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The Soul of my People

Ribeira Grande, San Miguel Island, Azores – December 2008. Every year, several artisans went to Caldeira Velha, to boil and peel willow wicker. The boiling was done in the hot thermal waters of the volcano of Fogo. The wicker is used for handcrafting baskets and furniture. Nowadays, this practice is forbidden, due to environmental protection laws.
The Soul of my People
by Paulo Monteiro

Officially, the archipelago of the Azores was discovered by the Portuguese in the fifteenth century. The first inhabitants of these islands brought with them ancient practices, whose rituals, religious or non-religious, are still practiced in a more or less pure manner. Those rituals take very different forms in each of the islands. These differences are a result of the isolation that each island was voted to for centuries.

As an Azorean and a photographer, it seems important to document these rituals, before they are tainted by globalization, mass tourism, or power-seeking politicians who often appropriate popular culture, as a way to get the support of the people.

In addition, the economic and financial crisis affecting the world, and particularly Portugal, begins to have consequences in the realization of these rituals. There are worrying signs of the decline of a culture that, if not documented in time, will disappear without leaving any traces.

Started in 1995, for me this series will always be an ongoing project. It portrays all that it is real and authentic in the culture of the archipelago, because these black and white Azores that over the centuries have existed as a soap bubble are about to burst and disappear. While this small community insists on retaining its cultural identity, I will be here to document a combination of information and aesthetics, photography and anthropology.

Ribeira Grande, San Miguel Island, Azores – August 2010. Every year, by summer, Azorean farmers proceed to the sun-drying of the rye-grass seeds. After drying, the seeds are stocked. The next year, the farmers scatter the seeds over the soil. The rye-grass is used to feed the cattle.
Vila Nova, Terceira Island, Azores – June 2014. Musicians playing during the Holy Spirit festivity.
Candelária, Pico Island, Azores – February 2008. Every year, in February, the inhabitants of Candelária, perform the Nossa Senhora das Candeias procession.
Vila do Corvo, Corvo Island, Azores – July 2008. Every year, the last Sunday of July, the inhabitants of the island perform the Holy Family procession.
Mosteiro, Flores Island, Azores – August 2013. Like other localities of the island, the parish of Mosteiro, is desertifying. But the inhabitants who remain insist on retaining their cultural identity. The main manifestation of its culture is the procession of Santa Filomena.
Rabo de Peixe, San Miguel Island, Azores – September 1998. A few moments after the christening of an artisan fishing boat.
Horta, Faial Island, Azores – August 2010. Whaling was introduced to the Azores by American whalers in the 18th century. Nowadays, whale hunting is forbidden and the last whale was captured near Pico Island in 1987. But whaling is part of the Azores islands’ cultural identity and in recent years old whaling boats have been restored and used for regattas.
Vila do Corvo, Corvo Island, Azores – May 2005. Preparing the meat for the Holy Spirit soup.
Ponta Delgada, San Miguel Island, Azores – February 2013. Every year on Shrove Tuesday afternoon, a group of inhabitants get together in the city`s main boulevard to fight a peculiar battle: they throw plastic bags filled with water at each other.
Vila Nova, Terceira Island, Azores – June 2014. A man launches a rocket during the Holy Spirit festivity.
Vila Franca do Campo, San Miguel Island, Azores – January 2018. Every year, on January, the inhabitants of Vila Franca do Campo perform the Three Magi procession. The procession travels through the main streets of the city.
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Paulo Monteiro

Paulo Monteiro was born June 1963, in S. Miguel, Azores, where he currently lives and works. He has been a photographer since 1985. He has developed long term projects about various subjects, such as popular religiosity, profane festivities, architecture, landscape, Nature, or the world of work.


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