Enramação part #1

A suitable english equivalent for this Portuguese noun is hard to find. In truth, the very word enramação doesn’t even exist in the dictionary in this form, although there are spelling alternatives to it. Where it is used, it means the act of tying a bouquet of flowers together, of arranging flowers and ornamental plants around any structural element.

É difícil encontrar um equivalente inglês para este substantivo Português, que a bem dizer, nem existe no dicionário com esta grafia, apesar de existirem alternativas. No contexto que é usado, significa o arranjo de flores e plantas ornamentais em torno de um elemento estrutural.

Enramação, Festas do Povo de Campo Maior, Campo Maior, Festas das Flores, Campo Maior, Alentejo, Portugal

During the summer, nearly every city, township and hamlet in Portugal puts together some sort of festivity during one or more days. A tradition probably borrowed from the agricultural society, in celebration of either the beginning or the end of the harvest season. Most of these festivities are generic but claim uniqueness. Some are unique and live up to it! Such is the case with the Festas do Povo de Campo Maior (Campo Maior People’s Parties – no deliberate political affiliation is implicit, as there is a different Portuguese word for political party). They are doubly unique for two reasons: the first is that the festivities take place during a whole week and a half. The second will become obvious if you keep reading.

Durante o verão, cada cidade, vila e aldeola em Portugal organiza algum tipo de festa durante um ou mais dias. Uma tradição que, provavelmente terá a ver com a sociedade agrícola, em celebração do arranque ou do fecho da colheita. Muitas destas festas são genéricas, apesar de afirmarem serem únicas. Algumas dizem que são únicas e cumprem-no! É o caso das Festas do Povo de Campo Maior. Estas festas são duplamente únicas por duas razões: a primeira é que as festas duram uma semana e meia. A segunda tornar-se-à óbvia continuando a ler.

Enramação, Festas do Povo de Campo Maior, Campo Maior, Festas das Flores, Campo Maior, Alentejo, Portugal

On the eve of these Campo Maior festivities, a small miracle takes place. Bands of people from all walks of life swarm the streets from early in the morning, putting together all the elements they’ve been working on, throughout evenings and weekends, since the early spring. Organized by streets, the teams assemble a colorful spectacle of paper flowers that cover up next to a hundred streets in the old town. Wires, colored paper, cartboard, styrofoam and a bunch of other lightweight supplies are the raw materials of the orchestrated atmosphere that will take over the town for the next few days. Sweat, camaraderie and teamwork are the chemical elements that bind the ornaments together.

Na véspera das festas, um pequeno milagre toma lugar. Bandos de pessoas de todos os géneros e camadas sociais enchem as ruas desde a manhã cedo, trabalhando para montar os elementos em que têm estado a trabalhar, ao longo de fins-de-semana e noitadas, desde o princípio da primavera. Organizados por ruas, as equipas eregem um espectáculo de flores de papel coloridas que cobrem perto de cem ruas no centro histórico. Fios, cabos, papel colorido, cartão, esferovite e um monte de outros materiais são a matéria-prima do ambiente orquestrado que tomará conta da vila durante os próximos dias. Suor, companheirismo e trabalho de equipa são os componentes químicos que ligam os ornamentos uns aos outros.

All this is what the town folk call Enramação.

Tudo isto é o que os Campomaiorenses chamam de Enramação.

Funcheira junction

The railroad track heading south from Lisboa rests for a few minutes at Funcheira. There are almost no houses here. It was built from scratch to serve as the railroad junction for the track heading northeast towards Beja. There’s a couple of run-down buildings and switching yards and an old rusted watertower. The landscape around it is scorched by the sun and nothing much seems to happen here. The cork trees lean with the wind, the straw shines and the rocky walls of the trenches by the track rust away.

Funcheira, depot, railroad, Algarve, Lisboa, Portugal

A linha de caminho de ferro do sul, partindo de Lisboa, descansa por uns minutos na Funcheira. Quase não há casas aqui. Foi construida de raíz para servir como entroncamento da linha que segue para nordeste, para Beja. Há uns edifícios desgastados e uma velha e enferrujada torre de água, não longe. A paisagem em torno está batida pelo sol e nada parece acontecer. Os sobreiros inclinam-se com o vento, a palha brilha e a terra rochosa das trincheiras da linha enferruja.

Way down south

Menhirs, maps, wasps and natives

Unlike a plane trip, a road trip where you are the driver won’t bode well for your travel journalling. Especially if the trip is made under a scorching sun.

Memories from the trip from Elvas to Lagos include few sketches and half a dozen wasp stings. The territory of Alentejo is marked by man-made objects of so many different eras. The arid plains of northern (Alto) Alentejo, peppered by its Reconquista era castles, became not so arid in more recent years, due to the construction of the Alqueva dam. Monsaraz certainly benefited from this new dammed landscape, as it became a coastal town other than a well-preserved medieval town.

The menhir of Outeiro is a sign of the Megalithic era, lost in the middle of nowhere, re-erected but a few decades ago. It now provides shade to the gigantic and euphoric Alentejo ants.

In Terena, besides the ubiquitous medieval castle, we stumbled upon a couple of Moorish-inspired tile tables, which pattern I copied.

Southern (Baixo) Alentejo is scarred with constructions of the wheat era. “The barnhouse of Portugal” as it was dubbed under the dictatorship. Its plains were dramatically and systematically altered in the first half of the 20th century to yield great quantities of wheat. The grain storage silos in Moura, Serpa and Beja are the few shadows in this immense golden landscape.

Nowadays, all around Alentejo, old men gather in coffee houses, coming up with nicknames for everybody, letting time go by. A friend told me of this strange particularity that town of Amareleja is known for: whoever happens to wander there is certain to get a nickname. And there was one man who, for work reasons, had to go by Amareleja. But as he did not want to get one of the famed nicknames, he avoided the town and went around it. Town folk dubbed him “the went-around” (“o vai-de-volta“).

I wonder what nicknames they gave us.