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My presentation is about a World Heritage Landscape, the Landscape of the Pico Island Vineyard Culture
But first of all I would like to tell you that the first reports about the discovery of the Azores date back to 1427. There are however other theories that say the this archipelago had been discovered before that date.
The Azores are an autonomous region of Portugal, with a governmental structure and a parliament. The political link with Portugal is given by the presence of a minister from the Portuguese Republic nominated by the President of the Republic. For geographic reasons, there is a division in three groups of islands: the western group composed by Flores and Corvo, the Central group, composed by Faial, Pico São Jorge, Graciosa and Terceira and the Easter Group comprising the islands of São Miguel and Santa Maria
The Azores are a sanctuary for whales and dolphins. At least 25 species of whales have already been sighted in the archipelago. This is why whale watching is a significant tourist attraction in the Azores, and Pico is the island where whale watching started and where you have more success when you go out in the ocean to whatch these mammals.
Considering Nature Protection, Pico comprises the largest Nature Park of the Azores. Labels like world heritage, Natura 2000 network, Ramsar, and others are very common in the Archipelago, most specially on Pico island. Pico was nationally nomimated as one of the 7 portuguese nature wonders under the inscription of a big relief. Considered as a whole with the title of the “Volcanic Landscape of Pico Island. Islands magazine elected Pico as one of the best 20 islands to live in. BootsnAll considered a pedestrian trail inside the World Heritage site one of the 8 most unique trails in the world, and as a whole the Azores were considered the second archipelago of sustainable development.
If one is able to reach the top of the volcano of Pico you will not be indifferent to the strength that comes from the interior fo the island; you are in presence of an enigmatic, dark and misterious island. These adjectives may sound negative, but that is not the reason why they are here. Pico is really dark but green,misterious but just because you will never get to understand it completely. And that’s a good challenge for adventurous people.
And because of the uniqueness of this island, because of the uniqueness of the vineyards that were installed that UNESCO inscribed the Landscape of the Pico Island Vineyard Culture as world heritage in July 2004.
First of all, I would like to point our some historical facts: Viticulture on Pico is contemporary of the settlement. It started almost immediately near the areas where people settled. Only by the end of the 16 th century and in the 17 th century did Viticulture see the great increment mostly because of the role that the religious orders played. The monks had the knowledge and the technology and the rocky fields where nothing would grow were there with no one demonstrating any sort of interest in them. At the same time noble families in Faial paid a little bit more attention to that monstrous island in front of them and took over most of the fields that presently are part of the World Heritage site. Viticulture had its climax in the mid-nineteenth century but unfortunately it suffered a tremendous setback with the appearance of a bug - Philoxera – and also fungi – the oidium. These two factors almost destroyed all the vineyards on Pico Island.
The most prosperous economic cycle of Pico and Faial Islands had come to an end, and as a consequence a lot of people emigrated to the United States, specially illegally on board of the American Whaling boats. And here I would like to refer that this fact is the reason why Pico had such a great tradition in whale hunting. Large estates were subdivides and locals were able, for the first time in their lives to own a peace of land. The abandonment of fields was almost total but some of these fields were replanted by an American type of vine, which sowed more resistance to bugs and fungi. Only in the 1950’s did people start a new rehabilitation process .
Why is this area a World Heritage site? What is so unique in this landscape that made UNESCO inscribe it as a Cultural Landscape. Looking at the soil, you see rocks, lava and a dry area with no water streams, lakes, and where people had to dig on the rocky soil to fetch water
But the amazing thing is that from that bizarre soil we were able to produce a unique wine that was present at the tables of the royal European families, at the Vatican, etc.
Is such an area people wonder how it is possible to heve such a beautiful green color on top of these rocks. We simply show them that these rocks have fractures and cracks and that people used those fractures and cracks, made them bigger, put some soil there and planted. And the result is brilliant!
Grapes are very sweet, because there is always heat during the maturation process of the fruits… even during the night, because, during the day, the basalt stone absorbs the heat from the sun, from 7 am till 9 pm and releases that heat during the night.
This is something special. A landscape where you have no soil but in which you can grow things!
That is why we dare say that mother nature turned some of us into gods. They were really sympathetic because they said: “Here are these stones, turn them into bread.” Jesus Christ turned water into wine. We were able to do that with stones!
Unique is the structure of the walled fields. The landscape is filled with walls that are oriented from East to West and intersected by perpendicular wall forming very small rectangles which we call “currais”
At the sam time, unique is the process of having water. People had to dig the rocky surface until they reached friatic areas with deposits of water, but due to the contact with the sea water this was a poor water with a high level of salt in it.
The way wine was taken from Pico to Faial was also unique: People had to dig ramps to roll the barrels to the sea. Is some cases the small boats could reach the coast but in other cases supposedly barrels were rolled into the ocean and peaople had to push them till the boats.
Roads are also unique: they were drawn in the rocky lava by the ox carts
The basalt was used in every construction on the island
In manor houses
In the dozens of chappels in the world heritage area
In the monks summer houses, cellars, warehouses, distilleries, etc.
That is why we say that stone is always present
Vineyards are impressive
Especially if you have the chance of seing them from top
The strength of this landscape is immense
That is why we say that at the same time the men were transforming the landscape according to their needs, the landscape was also tranforming htese same men. Even today, this landscape affects us, transforms us.
Cultural traditions are also relevant. In former times people gathered after a hard working day to sing and dance.
Our gastronomy is also rich and varied. Fish, beef, pork, cheese, fruit and, of course wine.
One of the rich traditions is related to religiosity. Promisses to the holy spirit are very common and have specific reasons. Explicação
The landscape is tough and people are also tough. A portuguese writer said the Pico inhabitants were the strongest and sain men he had ever met.
Let’s take a look at the world heritage site
The noble areas are located near the sea
And of course near the volcano, Pico mountain that gave the name to the islan.