The name of the Azores archipelago has always had a big question around it: why did the archipelago of nine volcanic islands receive the name “Azores”? Well, to answer this question we need to go back a little bit in time to the time of its discovery.
The discovery of the Azores is part of the Portuguese maritime expansion project carried out by Infante D. Henrique in the 15th century. In 1415, after Portugal had conquered Ceuta, the Portuguese set off for the West in search of new lands. In this sense, they came to moor their boats in the Canary Islands (where they had already moored in the 14th century), in Madeira and, perhaps, in the Azores, in 1427.
This date is close to the settlement of Madeira. With the bridge that was created between the Portuguese mainland and Madeira, it became even more viable to discover the Azores.
Diogo Silves, in 1427, comes across the Azorean archipelago. This was a pilot of the king, carrying out the mission of the discovery of the new territory and thus strengthen the Portuguese power. Despite his discovery in 1427, the Azores only began to appear correctly mapped in 1439, on the map of the cartographer Gabriel Vallseca.
Given this framework, the question then arises again: what is the origin of the designation of the Azores to these islands?
There are some theories that may answer this question, stay tuned.
One of them is the devotion of Friar Gonçalo Velho Cabral, the first inhabitant of the Azores, to Santa Maria dos Açores, patroness of the parish of the Azores in Celorico da Beira. In addition to the name of the archipelago, the theory that Santa Maria, the first island to be discovered in the Azores, was named after this same patron saint, hovers in the air. Another is the relationship between the Italian word “Azzurri” used by Genoese sailors in the service of Portugal. Finally, the best known and accepted as the reason why the Azores archipelago was named “Azores”, is the fact that the discoverers of the archipelago saw, in abundance, the bird Açor.
According to Diogo Gomes’ reports, Portuguese navigators who headed west in search of new lands found several deserted islands and observed several birds, from thousands and Azores.
However, there was no clear distinction between the two birds. Gaspar Frutuoso, the author of “Saudades da Terra” (Saudades of the Land), refers in that same work that in his time there were no Azores, but miles, and admits that the discoverers confused the two species, so the archipelago should have been called, according to that fact, the Archipelago of “Milhafres”.