Flores Island is an island of the Western group (Grupo Ocidental) of the Azores.
Flores has a population of approximately 3800 inhabitants, and, together with Corvo Island of the western archipelago, lies within the North American Plate. Flores has the westernmost point of the Azores and it is the westernmost point of the continent as well.
The island of Flores is 16.6 km in length and has 12.2 km at its maximum width, which equates into a surface of 141.4 sq. km.
It has been referred to as the Ilha Amarelo Torrado (English: Yellow/Auburn Island) by marketing and due to the association with poet Raul Brandão, but it is well known for its abundance of flowers, hence its Portuguese name of Flores.
Some early accounts existed of the “(seven) islands of the Azores and two islands of Flores” (referring to the islands of Flores and Corvo), but no “official discovery” occurred until the mid-15th century. The island of Flores was discovered in the late summer of 1452 by the navigator Diogo de Teive and his son João de Teive, and first noted by the pilot Pêro Velasco to Christopher Columbus during his voyages. For his reward, Teive received the concession of the sugar monopoly on Madeira.
The earlier names of the island were São Tomás (after Thomas Becket of Canterbury, not to be confused with Saint Thomas, which in Portuguese is spelled Tomé) and Santa Iria (English: Saint Iria). The island’s charter passed to Fernão Telles de Meneses when little was accomplished in populating the islands, except for disembarking some sheep (1475). The death of Fernão Telles (1477) was to initiate exploration and settlement on the island, as his widow (Dona Maria de Vilhena) would contract the Flemish nobleman Willem van der Haegen to explore Flores and Corvo.
After meeting with Dona Maria Vilhena (who administered the island in the name of her young son, Rui de Teles), Van der Haegen came to an agreement and moved to the island between 1480 and 1490. Van der Haegen had arrived in the Azores in 1469, and lived for a time on Faial Island by invitation of the first Captain of Faial, Josse van Huerter.
Following disagreements with van Huerter over land holdings, Van de Haegen settled in Quatro Ribeiras, Terceira until journeying to Ribeira da Cruz on Flores during the reign of King John II. The historians Gaspar Frutuoso and Diogo das Chagas noted that Van der Haegen cultivated lands (primarily for wheat export) and was involved in the indigo/woad industry, as well as exploring for mineral deposits (likely silver). Due to its isolated location outside shipping lanes, its intemperate climate and infertile lands he left Flores 10 years later to resettle in Terceira, by way of São Jorge Island.
The economy of the island is mainly agricultural, with taro and grain cultivation the principal activities. Due to the early settlers being from northern Portugal, the island’s houses and streets resemble those found there. Portugal has a military agreement with France permitting France to have a base in the region. Santa Cruz das Flores houses the only airport on the island. Its primary commercial seaport is located in Lajes das Flores. Located in Santa Cruz is the ferry to Corvo Island, and to the south of the village commercial fishermen operate out of the Porto Boqueirão.