Who are we here?

castro laboreiro e lamas de mouro

Castro Laboreiro & Lamas de Mouro

As inheritors of the nation-state schematic thinking, we never really care to ask about who we are when someone thus designates us in collective terms. We are the Portuguese, the Melgacenses, whatever each one wants to say according to their Citizen’s Card - or not. When we immigrate, strangers in another land and detached from our own, identity falters, the idea of community dissolves. Fernando Pessoa said his homeland was the Portuguese language, but there are many who doubt him, like Natalia Correia, and don’t even recognize the motherland within the fatherland, the first one built by affections – the motherland, first matrix -, the other more impersonal or institutional.

Now that everything appears to be undefined – the permeable political boundaries, open territory, dilution in Europe and the world, the intense and frantic circulation of information, images, and values - no one knows anymore what are the motherland, homeland or the mother tongue.

Melgaço, in particular, is one of these lands. As in many other places, those who now reside here are only a tiny part of those that were actually born here and there are many others who were born somewhere else and sometimes claim to be from here. Not for a mere exchange of words. It’s just for the simple reason that the definition of a group of belonging is the fundamental matter in order to know who “we” are and what we can do together. This is what defines the public sphere and political sense of the community.

In past times, most people were born and died on the same land. They belonged there like the trees and the rocks, and that was enough. Almost everything that happened there was explained by those who worked or lived there. Now the geographic space and its political-administrative geographies have lost this ability to match both society and the territory.

That is why it makes sense to question who we are here because, in the midst of this demand many others will appear that somehow belong here by how and what they feel, do or are. Floating citizens, people from many lands that often cross or leave their mark around here.

In 2020 the project Who Are We Here? will focus on the Union of Castro Laboreiro and Lamas de Mouro parishes, in the municipality of Melgaço, and its visibility will derive from:

  • Audiovisual record - Spoken Photography
  • An exhibition of documentary photography, opening at Casa da Cultura of Melgaço, during the MDOC – Melgaço Internacional Documentary Film Festival
  • A catalog about the exhibition of documentary photography
  • The collection and digitalization of photographs from family albums belonging to inhabitants of Castro Laboreiro and Lamas de Mouro
  • A photography exhibition from said family albums, in Castro Laboreiro
  • A publication on all undertaken work

Produced by the AO NORTE Association, this project will be coordinated by Álvaro Domingues, executive produced by Rui Ramos and the collaboration of Albertino Gonçalves, Carlos Eduardo Viana, Daniel Maciel, Miguel Arieira, Daniel Deira and João Gigante.


Prado & Remoães

Between the Village and the Spa of Peso, along the lowlands of the Minho river valley, Prado and Remoães constitute a set of places scattered along three routes: the oldest, probably of Roman origin, connects parish churches and the old chapel of St Amaro; the second is a modern road where, in the 19th century it was thought to build the railway from Monção to Melgaço; the third is a recent fast track. With many connecting points, the three are crossed by minor roads in the perpendicular direction of the river.

We are in the “ribeira”, the riverside where the architecture of a landscape made of fields and terraces, walls and paths is still clear, where irrigation water reached the smallest area where maize was grown and vineyards were arranged in steps on the edge of the plots. The Minho River runs indented between pebbles and fishing grounds and sometimes coios deposits, the pebbles of polished stones shaped by the current. There are still lampreys. On the steep banks and on the first plateau of red and stony earth are the wastelands, weeds and pastures for times long gone. Today there are hotels, riding centers, sports equipment and schools of higher education.

Because there were a lot more people than land during centuries of subsistence agriculture, immigration also occurred here, particularly to Brazil and, later to France and beyond. From the golden era of the thermal spas, there remained a few summer houses and also some others from occasional visitors. Judging by what is seen, after immigration and the disappearance of traditional agriculture, the planting of Alvarinho followed, more important to the landscape than the local economy. Not everything is what it seems. Locality is just the place where we find what we see or what we are told is there. If we extend the subject, the geography will be different, much more dilated. Visible and invisible spaces and boundaries will multiply, lives that intersect, surprises, things less permanent than before.

Almost everything is left unsaid in these brief words. The land is small but the people are varied.

Álvaro Domingues

The project Who Are We Here? focused in 2019 on the Union of Prado and Remoães parishes in the municipality of Melgaço. In the 2020 edition of MDOC – Melgaço International Documentary Film Festival, a publication will be promoted on all undertaken work.

Produced by the AO NORTE Association, this project will be coordinated by Álvaro Domingues, executive produced by Rui Ramos and the collaboration of Albertino Gonçalves, Carlos Eduardo Viana, Daniel Maciel, Miguel Arieira, Daniel Deira, João Gigante and Ivo Poças Martins.