Aldeia da Cuada is in one of the most remote areas of Europe, in the middle of the Atlantic, halfway across the Americas. On the island of Flores, one of the nine islands of the Azores archipelago, about three hundred nautical miles from São Miguel, the westernmost piece of inhabited land on the European continent.
The village is located on the north coast of Flores, between the villages of Fajã Grande and Fajãzinha, and experienced the abandonment and decay originated by emigration in the 60s of the last century, essentially destined for the American continent. From the 70s, Cuada was practically unpopulated, the houses surrounded by brambles and guaranteed an uncertain destination. But twenty years later, in the last decade of the century, a visitor appeared interested in acquiring a house to reclaim as a holiday residence. Carlos Silva, a Florentine, was determined: and if he thought better, he did. A few years later, packed by the quietness of the place and the unique atmosphere of the village, the number of houses it had been acquiring was now in its tenths, most of which were in ruin.
Shortly thereafter, the idea of an investment in village tourism began to take shape. The desiderate was at least foolhardy. Most of the walls of the houses lay on the ground, and the roofs crumbled to dust under the weather. The very location of Cuada seemed to discourage idealistic daydreams.
Situated on a plateau by the sea, a hundred meters from the road to Fajã Grande, the only passable access was a dirt road, and inside the village, the streets were limited to narrow canadas covered of uneven stone slabs. And so they remain, even today, keeping the village, as it always has been, from any motorized traffic, configuring an aspect that can well be taken as symbolic of the spirit that guided the rehabilitation.
The village’s built heritage includes fifteen restored houses, including three haystacks that have been adapted for new housing functions. The buildings, of varying typology, have stone in sight and are more or less scattered, separated by meadows and stone walls. They are single-storey houses, almost all, rebuilt with the same stones that designed the ruin of the village, and retain the original architectural feature.
The project of rehabilitating the village with the aim of turning it into a village tourism hub has raised strong skepticism from the outset. Presented the project to the Regional Directorate of Tourism in the early 1990s, the reservation was immediate: it would not be approved because it was not economically viable. Already after the restored village, and open to tourist activity (which happened in June 1998), Carlos Silva was faced with a plan for electrification of the region that provided for the passage of high voltage cables over the houses. Overdue, at the expense of the usual bureaucratic frictions, plus this setback, the next step was crucial to ensure the survival of the project with its unique characteristics. The village achieved in 2000 the status of “protected village and was classified by the Azores Regional Government as a cultural heritage with historical, architectural and landscape interest”.
Among other constraints thereafter, any building within three hundred meters of Cuada has to be approved in advance.