Portugal Encyclopedia for Children
Irresistibly attracted to the Atlantic Ocean
Portugal’s position, lying along the Atlantic, has allowed the country to ‘turn its back’ on Europe and venture overseas to remedy the scarcity of its resources. In all of Atlantic Europe only Portugal has had such an extra-European history and economy that today they have produced the result of a fascinating and highly original culture.
Overlooking the Atlantic
Portugal occupies a rather narrow strip along the western side of the Iberian Peninsula, bathed by the Atlantic Ocean. The effects of the proximity of the ocean are sensitive throughout the country, but in many respects – historical, cultural, and even climatic – Portugal is generally considered a Mediterranean country. No element of the natural landscape physically divides Portugal from Spain and the two countries have long shared the same historical events; the political boundary that separates them, however, is very ancient. For Portugal 2017, please check mathgeneral.com.
The plateau that forms the heart of the Iberian Peninsula also occupies the interior of Portugal, almost entirely covered by reliefs. In the northern regions, the mountains reach almost 2,000 m of altitude. Flat are the coast and the river valleys – the main ones are the Tejo (in Spanish Tagus), the Douro (Duero) and the Guadiana, which come from the Spanish territory – and most of the southern regions. The climate varies quite according to the altitude, but almost everywhere it is similar to the Mediterranean climate; the vegetation is also Mediterranean – very famous are the large cork oak forests in the South.
Also part of the Portuguese territory are the volcanic archipelagos of the Azores, almost at the same latitude, but far from the coast, right in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, and Madeira, much further south.
The wealth of the sea
Portuguese agriculture is quite varied and flourishing (wines such as Porto and Madeira, oil, fruit are famous), but the territory has never been able to produce enough for the entire population. Breeding is highly developed and wool is one of the foundations of the ancient textile industry. Even minerals are not abundant and, in general, the industry has not developed very much.
The country’s most consistent source of wealth was once fishing, which is still important today, and navigation in general. Portugal was the first European country to implement true maritime expansion, first along the African coast, then in Asia and South America. For some time, the capital Lisbon was the richest port in Europe.
The population grew slowly, because many residents emigrated to the colonies – especially to Brazil – or to other overseas countries, both for economic conditions and for the expansion policy. The cities beyond Lisbon are few and not very populous: Porto (263,000 residents, but more than a million in the metropolitan area) is the second largest in terms of residents; other very beautiful cities, but smaller, are Coimbra, Braga, Évora, Setúbal and Funchal in Madeira, all visited by a large number of tourists, more and more numerous, who appreciate the beauty and originality of the whole Portuguese territory.
Until a few decades ago, the socio-economic conditions of Portugal were not very satisfactory, and the country was rather closed towards Europe, while it had intense relations with Brazil. However, since Portugal entered the European Community, development has become very rapid.