The picturesque Quinta dos Figos is only fifteen minutes away from the world famous Lajes, home to the Terceira Island airport where we had just landed and the famous North American base.
Even so, we installed ourselves in the room in play-and-run mode. We left in a hurry to take a look at the streets of Praia da Vitória and came face to face with one of the many colorful empires that bless and decorate Terceira island.
The exuberant cube stands out from the white houses with the predominant brick-colored tiles.
As a kind of architectural diva, it displays its facades full of Christian arabesques, arches, ogives, columns, steps, a rounded pediment that identifies it. A veritable festival of colors invades the set: blue, yellow, green, red and white.
An Azorean Expression of the Divine
By itself, the structure would leave any admirer stunned, but, to top it off, that Empire of Charity concentrated serious festivities.
Next door, a local philharmonic band plays pompous fanfare themes. A firefighter dispatches his projectiles one after the other closer to God.
With successive arrhythmic explosions, it deafens us and the believers of the earth, all dressed in the best Sunday clothes.
Some enter and leave the Empire with trays of blessed food, others, hold spears and standards of the Divine.
We play innocent tourists and listen to the heart of the ceremony. Inside, on a white altar raised in terraces and decorated with matching wreaths, rest several gleaming lacy wreaths.
For a short time. With the band already off the cement stand and walking along the road ahead, several participants in the ritual make their way to the staircase wearing these same wreaths before on the trays. Others carry spears. We pursued them determined to register the moment. The band follows us all.
We had already followed another Feast of the Divine Holy Spirit. The first and so far only time in Pirenópolis, in the Brazilian countryside of Goiás. There, Manuel Amâncio da Luz, a hypermotivated Portuguese priest, transformed belief into an incredible cultural expression that the people's faith and enthusiasm still preserve today.
In Praia da Vitória, we saw how everything was happening in the main Portuguese stronghold of Divino Espírito Santo. Until the Emperor and his "subjects" disappeared to the sound of the charanga and left us to our destiny. A photographer from the local press sees us undecided and approaches us.
After a few minutes of technical conversation, the colleague highlights our luck. “It's just that you are not seeing well. Not only did they catch the Divine here today, but in a little while, they'll be able to watch the rope bullfight. More Terceira Island than this is difficult.”
Even if they represented a journey from the sacred to the profane, they were coordinates we were not willing to ignore. From Praia da Vitória, we continue along the north coast of the island, stopping here and there to see marine pools and other particularities of the rugged coastline.
Biscuits: Start of Bulls in the style of Terceira Island
In the middle of the afternoon, around Biscuits, we find the mob installed. Hundreds of cars are parked in a field of overgrown lava that separates the road and the waterfront. We find a still distant corner for our car from where we descend towards the village.
Halfway through, we found the first revelers, who served food and drinks, sometimes picnickers, sometimes at the counter of mobile homes and similar vans, powered by generators and serving enthusiastic customers of everything, from Azorean specialties to the most obvious nails, steaks, snacks and churros.
The further down the road, the more its verges were crowded with people and the places with the best views were disputed. We managed to slip into a newly abandoned space and finally enjoyed the fulcrum of all the attention.
Around a small cove surrounded by lava cliffs, in a grassland above and in the street that separated it from the houses, a bull hesitated between contemplating the madness around it or charging at the pseudo bullfighters who incited it among the crowd.
Little by little, we were able to estimate the areas safe from possible lashes, which happen in abundance, such as the wounded and, from time to time, even dead, despite the bull's movements limited by the action of the "shepherds" ” which give you more or less slack depending on the imminence of certain damage.
A rocket announces the removal of the bull and another break in hostilities. We moved from an area still high on the slope to the top of a terrace with a privileged panoramic view over the street where most of the bullfight takes place.
The terrace is shared by families, with a predominance of women and children.
Some families are migrants in the USA and in Canada. Even with an eye on our cameras, we have fun listening to how the wonders of their lives on the other side of the Atlantic insinuate to others that were at the origin. “Ah!! But our house over there has nothing to do with the ones over here.
It's much bigger. I would go there! More is earned and, therefore, we can build without worries.” This same Canadian Azorean, who could not contain herself with so much pride in the return her life took, wasted no time in asking us: “are you portraitists?
I really wanted to take some pictures here, with my family. If you want to spend a few days in Cambridge, Ontario, you can also do some good portraits. Everything is very beautiful there.” Rockets and bulls followed one another in that strange bullfighting afternoon. Until the afternoon and the revelry came to a gentle end.
The incredible walled minifundio of Terceira Island
Shortly after dawn, we went up to the Facho viewpoint and admired the houses of Praia da Vitória, the birthplace of Vitorino Nemésio.
From there, we took the old cobbled road that leads to the top of the 545 meters of Serra do Cume, a verdant ridge that rises to the east of the island, windy as windy it could be and revealing a unique scenery.
Below, the vastness to the south and west reveals itself in an incredible yellow-green geometric pattern of fertility and labor. Countless smallholdings demarcated by basalt walls stretch as far as the eye can see, dotted with small agricultural warehouses, corrals and loose cows.
With the exception of the gale from the heights, the day remained at eye level, with an almost clear sky and sunny to match. Aware of the unpredictability of the Azorean meteorology and the abundance and historical and architectural exuberance of Angra do Heroismo, we decided to aim as soon as possible at your stops.
Angra do Heroísmo: the First City of the Azores
Angra was the first of the Azorean towns to be promoted to a city, in 1534. Shortly thereafter, Pope Paul III chose it as the seat of the diocese of Angra, with authority over the entire archipelago.
At that time, its port already had a decisive role in trade with the East, which is why the transit and anchoring of caravels and gallons was intensified, contributing to the city's prosperity, with emphasis on the ostentatious construction of churches, convents and fortifications military that made it unique.
We admire them and the impressive panorama of the houses from Angrense from the base of the yellow obelisk that projects from Alto da Memória, dedicated to Pedro IV, the triumphant king of the Portuguese Liberal Wars.
As we feared, dark clouds were approaching from the north so we accelerated into the city, down Ladeira de São Francisco until we came across the respectful Praça Velha, the centuries-old heart and soul of the city.
Over time, Angra has had the ability to welcome the afflicted, refugees or exiles of upheavals and the like to take place on the continent.
After being defeated by the Spanish Habsburg army at the Battle of Alcântara, António Prior do Crato decided to prolong his self-proclaimed oppositional reign to that of Philip I of Spain, from Terceira onwards.
The History and Stories of Angra do Heroísmo
Not only did it do so from 1580 to 1583, it also gathered around it strong popular resistance and other European adventurers averse to the increasingly stifling Hispanic expansion. The Spaniards were forced to fight him and thus the War of Succession to the Azores spread.
In 1667, at the end of the Restoration War, Afonso VI was exiled to Angra do Heroísmo by Pedro II, his younger brother, who declared him unfit to govern. In 1809, Almeida Garrett and his family took refuge in Angra from the second French invasion.
Garrett only returned to the mainland in 1818. During the Liberal Wars, Pedro, Emperor of the Brazil and the daughter to whom he abdicated the Portuguese throne established the headquarters of the Liberal forces on Terceira and repressed an attack by Pedro's youngest son Miguel and his Miguelista forces at the battle of Praia da Vitória.
It was, in fact, the resistance of the Liberals and this triumph that inspired the nickname “do Heroísmo” in Angra.
After capturing Mouzinho de Albuquerque, Gungunhanha, the “Gaza lion”, died in Angra eleven years after being exiled there.
These are just a few examples, many more to list.
The political, religious and military relevance enters our eyes when we admire the Church of Nossa Senhora do Carmo.
Furthermore, the azulona da Misericórdia and, on the opposite side of the bay, the imposing walls of the Fort of Monte Brasil, built during the reign of Filipe I of Spain, from then onwards the scene of successive crucial events in Portuguese history. Today, headquarters of the 1st Garrison Regiment.
We walk along the wall that keeps the marina safe from the fury of the Atlantic and return to the blessing of the church.
Soon, we took a peek at Prainha where some trucks they delight in the calm water while a fifty-year-old gymnast determined to maintain his impressive form.
Electoral Missions and the Picturesque Quinta do Martelo
But it doesn't take long before we come across new matches. We lived in a time of elections.
We were tasting some typical cakes from the island when João Pinho de Almeida and other dolled dignitaries from the CDS invade the Athanásio pastry shop and foist us and other customers on leaflets and almost empty party pens.
However, we left Angra to take a look at the Quinta do Martelo, an old property full of rural buildings and work tools that immaculately illustrate its old times and the different production cycles it has gone through: orange, wine and loquat.
We knock on the restaurant's door “The Sale of Ti Manel da Quinta”, for some time in vain. Finally, Emanuel appears. The slender and affable employee of the farm reveals the old grocery store on the ground floor. He installed us in the superior's room, which now serves as a restaurant.
At the table, but with an eye on detail, we see how the mentor Gilberto Vieira preserved and recovered everything, from the door handles to the crockery, according to the times when the farm was operating.
The atmosphere of the place, the most picturesque that we have seen in many trips and the traditional meal served by the no less genuine Emanuel, leave us in awe of Quinta do Martelo.
A little more with the peculiar Terceira island.