As with most Portuguese discovery, Portuguese navigators most likely discovered Graciosa during the first part of the 15th century. It is however known that in 1440 by order of Prince Henry the Navigator, cattle and swine were placed on the island to facilitate colonization. Formal registries did not exist at the time so the names of the earliest families are unknown. It is thought that the first colonists may have been slaves. The first group of settlers, mentioned, were led by Vasco Gi Sodre who arrived from Terceira accompanied by his family and servants about the middle of the 1450’s. He is the “pioneer” that was credited with the “official phase” of continuous settlement on the island.

Azores Islands InformationInitially the population was centered in Carapacho in the southeast of the island where it is most likely that settlers could make land fall, but because of poor fertility and lack of shelter from the ocean, the settlers eventually moved closer to the interior. Potable water was more readily available in the area and eventually, the village of Santa Cruz da Graciosa formed.

In 1486 the lighthouse was installed.

Over the years the settlers suffered great hardship, including heatwaves, shortages of water and death. In addition, earthquakes in 1787, 1817, 1837, 1980 created damage to the areas and reconstruction and repair was great in those years.

Azores Islands InformationIn the 16th and 17th Centurys, the ports became hotbeds for pirate and privateer attacks. Even under these distressing conditions, the island continued to prosper and grow.

General emigration to the United States during the 1950’s through 1970’s, has created a general decrease in the population of Graciosa, and affected the socio-economic stability.

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