Jácome de Bruges

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Jácome de Bruges was a servant of Prince Henry the Navigator of Portugal, who was the son of king John I. Henry, quite famously, initiated the so-called Age of Discovery in the fifteenth century.

Jácome de Bruges (born Jacob van Brugge in Flanders) was the son of a wealthy merchant family of Bruges. On the recommendation of Joos van Moerkerke, a Flemish nobleman in the service of Isabella of Burgundy, who was the sister of Duarte I of Portugal, he was recommended to lead an effort to colonize the remote north-Atlantic islands of the Azores. This occurred at a time when Portugal was the dominant maritime power in Europe.

As a native of a city belonging to the Hanseatic league, Jácome de Bruges had been exposed to well-ordered mercantilism, and he understood the value of international trade as a driver of national prosperity. Consequently, he was a logical candidate to enter into the service of the like-minded Prince Henry.

On 2 March 1450, De Bruges received the first license from Prince Henry to lead a contingent of seventeen Flemish families to the island of Terceira, the 'third' island of the Azores archipelago. Ultimately more than two thousand Flemings settled in the Azores during the fifteenth century. Although these Flemish immigrants quickly adapted to Portuguese manners, habits, and culture, their legacy — in the form of windmills, clothing, and some lingering physical traits (blond hair and blue eyes) — have persisted until the present day on some Azorean islands to remind visitors of a Flemish heritage. Because of the presence of Flemish farmers, the Azores were known, until quite recently, as the Islas de Flamengos (Flemish Isles).

Jácome de Bruges played a major rôle in the colonization and administration of the Azores. Some believe that Jácome founded the city of Angra do Heroísmo, the largest city on the island, but others support the claim of Álvaro Martins. Oral tradition holds that he married a Portuguese noblewoman, but most other details of his life and progeny are lost to history.

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