1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Entre Minho e Douro

27019571911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 9 — Entre Minho e Douro

ENTRE MINHO E DOURO (popularly called Minho), a former province of Northern Portugal; bounded on the N. by Galicia in Spain, E. by Traz-os-Montes, S. by Beira and W. by the Atlantic Ocean. Pop. (1900) 1,170,361; area 2790 sq. m. Though no longer officially recognized, the old provincial name remains in common use. The coast-line of Entre Minho e Douro is level and unbroken except by the estuaries of the main rivers; inland, the elevation gradually increases towards the north and east, where several mountain ranges mark the frontier. Of these, the most important are the Serra da Peneda (4728 ft.), between the rivers Minho and Limia; the Serra do Gerez (4357 ft.), on the Galician border; the Serra da Cabreira (4021 ft.), immediately to the south; and the Serra de Marão (4642 ft.), in the extreme south-east. As its name implies, the province is bounded by two great rivers, the Douro (q.v.) on the south, and the Minho (Spanish Miño) on the north; but a small tract of land south of the Douro estuary is included also within the provincial boundary. There are three other large rivers which, like the Minho, flow west-south-west into the Atlantic. The Limia or Antela (Spanish Linia) rises in Galicia, and reaches the sea at Vianna do Castello; the Cavado springs from the southern foot hills of La Raya Seca, on the northern frontier of Traz-os-Montes, and forms, at its mouth, the small harbour of Espozende; and the Ave descends from its sources in the Serra da Cabreira to Villa do Conde, where it enters the Atlantic. A large right-hand tributary of the Douro, the Tamega, rises in Galicia, and skirts the western slopes of the Serra de Marão.

The climate is mild, except among the mountains, and such plants as heliotrope, fuchsias, palms, and aloes thrive in the open throughout the year. Wheat and maize are grown on the plains, and other important products are wine, fruit, olives and chestnuts. Fish abound along the coast and in the main rivers; timber is obtained from the mountain forests, and dairy-farming and the breeding of pigs and cattle are carried on in all parts. As the province is occupied by a hardy and industrious peasantry, and the density of population (419.5 per sq. m.) is more than twice that of any other province on the Portuguese mainland, the soil is very closely cultivated. The methods and implements of the farmers are, however, most primitive, and at the beginning of the 20th century it was not unusual to see a mule, or even a woman, harnessed with the team of oxen to an old-fashioned wooden plough. Small quantities of coal, iron, antimony, lead and gold are mined; granite and slate are quarried; and there are mineral springs at Monção (pop. 2283) on the Minho. The Oporto-Corunna railway traverses the western districts and crosses the Spanish frontier at Tuy; its branch lines give access to Braga, Guimarães and Povoa de Varzim; and the Oporto-Salamanca railway passes up the Douro valley. The greater part of the north and west can only be reached by road, and even the chief highways are ill-kept. In these regions the principal means of transport is the springless wooden cart, drawn by one or more of the tawny and under-sized but powerful oxen, with immense horns and elaborately carved yoke, which are characteristic of northern Portugal. For administrative purposes the province is divided into three districts: Vianna do Castello in the north, Braga in the centre, Oporto in the south. The chief towns are separately described; they include Oporto (167,955), one of the greatest wine-producing cities in the world; Braga (24,202), the seat of an archbishop who is primate of Portugal; the seaports of Povoa de Varzim (12,623) and Vianna do Castello (9990); and Guimarães (9104), a place of considerable historical interest.