The Mediterranean people were aware of the Atlantic Ocean shores since ancient times and the archipelago of Madeira was part of the cartography prior to the occupation of the territory by the Portuguese navigators in 1418. However, it was here that the Portuguese expansion took off spreading to the four corners of the world.
While Porto Santo island was short of water and offered a dry soil that made settlement too difficult, Madeira Island with a luxuriant vegetation, plenty of water and a mild climate soon became an experimental ground where administrative and technical procedures were tested before being taken to other domains.
While at the beginning, agriculture and mainly sugar cane and vineyards were the archipelago’s major productions, soon, tourism took over as the island’s beauty and picturesque atmosphere attracted people from all over the world and mainly the European elite who since the mid-18th century arrived looking for a healthy resort or just a temporary spot to adjust before going to hotter destinations.
In the first half of the 20th century, Portugal, chiefed by António Salazar, a dictator who ruled for more than 40 years, remained a backward country and the islands particularly felt this retrograde atmosphere in addition to its natural isolation. Both Madeira and Porto Santo felt neglected and yearned for public workings and connections that took too long to arrive.
In 1974 and once the regime fell followed by the Autonomous Region Statute acquired in 1976 as well as the integration in the European Union under the designation of Outermost Region that granted special privileges and mostly access to funds that prompted essential infra-structures thus improving the living conditions, a strong development has occurred. Presently, the Regional Government and the Regional Parliament stand as a democracy warrant and both institutions work together so as to procure a balance between exports and tourism that give dynamic to local economy and help to promote our identity and heritage.