Fajã de Santo Cristo

Fajã de Santo Cristo on São Jorge IslandOne of many memorable days on our recent language immersion tour of the Azores Islands took place while visiting Fajã de Santo Cristo on São Jorge island. A fajã is a flat, often sloping piece of land found along the coast and is formed by the lava flows from volcanos and debris from crumbling cliffs. São Jorge has 46 fajãs, more than any of the other eight islands.

The Fajã de Santo Cristo may be the most beautiful fajã in São Jorge, but it is certainly notFajã de Santo Cristo on São Jorge Island the easiest one to visit. After parking the car at fajã dos Cubres, there is a 9 kilometer walk, more than 5 miles, to the Fajã de Santo Cristo itself. For this reason this is an optional trip on our tours. But on this fine day everyone agreed to take the trip, and it was well worth the effort. Along the way we enjoyed fantastic views of the islands of Pico and Faial. The weather was perfect, and we hardly noticed how long a hike it was.

On arrival we were so struck with the beauty of the place that we sat for a while just taking it in. This fajã encompasses a lagoon before it curves away into the sea. Across the lagoon are a few houses belonging to local residents, a church and a small restaurant. We admired the reflections of the mountains in the lagoon, and then we decided to explore.

As we hiked around the fajã we watched the shifting views of the land and ocean, peered into an almost hidden underground cave, and decided that yes, Fajã de Santo Cristo is probably the most beautiful fajã of all. But the best was yet to come.

Fajã de Santo Cristo on São Jorge IslandBecause the tide was out we were able to see vast clumps of lapas along the shoreline. Lapas are limpets, a mollusk with a dome-like shell that clings to rocks to keep from being washed out to sea. And they are very tasty! Using a small knife we pried them off the rocks and ate them without any preparation at all! They are safe to eat raw as we can certainly attest to, and they are delicious that way, but many people grill them or make a stew of them with rice. Eating them as we did we were reminded of oysters, clams, and other shellfish that can be eaten fresh from the waters. When we had our fill of lapas we walked back to the lagoon and spent some time digging clams, which we also ate on the spot!

We eventually wandered over to the buildings we had seen and there found a pleasant restaurant to enjoy coffee and rest from the exertion of feeding ourselves. It was time to leave when we saw the clouds starting to change. Sure enough, on our hike back to the car it sprinkled on us, and somehow this was as much fun as anything else we had done that day. Wet and happily tired we climbed into the car and headed back to the main road.

Fajã de Santo Cristo on São Jorge IslandAlong the way a local rancher was guiding his herd of cows to a new pasture and he clearly didn’t care if we were in his path. Suddenly we were surrounded by cows on all sides. Surrounded first by the glorious ocean and now surrounded by a sea of cows, we laughed and decided it was the perfect end to a perfect day!

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Santos Populares nos Açores

Learn to Speak PortugueseJunho! Chegamos aos Santos Populares e há quem diga mesmo que não há festas como estas!  E a verdade é que a festa está aí, verdadeira tradição em forma de festa e que o tempo não apaga, começando com o Santo António a 13 de Junho, passando pelo São João no dia 24, até ao São Pedro a 29.

Apesar do Santo António falar mais alto em Lisboa e o Porto acolher tão bem o São João,Learn to Speak Portuguese nos Azores em terras açorianas os festejos não se ficam atrás – ou não estivéssemos a falar deste povo festeiro. O Santo António já se acabou mas mais um ano fez as honras da casa e abriu muito bem a época dos Santos Populares, estendendo-se pelos mais variados festejos verão abaixo. Nos Açores, o Santo António é festejado sobretudo nos locais onde este é padroeiro, mas acaba por ser lembrado um pouco por todas as ilhas, por mais não seja, como pretexto para as primeiras sardinhadas a juntar os amigos ou mesmo para os primeiros bailaricos de rua. Logo de seguida, chega-nos o São João, de forte tradição na ilha Terceira, com as suas grandiosas Festas Sanjoaninas, mas também festejado no Faial, nas Flores, em Santa Maria e um pouco por todas as ilhas. Já o São Pedro vai contar com grandes comemorações sobretudo no Pico e em São Miguel.

As celebrações contam com marchas, desfiles, cantares, danças e bailes populares, nos quais todos dançam. Na noite de São João são ainda muitos os lugares iluminados e aquecidos pelas tradicionais fogueiras de São João, mas são já poucos os que se aventuramLearn to Speak Portuguese a salta-las.

Somado à folia dos Santos, o bom tempo que se faz sentir com a chegada do tão ansiado verão, as tardes solarengas e vagarosas e as noites quentes, incitam esta ida para as ruas – tão joviais, enfeitadas com arcos e balões – atraindo qualquer um com o cheiro a sardinhas assadas e outros petiscos.

Assim são os Santos Populares, com a capacidade de mobilizar o povo de tal forma que as ruas se enchem de uma alegria contagiante, consumando-se a festa entre conversas, petiscos, brindes e bailaricos. E são sem dúvida estas festas tão populares e vivas uma das mais genuínas evidências e marcas do povo que somos, um povo que sai à rua, dança e celebra!
Comprovando a importância das tradições e o quão bonito é quando estas não se perdem, mas se renovam, tal como cantigas que continuam a saltar de boca em boca:

«Santo António já se acabou,
o S. Pedro está-se a acabar,
S. João, S. João, dá cá um balão para eu brincar.»

Fogueiras de São João, Velas São Jorge, Azores


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DIA DE PORTUGAL: CELEBRATING THE PAST AND THE PRESENT

DIA DE PORTUGALThe recent Dia de Portugal celebration in San Jose, California was enjoyed by thousands of attendees. For many this is a time to enjoy music and dancing, native food, and unique handicrafts. But for people of Portuguese background this unique event is a very special day that takes place on, or near, June 10. What happened on June 10 to cause Portuguese communities around the world to stop and celebrate their heritage both past and present? It’s about a brilliant poet, Luis Vaz de Camões, who lived in the 1500’s and is so identified with his homeland that celebrating him on the date of his death has become a way to give voice to the heartfelt link that Portuguese people have with their country. It is a day of pride, honor, and patriotic exuberance.

Luis Vaz de Camões lived a full and eventful life, but most notable about him is that although he suffered shipwrecks, incarceration, and the loss of an eye,  he completed his epic poem, Os Lusíadas.  This poem celebrates the Portuguese heroes who lived during that well-known era of risk-taking explorers. These are the adventurers who brought fame, wealth, and power to their homeland by going where no one had gone before. Despite the fact that Camões is not a commonly recognized name today, scholars recognize his work to be on the same level as Shakespeare. But make no mistake, in Portugal, the poet is honored and revered as a symbol of Portuguese nationalism.

The recognition of Camões began in the 1940’s when Salazar invoked the poet in order to awaken nationalistic fervor, but the celebration aspect came to full fruition in the early 1970’s. Since that time it has become a major day of national pride in Portugal and a joyous connection for those who are away from their homeland. Wherever there are Portuguese people living, there is bound to be a celebration.

Look for Dia de Portugal near you, and join in the fun!

 

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