Calheta is a municipality on the southwest coast of Madeira, Portugal. The population in 2011 was 11,521, in an area of 111.50 km².
The origin of the areas name, are both related to the toponymy of Calheta (which means “small bay” in Portuguese): first, that there existed a small bay or cove, which already had this name, but secondly, that the area of the settlement was the off-port for sugar and collection of wood. Calheta was founded in 1430; the parish, of the same name (which is the central part of the municipality) is one of the oldest parishes on the island of Madeira, and one of the first to be explored by the early settlers. It was the area selected by João Gonçalves Zarco (the island’s discoverer) as a grant to his son and his wife, João Gonçalves da Câmara and Beatriz Gonçalves.
Calheta is located west of Santana, Machico and Funchal, along the southern roadway. Even from its position Saharan Desert sands are able to occasionally affect the area, producing minor dust clouds.
Agriculture and the fishery provides the primary sources of income in this area, although minor commercial establishments are concentrated in the principal village in the municipality. Agriculture was the first industry to develop in this region; the production/cultivation of banana, wine, horticulture and sugar cane developed as the main export products. The fishery supported the populations of Paúl do Mar and the vila of Calheta, although fishermen existed throughout the municipality.
Industrial activity has changed throughout the region, and has developed through cycles, including the dairy industry, fireworks, salt, beekeeping and sugar cane refinement, which have all undergone peaks and troughs. Of these, for example, the factory/ironworks used for conversion of honey into aguardente, a distilled spirit common in the village of Calheta and the fireworks buildings in the Lombo do Doutor were integral businesses in the municipalities development.
For more information visit the website www.cmcalheta.pt.