Portugal <<PAWR chuh gahl>> is a small country in Europe. It lies on the west coast of the Iberian Peninsula. A peninsula is a piece of land that is almost completely surrounded by water. Portugal is bordered by Spain and the Atlantic Ocean. Lisbon is Portugal’s capital and largest city.
Most of Portugal is flat. However, mountain ranges cut across the middle of the country and rise in eastern Portugal.
The coastal plains are flatlands that lie along the Atlantic Ocean. Many farming and fishing villages are in the coastal plains. Portugal’s main cities lie on the Atlantic Coast.
Along its border with Spain, areas of flat land are broken by mountains. Farmers grow crops and raise animals on the areas of flat land.
About 5,000 years ago, people called Iberians lived in what is now Portugal. Over the years, other new groups included Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Celts, Greeks, Romans, Visigoths, and North African Muslims. Today’s Portuguese people are a mixture of all these groups. Since the mid-1960′s, many blacks from African regions once controlled by Portugal have moved to Portugal.
About half of Portugal’s people live in small fishing or farming villages. Each year, a large number of people from the country areas move to the cities to find jobs.
Resources and products
Until the mid-1900′s, most of Portugal’s money came from farming and fishing. Today, service industries and manufacturing are the most important economic activities. Cars, chemicals, food products, and paper are important manufactured goods.
Portuguese farmers raise many kinds of crops. However, they are best known for their fine grapes, which are used to make wine.
The most important mineral resource is stone used in building. This stone is found throughout the country. Other mined products include copper, silver, tin, and zinc.
During the 1400′s and 1500′s, brave Portuguese explorers began a period known as the Great Age of European Discovery. During this time, a huge Portuguese empire was built. This empire included areas of Africa, Asia, and South America.
Portugal’s power began to decrease in the late 1500′s, but the country held onto much of its empire for more than 400 years. In the 1960′s and 1970′s, however, it lost all but three of its overseas areas. It still has the Azores and the Madeira Islands in the North Atlantic Ocean. But it returned Macao, a tiny land area on China’s southern coast, to China in 1999.
The 1970′s brought big changes in Portugal. Leaders called dictators had ruled the country from 1926 to 1974. During this period, people did not have complete freedom. In 1974, a group of military officers threw out the government. In 1976, Portugal changed to a democratic system of government in which the people elect their own leaders.