The Portuguese people reflect the influence of diverse ethnic groups. Since prehistoric times the Iberian Peninsula has been settled by many peoples, including Iberians, Celts, Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans, Vandals, Visigoths, and later, Muslim Arabs and Berbers. Centuries of assimilation, however, have imbued the Portuguese people with a remarkable degree of homogeneity. In recent decades, immigrants from Africa, Brazil, and Asia have given Portugal a more multicultural character.
The population of Portugal, including the Azores and Madeira Islands, is 10,642,836 (2018 estimate). The overall population density is 116 persons per sq km (300 per sq mi). Portugal is a rapidly urbanizing country, although more than one-third of the population is still rural—a large percentage compared to other countries in western Europe. In 2005 some 56 percent of Portugal’s population lived in urban areas. The population is densest along the northern and central coastal areas and in the far south.
Portugal has a long history of emigration. By the early 20th century, Portuguese emigrants went mainly to the Americas, especially to Brazil, in search of better lives. During the 1960s, many Portuguese migrated to nearby industrialized European countries in search of work. Others emigrated to avoid conscription by the Portuguese military to fight against independence movements in Portugal’s African colonies. From 1960 to 1972 Portugal’s population fell by 3 percent. Later in the 1970s emigration declined sharply after the African colonies won their independence. Hundreds of thousands of emigrants returned to the Portuguese mainland, along with many thousands of African and mixed-race immigrants.
Today, for the first time in decades, Portugal has more immigrants than emigrants. Most immigrants are from Portugal’s former colonies, including Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, and Guinea-Bissau, in addition to a growing population of retirees from the United Kingdom.
Lisbon (population, 2001, 564,657), the capital and largest city, is the leading administrative and services center of Portugal. It is also the nation’s principal port, a crossroads of road and rail routes, an international air hub, and home to many industries. The city’s rich architecture, numerous museums, and famously pleasant weather attract visitors from around the world.
Other important cities include Porto (263,131), the second largest city, a seaport and industrial center; Coimbra (148,474), an educational and administrative center; Setúbal (113,937), a seaport and industrial center; Funchal (103,962), the capital of the Madeira Islands; and Faro (58,051), in the Algarve resort area. Encarta "Portugal" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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