances are on the order of our square dances, men and women winding in and out, with slight variations, according to the figures of the different dances. If the father is a musician, he will play his violin as he walks along the country road. It is an interesting sight to see a whole family marching home to the tune of lively native melodies.
One of the churches is situated on a high elevation and affords a perfect view of the city, harbor, and surrounding country. The real name of the church is "Mãe de Deus" Mother of God. When Colonel Roosevelt stopped at this island on his journey to Africa, he visited this spot, since then called Roosevelt Park. A tablet on the church bears the Portuguese inscription, "Passeio Público Theodore Roosevelt."
CARNIVAL TIME IN THE AZORES
It was my good fortune to arrive at St. Michaels in time to witness the carnival festivities. Two Sundays are devoted to amusement during this time. Wax balls, called "limas," are filled with water and used to bombard people who may venture within range. Formerly, these balls were thrown promiscuously, but now certain places are set apart for that purpose. One may walk with safety through the city on carnival days, but if a person ventures near the happy revelers, he does so on his own responsibility.
The most attractive feature of carnival time is the "Battle of Flowers" in the square of San Francisco. Those wishing to participate prepare their coaches for that purpose, covering them with elaborate floral designs. Since the introduction of automobiles, these are also used, the bodies and wheels of the cars often forming solid masses of flowers and oranges.
The coaches are loaded with baskets full of flowers and confetti. Soon the street and park become a solid mass of people, and the progress of the vehicles is obstructed. Then the battle begins and rages everywhere until the battlefield is covered with a thick carpet of flowers and confetti, and the immaculately dressed women and girls, flushed with the exciting hardship of attack and defense, present a fascinating picture.
PONTA DELGADA'S WONDERFUL GARDENS
Ponta Delgada has some of the most wonderful botanical gardens in the world. They have been pronounced by some as ranking next to those in Portugal, and by others as inferior only to the famous gardens of Brazil. That of Jose de Canto was begun in 1848. Senhor Canto was connected with all the different nurseries in the world, and it was his ambition to gather specimens of all the trees and plants that could be obtained. The result is a marvelous collection.
The gardens contain tree ferns originally from Australia, many species of palms (such as the date, sago, and fan), Australia myrtle, great varieties of aloes, magnificent roses and camellias, India-rubber trees, banyan trees, acacias, magnolias, dracenas, brilliant red flame trees, screw-pines, and fine specimens of the cedar of Lebanon.
The dragon trees (Dracœna draco) grow well, and at Praia, in the southern part of the island, there is a long avenue of them. This species is exceptionally interesting because of the famous dragon tree of Orotava, on Teneriffe, that existed until 1867. Humboldt estimated its age at 10,000 years. It is said to have been so large that ten men with arms outstretched could scarcely surround it.
St. Michaels does not distinguish itself because of rare flowers. It is rather the great exuberance with which they grow when introduced and their splendid development that surprise. Riding through the country, one will suddenly find himself among hedges of hydrangea and incense (Phetu lacca undulata). Here the white calla lily, the pink belladonna lily, the bright Guernsey lily, fresias, rambling Dorothy Perkins, wisterias, begonias, and gladioli blossom in indescribable profusion.
Years ago the Easter lily was raised for export. The flower grew so well that millions were planted, but the extensive fields were suddenly destroyed by a disease, and fortunes were lost. Owing to the destruction of this flower, of the orange trees and the vineyards, years ago, the government now maintains an agronomer's station to examine all plants brought to the island.
"THE CAPOTE AND THE CAPELLO"
The handkerchief still forms the principal head covering of the older women of the peasant class, while the younger wear fancy scarfs. Wooden shoes are also worn by many of the peasant women and servants. The old carapuça, with its cape falling over the shoulders to protect the neck from the cold, is not used as extensively by the men as in former years, but the tasseled cap used by the laboring class is often seen in the streets of Ponta Delgada.
In the cities many of the women wear a special garb known as the "capote and capello." The capote is a long blue cloak, to which is attached the large bonnet shaped hood known as capello which completely hides the face, extending far out in the front and back. This costume is not found elsewhere in Portugal.
The Portuguese land measure is called "alqueire," which is less than the American acre. Much of the land of the islands is controlled by wealthy land-owners, who lease it and collect an annual rental of six mil reis to twenty mil reis, or about $5 to $15 in United States currency, on each alqueire. The rent is generally paid in money, but sometimes in the products of the field. One man often leases from 20 to 30 alqueires.
MILKMEN SLEEP IN CAVES
Although emigration has affected, to some extent, the cultivation of farm lands, the owners can profitably use the unoccupied parts for grazing purposes, as there is a good market for cattle. This pasture land is also rented out. In winter, when the cattle graze in the fields, the rent is based upon the alqueire; but in summer, when they are driven to the hills, where the land is not measured, the charge is based upon the size of the herd.
The men who attend to the milking go up into the hills in the evening, where they sleep in caves, in order to round up the cows early in the morning and milk them. The milk is then taken to town in large tin cans packed on burros.
Fields of broad beans and lupine are everywhere in evidence. These products are used as fertilizers. Walls of lava stone divide the green fields into small squares, giving the hills a characteristic checkered appearance.
HOTHOUSES HEATED BY FERMENTATION
Formerly, oranges were the principal article of export, and in 1872 300,000 boxes were shipped abroad, representing a value of about $500,000. From that time on the orange industry gradually declined, as a result of the destruction of the trees by disease, and agriculturists turned their attention to the growing of pineapples.
The first pineapples were grown in a small town, Livramento, but now the principal centers are Ponta Delgada and Villa Franca. The fruit is not planted in fields, as in the warmer climates of Mexico and Central America, but carefully nursed in hothouses, without artificial heat. To produce the necessary heat, beds of special fermenting material are made. The hothouses, approximately 40 by 90 feet, face north and south and contain as many as 3,000 plants. The young pineapples need replanting, and therefore several hothouses are used before the fruit is ready for market.
In the first house the earth is prepared by covering a heavy layer of small branches with soil that has been previously used. This is turned over and watered.
The young plants are placed about a foot apart and covered with a layer of loamy soil. After being carefully watered, they are allowed to remain undisturbed for about 12 weeks. When they appear above the ground the glass roofs are covered with a coat of whitewash to soften the light of the sun.
The plants are transplanted to the second hothouse after they have reached a height of about six inches. The beds in the second hothouse consist of three layers, the bottom one being old soil that has been used in the hothouse; the second, new earth; and the top, a thoroughly rotted hothouse soil. The plants are placed two feet apart and allowed to grow until they are one foot high.
Then follows the interesting process of smoking the plants. This method is the result of an accidental discovery. Years ago the furnace in one of the hothouses began to smoke and filled the entire house with fumes. The planter believed that his crop was ruined, but discovered later, to his surprise, that all his plants not only matured more quickly, but also simultaneously. Since then it has been learned that pineapples requiring several years to mature under the old system will show signs of bearing forty days after being smoked, and then mature more evenly.
The furnaces used for smoking are filled with green grass or foliage and allowed to smoke three nights in succession. The plants mature in about one year from the time of planting.
The average cost of producing one pineapple, packed for export, is about 24 cents. While this is expensive, the fruit is remarkably free from all fibrous substances. The pineapples are packed in excelsior and shipped to England on fruit boats devoted especially to this trade. The pineapples raised in St. Michaels sell for four and five shillings apiece in London.
A GREAT WINE COUNTRY
The second great industry of St. Michaels is the manufacture of wine. It sometimes happens that the crop is so great that there are not enough pipes on the islands to hold the wine, and growers have to build special cement tanks.
Several kinds of sweet and sour wines are manufactured, but that most widely used is a red wine (vinho de cheiro). It contains a very small percentage of alcohol and has a rich grape flavor. A liter of this pure wine is sold for 60 reis, or about five cents in American currency. It is almost impossible to become intoxicated on this "vinho de cheiro," and drunkenness among the people of the island is rare.
The island of St. Michaels is mountainous, but less precipitous than most of the others. That the hills can be so successfully cultivated is due to their even, well-rounded outlines. But three of them are old craters, with beautiful lakes and picturesque valleys one in the eastern part, known as Furnas; one in the center, the Lagoa do Fogo, or Fire Lake, and another in the western part, Sete Cidades, or Seven Cities.
ST. MICHAELS' FAMOUS SUMMER RESORT
A description of St. Michaels would be incomplete without a visit to Furnas and Sete Cidades. A great number of towns and villages follow the coastline of the island, nestling peacefully among the hills and valleys. Passing along the southern road to Furnas, clusters of white houses appear unexpectedly, disappear, and reappear above or below, as the road winds over the hills.
Twenty-seven miles from Ponta Delgada lies Furnas Lake. Its beauty is enhanced by a chapel of Gothic architecture on the southern shore that seems to add to the stillness of the place. A short distance beyond is the valley of Furnas, inclosed by steep mountain walls.
This valley marks an important spot in the history of volcanic disturbances of past centuries, and contains a number of important thermal baths, the waters of which boil and seethe and send up clouds of smoke. To appreciate the full beauty of the valley, the foremost Azorean summer resort, it is necessary to look down upon the town and lake and opposite mountain ranges from the heights of the northern road that descends into the old crater, where today the town of Furnas is located.
There is a charming spot in the valley of Furnas called "Tanque." This park is of interest to American readers, for it was there that the historian Prescott spent a part of his time during his stay on this island. Prescott came to St. Michaels to visit relatives, and to this day his Azorean kindred, both English and Portuguese, cherish his memory.
HOW THE SIGHT-SEER TRAVELS IN THE AZORES
When people go to Sete Cidades they pray for a fine day, for that is one condition a perfect light to play upon the picture. We were fortunate enough to have the best of weather. A coach drawn by three horses took us to the little town of Lomba da Cruz in less than two hours. There we exchanged the vehicle for donkeys and mounted in native fashion.
The saddle used by the peasants is a heavily cushioned frame, provided with elevated cross-pieces in front and behind. The rider mounts sideways and may grip these cross-pieces like the sides of a chair. The first sensation is somewhat startling, but after a little practice this way of riding is not unpleasant.
A muleteer accompanied each donkey and supplied all the life and energy which donkeys the world over lack. "Chega lá!" "Chega-te asno!" they shouted in a singing tone, with a long, drawn-out accent on the penult. The ascent is steep, but with the aid of many a "Chega lá!" we steadily climbed toward the top amid ferns, heather, and tulip trees.
A MARVELOUS PICTURE FROM THE EDGE OF A CRATER
After dismounting, we were asked to close our eyes and be guided to a place overlooking the entire scene. A picture should be unfurled quickly. Perhaps this added to the effect. When we opened our eyes we found ourselves standing on the edge of a ridge 2,000 feet above the old crater that had puzzled the discoverer of the island centuries ago.
On the north and east steep mountain walls, rising to a height of 1,700 feet and covered with green trees, encircle the crater and reflect their hues in the clear waters of the lake below. The two round lakes are known as "Lagoa Grande" and "Lagoa Azul." Although they are connected, each retains its distinctive color the one a beautiful blue; the other a green. Folk-lore attributes this phenomenon to the girl who jumped into one lake, which assumed the color of her petticoat, while her parasol, dropping into the other, changed the color of the smaller body of water.
On the western edge of the lakes is the small valley, with summer residences, and the village of Sete Cidades, which looks like a town in miniature when viewed from the top of the mountains.
The mountains are lower in the northwest, where the lava flowed down the mountain side during the eruption.
As I looked into the valley, I recalled the scene on the "Lookout Mountain" of Juan Fernandez, the old Robinson Crusoe Island, where Alexander Selkirk had scanned the ocean in search of a vessel that might take him away from his solitary abode. Here was the same view of the ocean on both sides. I recalled scenes in the Andes of South America and glimpses of the beautiful Honduran valley of Cantaranas from the top of San Juancito ridge, 6,000 feet high. But none of those was so beautiful a picture. They were simply fragments of the great world the eye desired to reach but could not. They left one wondering what was beyond. But Sete Cidades is a complete painting, placed in a wonderful frame the painting of a little village among the pines, resting peacefully on the edge of two beautiful lakes. That is all!
A LITTLE OF EVERYTHING
"We live happily. We have a little of everything on this island," remarked a resident of this city.
He was right. St. Michaels is a little world in itself, and the Azoreans have a little of everything. They raise their own wine and tea and have their own mineral water and thermal baths; they have their own tobacco and manufacture their own cigars; they cultivate large quantities of sugar-beet and manufacture their own sugar. The rich volcanic earth and humid, but healthful, climate lend themselves to the cultivation of great varieties of agricultural products, including vegetables and fruits of the temperate and tropical zones. Twenty-one thousand head of cattle graze in the hills and help to form one of the principal industries of the islands, the manufacture of cheese.
The sea furnishes a livelihood for a large number of its inhabitants. Thousands of lobsters are exported to the Continent.
The island is covered with a network of roads, over which 150 automobiles travel for pleasure and business.
In the year before the war St. Michaels' exports were valued at $1,839,954. For a small island home, 41 miles long, this is a record worthy of note.
HORTA A CABLE CENTER FOR THE WORLD
Santa Maria, the second island of the eastern district, is much smaller than St. Michaels. On a clear day its outline may be discerned from St. Michaels. Villa do Porto, on the Bay of Santa Luzia, is the largest town. This island furnishes much of the red volcanic clay that is used in the manufacture of all kinds of pottery, such as the porous water bottles that keep the water cool, vases, jars, and other receptacles, some of which are very artistically designed. The mountains of this island range from 1,700 to 1,900 feet.
Of the central group, Fayal is the most important. The city of Horta is the principal port. It has a well-protected harbor and is the great cable station of the Atlantic. Nine cables connect the Azores with all parts of the world- A message has been sent around the world from New York via Horta in 11 minutes.
The lace workers of Fayal are famous for their skill in making a beautiful drawn work called "crivo."
The patterns of animals used 60 years ago came from Brazil and are of primitive, medieval design. One lace expert stated that these designs date back to the fourteenth century. They were probably carried from Portugal to Brazil in the sixteenth century. But the Brazilian meshes were coarser than the present crivo work, which has extremely fine meshes.
These meshes, forming the groundwork into which the patterns are woven by hand, are always square. They are so fine and the work so delicate that it takes four months to make a five-inch border for a piece one yard square. Today promiscuous patterns are used as well as the old animal reproductions.
SPANISH INFLUENCE SEEN IN TERCETRA
The islands of Pico, Terceira, Sao Jorge, and Graciosa lie close to Fayal. Pico is separated from Fayal by a narrow channel, only five miles wide.
Terceira is the most interesting of this group from an historical point of view. A naturally fortified place, Angra, the picturesque capital, was the central point of battles and political disturbances of bygone times. The castle of S. Joao Batista, the old Spanish fortification built on the slope of Monte Brazil, is an interesting relic of the seventeenth century. The massive walls of this castle extend down to the sea front and to the edge of the city.
To this day Terceira shows traces of the domination of Spain over Portugal in the latter part of the sixteenth and the first half of the seventeenth centuries. The short jacket, tight trousers, and Spanish style of hat distinguish the inhabitants of Angra from those of the other islands.
The Spanish pastime of bull-fighting was also introduced, and still exists, but in so modified a form that the bull-fights of Terceira are quite unlike those of other places. It is a sport not for the people, but by the people. When the bull charges, men and boys scramble up the walls and windows and disappear in the open doorway. A rope is attached to the horns of the bull to check, if necessary, the progress of the infuriated animal.
THE CORVO COW A "SHETLAND"' VARIETY
Corvo is the smallest of the Azorean islands. It is so small that it looks like the very tip of an old volcano peeping out of the water. It is the home of less than a thousand souls, who live in almost complete isolation, for the Portuguese vessels call there only once every three months, and even then will sometimes forsake it when the weather is too rough to land. A lake has formed in the crater, called "Caldeira," containing nine small islands, that look as if they might be a miniature reproduction of the Azorean archipelago. The Corvo cow has developed in proportion to the size of its home. It is a neatly formed little animal, not much more than three feet high when fully developed, but is a good milcher.
Corvo now has a wireless to save it from complete separation, but years ago the inhabitants built bonfires on its southern shores when they desired to communicate some urgent message to their neighbors on the island of Flores.
The island of Flores is the second of the northeastern group. It is about three times the size of Corvo. Many of the towns are built against the cliffs that rise abruptly out of the water.
The coast of Flores is full of treacherous shoals that often tax the skill of the Azorean sailors to the utmost. Several years ago the Slavonia, of the Cunard Line, was driven in a dense fog on the rocks of this island and hung for a long time with her bow fastened to the shoals on the very edge of great depths. When she was finally lifted off by a heavy wave, caused by a passing steamer, she sank in only a few fathoms of water and may be seen today from the precipices above.
The Azoreans are good sailors. Although the sea between the islands is very rough at times and navigation very hazardous, their small boats are seen everywhere, even among the dangerous rocks, plying between the various islands.
Extensive trade in cattle and dairy products is carried on not only between the islands, but also between the Azores and Lisbon.
THE FUTURE OF THE AZORES
For years preceding the war European nations had been busily engaged in preparing for new trade opportunities following the opening of the Panama Canal, and the inhabitants of the Azores were likewise deeply interested. The "Junta Geral," or local government of St. Michaels, was active in its efforts to establish large hotels in Ponta Delgada and Furnas and to connect the principal points of the island with an electric railway. With the return of peace, the islands are taking on new life.
The highest and lowest temperatures ever recorded are probably 85 and 45 degrees. With a semitropical climate, famous thermal baths, and a favorable location, it certainly would appear that the inhabitants of St. Michaels are justified in their ambition to make their island the famous summer and winter resort of the Atlantic.
NOTE. The writer is greatly indebted to Colonel Chaves, the Junta Geral of Ponta Delgada; Miss Sophia Brown, Mr. J. J. da Costa, and others for their assistance in securing data and views for this article.