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The Archipelago of the Azores (English pronunciation: /əˈzɔrz/ ə-ZORZ ; Portuguese: [ɐˈsoɾɨʃ], Açores) is composed of nine volcanic islands situated in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean. The Portuguese archipelago is located about 1,500 km (930 mi) west from Lisbon and about 3,900 km (2,400 mi) east from the east coast of North America. The archipelago, and economic exclusion zone, forms the Autonomous Region of the Azores, one of the two autonomous regions of Portugal. Its main industries are: agriculture, dairy farming (for cheese and butter products primarily), minor livestock ranching, fishing and tourism, which is becoming the major service activity in the region. In addition, the government of the Azores is responsible for employing a large percentage of population directly or indirectly in many aspects of the service and tertiary sectors.

The nine major Azorean islands and Formigas extend for more than 600 km (370 mi) and lie in a northwest-southeast direction. The vast extent of the islands defines an immense exclusive economic zone of 1,100,000 km2 (420,000 sq mi). The westernmost point of this area is 3,380 km (2,100 mi) from the North American continent. All of the islands have volcanic origins, although some, such as Santa Maria, have had no historical activity since the islands were settled. Mount Pico, on the island of Pico, is the highest point in Portugal, at 2,351 m (7,713 ft) in altitude. Generally, the Azores are actually the peaks of several of the tallest mountains on the planet, breaking the surface in the mid-Atlantic (as measured from their base at the bottom of the ocean).

In 1877, Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) wrote of the Azores, as follows:

Because these once uninhabited and remote islands were settled sporadically over a span of two centuries, their culture, dialect, cuisine and traditions vary considerably from island to island. Farming and fishing are key industries that support the Azorean economy.


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