Saturday, April 28, 2012

squares in the atlantic

By Mexican standards, Ponta Delgada is a young city. 

The Maya and Aztecs were living in large urban centers when, in 1450, the Portuguese founded their tiny village of Punta Delgada on São Miguel, the largest of the islands that make up The Azores.

The Azores are unique in imperial history.  They are Portugal’s only territorial acquisition where other inhabitants were not subjugated.  Because they were no people living on the islands when Diogo de Silves bumped into them in 1427.  They were just too far away from any of the continents.
I have been to São Miguel several times.  On one of my first visits, I was cruising with my friends Roy and Nancy, Roy’s sister, and Nancy’s mother.  The five of us managed to eat a 2 kilo round of goat cheese while sitting on my balcony.

On prior visits I toured most of the island.  This time I decided to walk around Ponta Delgada. 

It is not a big city.  Only 21,000 people.  A little larger than two Melaques.  But Ponta Delgada is worlds away from my little fishing village by the sea.

The Azores were, at one time, little more than fishing islands.  Some of the finest Sperm whales were taken near its waters.  And those carcasses made the islands relatively wealthy.

The islands are  now primarily agricultural -- particularly pineapple for European tables.

As I said earlier, the city is not Melaque.  Start with the sidewalks.  They are little works of mosaic art.  Black volcanic stones mixed with white stones to create interesting designs.  Beautiful and functional.

Like other European cities of its age, Ponta Delgada’s streets are very narrow.  But it is also filled with squares of all sizes. 

Whenever I encounter sycamores pruned like this, I always know which continent I am visiting.

This is one of the smaller parks.  I apologize for the cliché post card photograph.  But the blue building framed by the park was too compelling to pass up.

This park, on the other hand, seemed a bit more unique -- with its green grass and blue water reflecting the sky.  Take a look at the buildings surrounding the square.  Some new.  Some old.  (This is the same park where I shot the children photograph I published earlier.)

And if I had any doubt about the heritage of the inhabitants of Ponta Delgada, I offer this vignette. Urban European writ large.

I do not know much about the local politics of The Azores, but there appears to be a group active in seeking its liberation from Portugal.  I suspect much in the same way that several regions of Mexico would prefer to be freed of Mexico City’s grip.  Almost every wall in the blue building square was covered with similar graffiti.

So, there you are. My impressions of The Azores.

And, Roy.  Sorry.  But no cheese this trip. 


Don Cuevas said...

Three of you ate THAT much cheese? At one sitting?
Saludos,Don Cuevas 

Andean said...

Mosaic's make such wonderful designs. What a great use for volcanic stones!
Nice candid shot of the young adults and their unique fashion statements.

Steve Cotton said...

 Five.  But it doesn't make much difference.  It was a lot of cheese.

Steve Cotton said...

I believe the Iberians may have used an idea they obtained from the Moors -- or the Romans. Wherever they came from originally, they are beautiful. I saw the same concept in China.