Florianopolis, Brazil

The South Atlantic Azorean Legacy

The inevitable fishing
Fishermen roam the calmest sea between the west coast of the island of Santa Catarina and mainland Brazil.
Azores far from the Azores
Cows in a grassy area near Praia do Matadeiro, one of the places used to finish the whale hunt that proliferated in the XNUMXth century.
an expression of life
One of the most experienced fishermen in Armação dressed for the job, on Matadeiro beach.
Saint Anthony of Lisbon
A cyclist walks along a traditional street in Santo António de Lisboa, a parish on the island of Santa Catarina, also populated by Azorean descendants.
fishing bustle
Fishermen prepare boats for another trip to the wild Atlantic Ocean in front of Barra da Lagoa.
Azorean handicrafts
A woman works in bobbin lace, a technique for producing income brought from the Azores by the first emigrants.
the old market
Peculiar facade of the Municipal Public Market of Florianópolis, in the historic heart of the city.
to the line
Another form of fishing, from a rocky platform over the Atlantic Ocean, near Praia do Matadeiro.
hard collection
Fisherman pulls his sandy boat up after another journey in the rough seas off the east coast of Santa Catarina Island.
Top of the fort of Santo António
stone defense
At the top of the Santo António fort, one of the fortresses built by the Portuguese crown to ensure the dominion of the island of Santa Catarina and the surrounding sea.
an alternative craft
Oyster breeder born on the island of Madeira works on his mills, next to Sambaqui. Some Madeirans also arrived on the island in the essentially Azorean emigration.
in a great setting
Casal relaxes in a recess on the south east coast of Santa Catarina Island, overlooking the privileged coastline of Praia do Matadeiro.

During the XNUMXth century, thousands of Portuguese islanders pursued better lives in the southern confines of Brazil. In the villages they founded, traces of affinity with the origins abound.

The view from the top of Morro da Cruz was not ideal for feeding the Portuguese-historical imagination of those places. To the west, the triangular houses formed by the buildings of Florianopolis spread, with a narrow maritime interruption for its extension in the South American continent.

The architectural expression of the island's new prosperity completely obscured the urban heritage of the Portuguese colonizers who began to make it viable, so we soon returned to the riverside heart of the capital.

It's still early and the old municipal market lacks the proliferation of music and people who animate it from mid-afternoon onwards. Most of the businesses were either already opening or already open, and this finding alone made up for any gaps. We had woken up with the chickens and the steep walk on the final route to the panoramic heights of the formerly called Pau da Bandeira, when it served as a traffic light to warn of the entry of boats in the vicinity of the island, left us in need of a second breakfast. It was, therefore, with great pleasure that we found a bar specializing in fruits, their juices and the like.

On a previous trip through southern Brazil, we had already become familiar with the nutritious and gustatory wonder of açaí bowls. The girls from the tiny establishment were still cleaning up but they didn't refuse us the delight. While they were doing so, we talked about everything, including the relatives they had in patrician lands. Communication did not always flow as we wished. "Hey ?" they threw us each time we accelerated more the original Portuguese. There were so many “his” that we decided to go back to using the generic Brazilian accent, a strategy that is always useful when visiting Brazil has little time to lose.

Today, beautiful, yellow and white, the Municipal Public Market in which they both worked works in the same peculiar building built by the government of the captaincy of Santa Catarina, in 1899, to house well-off sellers and buyers from the island and surroundings who had been removed from their place in that they habitually traded. The magnanimous Brazilian sovereign Dom Pedro II was about to visit the town in the company of the Bishop of Rio de Janeiro and the urban center had to be cleaned and improved. The monarch ended up staying a month and granted a generous hand-kissing.

At that time, the city was still called Desterro (Nª Senhora do Desterro). Residents abhorred the semantics of exile that came from it. In the middle of the process of rebaptism, the Ondine hypothesis was discarded. At the end of the federalist revolution, in honor of the second Brazilian President, Floriano Peixoto, Governor Hercílio Luz made Florianópolis count.

Before Desterro and Florianópolis, Santa Catarina was in force for a long time, the name given to the village by the founder Francisco Dias Velho for having arrived there on the saint's day. Charged by the Crown of a colonizing flag from southern Brazil, Dias Velho settled on the island with his wife, three daughters, two sons, two Jesuit priests and some five hundred semi-converted Indians. He ordered the construction of a chapel that gave rise to the current Metropolitan Cathedral and a series of houses. Shortly thereafter, he requested the possession of those lands and their colonization. We were greatly interested in the settlement that followed. We did not take long to go out in search of their traces.

The conversation was as good as the açaí but the island of Santa Catarina was not exactly small. Accordingly, we drive straight to Armação beach, one of its most authentic places, located in the southeast, between Lagoa do Peri and the ocean.

There, we come across a verdant and grandiose coastline bordered by hills sometimes covered with thinned Atlantic Forest sometimes by shallow grass. Cows that we could have sworn were, at the very least, related to the Arouquesas mowed the natural grass. Onward, a pair of crowned plovers are enraged at our invading their territory and chase us out with a duet of shrill warnings and shallow flights.

It's still eight in the morning. In the adjoining cove, two fishing boats dock. The men jump onto the beach, push the boats up the beach and unload the nets. Rodrigo César, a member of the TAMAR ecologist project, was already waiting for them. It doesn't take long to spot a curled turtle. With the fishermen's license, he removes it, bands it, takes samples of the carapace for analysis and returns it to the ocean.

We got into a conversation with the men of the task to see if anyone dared to speak of the origins of those villages so remote. Even busy, one of them, with white hair and beard, the weight of responsibility to match, summarizes the story for us as much as he can: “this was all Azorean. They came here by the hundreds a long time ago. They found these good places to hunt whales and stayed here. The “matadeiro” (popular misrepresentation of Saco do Matadouro) was right here and this beach was all red. The frame was right next door. There were several here in Santa Catarina… it seems that there were also in Rio and São Paulo.”

Due to the need to consolidate the possession of the Colony of Sacramento, isolated on the border of the territory of southern Brazil (today Uruguay), D. João V approved the construction of forts on the island of Santa Catarina and their military reinforcement. People were also needed. As such, the Crown granted incentives to Azoreans and Madeirans who volunteered to emigrate. From the mid-eighteenth century, more than 6000 agreed to move to the South Atlantic. The Azoreans, chosen on the basis of moral and physical virtues, predominated over couples. Later, they would, in fact, be treated by Casais.

They lived off agriculture and the production of cotton and linen and also from whaling, which only brought profits until the turn of 1800, the year in which the Crown ended its oil extraction monopoly. By that time, the island already had 24.000 free inhabitants (almost 75% of Azorean origin) and more than 5000 slaves at the time, an unmistakable proof of prosperity.

The more we explored, the more places with Azorean history we found, such as Praia dos Naufragados, on the southern tip of the island that bears its name because, in 1751, a crew with 250 couples already installed sank around Barra Sul and almost all of them there. they went ashore. The tragedy made the plan to found what is now Porto Alegre unfeasible.

We peek at this end hit by a fearsome sea and turn northwards, this time along the coast facing mainland Brazil. “Don't go that road” a resident warns us. "It's very bad and sometimes there are bandits hiding in the bushes!" It was too late. The council forced us to fly the car softly over the potholes. We take advantage of the balance and go to Santo António de Lisboa and Sambaqui, two other key towns in the connection with the Azores.

The first became a customs post very early and received settlers from several of the islands of the archipelago. There we find other establishments that honor the Azorean genesis, more fishermen who stretch huge strands of nets and ladies who work in their bobbins, art that traveled with the great-grandmothers and penta-grandmothers of São Miguel, Terceira, Faial and so on.

In Sambaqui, we investigate large oyster farms. As we pass storage shacks, a lone worker picks up our pint. "Well, you with that pronunciation can only be Portuguese, right?" provokes us. "Me too. I was born in Madeira but my parents came here when I was very young. I'm trying to see if I finish the course in Agronomy with specialization of this oysters to go back there. I interned in France, in nurseries in front of Fort Boyard. There is a lot of talk about the quality of life in Florianopolis but this, as in all of Brazil, is a misery. These politicians only steal and protect their own.” With this late example, we confirmed the extent of emigration into the XNUMXth century and the solidary presence of Madeirans among the Azoreans.

We didn't stop there. We also took a look at Barra da Lagoa, a fishing port located at the end of the channel that connects the huge Lagoa da Conceição to the sea. This was one of the villages created after Galera Jesus, Maria and José docked on the island of Santa Catarina with the first batch of emigrants. When we get there, young fishermen prepare colorful boats to go out to sea. Two of them have painted the same sequential and familiar baptism: Sílvio da Costa II and III. At the side, two Brazilian flags make it very clear the fate to which that and so many other families from Casais have surrendered themselves.

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