My Portuguese Story

Corticos - Tras Os Montes - Portugal

“Tras-Os-Montes” can literally be translated to “Beyond the Mountains.” This hilly part of Portugal is very precious to me because it is the land of my ancestors. My maternal Grandfather decided to follow the emigration wave during the hard times of the seventies, and leave Portugal with his family to try to find a better life in France.

This region is unknown to mass tourism, in the summer; it is mostly the children and grandchildren that are coming from all around Europe to visit their grandparents who came back to Portugal for retirement.

 

During summertime, you can feel the heat all around you. It smells like the perfect combination of dry ground, herbs, and olive trees.

Every village is very lively; you hear music resounding from neighboring villages when there are parties in the main plaza for the summer pilgrims. The only one bar of the town is crowded every night, and the teenagers are hiding in dark corners to experience their first love.

But once summer is done…. Everything shuts down. It is all very quiet, streets are empty, the population is divided by three and old people remain sitting on the bench, waiting… everything seems suspended in time. It looks dead and abandoned, but it’s not, it’s all fine because everything will come back to life in the summer when the children and grandchildren will be back…

 

Through this series, I wanted to show the sleepy part of the year in the remotes villages of Portugal.

 

I took this series during springtime in April, and I decided to take it in black and white to really show the feeling that someone can have going through these villages at this period of the year. It seems that we are transported back to the old times, maybe around the beginning of the 20th century.

I am not sure the other generations after mine will live and feel what I just described; I am part of the generation born in the country that my grandparents chose to find work and give a better life to their children.

My generation is not thinking about going back to live in Portugal, we grew up and we don’t spend our summers there anymore.

We speak the language, we know the culture, we call ourselves “Portuguese” because our blood is, but we do not belong there anymore.

We know it as if we grew up there but it will never belong to us in the way we romanticize it. Maybe that is why we hold the country so close to our hearts.

©2020 Mylène Fernandes | contact@mylenefernandes.com