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Madeira: Country and Foreign Investment

History, Population, Language and Culture

This page was last updated on 30 June 2021.

Madeira was discovered by Portuguese explorers in the 15th century and was subsequently colonized by farmers from the Algarve in the far south of Portugal. The islands quickly became very important for their sugar production, as this crop could not be grown anywhere on mainland Europe. Madeira was recognized as part of metropolitan Portugal in the 1821 constitution.

The population is about 254,000 making Madeira one of the European Union's most densely populated regions with an estimated average population density of 809 people per square kilometre. Religion on the islands is largely Roman Catholic and, as with most traditional societies, the church exercises a strong influence over the government and cultural life, largely involving around religious and harvest festivals.

The official language is Portuguese, but English is quite widely spoken, particularly in business. Throughout history Madeirans have tended to emigrate in search of work; this has again been the case of late. The global Madeiran diaspora is supposed to be near 1 million. The Madeiran life-view was traditionally somewhat melancholy with an emphasis on ‘saudade’, although tourism and EU money infusions have tended to remove this idiosyncrasy.



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