Not that it was necessary, far from it, but at the precise moment we enter the space cut by walls of the village of Cuada, heavy clouds appear from the top of the slopes to the east.
They hover over the streams of Poço da Alagoinha. Gradually, the clouds extend towards the Atlantic. Drops strayed by the wind irrigate the smallholdings where we sieve. They leave us on guard.
We moved away from the fort of houses that obstructed our view. We detected a rainbow, complete and huge.
framed the houses of the village, warmed by the imminence of sunset.
It seemed to confirm the pot of gold that, against the flow of history and the most optimistic forecasts, Cuada has become.
The drizzles sometimes fall, sometimes give a truce, at the mercy of the north wind.
The few more than a hundred inhabitants who left the village until 1960, these, like so many others in the Flores island and the Azores, never returned.
The Abandonment of Cuada to the Americas
During much of the XNUMXth century, Cuada remained abandoned, the stones and tiles of its houses at the mercy of the gales, the jets that lash these Atlantic borders of Portugal.
In 1970, in fact, only two of the seventeen houses and haystacks preserved roofs worthy of the name.
The storm that seemed to be creeping in is not enough. Faced with the ocean air, the fringe of clouds coming from the top of the island is intimidated and dissipated.
The rainbow follows suit.
As the sun spreads behind the Atlantic, the shadow below the wall that supported us and the fawn tone of the facades disappear.
At night, the strangers discovering the island return to their used shelters.
resuscitate the homes of the people Florians that the excessive insularity and underdevelopment of Flores forced them to leave, in pursuit of distant dreams.
New tenants arrive from all over. Stay one, two, or three days. They recover some of the lives interrupted there.
Each house is identified with the name of one of the emigrants: Fátima, Fagundes, Esméria, Luís.
We settled in Luciana's.
Double blessed by the proximity of the house of the Empire of Divine Holy Spirit site, the only plastered and target building of the set, it is said to be the oldest Empire house on the entire island of Flores.
Cuada: and how the village was recovered but respected
We do not know what fate dictated to emigrants after crossing to the Americas. We don't even know if his destination was Canada, the United States: Brazil – the welcoming countries that are protagonists of the Azorean diaspora – or another.
We found that, even rescued from ruin, from the brambles and endowed with modernity, the humble and picturesque village that Luciana and her neighbors abandoned little changed.
The stone paths and slabs remain as rough and irregular as when the people of the land walked them, often barefoot. In times cultivated land, the grassy meadows appear divided by criterion, by stone walls similar to the one used in the structure of the houses.
Until some time ago, the cow Mimosa, Florentina, a donkey, frequented these meadows and pastures. And Tina, the village goat.
Some houses have threshing floors, now used as open courtyards. Others were adapted from haystacks, like the one belonging to Pimentel.
The Capriccio and Creative Stubbornness of an Azorean Couple
The prodigy of resurrecting Aldeia da Cuada was due to Teotónia and Carlos Silva, a couple, now 72 years old, who used to spend the summer in Fajã Grande, enjoying the idyllic retreat and peace of the far west of the island of Flores. .
The 80s were going on. Teotónia e Carlos, originally from Pico island, felt the call to recover Cuada. They started by buying a first home. Soon another.
At a certain point, the green spell of Flores Island attracted more and more intrigued travelers to the ends of the Azores. To shelter and live the legacy of the houses in Cuada, without electricity, TV or Internet, proved to be a privilege that went into word-of-mouth mode.
By that time, Carlos had a stable professional situation in Finance. Teotónia, worked at Sata, the airline that serves the Azores. Despite their expertise when it came to money and travel and tourism, they were often told they were going crazy.
The Azores Tourism Board praised its determination, but refused to participate, on the grounds that, even if it had recovered, the village of Cuada, distant and isolated as it was, would not invite guests to justify the investment.
The years passed. We arrived in 1998. The village officially opened its doors to tourism.
From Ruin to Tourism in the Pioneiro da Cuada Village
The same fate and humility that condemned the residents of the old Cuada to emigrate, led to the renewed Cuada a growing number of outsiders who, at first, had old oil lamps as lighting, much less polluting, in visual terms, than the poles and cables. of the electrical installation that Carlos and Teotónia want to exchange for an underground one.
Two years later, the village found itself legally protected by the authorities. The until then reticent Regional Government of the Azores declared it “cultural heritage with historical, architectural and scenic interest”.
Cuada became a pioneer tourism house (soon, Turismo de Aldeia) in Portugal.
It was safe from the urban atrocities that abound across the country. Both from the government itself and from private initiatives in the vicinity.
The more visitors arrived, the more sense it made for the Silvas to ignore the omens and proceed with their mission.
The Beauty of Cuada and Flores Island around
After all, after spending so many summers there, both knew better than anyone the value of the scenery surrounding the village that, in the opinion of many, make Flores the most stunning island in the archipelago.
They knew Fajã and Fajãnzinha, the companies closest to Cuada, one on each side.
Poço da Alagoínha and Poço do Bacalhau Waterfall, both within walking distance, each with its charming Florentine look.
They also knew the set of elevated viewpoints that reveal sweeping green panoramas, dotted with cows, starting with Portal.
The natural pools and the volcanic coastline, rugged and beautiful to match, were already part of it, as was the emblematic solitude of the islet of Monchique, the last piece of rock in the Portuguese west.
Teotónia and Carlos endeavored, within the limits of original simplicity, to equip and decorate each of the houses to match the surroundings.
The Charming Historic Simplicity of Aldeia da Cuada
The equipment and utensils – mirrors, switches, faucets, bedspreads, napperons and many others – come from the olden days.
Or, if they don't come, they imitate as best they can, according to Teotonia's tastes and whims.
In terms gastronomic, Cuada delights its guests with the best that Flores and the Azores have to offer. When we woke up, breakfast was waiting for us with fresh bread, Flemish cheese and Island of Sao Jorge. Honey, sweets, chia cake and fruit.
At dinner, also in the restaurant next to the reception, we delight in fish caught offshore, well grilled and accompanied by vegetables harvested on the property's land.
For the time being, the Cuada workers cultivate them. Carlos and Teotónia share plans for guests to entertain themselves with rural tasks.
Cuada now has road access from the Assumada road, which serves a large part of the western end of the island.
It also has an inclined car park that allows guests to arrive with their luggage at the entrance to the village, marked by the reception and museum.
At so-called normal hours, from the reception to each of the houses, they count on the immense strength of arms of Sílvio, in charge and handyman of Aldeia da Cuada.
Ours, we were still dealing with check-in, Sílvio had already left them at the door of Casa Luciana.
The Irregular Canadas Leading to a Dramatic Seaside
In other times, people arrived at the village through a centuries-old path.
The forest was furrowed between two of the emblematic Christian temples of those places, from the vicinity of the chapel of Santo António de Lisboa to the house of Império da Cuada, that white church located above Casa Luciana.
As we have already seen, Teotónia and Carlos' stubbornness in preserving the internal paths of the village, despite the guests' clumsiness, gave us the privilege of walking through fascinating paths of history and genuineness.
In a few tens of meters, the main, winding and vegetated path of the village leads us from the bucolic and rural environment of Cuada to the marine, much wilder that follows to the west.
Over there, the rabbits are masters of a labyrinthine forest full of burrows and nests. The abundant shearwaters fly over us. With luck, they can turn out to be chicks, stags and terns.
As it descends, the canada becomes an unclear trail, nothing that we could compare with the well-marked and crowded path that connects Fajã Grande to the Albernaz Lighthouse, facing the neighboring island of Corvo.
When one of its meanders reveals an unexpected rocky precipice and the agitated Atlantic, we turn around, towards Cuada.
This would not be the last time we took shelter in the village.
Whenever we did it, we felt the human warmth and the caress of the Nature that its residents were forced to sacrifice.
Phone: +351 292 552 127
Address: Lajes das Flores 9960-070