At the Azores Islands (850 miles West of Portugal in the Atlantic Ocean), presenting my research paper “Post-Cold War State Industrialization as a Means of Economic Growth in East Asia versus Eastern Europe” at the The European Scientific Institute’s 2nd Annual International Interdisciplinary Conference.
Fact about the paper: The paper assesses the amount of overall economic advancement attributed to the manufacturing sector since the end of the Cold War, finding that East Asian countries had a higher percentage of their economic progress associated with industry than the countries of Eastern Europe with 26.13% total value-added from manufacturing versus 18.12% for Eastern Europe.
Country Manufacturing as a % of GDP (Rank of seven countries): 11.8%, 7th out of 7- least industry-intensive (OECD stats) Country’s most Important Industries: paper, wood and cork, embroidery, and agriculture.
WWII fact: The islands have been called the crossroads of the Atlantic due to their strategic geography for shipping bases. While the Portuguese proclaimed neutrality during the war, after becoming wary that German u-boats might overtake the island in 1941, they allowed the British to set up when Winston Churchill found a loophole, which was the 1373 Treaty of Peace which allowed British Basing Rights.
The conference was held on the University of Azores campus, the only public institution of higher learning on the Islands. It’s amazing how different the conference venues were on this trip. It was a stark departure from the University of Vienna’s modern, sleek feel.
Each conference puts on its own distinct social activities. The extra time and effort in organizing an academic conference becomes more apparent as the social events unfold. While the official conference activities allow for much scholarly pursuit, the add-on activities truly give heart to the proceedings and allow for deeper connections with the participants.
The Azores Islands have faced economic setbacks in the past decades. Like many other economically challenged pockets of Europe, they’ve seen emigration and brain-drain. It’s said that every Azores citizen has some family who have moved out of the area. A common destination for Azores emigrants has been Boston. This phenomenon has been similar to challenges faced in other areas of the trip including Athens and Romania. You can’t blame those that want to maximize their potential for good-paying jobs elsewhere.
The Azores Islands have a unique military history. They are in a strategic geographic location and have provided a base of operations for many military units over the years that were friendly to the Portuguese government. After much local debate, the Allies were ultimately awarded access to the Islands in WWII, providing them a strategic aerial base for their operations. The Islands have been a central strategic points for cargo missions and convoys during several different wars. The United States has utilized the Azores in recent decades as a potential locale for NATO countries in case of evacuation.
The Azores Islands are also known for their volcanoes. The volcanoes cover 50 miles over the Islands. The last eruption from a volcano was in 1630. Much of the effects of the eruptions can still be seen today in the dark color of the rocks on the shores. In fact, the lava’s high temperature magma sunk far into the ocean and provided deep wells, which allowed for “experimental installation of electricity generating turbine using the steam from the underground water. The success of this lead to the construction of two geothermal plants, thereby reducing the island’s dependency on the consumption of fossil fuels” (Azores Guide).
The Azores Islands have developed some specialization in select industries. One is a cultural lacework ironwork created for balconies and porches. Another is ceramics, including the Lagoa factory, founded in 1862, which utilized clay found in the Santa Maria island and produced ceramic tiles and other ceramic artistry. It was an interesting behind the scenes look at this successful multinational production operations. The “louca da lago” (pottery) containing several surface decor patterns and styles is still made there. No two pieces are exactly alike. The production process involves much hand-crafted style involving the pottery-wheel shaping, drying, and hand painting. The style is inspired by the local landscape. Like other European production facilities, emphasis is on quality, branding, marketing, pride in craftsmanship, and uniqueness.
Another key industry is their tea operations. The first tea plantation was established in 1870 when two Chinese gentlemen provided the first crops to be utilized for harvest. Today, the Azores Islands are the only exporters of European tea. The Cha Gorreana production facility was founded in 1883 and produces 50,000 kilograms of tea annually. They export to all areas in Europe, starting as a Royal delicacy but now a drink enjoyed by all. It takes 6 years to harvest the tea after it’s initially planted and lasts for 90 years of continuous harvesting from March to October if the appropriate pruning and weeding takes place. Most importantly, it’s a sustainable, environmentally friendly crop with no chemicals or pesticides utilized. They use traditional production technology that is good for the environment, including the generation of their own power through hydroelectric generators for their energy. They make green tea and one of their most popular types of tea is the Orange Pekoe, a light tasting tea, which I sampled after touring their facility.
Successful multinational tea production operation in the Azores, including sustainable crops for 90 years (below, left) and the rollers utilized for tea leaf oxidation (below, middle).
I lucked out and was able to be present during the annual celebration of the Holy Spirit. This included the Street lunch celebration and then the parade down the main avenue. This is known locally as the “festa”. Their faith in the Divine Holy Spirit in the Catholic faith, or the Divino Espirito Santo.
An appropriate bookend to this last academic conference was the World Cup final match between Germany and Argentina. I don’t consider myself a soccer fan but more of a cultural enthusiast. It was fascinating to watch fans cheer for their favorite teams. You could tell much about the immigration patterns and cultural backgrounds by the numbers of fans for or against the different teams which were playing.
They have exclusive academic academies dedicated to soccer throughout Europe. Children from all ages are enrolled in these programs and they learn like regular students but also have dedicated soccer coaches and travel all around to enhance their development of the sport. Their high schools and Universities don’t have sports teams so the soccer academies/clubs basically replace school sports. They are inundated with soccer at a young age and are often recruited very early on.