Arnel Lighthouse

São Miguel, Azores | C.1876

Photo Credit: Ewa Piętka

Nicknamed A Subtil Raposa, or “The Subtle Fox,” politician António de Oliveira is credited with the modernization of much of the Azores, an archipelago in the North Atlantic Ocean. During the late 19th century, the influential de Oliveria launched an ambitious urban plan for the islands, envisioning and directing the crafting of new roads, bridges, buildings, and the Azores’ first lighthouse, the Arnel Lighthouse.

de Oliveira was born in 1847 in the village of Nordeste on São Miguel island. At the time of his birth, the Azores had been under Portuguese rule for 400 years, but after centuries of conquest, the remote islands began to flourish, even attracting global writers and poets passing through on their travels. In 1869, Mark Twain described his visit to the Azores in his travel book “The Innocents Abroad,” and dubbed it a slow, sleepy community.

While Twain was traveling through the Azores, de Oliveira was embarking on a burgeoning career in politics. He first served as a clerk for the Northeast City Council in São Miguel and then later as a judge. His growing influence helped launch the political career of fellow Azorean Ernesto Hintze Ribeiro, who became Portugal’s President of the Council (equivalent to Prime Minister). Their friendship would enable de Oliveira’s lasting impact on the modernization of the archipelago.

With Ribeiro’s favor, de Oliveiro was able to secure the resources for his grand public works projects. When it came time to build the Lighthouse–the Azore’s first–de Oliveiro selected the Arnel, the north-easternmost point of the archipelago and the first sight from the mainland. At 66 meters high, the Lighthouse is situated up a curved road between steep slopes, so is best reached by foot or nimble fox paw.

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