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Dragging their boat ashore, fishermen in Porto Moniz will face a stiff challenge from the better equipped fishing fleets soon to arrive from the Continent. To compete, Madeirans will need to buy bigger boats and stay at sea for weeks, an unpleasant prospect for family men. “They’re worried they’ll get lonely out there,” says one young bachelor.

Yet with growth have come difficulties. Conflict and contradiction have slowed the process of integration in all parts of the EU  and the Madeira Islands are no exception. Although generous amounts of European money have done much to stoke the engine of the incipient service economy, strict EU directives are transforming agricultural production, which still employs 21 percent of the workforce. While young people have embraced these sudden and dramatic changes, an extremely cautious older generation has, for the most part, been left confused and intimidated by them. But if there is a generational rift among Madeirans, one thing that unites them is their deep and touching devotion to their island home.

Standing on a hillside in the arid and empty interior of Porto Santo, Maria Emilia Menezes lovingly groomed a calf with a stone. A smiling woman in a straw hat the color of the wheat fields before us, she told me, “Porto Santo is the painting God made.”

Twenty-five miles away, on Madeira itself, I felt no less close to the divine. Soon after arriving on the island, I set out on a drive along the rugged north coast. The experience, meant to be an exploratory jaunt, turned out to be a motor tour through the morning of creation. In con-trast to the spare, dry beauty of Porto Santo, Madeira blooms like a garden. Iridescent waterfalls crash over the treacherously narrow road. Dreamlike flowers glimmer through a mist of rainbows. Exotic fruits dangle from primeval tree limbs.

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