National Geographic : 1934 Jul
MADEIRA THE FLORESCENT did not exist, raged month after month across gorge and mountain, destroying much of the virgin forest. Sugar cane was introduced from Sicily, and to it was due Madeira's prosperity during the early years of its colonization. Negro and Moorish slaves were imported from Africa to work on the sugar planta tions and to build roads and aqueducts. The stone irrigating canals, or levadas, ex tending for miles down the steep mountain sides, still render efficient service (see illus tration, page 102, and Color Plate V). Without them the lower regions would be without water the greater part of the year. Feeling the need of an aristocracy to lead the humbler colonists, representatives of Portugal's nobility were sent to Madeira, among them three young noblemen who married three of Zarco's daughters. The first children born on the island, twin boy and girl, were fittingly christened "Adam" and "Eve." Zarco was elevated to the nobility, and governed for more than 40 years. I have seen his tomb in Santa Clara, the oldest church in Funchal; and, on heights over looking the town, the monument erected in his memory 500 years after his landing. WHERE COLUMBUS PONDERED GEOGRAPHIC PROBLEMS A world-renowned figure stands out in the early history of Porto Santo and Ma deira. Christopher Columbus, restlessly sailing these seas in search of informa tion regarding the then unknown Western Ocean, came to Porto Santo. He mar ried pretty Philippa Perestrello, the Gov ernor's daughter. The house where they lived in Villa Baleira, the only town in Porto Santo, can still be seen. Columbus devoted himself to chart making, from time to time visiting Funchal to gather information. In the Madeiras, Canaries, and Azores he listened to the tale of every adventurous sailor he encountered, picked up valuable nautical hints, and pon dered deeply on the drift borne islandward from the west. After the discovery of the New World, the ports of these eastern islands knew many a sturdy caravel bound for the Indies and welcomed many a returning sail. The tie between the English and the Portuguese dates back to 1387, when Joao I of Portugal married Philippa of Lancaster, daughter of John of Gaunt. This bond was strengthened by the marriage, in the 17th century, of Charles II of England to the Portuguese princess, Catherine of Braganza. It was then that the English, loaded with privileges and exemptions, flocked to Ma deira. The British "factory," combined trading and social center, was established. Although the British factory ceased to function more than a century ago, foreign trade is still largely in British hands, there is a permanent British colony, and the majority of visitors who come for the winter months hail from the British Isles. Captain Cook was one of the early English writers on Madeira, visiting the island in the latter part of the 18th century.* WINE MADE ECONOMIC HISTORY Soon after the colonization of Madeira, the Malavesi vine was imported by Prince Henry from Crete, and other varieties were introduced at a later period. To-day one type of Madeira wine bears the old name, "Malvasia," or "Malmsey," famous in Eng land when western European wines of that name were well known, and later when Madeira wines had taken their place. Owing to wars with its neighbors, Eng land, in the middle of the 17th century, strictly prohibited the importation of wines from France, Italy, Spain, and Portugal, at the same time decreeing that wines of Madeira and the Azores might be carried in English-built ships to England or to "any of the lands, islands, plantations, colonies, territories, or places to His Majesty be longing, in Asia, Africa, or America." Our naval hero, John Paul Jones, was at one time master of the Two Friends, a Madeira wine ship. The finest wines of the island were in demand in the American Colonies. Ships from Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Savannah, laden with pipe staves, timber, train oil, dried fish, and rice, brought back pipes of Madeira to the wealthy American merchants and planters. To-day there are several varieties of Madeira-heavy and light, sweet and dry. The best of the seasoned dessert wines is a rich golden-brown in color, and looks and tastes much like old Spanish sherry. In the old days wine sent from the island on a long sea voyage by sailing ship to the Tropics was found to be greatly improved * See "The Columbus of the Pacific," by J. R . Hildebrand, in the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGA ZINE, January, 1927.