Even with your eye irresistibly drawn to the view of the landscape of masts, sails and hulls that usually fill the Marina, it’s impossible not to notice, land side, the imposing silhouette of the fortress, called “Forte de Santa Cruz da Horta” (fortress of the Holy Cross of Horta), built there to keep invaders and plunderers at bay.
Originally built in the 16th century to protect the rich cargo brought by the Portuguese ships arriving from India, Africa and Brazil, it drove off Spanish invaders and English and French privateers, defending the island against all foes. With it’s strategic position in the middle of the bay, sometimes helped by the crossfire coming from the opposing hills of Espalamaca (north) and Monte da Guia (south), it’s walls were never breached and it was only ever taken by land, remaining undefeated by all direct attacks coming from the sea.
Recognized as national monument in the 20th century, it was turned into one of the best hotels in the island, which I always thought to be sweetly ironic: the same walls that protected us from outside enemies, are now a landmark of hospitality to foreigners, many times from the exact same countries as their invading ancestors. From foes to welcome visitors, showing us the world has indeed changed for the better in many aspects.
But still, in a time where there is again much talk about building walls to keep strangers away, there is certainly a lesson to be learned and remembered here.