Lost Levadas

Do you ever think about the places you find yourself in? Like on a daily basis, sure, but also when you go on holiday, or days out to new places when it’s sunny’n’that?

If not, you’d probably be surprised to learn the history, like the real, sometimes hidden, most often avoided history behind the places you attend.

Madeira, as you may know, is famous for its sickly sweet wine and a certain *overpaid* football player. Yet, you probably didn’t know that the island was colonised by the Portuguese after its discovery in 1419, apparently, it was uninhabited and so circa 1420-1425 they began settling there.

The lack of (or suppression of) any native persons certainly didn’t halt their plans to plunder, exploit and exercise power over common land however! Naturally, as any white person with a colonial mindset would do, they used enslaved people (often from the mainland of Africa ) to construct an agricultural island paradise that would further bolster white commercial interests across their ever-expanding empire. Hmm, change the teams and players, but doesn’t seem like that much has changed nowadays really.

Anyways, in the photos you will spot canals of water the Portuguese called Levadas. The #levadas of #madeiraisland were engineered to irrigate the islands newly planted agricultural exports. This arduous manual work, on vertiginous slopes of thick forest and volcanic rock was carried out for free in the 15th century by human beings who were viciously captured and enslaved by Portugal’s wealthy investors and colonisers.

Madeira has over 3000 km of slave built Levadas that allow for such luxurious, exotic gardens and fruits to grow across the island, even on the most naturally arid parts. The path of the Levadas is a well-trodden one by nature-loving locals and tourists alike, making up a huge portion of the island’s tourism offer.

However, I wonder how many people actually pause, for even just a moment, whilst revelling in the beauty of the island to remember the dark, colonial past of this eternally blossoming Atlantic jewel Mother nature gifted us all.

So next time you find yourself anywhere. Ask yourself what it really took to get you there. In truth.🌍

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