Social Organization. The Azores remain a two-class Society, although the advent of regionalization and university-level institutions is weakening ascriptive and patronizing features of the social hierarchy. Continental Portugal remains the wellspring of high (literary) culture, as reflected in museums, libraries, the theater, and Manueline architecture. Folk culture is manifest in the aesthetics of the festa and its traditional music, dancing, costumes, and food. Social stratification is marked linguistically.
Political Organization. Since 1976 the Azores have been designated an "autonomous region" ( reguío ) within greater Portugal, and are administered under the constitution of the Portuguese republic. Autonomy is limited in two ways: Portugal's sovereignty may not be compromised, and regionally based political parties are prohibited. Governance is by a Regional assembly made up of freely elected deputies who choose its presiding officer. A Lisbon-appointed minister of the republic names the president of the regional government. Nine governmental secretariats are divided among cities (Ponta Delgada, Angra, Horta) of the three Azorean Districts. Local officials are elected at the level of the municipality ( município, concelho ) and the precinct ( freguesia ). The archipelago participates in, and may benefit from, international agreements having direct local impact (e.g., revenues from the American military presence at Lajes).
Social Control. Portugal very effectively controls the Azores from afar. Interpersonal conflict is held in check by the parish church and by village gossip. Conflict at any level has traditionally been suppressed rather than openly resolved.
Conflict. During centuries of cultural and geographic isolation, warfare rarely occurred in the Azores. Internal conflict was largely avoided by restraining freedom of expression and promoting illiteracy. Limited autonomy has lent some support to underlying political dissent.