Although the precise date of the discovery of the Azores archipelago is unknown, historical reports point to Santa Maria and São Miguel as the first islands to be recognized, around 1427, by the Portuguese navigator Diogo de Silves, who will have made a first recognition of its coastline.
On August 15, 1432, the Assunção de Nossa Senhora day, Gonçalo Velho Cabral, with the dozen crewmen he had brought with him in the tiny caravel with which he had crossed the waters of the ocean, arrived and disembarked on the island to which he would give the name of Santa Maria , in honor of the Holy Virgin.
The settlement of the island, the first of the Azores to be settled, occurred in the year 1439, settling the first settlers in Praia dos Lobos, along the Ribeira do Capitão. João Soares de Albergaria, the nephew of the first captain-grantee of Santa Maria, Gonçalo Velho, and his heir, later brought some families from the continent, especially from the Algarve, with the aim of giving new impetus to the settlement of the island. a major development of the island, which leads to the concession of the first village charter in the Azores, being the respective town known as Vila do Porto, still today the most important and main urban center of the island.
It was in Santa Maria that Christopher Columbus made a stopover on the return of his first trip to America in 1493, landing near the place of the Angels in order to fulfill a promise made on the high seas, to hear Mass in a church of devotion to Our Lady , in the first land that found it. After the landing, having been taken by pirate, was made prisoner to the orders of the governor of the island, only being released after clarifying the true reasons of its scale.
As far as the settlement of São Miguel, the reports point to its beginning in 1444, by Gonçalo Velho Cabral, disembarking its settlers in the place of Povoação, mainly coming from Extremadura, Alto Alentejo, Algarve and even some foreigners, especially French, spreading and then, over the years, along the entire coastal zone of the island and fixing themselves in the places of better accessibility and that better conditions and facilities of life offered, essentially as far as the use of the ground.
Its fertility, together with the privileged geographic position of the islands in the middle of the Atlantic, quickly contributed to a strong economic expansion of São Miguel through the production of wheat that was exported to supply the Portuguese garrisons of the North African squares, cane sugar and the export to Flanders of the dye plants of pastel and urzela. Later, the great proliferation of orange groves brings to the island significant wealth by the export of orange, whose main market was England.
Stage at the end of the 16th century and early 20th century. In 1582 Sao Miguel was occupied by Spanish troops, after the defeat, in front of Vila Franca do Campo, of a French squadron in which also they fought Portuguese troops of support to D.António, prior of Crato, pretending to the throne of Portugal then vague, only recovering its condition of Portuguese territory free after the Restoration of the National Independence, in December of 1640.
The first capital of São Miguel was Vila Franca do Campo, which lost this condition after being buried in the wake of a violent earthquake in 1522, resulting in its replacement Ponta Delgada, located about 25 km east, municipality and that, in 1546, would become the first city on the island.
Already in our days, more precisely in 1981, Ribeira Grande, a village that in 1507 had received from D. Manuel the town charter and which is located on the north coast of São Miguel, 18 km from Ponta Delgada, is elevated to the category of city .
The third island of the Azores to be discovered was initially designated by Island of Jesus Christ, adopting, later and definitively, the name of Terceira.
The concession of its captaincy was made by Infante D. Henrique to Flemish Jácome de Bruges who, around 1450, began its settlement, settling the first settlers in the areas of Porto Judeu and Praia da Vitoria and subsequently extending, as it had happened in São Miguel, to the whole periphery of the island.
The Terceira represents an important milestone in the History of Portugal, since, upon succession to the Portuguese throne of King Philip II of Spain in 1580, he firmly took the party of D.António, prior of Crato, suitor to that throne.
Resisting gallantly to the attempt of conquest of the island by the Spaniards, in 1581 the first landing of the troops of Filipe II is totally defeated in the celebrated battle of Salga. However, two years later and after violent fighting, he can not withstand a new attack by the Spanish troop, now with a much superior contingent commanded by D. Alvaro de Bazan, who occupies the island, thus becoming the latter part of the territory to surrender to Spanish sovereignty.
During the period in which it was under Philippine rule, from 1583 to 1640, Terceira, which had already held a prominent position as a maritime warehouse on the Indian routes, acquired a renewed importance as a port of call for the Spanish galleons, which from Peru and Mexico , transported fabulous gold and silver riches towards Cadiz, thus favoring the Spanish Empire its relations with the Island at that time.
In the first half of the nineteenth century, Terceira again assumed a leading role in Portuguese history: supporting the liberal cause since 1820, in 1829 the Absolutists were dominated after a violent battle fought in the bay of Vila da Praia, where the Miguelista troops were defeated when they tried to land on the island
The Vila da Praia had passed by that, being called Praia da Vitória and Angra, by the spirit of sacrifice and patriotism demonstrated receives the designation of Angra do Heroísmo. The regency of the kingdom is installed in Angra and after the conquest of the remaining islands for the cause of Terceira, the army and army depart in the direction of the mainland in 1832, disembarking in Mindelo, proclaiming the Constitutional Charter throughout the country.
Angra do Heroísmo, the first city to be created in the Azores in 1534 and home to the Azorean diocese, possesses an architectural heritage of great value, which deserves to be included in the UNESCO World Heritage list a vast area of 6 Km2 (1983 ). Its rich heritage suffered a severe blow when it was greatly destroyed by a violent earthquake that took place on January 1, 1980, but the strong determination of those responsible for its reconstruction led to the buildings and monuments that are damaged, now maintain their initial traces.
Praia da Vitória, an urban center located on the east coast of Terceira, about 22 km from Angra, where a large oceanic port is located and, 3 km away, an important and strategic airport, with civil and military functions, was awarded the title of city in 1981.
As there is no precise data on the date of the discovery of Graciosa, it is very probable that this island was first discovered by the giants of neighboring Terceira, which is 31 miles to the southeast by the year 1450.
Vasco Gil Sodré, a natural mainland of Montemor-o-Velho, who, with his wife, children and servants, arrived at Carapacho, where he settled down and built his house. the clearing of the island, in what was a pioneer.
In spite of having constructed a customs and made other diligences so that it was donated the captaincy of the island, Pedro Correia da Cunha, brother-in-law of Cristovão Colombo, was entrusted the captaincy of the northern part of Graciosa and Duarte Barreto, the one of the south part.
The increase of the population of the island, mainly due to the arrival of people from Beiras, Minho and Flanders, is reflected in its prosperity, which leads Santa Cruz to receive the village charter in 1486, receiving Praia, 60 years later late, equal mercy.
Turning from the beginnings of the settlement to the agriculture and the planting of vineyards, already in century XVI Graciosa exported wheat, barley, wine and brandy, privileging all its commerce with Terceira, island that was nearest to him and that it had a large port very frequented by large ships and, moreover, at the time was an important economic and administrative center of the Azores.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, Graciosa hosted prominent figures of the time, such as the French writer Chateaubriand in his flight to America during the French Revolution, the great Portuguese poet Almeida Garrett, then a young man visiting his uncle and The island already writes verses that reveal his talent and Prince Albert of Monaco, notable for his dedication to hydrography and studies of marine life, who arrived on the island aboard his famous yacht "Hirondelle", where he visited the cave of the Caldeira.