Living in the Azores by Maria Vicent

I’ve been trying to figure out what is so special about these islands that once you step on them you wish to stay. After 18 months living in the Azores, I think I finally have the answer. 

I grew up in a village in the east coast of Spain. From my window, you can spot the sea. I spent my childhood playing on the countryside, running after the chickens, stealing peaches and figs, swimming in the river, sleeping under shady trees. 

By living in the Azores, I realised how much it resembles my homeland.

In the first place, being surrounded by nature we feel committed to care for it and conserve its richness. Nature is one of the main treasures of the islands. People from all over the globe came to hike through the mountains and swim in the Atlantic crystal clear water. 

On July 20, 1997, a Spanish magazine publish an article titled “Azores, hidden by the ocean“. The article focuses on the experience of a journalist and a photographer as they travel the islands. What amazes me about this article is that it could have been written today. 21 years later, you can still smell the tender grass of the fields, see the clouds running at lightning speed and cryptomerias dancing with the wind. 

Although uncontrolled human intrusion is damaging the ecosystem, there is people concerned and willing to protect it. Not an easy task, that’s for sure, but a necessary one in order to preserve the biodiversity of the islands for those who come.

Travel around the archipelago has not only given me the opportunity to learn about the relationship between people and the environment but also about the way of living. Azoreans are kind and friendly, always willing to offer a seat at the table and a good story to tell. I’ve been lucky to be surrounded by wonderful people. People who work for a better future of the islands, to achieve a sustainable economic and environmental development. 

The Azores is also a region that faithfully respects its culture and its language. Where I come from, expressing our identity as a region is often confused with nationalism. I haven’t met people as passionate as the Azoreans for their heritage and their traditions. Doesn’t matter if it’s about sailing the sea on a whaleboat or walking down to the chapel in procession. I admire the way they come together, whether to celebrate or to help each other when needed.

Although I’m not a child anymore, I feel like I’ve grown somehow. Living in the Azores has taught me to be grateful for the day-to-day and to value life through its little things.

Here every day is worth celebrating. This is, in essence, what made me feel like home, even being thousands of miles away. 

I’m sure lots of things change since 97, but most still the same. The truth is people keep coming and they always find a reason to stay. Whoever I ask, the answer is the same: “because life is better around here”.

by Maria Vicent (from Valencia)
– media manager at Ourisland