Friday, May 24, 2013

A mulher do Capote

This cape has always intrigued me.  I never understood it and was dying to know more.  So off to research I went.  Here's what I uncovered.

I'm sure most of you have seen these are your Azorean relatives homes:

The liquor bottles designed to represent the capote e capelo.
I always thought they were so funny looking, but it was a tradition, and I never thought twice about it.  Until now.... (side note: these bottles are selling for HUNDREDS of dollars on Ebay.  Who would have thought?)

"A large cape that covered a woman's figure, allowing only a glimpse of her face, the origin of the “capote-e-capelo” is controversial. Some say that it came from Flanders and others state that it is an adaptation of mantles and cowls that were fashionable in Portugal in the 17th and 18th centuries. Regardless, for centuries the “capote-e-capelo” was a typically Azorean woman's garment used in Faial. Varying from island to island in the cut of the cape and the arrangement of the cowl, Faial had the extravagant shape of a wedge resting on the shoulders and which jutted out in front for over a palm. The common characteristic of the “capote-e-capelo” was that it was made of a strong, heavy electric-blue cloth that lasted for generations and was handed down from mothers to daughters. The women of the Azores stopped wearing the “capote-e-capelo” around the 1930's. "

There is a description of the Azorean capote in chapter V of Mark Twain’s “The innocents Abroad”
"Here and there in the doorways we saw women with fashionable Portuguese hoods on. This hood is of thick blue cloth, attached to a cloak of the same stuff, and is a marvel of ugliness. It stands up high, and spreads abroad, and is unfathomably deep. It fits like a circus tent, and a woman‘s head is hidden away in it like the man’s who prompts the singers from his tin shed in the stage of an opera [….] a woman can’t go within eight points of the wind with one of them on; she has to go before the wind or not at all."

I've gathered some photos of some of them for you to see the various shape and sizes.

This photo shows Faial on the left and Sao Miguel on the right.  Notice how different there are.  From all the research I've done, it does seem that Faial had the biggest Capote out of everyone.
If you would like to see more of these old photos, and some from a museum housing some of these, click here.  Mulher Do Capote

If you happen to come across anymore photos or history, let us know!  We would love to add them to this.


  1. Heya! I'm big into Azorean/Portuguese tradition. I remember growing up with these too! My parents are from Sta Maria. I also tried looking up the claim of the garb being from "Flanders," but came up empty. My family always told us about the strong influence of the arabs (especially in Sta Maria since it's the oldest) and I always thought it was from that. I only read about Flanders from that one blurb on the web. What do you think? I wonder how we can figure it out!

    1. There were indeed Flemish settlers in the Azores and there are some XVIth century Flemish folk outfits that do resembles to these Azorean hoods BUT there were never arabs in the Azores nor in Portugal to be fair. Portugal was invaded by northern african berbers, not by arabs. The only arabs in the peninsula were the invading army generals in the beginning and after that the governors of the first caliphate were indeed arabs, they came from the Levant (today Syria), nevertheless some arabic culture reached today Portugal, at least in the south, in the form of language and religion. Portugal was peripheral within the Al-Andaluz that is why we do not have Moorish monuments, archeology, culture, roads, bridges, language, religion etc. nothing reminds us that in the Algarve muslim hold the place for 500 years. We do have some 600 words in Portuguese (the language has 600000 words) half of which are toponymy in southern Portugal, so 300 words. But most of those words are used internationally too, for example the English language has 120 arabic words and arabs never went there…
      So to be fair, the hooded Azoreans may really have some Flemish ancestry or a local thing that emerged in the Azores. The "Arab" claim has absolutely no logic or have no reason to be possible.

  2. Wow - am really enjoying your blog - we just got back from Sao Miguel and hope to return next year - the scenery is spectacular but the WARM Azorean people won over our hearts forever! Interesting about the "capote"

  3. I asked my inlaws about this. They come from the island of Terceira. They said that women would wear these capes to go about the island in disguise. Especially useful when conducting unsavory business I guess.

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  5. The Moors were in the peninsula for ~800 years. And with Sta Maria and São Miguel being closer in proximity and oldest to be populated esp those who populated them. A Muslim-esque headscarf isn’t out of the question (many religions wear them esp she consider how religious Azoreans were/are.)

  6. Sta Maria was already being settled (1427) while the Moors were still in Granada (until 1492), so there was overlap. But.... a truly Islamic veil came into Andalucia and persisted there in places like Ronda until the 1930s,1950s. General Franco came from this area. The capote is not in any sense Islamic in style. I think the development is more like insular evolution, in birds for example. Creatures stranded on islands often evolve to dwarf versions (pygmy hippos, homo floriensis) or giants (moas, dodo birds). It is female style competition run amok -- who can wear the biggest most billowy capote? Like peacock feathers, it is a kind of showing off.