Posts Tagged ‘History’

Madeira: Banana Tree

January 11, 2010

The archipelago of Madeira was populated by the Portuguese during the Discoveries historical period because of its strategic location along the coast of Africa. The islands served as a refueling station and a first stop from ships coming to Europe from India, Brazil and other Portuguese “Feitorias”.

The weather and the fertile volcanic soil of the islands allowed the introduction of multiple species from overseas, one of those being the Banana Tree.

The bananas produced in Madeira Island are relatively small but are considered to taste sweeter than bananas from other locations due to the concentration of their natural sugar. They are used in some of the local dishes, for example “Swordfish with bananas” (click here to view a photo).

Banana Tree at Madeira

This is a photo from a Banana Tree near one of the Hotels in Madeira Island. The tree only produces one bunch at a time with its distinctive purple flower. When the flower withers and falls, the bunch can be cut off the tree because the bananas will keep maturating outside the tree.

Note: For more info about Madeira Island check its category or the index page please.

Melgaço: Memory and Frontier

November 12, 2009

Museum “Espaço Memória e Fronteira”

ticket: 1€

Melgaço’s extensive border with Spain (either by land or across the Minho River) made this municipality a possible way of leaving and entering Portugal unnoticed, especially before the opening of the borders when Portugal joined the European Union in 1986.

Memory and Frontier (1)

Memory and Frontier building

The museum “Memory and Frontier” is dedicated to the contraband history that used to be a part of the municipality and also to the illegal emigrants who left Portugal during the dictatorial regime years, searching abroad for a better life and job opportunities in order to be able to send money back to their families.

Contraband was most common during the decade of 1940. The ground floor of the museum features some original objects in exhibition like a small boat, a coffee toaster and a republican guard uniform. Any product with an interesting price difference between Portugal and Spain would be smuggled: coffee, soap, rice, almonds, and chocolate for example.

The emigration part starts with a ramp towards the second floor symbolizing the search of a new life. The second floor shows the visitors the causes of the emigration, the preparations to the journey, passports and suitcases. Once you reach the second floor the documents are dedicated to the arrival and adaptation to the destination countries. Melgaço was a way towards France, Luxembourg, Belgium and Switzerland but many Portuguese also emigrated to USA, Brazil and Venezuela during this period.

The museum is linked to the center of the town (Vila – Melgaço) by a pedestrian bridge over the small river “Rio do Porto”.

Note 1: I actually liked visiting the museum: it displays interesting objects, it is well organised and it is quite interactive with motion detectors locating the visitor and adapting the soundtrack. Unfortunately the sound and texts in the museum are in Portuguese only.

Note 2: unfortunately I wasn’t allowed to take photos inside the museum. Here you have a couple of photos I found in the municipality webpage (site in portuguese)

Melgaço: Cinema Museum

November 11, 2009

Museu de Cinema de Melgaço – ticket: 1€

More than thirty years ago a French cinephile met a Portuguese couple and accepted their proposition to spend holidays in Melgaço. His name was Jean-Loup Passek, he was responsible for the International Festival of La Rochelle, a cinema counselor at the Georges Pompidou Centre, wrote a Cinema Dictionary (“Dictionnaire du Cinema” edited by Larousse) and coordinated the “Camera d’Or” award in the Cannes Festival. It seems he was so much charmed by the town that some say he mentioned the ideia of creating a museum dedicated to the 7th art in his first visit.

The Cinema Museum of Melgaço contains all the donated private collection of Jean-Loup Passek. I was told that the first room is permanent and the rest keeps rotating every week or two.

Cinema 1st Room

First Room

 In the first room you’ll find XIX century objects, previous to the invention of the cinematograph by the Lumière brothers, like magic lanterns and others with strange names like “Zoetrope”, “Praxinoscope”, “Phenakistoscope” or “Phantascope”. Not only are these old inventions of technique and science but also the testimony of the search of new ways of entertainment and of manipulating perception by Mankind.

Poster Dolce Vita

La Dolce Vita poster

After the first room, when I visited the museum, the rest of the exposition was dedicated to the Italian director Federico Fellini (1920 – 1993), with film posters, photos and even a letter from the director to Jean-Loup Passek. As said before, this section changes periodically.

The museum also features a small “viewing room” with chairs facing a screen hanging in front of the exposed Castle wall. The screen displays short films of Charlie Chaplin and of Buster Keaton, among others.

The museum is located in Old Town – Vila – Melgaço. For more info check other posts under the “Melgaço” category like THIS ONE.

Melgaço: town symbols

October 30, 2009

The Tower-Castle

Melgaço Tower

Tower castle

The tower construction began in 1170 under the order of D. Afonso Henriques – the first King of Portugal – who also issued a charter with laws, privileges and obligations for Melgaço, creating the municipality.

The tower has a quadrangular shape isolated in the middle of a wall circle. The walls have two doors and are reinforced with three smaller towers with prismatic battlements.

In the XVII century, with the developments in artillery, some adaptations were made with the construction of bastion lines around the medieval area.

Nowadays the interior of the Tower is a museum open for tourists.

Inês Negra (“Black” Agnes)

Inês Negra

Inês Negra Statue

Inês Negra is part history, part legend.

During the years between 1383 and 1385 there was a period of anarchy and civil war in Portugal due to the death of the King “D. Fernando I” without a male heir. The ruling rights were contested between “D. João, Mestre de Avis” and the ruler of Castile (nowadays: Spain) “D. Juan I”.

Melgaço was under Castile influence when in 1388 “D. João” decided to reconquer it with his army. However the fate of the town was in the end decided in a single fight between two women in front of both armies: Inês “Negra” (supporting the Portuguese cause) versus “Arrenegada” (supporting the Spanish cause). Both women were from Melgaço, Inês was nicknamed “Negra” among the population due to the dark tone of her skin; “Arrenegada” was also a nickname and means something like “the hated one” for her support to Castile. Inês Negra won the fight and the Castile’s army left Melgaço the next day. 


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