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Azores

The Azores, officially the Autonomous Region of the Azores, is one of the two autonomous regions of Portugal. The Azores islands, uninhabited when discovered by Portuguese navigators in the fifteenth century, are located in the Atlantic Ocean 1500 km from the European mainland. The archipelago is formed by nine islands of volcanic origin that define three geographical groups: Eastern (S. Miguel and Sta. Maria), Central (Terceira, Faial, Pico, Graciosa and S. Jorge) and Western (Flores and Corvo).

The nine islands of the Azores are an autonomous region of Portugal. The regional autonomy is; however, exercised within the sovereignty of the Portuguese Republic. The National Government is responsible, for example, for matters of defense, foreign affairs, and fiscal policy. The regional Government of the Azores is composed of a president and 5 functional secretaries. It develops economic and budgetary proposals and performs a public administrative role. The Minister of the Republic, chosen by the Portuguese Prime Minister and appointed by the President of the Republic, represents Portuguese sovereignty in the Azores. The Minister performs a coordination role between the regional and central governments.

The total population of the Azores is just over 246,000 (2011 census). The two largest communities are Angra do Heroismo and Praia da Vitoria. The latter is about three miles from Lajes Field and has a population of about 9,000. Angra do Heroismo, the central district's capital city, is approximately 13 miles from Lajes Field and has a population of approximately 24,000.

Wind and rain are considered "trademarks" of the Azores though the climate is mild. Storms pass through fairly frequently during the winter months, but there are also periods of beautiful weather during that time. For example, the golf course does not close during the winter, though there are times when it is preferable to stay in the clubhouse. The summer months are quite pleasant with lows in the 60's and highs in the 70's to lower 80's. Winter temperatures are usually in the lower 50's to 60's. Only rarely does the temperature dip below 45. The winter months have the strongest winds, often up to and beyond 75 MPH.

Azores High, an alternate term for Bermuda High, is a semi-permanent, subtropical area of high pressure in the North Atlantic Ocean off the East Coast of North America that migrates east and west with varying central pressure. Depending on the season, it has different names. When it is displaced westward, during the Northern Hemispheric summer and fall, the center is located in the western North Atlantic, near Bermuda. In the winter and early spring, it is primarily centered near the Azores in the eastern part of the North Atlantic.

Dairy farming is the main industry in the Azores archipelago. Cattle, sheep, pigs, goats, ducks and chickens are also raised. Agriculture and fishing are main occupations on the islands and an important factor in the local economy. The main crops on the island are tobacco, rye, clover, wheat, corn, beans, tea, grapes, chickery, bananas, and pineapples. Almost every rural and many urban families have vegetable gardens. Whaling was the oldest industry in the islands, but whaling is now forbidden by the regional law. Many tools, utensils, and farm implements are local products and are handmade. Embroidery and weaving are traditional handicrafts. The Azoreans are highly skilled craftsmen and their products reflect the skill, ingenuity, and artistic tastes of the people.

The Pico Island Vineyard Culture is a 987-ha site on the volcanic island of Pico, the second largest in the Azores archipelago, consists of a remarkable pattern of spaced-out, long linear walls running inland from, and parallel to, the rocky shore. The walls were built to protect the thousands of small, contiguous, rectangular plots (currais) from wind and seawater. Evidence of this viniculture, whose origins date back to the 15th century, is manifest in the extraordinary assembly of the fields, in houses and early 19th-century manor houses, in wine-cellars, churches and ports. The extraordinarily beautiful man-made landscape of the site is the best remaining area of a once much more widespread practice.





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