La Bensaudiere

Bensaude history in the Azores

November 1st, 2005

The Bensaude Millenum meet-up was the chance to listen to a nice university lecture about Bensaude history in the Azores. For those who missed it, here is a small summary found in an interview of Jorge Delmar by Myrna and Harvey Frommer featuring Fatima Sequeira Dias who if I remember well is the speaker we had the pleasure of listening to :

[..] in 1818 [..] the Bensaude family of Morocco came to this volcanic archipelago [..] seeing opportunity in its developing orange-growing industry. They made their fortune trading agricultural products for manufactured goods with England and trading bills of exchange while transporting emigrants to Brazil. In the process, according to Fatima Sequeira Dias, Professor of Economic History at the University of the Azores, they changed the nature of the Azorean economy.

“The Bensaudes had the trade connections that enabled them to link England, Brazil, and Newfoundland with the Azores,” she says. “When they got into the bill of exchange business, that was the beginning of banking in the Azores.” This single Jewish family, she maintains, succeeded in integrating the islands’ economy, establishing a chain of retailers throughout the archipelago who offered imported goods on easy terms, and developing its maritime transport industry. Today a financial empire with international interests, the Bensaudes continue to be the Azores’ chief economic entity. But they are no longer Jewish. Fearful of a Nazis occupation of Portugal, most converted during the Second World War. Vasco Bensaude, the last Jew of the dynasty, died some twenty years ago.

That reminds me that the two following papers by Fatima Sequeira Dias contain rich insights into Bensaude history in the Azores :

  • Uma estratégia de sucesso numa economia periférica: a casa Bensaúde e os Açores, 1800-1873, Ponta Delgada, 1993;
  • A Fábrica de Tabaco Micaelense: 1866-1995, Ponta Delgada, Fábrica de Tabaco Micaelense, 1995;

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