The Azores and the Azorean Culture: Where Past and Present Converge
The Azores consist of many picturesque sights; there are villages and towns, farms and ranches, all surrounded by blue seas, bright skies, and other natural wonders. It is an island paradise with modern conveniences, but every now and then we are reminded of the past. In this picture we see what was once a common method of transportation. It is an enjoyable experience to encounter such remnants of the past as we did during one of our language immersion tours of The Azores Islands. When you come upon such a scene you first take note of the donkey and the cart. But on second glance you take in the man who is driving; he is proud, content, and relaxed as he goes about performing his chores. What a contrast with our hectic city lives! We begin to realize that in the islands the very nature of time is different. For this man there seems to be plenty of time. Getting somewhere fast is not his goal; it’s not even important to him. Rather, he enjoys his ride, appreciates his beautiful surroundings, and is happy to take time to chat with people whether they are neighbors or visitors.
We are most likely to come across scenes like this in the countryside where the people are proud of the past and enjoy our response to their way of life. Locals who have greater means also have cars, as well as all the modern household conveniences. But even they wish to keep some of the old ways alive to some degree. They know that the workings of man and nature in harmonious coexistence is key to survival. Unfortunately the lure of technology has made this harmony a fading aspect of the island culture. As the people slip into the dependency that develops from using combustible fuels and other materials that are not naturally in abundance in the Azores, they lose this connection with the natural world. The result of this loss is often not a happy one. There is a lot of power derived from an interdependence with nature, and that power dissipates while pursuing more costly and sophisticated methods of doing business. This man does not wish to lose the independence he still enjoys, but there does seem to be an inevitability in it.
But of course this is a sad story that occurs throughout the world. Thankfully, the Azores is still a place to discover bits of the past while escaping the tensions of modern life; the air is still fresh and clean, the pace is easy going, the views are spectacular, and life is peaceful. That’s why we return to visit over and over. The pleasures of life in the islands far outweigh the influx of modern pressures. At least, so far!