Portugal Ethnography and Folklore

By | December 25, 2021

Very homogeneous in its physical characteristics, despite the different influences that could have modified the original type, the Portuguese people also offer a relative homogeneity from the psychological and cultural point of view. It is especially accentuated in what concerns the language (see above).

Numerous psychological portraits were made of the Portuguese in general and of the Portuguese of the different provinces. Of course the authors are not always in agreement on this subject, but in general Portuguese can be considered sweet, affable and adaptable, sober and intelligent, moderately hard-working, courageous, impulsive and often obstinate. Hardworking, cheerful and peaceful in the Minho, he is instead more proud and violent, but also very generous and loyal in the Traz os Montes. The residents of the Ribatejo, good riders, used to fighting and taming wild bulls, are brave and agile. In the Alemtejo, a flat, arid and sad country, man is haughty, a little melancholy, a little fatalistic like the Arab. It is called “the most Castilian of the Portuguese” and actually, lacking a clear natural border with Spain, the population of the Alemtejo has transitional characteristics, which, moreover, have no influence on its national sentiments. In the Algarve the people are cheerful, talkative, superstitious. The islanders of the Azores and Madeira do not differ much from the Portuguese of the mainland, despite some foreign influence.

The folk songs and dances of northern and central Portugal are very lively and joyful with simple and insistent rhythms (chulas and green caninha). The bemdito is a mystical, solemn song. In Miranda do Douro there is a curious dance called paulitos (sticks) which is very interesting from the folkloristic side (warrior dance). In the central area of ​​the coast, dance in a circle predominates, the singing is sweet and less profound (estaladinhovira malhão). Further south is the gay green and the fandangos. In some cities (especially Coimbra and Lisbon) the favorite popular music is fado (from Latin fatum “destiny”), melancholy and slow song, of very limited folkloristic and artistic value, whose origin is relatively recent having arisen under the influence of the colonies and slums of Lisbon. Even in the Alemtejo the song is slow and sad, but serious and deep; while in the Algarve it is joyful, often ironic and erotic. In the Azores there are still some aravias from the Mozarabic period (Freitas Branco). The Portuguese song has generally been defined as poor in harmony, of a primitive simplicity, but very interesting in terms of rhythm and melodic design. The predominant motif of folk songs is love.

In the northern part of the country, popular festivals and entertainment consist mainly of romarias (pilgrimages), in arraiais (semi-pagan festivals on the occasion of pilgrimages and religious ceremonies), processions, religious shows in general or rural festivals, such as those for the harvest of corn, the harvest, etc. In Pico (Azores) religious performances are still given and the traditional chamarrita is sung. In southern Portugal, bullfights predominate, while everywhere there are traditional fairs and celebrations for Christmas and Easter, and for St. Anthony, St. John and St. Peter, in which the people perform dances around the fires (fogueiras).

The food of the Portuguese peasant is usually very frugal; There are, however, national dishes very much appreciated (cosidocaldo verdecaldeiradadeafeningpapasDobradacabidelaescabeches, etc.), excellent cold cuts, different kinds of cheese and a generous assortment of pastries and tasty pastries (soft eggs Aveiro, queljadas from Cintra, ov0s em fiopães de lócavacasmorcela from Arouca, arrufadas from Coimbra, etc.).

Portuguese rural houses do not have a uniform type, as the nature of the building materials, climate and topography contribute to their variation. Rock shelters and natural caves are used as dwellings only as an exception or for temporary residence (shepherds’ shelters; Madeira furnas). Likewise, the round huts of the citânias (fortified cities) of the northern countries are no longer seen. In these, stone buildings predominate, on two floors, with external stairs, balconies and often alpendre (shed in front of the entrance). The kitchen, which is usually the most important room in the house, is generally located on the upper floor. Often the house proper is separated from the stable and other rural outbuildings, which then open onto a common courtyard.

The houses have, for the most part, tiled roofs, although in some remote villages there are still thatched roofs. Along the coasts, especially in the center and in the Algarve, wooden houses (palheiros) can be seen, sometimes on stilts. Granaries (espigueiros) also supported on poles are very frequent in the north of the country. In the central coastal area brick constructions predominate and the outer walls are mostly whitewashed, which is generally used in southern countries. Towards the south the fireplaces are large and artistic, often disproportionate to the simplicity and smallness of the house. For Portugal 2011, please check internetsailors.com.

The azulejos (majolica tiles), the shutters, the external shelves for the flowerpots, the weather vanes on the roofs are details that recur frequently. In the Alemtejo the house is often reduced to the ground floor; however, it is always surrounded by other buildings intended for livestock and rural services which are called montes. In the Algarve, roofs are often terraced.

Many traditional folk costumes are still preserved in certain regions of the country. The feminine costumes of the Minho are particularly interesting, in various colors; of the varinas (the women of Ovar and Murtosa), of the tricana (common people) of Aveiro and of Coimbra, the hood or bioco of the island of Fayal and of some areas of the continent, the capucha of the montanare of Caramulo and other mountains of the Beira, the coca of Porto Alegre. The customs of the south are generally more sober and severe than those of the north, especially those of the north-west.

Among men, the customs of the shepherds of the Beira mountains, of the peasants of Miranda (with their solemn cloaks called capas de honras), of the shepherds on horseback (campinos) of Ribatejo, of the peasants (saloios) of the surroundings of Lisbon, of the moirais and the maltezes of Alemtejo. In various places there is still the use of spinning and hand weaving and the beautiful decorated fortresses are very interesting ethnographically.

Among the popular arts and industries we can mention lace (Viana do Castelo, Vila do Conde, Peniche, Madera), carpets (Arraiolos, Vildemoinhos), ceramics, scattered all over the place, furniture (Évora), spoons art of the shepherds of the center and south, the gold and silver filigree jewels (around Porto), etc. Some of these industries have very ancient origins.

The rowboats and boats of the Duero (rabêlos) and Rio d’Aveiro (moliceirosbateiraslabrêgas, etc.) are very characteristic. Also typical are the oxcarts from the northern coast up to Coimbra, which often have bizarrely decorated yokes, the mule carts of the Alemtejo, etc. The harnesses of these mules and the designs cut into their fur are also original.

In some northern regions there are sometimes forms of collective cultivation. For example, the individual distribution of the fields belonging to the community is made periodically and the authorities recognize these uses. There are, a little everywhere, small villages with ovens, mills, etc., which are collectively owned. The fishermen of the northern coasts are inbred groups, and have corporations called irmandades and compromissos for their work.

Transhumance and internal migration phenomena are frequent in Portugal. The shepherds of the center move with their herds according to the seasons and sometimes considerable distances. The villagers of Beira and the mountaineers of the Algarve go, in large groups, on the occasion of the collections, to the Alemtejo.

Portugal Folklore