- Atlantic archipelago of nine islands: Terceira, São Miguel, Santa Maria, Corvo, Graciosa, São Jorge, Faial, Pico, and Flores. This autonomous region of Portugal is 9,365 square kilometers (5,821 square miles) in area. First settled in the 1420s by Portuguese and Flemish colonists, the economy of the archipelago passed through various phases. The Azores' main crops in four phases were, in the 15th and 16th centuries, wheat and sugar; in the 17th century, woods; in the 18th and 19th centuries, oranges; and in the 20th century, cattle, dairy products, tobacco, and pineapples.Their location some 1,448 kilometers (900 miles) west of Portugal and over 1,769 kilometers (1,100 miles) from the eastern coast of the United States, and on major sea and trade routes, influenced the islands' development. Major themes of their history are isolation, North American influence, neglect by Portugal, and emigration to North America. As of the 19th century, large numbers of Azoreans immigrated to the United States. By the last quarter of the 20th century, statistics suggested, more people of Azorean descent lived in North America than inhabited the still sparely settled islands. Since World War I, when the U.S. Navy maintained a base at Ponta Delgada, São Miguel island, the Azores' society and economy have been influenced by foreign military base activity. In World War II (1943), British forces used an air base (Lajes) on Terceira island, under an agreement with Portugal, and thereafter the United States made a similar arrangement at Santa Maria. From 1951 on, the U.S. administered an air base at Lajes, Terceira, under North Atlantic Treaty Organization auspices. With that, American assistance and military base funds have played an important role in the archipelago's still largely unindustrialized economy.Since the 1960s, several Azorean independence movements have emerged, as well as other groups that advocate that the islands become part of the United States. Such movements have been encouraged by the islands' isolation, a troubled economy, and the fact that Portugal has never made developing the islands a major priority. After the fall of the dictatorship in 1974, the democratic Portugal organized new efforts to assist the Azores and, in the 1976 Constitution, the Azores were declared an autonomous region of Portugal with greater rights of self-government and management. In the 1990s, emigration from the Azores to both the United States and Canada continued, although not at the pace of earlier periods. At the same time, hundreds of thousands of overseas Portuguese from the Azores Islands resided in the eastern United States, California, and Canada.
Historical dictionary of Portugal 3rd ed.. by Douglas L. Wheeler . 2014.
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