Insularity, for an Azorean, is not the circumstance of living in an island! Insularity is the presence of a spirit that s/he keeps stubbornly; it is the strength of a volcano bursting through the ocean to look at the sun; it is the introspection that results from the confrontation with the grandeur of nature; it is faith, in the middle of the sea!
The insularity that emerged in the brume of the Atlantic, uniting the Azoreans, re-emerged in the brume of the margins of the river Douro.
It all began in the summer of 1976 when a group of Azoreans met in Gondomar, at the house of a medical doctor from the island of Faial, Dr. José Eduardo Garcia Vargas. The idea was to establish a House of Azores in the North of the country. There was a great deal of enthusiasm but the project had not yet matured. There were two options on the table: was our house to be a delegation of the House of Azores in Lisbon or would it be an autonomous House? Soon thereafter, the second option was chosen.
On the 6th of March of 1980, the official foundation of the House of Azores North (CAN) took place.
In September of 1981, the first number of the Cultural Bulletin of CAN was published. In this publication, engineer Guido Rodrigues, the first president of the Administration/Directorate, mentions the “establishment of a House of the Azores in the north of Portugal, an institution that would foment the congregation of the Azorean community, enabling it to contribute to the development of ours islands and for the establishment of bonds with the North of Portugal.” Adding to the objectives outlined, the cultural and social affirmation of the recently created institution was also sought at the local, regional and national levels. From the outset, there was a common transversal purpose in all of the activities that were undertaken: procuring a head office.
Traditional feasts, gatherings, and excursions were organized, manifesting our interest in congregating the small Azorean community that resides in the north of Portugal, thereby securing more institutional leverage. The Cultural and Informational Bulletin of CAN has played a fundamental role in the divulgation and promotion of the “CAN project” throughout the 1980s.
The formation of the Chants Group of CAN in 1985 contributed greatly to the dynamism of the institution since it carried the name of the House to national and foreign audiences. For instance, the Chants Group was warmly received in the Houses of the Azores of New England, Ontario, and Quebec.
The first Festivity of the Holy Spirit in the city of Porto took place in 1987 and was yet another immensely significant achievement since it congregated, in a festive religious environment, Azoreans and other Portuguese from the mainland.
The inauguration, in 1999, of a head-office finally permitted the House of Azores to structure, in a solid and credible manner, the initial project of CAN around the three principal ideas that were enunciated by Guido Rodrigues, nineteen years before: “to congregate the community”, now enlarged to a growing number of non-Azorean members (with the same rights and duties of their insular co-members); “to contribute to the development of our islands”, a transversal objective in all of the activities undertaken by the House in its three decades of existence and; finally, “the establishment of bonds with the north of Portugal”, an objective that became the guiding blueprint of CAN. This has been the case not only because there are fewer House members that were born in the islands but also because of the strategic location of this dynamic cluster of azoreanity in the peninsular northeast. This has enabled it to promote the economic interests and the cultural and social values of the Autonomous Region of the Azores north of the river Mondego, on behalf of the Azores and of Azoreans.
The initial intent of gathering Azoreans that long for their islands led to the establishment of the House of the Azores of the North, an non-profit Public Service institute that in its social activities defends the interests of the Autonomous Region of the Azores and contributes to its progress, develops cultural and other activities and provides services to its associate members and to the Azorean community of the city of Porto. It is, therefore, a center of reflection that defends the interests of the Azores. It promotes and develops relationships between the archipelago and the north of Portugal and Galicia in the social, cultural, and economic domains.
Throughout its existence, the House has promoted the Azores, its culture, and traditions, as well as its economic interests through its many activities and initiatives, whether as a partner or as an organizer of joint ventures. The House also has a social agenda that manifests itself in the proposal of policies that defend individual and collective rights; the signing of protocols of collaboration with regional, national and international public or private entities. It also seeks to support and orient Azoreans that have recently settled in the north, such as students, the sick and others. No less importantly, it strives to promote bonds of friendship and the approximation of the Azores to the north of Portugal. It is and will remain an island of Azorean culture in the north of Portugal.