Government & People

Porto Santo is governed by its own regional government, under the auspices of the Madeiran regional government, which itself has semi-autonomic status within the Portuguese national system. Major policy decisions are made in Lisbon, but the Porto Santo council guides local economic development.

Porto Santo has a permanent population of around 5,000 people (though this can quadruple over weekends in summer). Until a recent influx of foreign retirees, the population was made up largely of families who had been on the island for generations. There’s a strong sense of island identity, and a gentle old-fashioned charm to the place. A friendly rivalry exists between people on Porto Santo and their neighbours on Madeira. One of Porto Santo’s earliest residents was one Fernando Nunes, also known as Fernando the Brave. One day in 1533, Fernando ascended into the hills, and returned ringing a bell, announcing to the world that he was Jesus Christ, come to save sinners from the Evil One. He even effected a few miracle cures, and from then on was known as Fernando the Prophet. Bemused Madeirans nicknamed people from Porto Santo profetas. The profetas replied by labelling their flash neighbours, who showed off riches gained abroad, as americanos.

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