Paulo, Terceira, Azores
Interview conducted in Praia do Vitória, Terceira, Azores
Praia do Vitória has been our home for over a week. I have found the small town quite welcoming in the off season. From the hilltop in town a statue of the virgin Mary has been erected in place of the lightouse. She watches carefully over the port. It is black Friday and even at 10 PM the streets are filled with shoppers and christmas music fills the air. I return today to my favorite cafe, Pasteraria Graça. It is a place where everybody knows each other and banter fills the air. Groups of 4 people play Marralhinia, a common pastime in the Azores. I do not understand the game but it involves dice, marbles and a wooden board. The place erupts into a roar, apparently it was a close match. Today I interviewed Paulo, he seems to be the harbor master and arranges remodeling, boat haul out and dredging or the harbor. Like many of the humble people here he is reluctant to give an interview. After a bit of coaxing he agrees to be one of the faces of climate change and discuss how changes to the natural world will impact the Azores. His words follow.
What is your favorite part of living in Terceira?
I was born her, like this place and have worked at this harbor for 18 years. My family is here and we love the sea and fish in the summers in a small boat. My whole family loves the nature here and go camping in the summers at an area near São Bras.
What is your least favorite part of living in Terceira?
There is really nothing I do not like. I married in 1989 and since 1992 we have been taking a trip a year to the mainland. After a week I get homesick. I miss the sea, the clear sea of my home in the Azores.
Do you see the changes in the natural world where you live?
The weather is changing here. I see the stormy times lasting longer. Low pressure areas set up over the Azores and the weather is bad for long periods of time. It was not like this in the past. The sea level is also rising. This marina was designed for 1.8 meter tides. They now go above that too often. We have had to add to all a few feet to all the dock pylons as the floating docks were maxed out.
How do you think these changes will impact the Azores?
It hurts the harbors and our tourist economy. We have many homes near the ocean, as the sea level rises we will have to continue to improve our infrastructure and people will have to move.
Is there anything you would like to ask or tell me?
Our season is short from May to August. It is very busy here then. Do not tell people how beautiful this place is, Paulo stated jokingly. Enjoy this place now, you are in paradise, but we do not know for how long. If you do share how beautiful the Azores are, tell people to come during the slower season. We could use more visitors during the slow season.
Since I have been to the Azores tides have been over 1.7 meters. This is very close to the level which would flood the marina. The number of home on low lying fajãs is apparent, especially on the islands of São Jorge and Pico. A common concern of the people here is to promote the right kind of tourism and controlled growth. When Paulo spoke f potentially loosing paradise, he was probably referring to winter weather coming, but I sense it could be more. Growing up in Colorado I have seen the changes that occur when many people visit or move to a nice place and I understand these concerns. People value the slow place, safety and intimacy that the low population densities enable. While I am hesitant to share the beauty of the Azores, the people here celebrate tourists and the economy seem to appreciate the jobs and opportunities tourism enables.