St Maria Island history
St Maria Island is one of the nine volcanic islands of the Azores archipelago. Officially was the first one to be discovered. Natural beauty is the island’s main highlight.
St Maria Island was the first island of the Azores to be officially discovered around 1427 by the Portuguese discover Diogo Silves.
The capital was established at Vila do Porto, the oldest Azorean village.
The early settlers came from Alentejo and the Algarve. This fact influenced the architecture of the Island. Even today buildings are characterized by their white façades and colourful stripes, framing doors and windows.
The development of St Maria Island
Since the early years agriculture has been the main activity of St Maria Island. The fertile soils also boosted cattle farming. Until the 18th century the growing of dye plants for Flanders dye industry and of wheat were essential for the Island’s economy. The wheat was exported both for Continental Portugal as for the Portuguese strongholds in North Africa.
Then, in the 18th and 19th centuries St Maria Island’s agriculture was dominated by the growing of vineyards, wheat, corn, potatoes, yams and fruit. Cattle farming and the production of dairy products also played an important role.
Photo by Galeria de mattbraga
The pacefulness of St Maria Island was only interrupted during the 16th and 17th centuries due to corsair attacks. The pirates took the Island’s inhabitants and turned them into slaves and hostages.
During the 20th century, St Maria Island gained a new strategic importance, especially during the World War II. The airport, built in 1944, was crucial for the Atlantic routes until the 60’s.
Nowadays, tourism is growing in importance. Natural wonders are one of the highlights of St Maria Island. The yellow and ochre colours of the soil and crops contrast with the green of nature and the deep blue of the ocean, originating a breath taking landscape.
St Maria Island has some of the best beaches of the Azores. They are perfect not just for those willing to relax under the sun but also for surfers, windsurfers, divers and fishermen.
However, visitors also come looking for the Island’s well-preserved Heritage as well as for its gastronomy.
Where is St. Maria?
Main image credits
Photo by Galeria de Lou Jarry