It’s not often I return the Azores to my home town of Achada in Nordeste, São Miguel. With a population of approximately 600, situated on the northwest coast with stunning ocean views, village life becomes clearer after a few days.
Modest and simple living is the order of the day, live on what you have, waste not. Daily visits by the milkman, bread, fish, fruit, furniture, clothing, even the bank come to your door. All having their regular routes and time of day in which they pass through the town. Just wait by the door or listen for the individual sound of bells or horns that announce that they are near, delivered and purchased at your front door.
Live off the land, eat what you grow. Share and exchange the fruits of your labour, the gardens riches. Barter services for a meal and entertainment. Look out for one another, family or not.
Festivals that last for a few days, early July celebrates Sao Pedro, with live song and dance in the small street in the town centre. A place to meet other locals and possibly see faces who return to see old family and friends. I am no stranger, all know who I am, word gets out and I’m approached by people who recall the day I once roamed here before.
Tradition means processions and rituals that remain alive, but for how long? The statue of Sao Pedro is carried around the town, down one street and up the other, passing and stopping at the village cathedral, built-in 1788, where fishermen join the procession displaying their catch, a fishing nest is held among a group of women, followed by a marching band.
Religion plays a big role, a street mass is held on Sunday. There is a lottery to see if you’ll earn the right to have the saint in your home for a month in the next coming year, 12 lucky recipients.
The things that hold this together is the community. The family and existence of the neighbour and friends that bind together to call this home. A place where the origins of ancestors.
This is my first experience of life in a village, eight days. Not having a routine of work and life where days perhaps pass much quicker, my time of rest and relaxation, full days of searching for a way to pass my time, hikes down to the coastline. It takes time to learn to relax to the life of a village.