General Information

Madeira, an autonomous region of Portugal, is an archipelago comprising 4 islands off the northwest coast of Africa. It’s known for its namesake wine and warm, subtropical climate. The main island of Madeira is volcanic, green and rugged, with high cliffs, pebbly beaches and settlements on deltas of the Fajã River. Capital Funchal has botanic gardens and is known for its harbor and a large New Year’s fireworks show.


Its total population was estimated in 2011 at 267,785.

Political Structure

Since 1976 the Madeiras have been an autonomous region (regiâo ) within greater Portugal, with their civil affairs administered under Portugal’s constitution by a Lisbon-assigned minister of the republic who appoints the president of regional government. A locally elected regional assembly selects from among its deputies a president and presiding officer, who is second to the minister of the Republic in political power. Funchal is headquarters for six Regional secretariats, one for Porto Santo. Locally based political parties are illegal and expressly forbidden, but they continue to operate clandestinely in Funchal (e.g., FLAMA, Frente de Libertaçâo da Madeira). Widespread popular participation in local governance is inhibited by a long tradition of colonial dependence, by mass ignorance of political procedure, and by the parochialism and debilitation that centuries of choking authoritarianism have created.

Infrastructure and Economy

Madeira has a cash economy centered on the export of agricultural commodities (sugar, tropical fruit, wine); internal commerce is heavily dependent on tourism, the major island revenue source. Despite constant emigration, population density is at a level to preclude subsistence on locally produced food; staples (wheat, corn, meat) are imported. Tourism provides Service jobs for 25,000 residents. Madeiran handicrafts (artesanato )—wicker, embroidery, wood carving, wines—are major export commodities and an important adjunct to tourism.


The language of the Madeiras is Standard European Portuguese (SEP), which follows Romance Language Family conventions (inflective, synthetic, and stress-timed) and is the norm against which internal insular variations are evaluated. .


The currency used on the island of Madeira is the Euro.


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