Sunday, December 5, 2010


In conclusion, tourism bring about many positive impacts which benefits the country by a large amount. Without tourism, many countries will still be underdeveloped whereby many people suffer from unemployment and only engage in activities like agriculture.

However, tourism also brings about the issue of deterioration of culture whereby it is no longer authentic anymore in some countries. Everything may be 'disneyfied' similar to theme parks, altered to meet the needs of tourists. If nothing is done, the future of authentic culture and traditions may only be found in books from the past.

This assignment has brought me into an in-depth study of Portugal and also allowed me to link what I have read in books and Internet about Portugal to the lectures and tutorials that were taught. Before I took this module, my mindset of tourism was to Disneyland, Bali and places that allowed me to experience the sun-sand-sea. After learning more about the culture of other countries, I began to become curious and want to visit these places instead of the common scene that I always see like the beaches or theme parks. However, I felt that even if I were to travel to places where many rituals or festivals are held, I may start to question myself if it was really authentic or altered just for me, a tourist to see.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Is tourism a culprit in commodifying cultures and traditions?

I believe, to a certain extent that tourism is responsible for the commodification of culture and tradition. Whenever you read books that deal with tourism as consumption, they will also address the issue of commodification as a central concern, which in this case means the traditions and culture of the country be 'objectified' for the purposes of the global market.

When tourism first started in 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights declared tourism to be a universal and fundamental right of all citizens, causing the tourist floodgates to open drastically. Immediately following the declaration, new records in tourist arrivals, receipts and expenditures were reached, with each year increasing upon the previous. In less than half a century tourism grew into a phenomenon that overwhelmed societies, economies and environments and firmly established itself as the vertiable service industry of the last century, leading to mass tourism.

Mass tourism, as we know,leads to pollution, excessive exploitation of natural resources, cultural erosion, cultural clashes, as well as deterioration of the social situation.

A shocking issue I came to learn during tutorials is about Cambodia, which shares many of the same attitudes to dress and social taboos with other Southeast Asian cultures. Cambodians are conservative people, and regardless of their means do their very best to keep clean; you'll gain more respect if you're well turned out and modest in your dress. Behaviour that is offensive to Cambodians includes any display of public affection between men and women; even seeing foreigners holding hands is embarrassing to them. However, during a recent presentation by my classmate on 'child sex tourism', my perception towards Cambodia changed. Raising the question, "How can such a conservative country be engaging in such activities?"

Dr. Jerry Albom, known to be a loving son, loyal friend, respectable doctor, and
a hard-working individual by his family,friends, and patients back home turned out to be one of those child sex tourist as well. In the article ( ), it stated that although child sex tourism has existed for decades, the practice has exploded in recent years due to the rapid globalization of trade and the growth of the tourist industry. As countries once insulated now open their borders to global markets, and as airfares become more affordable to consumers, sex offenders find new opportunities and easier means to travel abroad for underage sex. There are also other factors such as the lack of education, the discrimination against female children, widespread poverty, poor law enforcement, political corruption, and advances in information sharing through Internet technology.

However, I felt that if there is no demand, there will be no supply. If Cambodia did not open its doors to tourism, would such an issue be happening to them now? There is still a possibility that it will happen, but not as severe. There may also be arguements on locals who would engage in child exploitation as well, however, it may also be due to influences of the tourists that a conservative country like Cambodia engagesin such activities.

When people travel, they expect to experience the unfamiliar. Entrepreneurs leave no stone unturned in producing dream holidays, to develop tourism and attract more tourists. Normally, the development will be targeted at those that are easily recognisable and sellable, and that may be the culture and traditions of the country, which differentiate one place from another. This brought me back to the culture of Portugal, especially developing region like the Trás-os-Montes. The caretos, as mentioned in the previous post, is something unique that only happens every year in the region. As the region open its doors to tourists, will the demand of tourists lead to the appearance of caretos whenever we visit the region? An example would be the Maori Culture at Tamaki Maori Village Hangi, which have became quite a booming business. In the villages, watching cultural performances has become one of the “must-do” things whereby performances such as the Hakka Ceremony are performed just for the tourists.

Tourists products are also created and modified according to the tourists needs. The host communities have little influence because the tourists either come alone or by tour guides or operators. As tourists also spend money in their region, the tourists command too. An example will be Benidorm, Spain. Spain enjoyed dramatic and uninterrupted growth in visitor numbers from the early 1950s to the late 1980s. As a result, quiet fishing villages along the Mediterranean coast were transformed over a short time into tourist destinations for the short-haul European market interested in a sun-sea-sand experience. Over time, much of the coastline become synonymous with the worse excesses of mass tourism. While the trend had reversed in the late 1990s and showed signs of recovery, such as Benidorm, the host population has lost out in the sense that their culture and traditions have been changed as a result of tourism.

Furthermore, if tourism does not affect the traditions and culture of a region, will the word 'Disneyfication’,which means one that transforms everything into a theme park and makes authentic travel experiences impossible, be a trend now? This word came about because of the success of Disney reaching out to almost every corner of the world, hence everybody know Disney characters through comic books, Internet, television programmes and came to know Disneyland as well. In order to earn more money and attract more tourist, many places are applying the aspects of Disneyfication such as theming.

What will all these eventually lead to? I believe to an extent it will lead to the loss of authenticity of the place, with social factors such as preference for commitment only to those occupations which contribute to a financial return, especially to the future generations who did not understand the culture and traditions their parents once experienced.

Even though now many countries are practising sustainable tourism and many people are now more aware of the destruction of mass-tourism on the environment, it does not mean that the culture or tradition will not be altered in any way. The impact happens when the host and tourists start to interact with each other.

Changes brought about by the growth of Tourism

When a country is exposed to tourism, it is pushed to globalisation by putting the country on map. When this happens, there will be changes that are brought about by the growth of tourism which leads to shift of the following: financial deregulation, technological change and innovation, media and communications and cost and time of moving commodities (Harvey,2000).

The above diagram shows the relationship between change and tourism development. In stage 1, there is an initial state of stable equilibrium in which local cultural identities are being constantly expressed through local iconography that can be seen from the built environment. In stage 2, tourists start to get attracted to the place. Tourism as it develops, induces change. These developments will inevitably select components that are easily recognisable, reproducible and sellable , which it simplifies, homogenises and stereotypes. The process of change leads to a gap developing between the sense of place projected to , and consumed by tourists and that required by locals for their place identification. In stage 3, there will be the emergence of at least two quite different senses of place, one for tourist and the other for local consumption. In the final stage, there are three possible adjustments to the situation. Firstly, destination communities can adjust their place images to that of the tourists as they come to accept and incorporate in their own self-image the identity projected to them by visitors. This process may lead to adaptation to tourist demands and acculturation. Secondly, if tourism continues to develop, then the tourist sense of place can become more diversified by reselecting much that was previously rejected or overlooked. Hence, it becomes more 'authentic' which is caused by the need within tourism to constantly diversify the product and the volatile character of tourism markets. The third reaction is when these different place identities lead to displacement of locals who no longer 'feel at home' in the tourist place.

Take in the case of Trás-os-Montes which used to be Portugal's most rugged and remote region, where every reasonably level land here is used for small-scale agriculture. The Trnsmontanos took pride in their age-old costumes, festivals and local cuisines. After tourism is developed in the region, foreign banks and ATMs and the use of mastercard, visa, american express was also built in the region for the tourists. There is also development of roads, buses and cars to bring tourists around the attractions as well as the use of Internet for hotel bookings, promotion and advertising.
These facilities that were built for the tourists can also be used by the residents themselves, thereby bring convenience to them as well.

When tourists start coming into the region, it will definitely impact the locals there:

In the economic context:

  • There will be changes to the status of the various income earners. As some of the people in the family will work in the tourism sector such as hotel, they may earn more than what their parents or siblings earn when they work in the fields.
  • At the community level, there will be changes in investment priorities of bigger organisations, employment structure, as well as the role of government, as the government now has to shift his/her focus from other sectors to the tourism sector.
In the social context:
  • There will be changes to responsibility levels, decision-making roles, employment opportunities. The locals no longer have to work in the fields to earn money as they can now work in hotels, or as performers and these jobs may even allow them to earn more money. From the elders who are more experienced in farming, the younger generation are higher in demand when it comes to recruiting locals for jobs relating to the tourism sector. This will cause a change in the responsibility levels, with the younger generation being the bread and butter for the family.
  • At the community level, changes related to the local leaders, significance of government, influence of 'external' stakeholders, new political structures. The local leaders may turn their attention to the tourism sector when they see higher revenue earned from tourism. The government is the one that makes the final decision for the region, hence the government holds the greatest influence on the development of the tourism; whether he/she wants to allow as many visitors as possible(mass tourism) or practise sustainable tourism.
In the cultural context:

  • It may lead to hosts imitating guests' behaviour due to the demonstration effect of visitor behaviour. The demonstration effect can be expressed in terms of the value systems, standards of behaviour, and attitudes towards people, property, culture and spaces.

  • At the community level, with local cultures being manipulated to meet the tourists' expectations, it leads to the deterioration of culture as community starts to lose its special identity, with the selected attitudes of its local culture being commodified.

  • Examples includes importation of foreign goods, creation of 'alien' services and facilities (e.g. casinos, entertainment theatres) and the loosening in loyalty of the locals to the place.


The impact of change of the people in this region can be seen here:

  • The development of technology has allowed the people to promote their culture through the use of Internet such as social networking sites to attract more tourists to their region. (Facebook site:!/pages/Caretos-de-Podence/229759826113?v=info )
  • This ritual, whereby the locals will put on their caretos (leering masks) and candy-cane costumes only happened during the Carnaval celebration around February. This festival is only among the locals, however, currently, it is inviting tourists through facebook for instance to join them. This may lead to loss or deterioration of culture, whereby the main purpose of having this event may be altered into attracting more tourists into the region.

According to the UNWTO, the number of visitor arrivals in Portugal is 12.3 million in year 2008, and is expected to rise in the next 5 years. An article ( ) states Portugal's tourist profits in the first nine years reach the highest compared to the previous years. This is indeed a positive impact as the rise in the profits helped boost its economy. However, this may also bring about a concern whereby Portugal start to rely more heavily on tourism to boost its economy.

In future, if issues such as the spread of diseases or terrorism in the country, it may impact the tourism sector in Portugal badly. An example will be the Bali bombings in 2002, whereby the terrorism crippled the economy in Bali. When such things happen, not only will the tourism receipts be affected, the locals who are working in the tourism sector will also face unemployment when tourists desert the tourism site for their safety. Furthermore, it will also take several years to re-establish the confidence among the tourists.


If you have young children you can’t escape Walt’s world. Disney’s ubiquitous characters gaze out from T-shirts and lunch boxes; commercials for the latest Disney animated film blanket children’s TV programming. And Disney comics reach even the most isolated rural regions. The Disney machine has touched us all, spreading the values of the marketplace, colonizing the fantasy life of children and changing the world irrevocably in the process.

From this, the word 'disneyfication' is created. In simpler terms,Disneyfication is a term that is used to describe such happenings as Starbucks appearing in libraries and churches, McDonalds in office buildings, research tools such as the internet being used as entertainment and 'virtual' culture and enviroment, virtual culture in the form of themed parks, ect. It is basically saying that life is becoming a form of entertainment.

Disneyization comprises of five aspects; theming, hybrid consumption, merchandising, performative labour and control & surveillance.


Theming, the identifying feature of a Disney theme park, has now spread beyond the berm, in that restaurants, shops, hotels, zoos and so on may theme themselves, infusing them symbolism and a constructed history that enhance their appeal. The service provided is enhanced with entertainment, and in a society which relies increasingly more on service over goods, it is a way of plussing themselves, making them unique, and able to charge a higher price.

Internacional Design Hotel, Lisbon

An example will be Internacional Design Hotel, in Lisbon.It is a popular hotel among tourists where all of the rooms are themed around one of four design concepts, Zen, tribal, urban, and pop. Entertainment like golf and spa is also provided for guests. By theming the hotel, it becomes the unique selling point for the hotel.

Hybrid Consumption

Hybrid consumption is the blending of services and products in an effort to provide more and retain customers longer. Visiting a theme park is not just riding rides, it is dining, shopping and entertainment, just as a mall will provide entertainment or a restaurant will sell merchandise of itself.


For example, SEA LIFE Porto has gifts and souvenir shops whereby they sell merchandises related to the attraction such as shirts. Furthermore, its annual pass allows 20% discount on the merchandises in the gift shops. SEA LIFE Porto also partners with MacDonalds whereby visitors can stand a chance to win a SEA LIFE's voucher.


This leads on to Merchandising (and similarly branding), which is the marketing of what would typically be rather indistinguishable items with the logo or creative property of a particular cultural construct. A movie is no longer a movie; it can be the launching point of books, CDs, DVDs, clothing, toys, home goods, merchandise and even theme park attractions. By establishing a brand, companies can guarantee higher revenues for a longer duration.

Aqualand, Algarve

For example, the gift shop in AQUALAND, Algarve offers our personalised t-shirts featuring the AQUALAND logo and the attractions. There are also other personalised items from the stationery, toy and soft toy sections from the shops.

Performative Labour
Performative Labour, highly visible in the service industries, is the embellishment of an employee’s role as a service provider to that of a performer. Just as Disneyland workers are not simply staff, they are castmembers and part of the show, this same expectation is found in chain restaurants and shops. It is epitomised by the smile of the staff. Companies recognise that this theatre, like theming, can separate them from the competitors and establish a reputation for service and experience.

For example, theme parks are starting to offer customer services and send staffs to offer help to visitors, similar to service industries like hotels whereby guests call for hotel service. The Zoomarine, which is in Algarve, has a customer service counter whereby visitors can approach the staff for help if in doubt. This personalised service can be seen as a plus point for the theme park to differentiate themselves from other parks.


There are so many things about Portugal in this blog, but what is Portugal actually known for?

Football, Bullfights, Castles, Shrines, Food, Music, Beaches. All of these contains unique points that only Portugal has. Portugal is such a huge country nobody can visit all of the attractions in just one day.

When you type in the word 'Portugal' in google search, you will see many different images of Portugal, from football to beautiful beaches, artefacts and even religious buildings.

Among these attractions, the history of Portugal is most popular, as it is the oldest country in Europe in its shape. Portuguese castles have been in existence since the 12th and 13th century when Portugal declared its independence from Castile and Leon. Contrary to most of the castles in the rest of Europe, which were converted into more pleasant palaces as times became more peaceful, the Portuguese castles maintained much of its medieval military characteristics due to the constant invasion threat from Spain. This gives people the possibility to feel how the true and original castles would have been in the past: strong, practical, rough and harsh strongholds with minimal comfort.
Examples are the Belem Tower, Almourol Castle, as well as the Guimaraes Castle.

Belem tower

Almourol castle

Guimaraes Castle

I have covered most of the things you can experience and find in Portugal. Does that make you want to travel to visit Portugal? By doing so, you will be engaging in tourism, just like anyone who visit to places and stay in places outside their usual environment (for less than 1 year) for leisure and other purposes.

Tourism has proved to be one factor that helps boost a country's economy, allows self-actualisation in oneself,encourages a form of social exchange and mutual understanding among one another. In principle, it is a remarkable gift bequeathed upon humanity by humankind. However, at the same time, tourism is a culprit of negative change, whereby destination environments deteriorated, cultures change, and economies faltered.

In the following entries, I will be discussing more on these issues, and how tourism has 'disneyfied' the culture and society in parts of Portugal.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Leisure Programme

The Portuguese are sociable people, and most recreational activities take place in the company of others. The Portuguese love to gather with neighbours for a game of cards or dominoes, with friends at a bar for a drink, and enthusiastically attend folkloric festivals. Although social activities within the community are important, the Portuguese are family-oriented people and spend most of their spare time with close family and relatives. At weekends, families visit restaurants, shopping centres and beaches or nature parks outside town.


Algrave Beach, South of Portugal

With a coastline of nearly 1,800km, it is not shocking that beaches are an important leisure destination for the Portuguese. Every weekend during the summer large crowds descend on Portugal's beautiful beaches in search of their own spot in the sand and sun. Children build sandcastles, adults sunbathe, read or listen to radios under umbrellas and surfers ride the waves along Portugal's coast. The Portuguese also prefer to frequent the beaches closest to home.


As mentioned, football is not only a sport, but has become a part of the culture of the Portuguese. Click to read more:

Water sports are also popular among the Portuguese. Many coastal towns, especially in the Algarve, have marinas with dozens of moored boats. surfing is also a popular sport all along the coast. The popular surf spots are the Estremadura coast near Peniche. Windsurfing is also popular in the estuaries and protected areas along the coast, especially in the Eastern Algarve.

Bicycle racing in Portugal is fairly popular as well, and Portugal hosts the annual Volta a Portugal (Tour of Portugal), which attracts a large number of international participants.

Although not nearly as common as in neighbouring Spain, bullfighting is still a popular spectacle in Portugal's cattle-raising regions such as Ribatejo. Over one million spectators watch bullfights in Portugal's arenas every year, making it the most popular spectator sport after football. For more information, click here:

The Performing Arts

Lisbon, the capital of Portugal contains the most lively performing arts scene, and there are numerous performance venues all over the city. Among the most notable are the Teatro Nacional Dona Maria II (theatre productions), the Teatro Nacional São Carlos (concerts and operas), the Centro Cultural de Belém(a varied programme of music, dance, exhibits, and theatre) and the Coliseu dos Recreios (regular concerts of national and international stars)

Above picture:Teatro Nacional Dona Maria II

Above picture: Teatro Nacional São Carlos

Above picture: Centro Cultural de Belém

Above picture:Coliseu dos Recreios

Mode of Education

During most of Portugal's history, education was a privilege of the nobility and clergy. It was not until after the 1974revolution that basic education was extended to include a larger percentage of the population.

Basic Education
Portugal's education system can be summarised in the following diagram (click to enlarge):

Higher education:

At present, higher education in Portugal is divided into two subsystems: university education and non-university higher education (polytechnic education), and it is provided in public and private universities and non-university higher education institutions (both public and private).The Portuguese Catholic University was instituted by decree of the Holy See and is recognized by the State of Portugal. Private higher education institutions cannot operate if they are not recognized by the Ministry of Science and Higher Education. Access is regulated by the same procedures as those for state higher education institutions. The two systems of higher education (university and polytechnic) are linked and it is possible to transfer from one to the other. It is also possible to transfer from a public institution to a private one and vice-versa.

Thursday, December 2, 2010


Portuguese is the official language of Portugal in Spain. Portuguese is among the world's ten most popular languages and is spoke by over 213 million people on four continents: Portugal, Brazil, Cabo Verde, Angola, Mozambique, Guinea Bissau, Sao Tome and Principe and most recently East Timor. The Portuguese in all of these countries has slight variations, with Brazilian Portuguese being the most different, not only in pronunciation, but also in grammer and syntax.
The main challenge of Portuguese pronunciation for English speakers are the characteristic nasal sounds. Most other phonemes are similar to those in English.

Over half of the Portuguese population is bilingual in Portuguese and another, major language that isn't native to the Republic. The top three languages in that category are English, French, and Spanish. Anywhere from 26%-32% of the population speaks Portuguese and English. Another 24% speaks Portuguese and French. And yet another 9% speaks Portuguese and Spanish.

Below is a video showing the common greetings in Portuguese. Enjoy!

Madeira & Trás-os-Montes

Map of Madeira

Madeira has a more established tourist industry and a greater range of agricultural products compared to Azore, including the famed Madeira wine. Its low-tax international business centre and its international shipping register have diversified the economy. Local skills are provided by the Scientific and Technical Centre and the University of Madeira. The revamped Madeira International Business Centre has approval of the EU Commission to offer tax concessions to companies setting up there, provided they create new jobs.


The population in the archipelago averages 250 000 people, 100 000 of them inhabiting the main town and the Region’s capital, the city of Funchal. The average population density is 306 inhab./km2, although in Funchal the density reaches 1313 inhab./km2, one of the highest population densities in Europe. This high population density poses a major challenge for land management and sustainable development.
The official language is Portuguese, although English and other languages (Spanish, German and Scandinavian) are widely spoken, especially among the tourism-related industry.

Madeira Wine

With classic varieties and a distinctive taste derived from a unique process, Madeira Wine has become famous, indeed a market leader all over the world. The Madeira Wine harvest is an intense activity and a great festivity, commencing mid-August through October sometimes all the way to November depending on the altitude. Traditionally grapes are hand picked and placed in wicker baskets and then transported to the Lagar (wine making place) where the grapes are first pressed barefoot before a mechanical pressing machine is used. Today it is quite common to still see grape pressing by foot, however it’s mostly done by local farmers who still follow the tradition.


Embroidery is part of Madeira’s history and culture and was originally introduced by the English Phelps family who settled in Madeira in 1784. The fabrics used in the embroidery industry are Linen, Silk, Organdy and Cotton from which tablecloths, dresses, shirts, bed sheets and delicate handkerchiefs are created.

Madeira embroidery factories are located around Funchal but most of the actual embroidery is carried out traditionally, at home by the many women skilled in this practice.

The factories usually supply the materials to the embroiders, then when the embroidery is returned to them, they complete final phase, sale and export all over the world.

Today Madeira’s finest and delicate hand made embroidery is a souvenir sought by many tourists, admired for its beauty and perfection; a treasure that lasts several generations.

Compared to Azore, Madeira has become more developed and attracted more tourists with the development of online websites ( and propose tours for tourists. Around 90 percent of the island’s workforce are employed in the tourism industry. Aside from exporting bananas and their famous wine, tourism is the lifeblood of Madeira. Therefore, during February this year when Madeira was struck with the massive flood and landslide, it caused a great impact on Madeira's economy. I will discuss this issue further in the next few posts.

Another region is the Trás-os-Montes (which literally means 'behind the mountains') is Portugal's most rugged and remote region. Every resonably piece of land here is used for small-scale agriculture. The district of Miranda do Douro, found in a remote region along the Douro river near the Spanish border, is home to Portugal's only officiak minority language known as Mirandés. The people of this region, known as Transmontanos, are staunchly traditional. As this region lacked infrastructure and employment opportunities to achieve development and growth, young people move elsewhere to find work. There are many villages with hardly any young people or children, just old people going about their work in the fields as they have done all their lives.

The Indigenous Groups of Portugal

Based on the World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples, Azoreans and Madeirans has been identified as the indigenious groups in Portugal.

Here is a video that shows The Azores, and the people there:

A Little history of the two islands:
Madeira and the Azores were discovered in 1419 and 1427 respectively. Both archipelagos were uninhabited.
Madeira was settled in 1433 by people from the Algarve and Minho. Agriculture was irrigated in Madeira from the sixteenth century. In the nineteenth century Madeirans emigrated to South Africa and Venezuela, and in the latter half of the twentieth century to other countries of the European Union. The Madeiran diaspora outnumbers the island population by around 3:1. The first tourist hotel was opened in Madeira in 1894. Tourism increased after the opening of the airport in 1963.

The Azores were settled from 1439 by people from the Algarve and Alentejo to service Portuguese shipping. The Portuguese were joined later by Flemish, French, Spaniards, Indians, Jews, Moorish prisoners and African slaves. In the nineteenth century many Azoreans emigrated to North America, where they now outnumber the population of the islands by around 4:1. In the twentieth century some returned to live in the Azores.

In 1988 Madeira set itself up as a low tax centre for international business with an industrial free trade zone, financial services, international services and an international shipping register. The number of companies operating in the Madeira International Business Centre rose from seven in 1988 to 3,230 in 1998, with the creation of over 2,000 jobs. As the EU and Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) tightened up on tax havens, Madeira introduced new rules of transparency in 2004, which gained the approval of these two bodies.

Map of Azores; 9 volcanic islands

As you can see from the video above, Azore is a place with many beautiful natural landscapes and culture that were undiscovered by other people.Agriculture and tourism do not provide enough income for the rural population of the Azores or Madeira and islanders continue to emigrate, some on a seasonal basis. Remittances are important, especially in the Azores.

Azore has promoted the use of IT and e-business and has a university and technical centre, but the region's remoteness has held back the economy.

The Azores government has implemented regional development plans aimed at strengthening infrastructure, local skills, businesses, cooperatives and non-profit associations, modernizing production, and providing social programmes for vulnerable sections of the population, including returning migrants.

The US Department of Agriculture is providing a technical assistance programme in 2003 to 2008 to strengthen the economic and social development of the Azores. The programme aims to improve environmental strategies and practice. It forms part of a wider cooperation agreement with the government covering agriculture, education, environment, tourism and cultural exchange, civil protection, social security and health.

Culture and tradition of the Azoreans
Most ethnic groups have their own set of folk customs which are unique to their culture. The people of the Azores have their own customs as well.
In the Azores, they were, and still are, an important part of the everyday lives of the people. Music, in all its various forms, is used to express joy, love, sorrow, thanks, and praise. One of them is the dance called the Chamarrita, which is done at weddings and the Holy Ghost Festival.
This is a dance that is popular on all the Azore Islands especially in Faial and Pico. There can be many versions. As the dance has been handed down from generation to generation, and people have moved here and there, they sometimes changed the words. The dance itself, though, is a lively dance done in a circle. There is a caller and he will sing out directions to all the dancers.

Azorean Guitar
The Azorean Guitar, or A Viola Acoreana, was first brought to the Azores in the 15th century. It has become the favorite musical instrument of the Azores and is used in much of the music. Over a period of time, the Viola has changed, making it larger so as to be able to play more notes.

This instrument is held in high regard in the Azores as is the man who plays it. It is used in most songs as music has always been a big part of Azorean life. Almost every social gathering in the Azores involves music and the Viola is played then as part of the festivities.

The following video shows the dance, Chamarrita and the music that goes along with it was played with the Azorean Guitar:

Festival of the Holy Spirit

The most famous festival is the Festa do Espirito Santo (the Festival of the Holy Spirit), which is a yearly celebration to honor the Holy Ghost. It did not originate in the Azores, but is a much loved and practiced custom there and has continued now in many areas where Azoreans have settled. Many people from different areas, some from very far away, would meet . Sometimes, this might be the only time in a year that these people would get to see each other. As with all Azorean gatherings, music and good food are found in abundance.

The popular activities that tourists engage in is to visit the volcanos (such as Lagoa do Fogo) and mountains, and to engage in activities like mountain climbing in Pico Mountain. Tourists who are interested in the culture and heritage of Azore also visit places such as , Church of São Pedro, Fort São Brás, Redoubt of Mãe de Deus, Town, Conceição Palace, and Carlos Machado Museum.
The pictures shown below are more pictures of cultural tourism in Azore:

Lajes, Pico: The volcanic island's centuries-long viniculture and winemaking earned it a UNESCO World Heritage site designation in 2004.

Angra do Heroísmo, Terceira: Sanjoaninas marchas – this weeklong summer solstice celebration includes huge ensembles from island towns singing and dancing their way down the parade route as far as the eye can see, each accompanied by its community's filarmónica [marching band]. In 2011, Sanjoaninas will be held June 19-26.

Velas, São Jorge: Authentic mint-scented sopas served over crusty Portuguese bread is provided free to the entire community (and occasional tourist) by local impérios [fraternal lodges] at luncheons throughout the Azores on feast days. The island chain has many religious and secular festivals during the year.

Horta, Faial: Thousands of sailors from 'round the world observe the custom of leaving a painting on a marina wall, in hopes it will bring good luck on their next voyage.

Calheta, São Jorge: Freshly-baked artisanal breads, the norm throughout the Azores – including (above) handcrafted crusty pão de milho loaves made with fine cornmeal and baked in wood-burning ovens, papo secos (hard rolls), massa sovada (soft, sweet egg bread) and bolo lêvedo (yeast muffins).

Horta, Faial: Street entertainers captivate children of all ages with music, humor and magic tricks on a sunny Sunday afternoon under spreading shade-trees in the Largo do Infante (Prince Henry the Navigator plaza).

For more pictures, click here:

The Azores economy is based mainly on agriculture, fisheries and tourism. Among these factors, tourism, however, the one that has been gaining most terrain in the economic scenario in recent years. It is far less developed than those industries of its Macaronesian neighbours, Madeira and Canary Islands, and its focus is mainly on the archipelago’s natural heritage. On the reverse side of the coin, the sector has seen great development and important investments are a result of this. Over the past decade tourist infrastructure has grown markedly and, also as a measure to combat isolation, the frequency and diversity of air routes within the islands and to the exterior has risen. There is a growing interest in the construction of ports and harbours and in coastal development, altogether.

Despite these recent developments, and partly because tourism in the Azores is greatly based on the islands’ cultural diversity, quality of life and natural beauty, in 2008 they were ranked 2nd best islands (or group of islands) in the world for sustainable tourism by National Geographic Traveler.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Traditions & Festivals

Portuguese traditions give Portugal a unique quality. The modern world has not made the Portuguese like everyone else. The old ways of doing things are deeply rooted in the people. The farming calendar and the church festivals shape the Portuguese year. The agricultural towns celebrate their wonderful produce while the big cities celebrate their history and achievements.

Holy Week Festival

Farricocos in Eccce Homo Procession

Portuguese traditions in spring are about renewal - rebirth - flowers and food.Easter is of course the main spring festival and is the most important religious festival in Braga in the Minho region, with numerous processions throughout Holy Week. One week before Easter the town comes alive with festivals associated with Holy Week Celebrations, Semana Santa. The whole city is transformed being decorated and taken over by impressive processions such as the Penitence at the Cathedral. On Good Friday is the Ecce Homo Procession, which is led by the Farricocos (barefoot men in tunics with hoods), one of the most peculiar parts of the Portuguese religious tradition.

If you're in the Castelo de Vide region in the south, you'll experience a very different Easter celebration, one with Jewish origins. In the morning of Easter Eve, the region's shepherds invade the town centre to have their flocks of sheep blessed.

At night, during the Vigília Pascal (Paschal Vigil), people ask for forgiveness in secret, reminiscent of the Jewish Yom Kippur. At the end of the mass, all those present bring cowbells that ring the Cortejo da Aleluia (Procession of Alleluia) through the town.

Easter is the perfect time to try specialties of Portuguese cuisine. After the fasting of Lent, the best delicacies are eaten, such as roast kid, lamb stew, meatballs, buns, chocolate and almond eggs. Just a few of the delicious dishes you can try.


Festival of Saint Anthony

Festival of Saint Anthony

Summer is the period for celebration; music, dance, romance and homecoming. One of Portugal's most popular and lively festivals is the Festival of Saint Anthony. It is held from 14-29 June in Lisbon in honour of Portugal's secondary patron saint. Folkloric groups of different districts parade through the streets and accompanied by music.

As St Anthony is the matchmaker saint, it is still the tradition in Lisbon to celebrate multiple marriages (200 to 300) and still following the tradition, if you are attracted to someone, one can declare himself in the heat of the festivities by offering to the loved person a manjerico (a flower-pot with a sweet basil plant) and a love poem.

Festival of Saint John

The Festival of Saint John, also known as São João Festival, is the biggest festival on the Porto calender, and one of Europe's liveliest street. This festival is held on 23 and 24 June in honour of Saint John, the city's patron saint. The huge festival attracts enormous crowds every year, with music and dance all night long.

Furthermore, you will see images of people chasing each other with a toy hammer which is also wishing and blessing each other good luck.


Our Lady of Fátima

Nossa Senhora de Fátima(Our Lady of Fátima) takes place from 12-13 October as shown in the previous entry post. Below is a YouTube video which shows more about the event:

All Saints' Day

All Saints' Day which is on 1st November, is a public holiday in Portugal. It is a celebration of all Christian saints, known and unknown, and especially for those saints who have no special feast days of their own. This is observed worldwide by Roman Catholics, Anglicans and Protestant churches. During this day, Portugal, churches ceremonies are held in memory of the patron’s saints of chapels, churches and parishes. Later on the day, people will bring flower arrangements to the graves of dead relatives and light candles as a symbol to enlighten their way into Heaven.

Saint Martin's Day

Roasted Chestnuts

Although not an official holiday, Saint Martin's Day is celebrated all over Portugal on 11 November. As the saying goes: 'No dia de São Martinho, vai na adega e prova o vinho' ('On Saint Martin's Day go to the wine cellar and try the wine'). This day is commonly associated with the celebration of the maturation of the year’s wine, being traditionally the first day when the new wine can be tasted. It is celebrated, traditionally around a bonfire, eating the magusto, chestnuts roasted under the embers of the bonfire (sometimes dry figs and walnuts), and drinking a local light alcoholic beverage called água-pé (literally “foot water”), made by adding water to the pomace left after the juice is pressed out of the grapes for wine.
For more information of this festival click here:

Restoration of Independence Day

1st December marks the restoration of Portugal's independence from Spain in 1640, whereby the majority of Portuguese remember on this day honor their historical heritage from monarchic times when Portugal used to be one of the most important countries in the world. It is also a day used by monarchic sectors in Portugal to remember the monarchic history of the country and the importance that they had in the building of the Portuguese nation.
Immaculate Conception Day

The Immaculate Conception Day celebrates the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary. It is celebrated on December 8, after the Nativity of Mary, which is celebrated on September 8. Daily Catholic masses are held on this day as a celebration of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, and she is remembered by most Portuguese as Our Patron Saint. For more information, click here:



In Portugal, the tradition of giving gifts is a big part of the most Christmas celebrations. On Christmas Day, the feast is known as 'Consoda', where extra places are set at the table for the souls of the dead. It is believed that gifting food to ancestor's souls will make them bless the household with good fortune for the coming year.

Portuguese burn Cepo de Natal or the Christmas log, which is a piece of oak that burns on the hearth all through the day on Christmas. On 5th of January or Epiphany Eve, children keep their shoes along windowsills and doorways and fill them with carrots and straw to lure the horses of the Three Wise Men to their household during the night. The Three Kings (not the Santa) then leave gifts and treats for the children in their shoes, which they usually find in the morning and consist of candied fruits and sweet breads.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Culture of Portugal

Here is a video to give you an overview of Portugal:

The video above shows the lifestyle of the Portuguese, as well as the pride the Portuguese have for their country. From the video, you can see the culture of the Portuguese as well, such as sports, religion, music, arts and literature.


Portugal has around 10.7 million inhabitants. Its growth rate is rather small with an estimated 0.27% in 2009. The Portuguese population has its origin in several different peoples that settled in Portugal in historic times, such as the Celts and Germanic tribes. However, these ethnic groups have blended over the centuries and the Portuguese are today fairly homogeneous.


Football (Soccer) is not a game in Portugal; it is a national obsession. Although mostly a spectator sport, football is also regularly played by many Portuguese at weekends. No matter where you are in Portugal, people gather for informal matches on Sunday afternoons at sport complexes or grassy fields on the outskirts of town.

Life and often the national economy come to a near standstill during any big match, with bar and restaurant TVs showing nothing else. Post-match celebrations has become a tradition, with fans taking to the streets, honking, setting off fireworks and gridlocking entire town centres until the wee hours.

The country was consumed with football hysteria in 2004 when it hosted the UEFA European Football Championships, the biggest sports event ever staged in Portugal. For more on UEFA European Football Championships 2004, click here:


Bullfighting is a traditional spectacle of Portugal. It was first recorded in Portugal a staggering 2000 years ago by a Roman historian. The sport was then honed in the 12th century, when the tourada became a way to maintain military fitness and prepare nobles for horseback battle.

A typical tourada (refer to picture above) starts with an enraged bull charging into the ring towards a cavaleiro, a dashing horsemen dressed in the 18th-century finery and plumed tricon hat. The cavaleiro seizes the animal up as his team of peões de brega (footmen) distract and provoke the bull with capes. Then with superb horsemanship, he gallops within inches of the bull's horns and plants several barbed bandarilha (spears) in the angry creature's neck.

At the second stage, eight brave young forcados challenge the bull directly without any protection or weapon of defense. The front man provokes the bull into a charge to perform a pega de cara or pega de caras (face catch). The front man secures the animal's head and is quickly aided by his fellows who surround and secure the animal until he is subdued.

Bullfighting remains popular here despite opposition from international animal-welfare organisations as Portugal's own anti-bullfighting lobby is vocal but small.

The season runs from late April or March to October. The most traditional contests take place in bull-breeding Ribatejo province, especially in Santarém during the June fair.


Portugal was profoundly Roman Catholic. According to common saying, "to be Portuguese is to be Catholic," and approximately 97 percent of the population considered itself Roman Catholic--the highest percentage in Western Europe.

The country is famous for its impressive pilgrimages and romarias (religious festivals in honour of a plethora of parton saints), which continue unabated and are celebrated with a special fervour in the north.

The picture above shows one of Europe's most important centres of pilgrimage in Portugal at Fátima, where up to 300,000 pilgrims congregate every May and October. Days before the popular pilgrimages on the 13th of each month from May to October, the roads to Fátima will be crowded with thousands of pilgrims who walk to the sanctuary from all over Portugal. These people come to pay vows, pray or ask the Virgin for help.

During the last night of every pilgrimage cycle, the large square in front of the basilica turns into a sea of light, as tens of thousands of pilgrims hold up candles while attending outdoor mass. For more information on Fátima, click here:

Arts & Literature

Portuguese literature has long been moulded by foreign influences but has retained its individuality throughout. Two major styles dominate: lyric poetry and realistic fiction.

Monument of Luís Vaz de Camões, Lisbon

The country's most outstanding literary figure is Luís Vaz de Camões (1524-80), a poet who enjoyed little fame or fortune in his lifetime. Only after his death was his genius recognised, thanks largely to a poem, Os Lusiadas (The Lusiads; 1572)

It tells of Vasco da Gama's 1497 sea voyage to India, but it is also a superbly lyrical paean to the Portuguese spirit, written when Portugal was still one of the most powerful countries in the Western world. Four centuries after its humble publication, it is considered the national epic, its poet a national hero.

Other famous poets includes Almeida Garrett (1799-1854), José Maria de Eça de Queirós, Fernanda Pessoa (1888-1935) and José Cardoso Pires(1925-98).

Today, Portugal's literary scene is largely dominated by two people: José Saramago and António Lobo Antunes.


Fundamental to Portugal's history of musical expression is its foot-tapping folk music, which you can almost hear at every festival. It traces its roots to the medieval troubadour and is traditionally accompanied by a band of guitars, violins, clarinets, harmonicas and various wooden percussion instruments.

Of all the folkloric music traditions, fado is the music that best expresses the Portuguese sentiments of nostalgia and saudade. The fado, which means 'fate' in Portuguese, is a ballad about the tribulations of life, lost love, about saudades and aspects of Lisbon's low life of old.

The video below is fado music by Amalia Rodrigues, who brought fado international recognition. Enjoy!


Although Portugal is a small country, it has a richly varied cuisine. Every religion, and sometimes every town, has meat dishes, stews, soups, desserts and pastries is truly astounding. Portugal's characteristic dishes are hearty and reveal a traditional skill of creating satisfying and tasty meals with simple ingredients.


Bacalhau (dried, salted cod) is the food item most associated with Portuguese cuisine. It is prepared in every possible and imaginable way, from simply grilled to steamed, cooked in milk and made into fried patties.

Arroz de marisco

Portugal also has an amazing variety of seafood dishes, such as the Arroz de marisco (seafood rice)[picture above] which is a seasoned stew made with several types of seafood and cooked together with rice, and the cataplana (refer to picture below), a traditional dish of steamed seafood from the Algarve.


In addition to the great variety of seafood dishes, Portugal also has a rich selection of meat dishes with great regional variations. One of the most popular Portuguese beef dishes is Bife à portuguesa (grilled beef steak topped with a fried egg) and Cozido à portuguesa (a stew made with cabbage and meats such as pork, chicken and smoked sausage) is considered be some to be Portugal's national dish.

A number of sweet dishes are prepared seasonally for special occasions. Among them are rabanadas (made from white bread soaked in sugar syrup, then dipped in beaten eggs and fried which is popular in the Minho region at Christmas), filhos (a type of fritters which is also popular during Christmas), and the Folar de Páscoa (a sweet bread baked with whole eggs inside which is popular at Easter)

Rabanadas Filhos

Folar de Pascoa

Friday, November 26, 2010


Map of Portugal

Where is Portugal?

Portugal is located on the Iberian Peninsula on the south-western edge of continental Europe. It is one of Europe's smaller nations with a total land area of 91,951 sq km, which includes the Azores and Madeira islands.

Northern Portugal is characterised by high plateaus and mountains while the central region between the Duoro and the Tagus rivers is mostly hilly with scattered mountains, wide valleys and the coastal plain.

Portugal's Regions

Portugal is divided into several different regions, which are primarily areas of geographic, historic and cultural unity. The influence of the natural environment on regional culture is noticeable everywhere everywhere, from the granite granaries in the Minho to the schist farm houses in the Beira Alta and adobe cottages still found in the Algarve.

The Azores

Angra do Heroismo

The Azores archipelago with its nine islands extends 1,600 km from Portugal. The Azores were discovered in 1427 at the beginning of the Portuguese maritime explorations and became an important stopover point during seafaring expeditions.

The picture shown above is Angra do Heroismo on Ilha Terceira, one of the oldest settlement in the Azores, has been declared a World Heritage Site.

The Madeira Islands

The Madeira archipelago is located about 1000km south-west of Lisbon, the capital and largest city of Portugal. It consists of two inhabited islands - Madeira and Port Santo - and small uninhabited islands of volcanic origin.

Madeira wine
Madeira is best known abroad for its fortified sweet Madeira wine, which is similar to port wine.

A little history of Portugal...

From the video, the picture showing the first king of Portugal was Afonso Henriques (reigned 1139-1185). He was the one who achieved Portugal's independence. The following picture shows the timeline of the history of Portugal (Click to enlarge).

What all of Portugal's regions have in common are the deep historical roots from millennials of human settlement. All across the Portuguese landscape there are many architectures such as the stalwart castles, lofty cathedrals , and elegant manor horses which were once home to the rural nobility. The Portuguese take pride in the unique characteristics of their home region, which are expressed in the livelihoods, crafts, costumes, dances, music, folkloric traditions, dialects and regional wines, which will be discussed in the next entry.