Feira Quin­thentista – What do nat­ive Afric­ans and a medi­ev­al fair on the Azores have in common?

Yes­ter­day I have been to a won­der­ful medi­ev­al fair in the town of Riber­ia Grande. The name of the fair in Por­tuguese is: Feira Quin­hentista na Ribeira Grande 2017.  This fair has been some­what dif­fer­ent com­pared to the fest­ivals I have atten­ded before, how­ever in all of these events dan­cing and music are the core ele­ments. The fair lasts for a week, with dif­fer­ent pro­grams and activ­it­ies every day. There was a horse show, theat­er, singing and dan­cing, and of course fire­works every even­ing. I came upon the Afric­an Court, which has been a very essen­tial part of the fair, with lots of Afric­an dance shows. But what exactly have nat­ive Afric­ans and the a medi­ev­al fair on the Azores have in com­mon?

But first, a few thoughts about the fair. The same way like in case of the oth­er fest­ivals on the islands, vis­it­ors of all ages wore medi­ev­al cos­tumes and took an act­ive part in the activ­it­ies. All food sold at the ven­ue had medi­ev­al names, and in some cases even the pre­par­a­tion meth­od has been medi­ev­al – which I found fant­ast­ic! You can read about the culin­ary high­lights of the fair in the BIO Girl on the Azores – Gast­ro­nomy Blog section.

OK, so let’s focus on the main ques­tion: what exactly have nat­ive Afric­ans and the a medi­ev­al fair on the Azores have in com­mon? I got the answer from a girl at the fest­iv­al and also from Wiki­pe­dia. Africa is men­tioned sev­er­al times in the art­icle describ­ing the his­tory of Por­tugal, so this is where the con­nec­tion is com­ing from. Among the set­tlers that, from 1432 onwards, arrived to the Azores Islands were indi­vidu­als of North and sub-Saharan Afric­an ori­gin.

Let’s take a look at the his­tory of Por­tugal until the 15th century.

Early in the first mil­len­ni­um BC, sev­er­al waves of Celts invaded Por­tugal from Cent­ral Europe. Roman­iz­a­tion began with the arrival of the Roman army in the Iberi­an Pen­in­sula in 218 BC. The Romans foun­ded numer­ous cit­ies, and left import­ant cul­tur­al legacies in what is now Por­tugal. Vul­gar Lat­in (the basis of the Por­tuguese lan­guage) became the dom­in­ant lan­guage of the region. In 409, with the decline of the Roman Empire, the Iberi­an Pen­in­sula was occu­pied by Ger­man­ic tribes (Vis­igoths). In 711 Ber­ber com­mand­er Tariq ibn-Ziyad  brought most of the Vis­igoth­ic king­dom under Muslim occu­pa­tion in a seven-year cam­paign. In 718 AD, a Vis­igoth­ic noble and elec­ted lead­er named Pela­gi­us called for a rebel­lion against the Moors (Recon­quista).

It the end of the 9th cen­tury a small minor county based in the area of Portus Cale was estab­lished by Vímara Peres on the orders of King Alf­onso III. After annex­ing the County of Por­tugal into one of the sev­er­al counties that made up its realms, King Alf­onso III named Vímara Peres as its first count in 868. Por­tugal traces its nation­al ori­gin to June 24, 1128 when Afonso Hen­riques pro­claimed him­self Prince of Por­tugal. In 1143 the King­dom of León recog­nized him as King of Por­tugal. The Algarve, the south­ern­most region of Por­tugal, was finally conquered from the Moors in 1249, and in 1255 the cap­it­al shif­ted to Lisbon.

Dur­ing the 15th and 16th cen­tur­ies, Por­tugal became a lead­ing European power that ranked with Eng­land, France and Spain in terms of eco­nom­ic, polit­ic­al and cul­tur­al influ­ence. Though not dom­in­ant in European affairs, Por­tugal did have an extens­ive colo­ni­al trad­ing empire through­out the world backed by a power­ful thalas­so­cracy. The begin­nings of the Por­tuguese Empire can be traced to 25 July 1415, when the Por­tuguese Armada – led by Prince Henry the Nav­ig­at­or – set sail for the rich Islam­ic trad­ing cen­ter of Ceuta in North Africa.  Fur­ther steps were taken that would soon expand the Por­tuguese Empire much fur­ther. Between 1427 and 1431, most of the Azores were dis­covered and these unin­hab­ited islands were col­on­ized by the Por­tuguese in 1445. Among the set­tlers that, from 1432 onwards, arrived to the Azores Islands were indi­vidu­als of North and sub-Saharan Afric­an ori­gin.

In 1434, Gil Eanes passed Cape Bojador, south of Morocco. The trip marked the begin­ning of the Por­tuguese explor­a­tion of Africa. In 1448, on the small island of Arguim off the coast of Maur­it­ania, an import­ant castle was built to func­tion as a feit­or­ia, or trad­ing post, for com­merce with inland Africa. Some time later, the cara­vels explored the Gulf of Guinea, which led to the dis­cov­ery of sev­er­al unin­hab­ited islands: Cape Verde, Fernão Póo, São Tomé, Prín­cipe and Annobón. In 1471, the Por­tuguese cap­tured Tangi­er, after years of attempts. Elev­en years later, the fort­ress of São Jorge da Mina in the town of Elmina on the Gold Coast in the Gulf of Guinea was built. In 1483, Diogo Cão reached and explored the Congo River.

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