Tag Archives: culture

Portuguese Heritage – Fado

The theme for this week’s WordPress photo challenge is Heritage. Thinking of the words ‘heritage’ and ‘Portugal’ in the same sentence the first thing that comes to mind is Fado.

We were fortunate to see the highly acclaimed Fado singer Mariza in concert in 2010. It is one of those treasured memories that will always stay with me.

Mariza in concert - Lagos 2010

Mariza in concert – Lagos 2010

Dating back to the early 1900’s Fado (destiny/fate) is traditional Portuguese music with its roots in Lisbon. From my experience of listening to Fado I can only describe it as the voice of a soul in torment. The fadista (singer) usually sings about the harsh realities of daily life and is extremely melancholy. Expression also plays an important part of the performance with anguish not only portrayed in the voice but also in the facial expressions.

Mariza in concert 2010

Mariza in concert 2010

The fadista can be male or female and is often accompanied by guitars including a Portuguese guitar

The Challenge

This week, share a photo of something that says “heritage” to you. It can be from your own family or culture — a library, a work of public art, a place of worship, an object passed down to you from previous generations. Or, like me, you can choose to focus on a tradition to which you don’t belong, but to which you’ve been exposed whether through travel, moving, or the people in your life.

Related posts: Fado is like Marmite (or should that be Veggiemite?)
Useful websites:


Feira da Sopa in Rogil

We’ve attended many fairs and festivals in Portugal, however this has to rank as not only the most interesting but the most humbling lesson in social integration and how welcoming a small community can be.

The day of the “Feira da Sopa” (Soup Fair) dawned cold, damp and miserable. In fact, it was the sort of bleak February day where you could quite happily stayed at home curled up in front of a roaring log fire with a good book and not travelled miles to visit a soup fair.

My favourite Sopa do Mar at the Feira da Sopa in Rogil

My favourite Sopa do Mar at the Feira da Sopa in Rogil

When we arrived black clouds loomed ominously so you can imagine our relief when we discovered the event was held in what can best be described as the village community centre. Not knowing what to expect we tentatively entered the hall where a throng of people had already gathered and were all talking at once. If you are unfamiliar with the area, Rogil is a typical farming community in the Western Algarve. Families have lived there for generations, and as such, are a very close-knit community. The atmosphere, although welcoming, reminded me of a large family wedding, and us neither guests of the bride or groom.

Tables and chairs were neatly arranged round the edge of the room with a large space set aside for dancing. We made ourselves comfortable and “people watched” as we waited patiently along with all the other spectators. The organizers arrived, set up displays, tested the microphone and generally stood around clutching clipboards and looking important (busy).

According to the poster advertising the event it started at 15.30 hrs, but of course it didn’t. The trouble is, being typically English we have this fixation about punctuality and we can’t seem to grasp the simple principle that NOTHING in Portugal EVER starts on time. Honestly, you could train your pet dog quicker!

Fortunately, the bar did open on time so armed with large plastic cups full of rustic red wine (aka courage) we mingled with the locals trying to discover exactly what was happening, or going to happen. Now in a country where you speak the lingo this is easy, but not when you don’t. I soon realised, as my friends looked at me expectantly, that the boundaries of my pidgin Portuguese just did not extend to the finer points of a “Feira da Sopa”, especially without any previous frame of reference to draw on. The only facts I knew for certain were: there was soup (maybe free), music and dancing. However, it soon became clear as we “mingled” that we were strangers and the only non-Portuguese speaking people in the room.

People arrived, carefully carrying large soup pots of various shapes and sizes, and directed to a long table. We watched proceedings with curiosity as each pot had its own dedicated space and a sign describing the soup along with a list of its ingredients. I take numerous photographs, and thanks to my exceptional powers of deduction, I concludethere are two types of soup – Sopa da Terra and Sopa do Mar – I translate these to mean “ Soup of the Land and Soup of the Sea. So far so good, but what did we do? We are still puzzled.

Waiting to be judged

Waiting to be judged

We then discovered a stall selling terracotta commemorative soup dishes so keen to support the event we bought one each. Besides, how else would we eat the soup?

While mingling and taking photographs my friend fortunately met someone who spoke English and the missing pieces of the puzzle finally came together. This was Rogil’s first “Feira da Sopa” which is actually a soup competition. Suddenly as the mist of confusion lifted we looked at each other in one of those special “ah hah” moments! Apparently, each competitor cooks a soup which is assessed by the panel of judges. Once the judging process is complete, the public, that’s us, can try all the different soups free. Now I know why there were so many people standing around with clipboards – they are the judges waiting for all the competitors to arrive with their soup.

As the judges tasted the various soups, pulled faces and made notes the competitors looked nervous, and I felt nervous for them.

Judging at the Feira da Sopa in Rogil

Judging at the Feira da Sopa in Rogil

A crackling noise from the microphone, followed by a high pitch whistle of feedback demanded our attention; one of the organisers was on stage and about to make an announcement. As he spoke with joviality his words accentuated by vigorous shoulder shrugging and expressive hand waving, I tried desperately to translate. Our friends looked at me expectantly; almost willing me to understand as if by praying for divine intervention, I would miraculously understand. However, there was no divine intervention, and no miracle. My limited grasp of the Portuguese language left me feeling frustrated and inadequate. Why, despite extensive study, do I seem to have such a mental block with languages?

We looked to the other spectators for inspiration. The judging complete, competitors served their soup to eager spectators and like lemmings we willingly joined the nearest queue. We tasted all the soups including fish, cabbage and a delicious pumpkin and curry soup which we later discovered won first place in the “Sopa da Terra” category. Emboldened by several glasses of “courage”, aka red wine, and several bowls of hearty Portuguese soup I quickly overcame my initial shyness as I attempted to make polite conversation in Portuguese, while I stood in the queue.

Dancing at the Feira da Sopa in Rogil

Dancing at the Feira da Sopa in Rogil

As the queues dwindled and dancing commenced I noticed all the women sat in groups, while most of the men loitered by the exit from the hall and entrance to the bar. So the women danced together while the men watched. Fascinated, I listened to the accordion player, picked up the beat of the music and studied the feet of the dancers. The dance did not look that difficult I thought, so in a moment’s insanity I pulled my friend on to the dance floor and we shuffled round with four left feet between us. The dance, almost like a galloping two-step with extra steps thrown in here and there for good measure, is harder than it looked. Hoping for inspiration we shadowed other dancers who encouraged and approved of our efforts with a smile and a nod. I don’t know whether my fitness was an issue or the elderly Portuguese women superhuman, but as the last bars of music played I gasped for breath and mopped my sweating brow with a tissue.

Suddenly the music stopped, there was a hushed silence and the microphone crackled to life once again. We turned to see what was happening; all the judges were on stage and a hushed silence enveloped the spectators and competitors. Various announcements ensued then enthusiastically received with applause as some competitors were summoned to the stage and presented with a plaque. Ah ha, they are announcing the winners!

Announcing the winners at the Feira da Sopa in Rogil, Western Algarve

Announcing the winners at the Feira da Sopa in Rogil, Western Algarve

We thoroughly enjoyed the Feira da Sopa and look forward to discovering more Feiras across the Algarve and Alentajo in the future. However, next time I will take my dictionary and swot up on some relevant vocabulary beforehand.

Article first published at ExpatFocus.com

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Silves Medieval Fair: 9th – 15th August, 2011

Festival da Batata-Doce de Aljezur

Boa Páscoa – Happy Easter!

Folar da Páscoa - Traditional Portuguese Easter Bread

Folar da Páscoa – Traditional Portuguese Easter Bread

I don’t have any pictures of Easter Bunnies or Easter Eggs, so hope a picture of Folar da Páscoa will suffice.

I’d planned to drag Mr. Piglet along to a Folar da Páscoa festival today. However, as it’s being held outside and the weather is SO awful I will have to wait until next year! Mr. Piglet breathed a BIG sigh of relief! First time I’ve heard him cheer because it’s raining.

Related posts
Folar da Páscoa

Is Bullfighting “Wrong”?

The theme for this week’s WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge is “Wrong”.

I often reflect on the heated and ongoing debate about the traditional spectacle of bullfighting which is popular in several countries including Spain and Portugal. While some people refer to bullfighting as an “Art” others refer to it as “Sport”. Either way should people inflict pain on an animal in the name of sport or art?

Is it wrong?

As we drove through Spain we saw the iconic silhouettes of the Osborne Bull erected in prominent locations such as on hillsides or on the vast desolate plains. I did not appreciate the size of the bulls until, inspecting this photo more closely, I spotted the people below!

The iconic silhouette of the Osborne Bull in Spain

The iconic silhouette of the Osborne Bull in Spain

Originally created as part of an advertising campaign to promote Veterano brandy the iconic bull has over time been adopted as the unofficial emblem of Spain and used on many touristy items. I wrongly assumed these bulls symbolised bullfighting, but fortunately they do not (thank you Mr. Google)!

What a magnificent animal so why “bullfighting”?

Please share your opinion either “for” or “against” in the comments section below. I would be grateful if you would also take a moment to vote in the poll – it will be interesting to measure my readers view.

Bullfighting in Portugal - Image from Wikipedia

Bullfighting in Portugal – Image from Wikipedia

Want to know more about bullfighting?
Check out Bullfighting on Wikipedia

Jogo da Malha – Jogos Tradicionais

A few weeks ago we returned to Praia do Vale dos Homens to show friends the pair of white storks we’d discovered nesting on an outcrop of rocks. As we drove through the back streets of the sleepy village of Rogil we noticed a group of elderly men gathered on some waste ground. 

What are they doing we wondered...

What are they doing we wondered...

Some were pacing up and down, and then bending down as if to examine something, while others sat on an assortment of old chairs and upturned boxes watching intently.

Curiosity got the better of us so we stopped the car to observe proceedings from a discreet distance. As you can see from the photograph the men are congregating round an arrow-straight concrete strip about 20 meters long.

The men are congregating round an arrow-straight concrete strip about 20 meters long.

The men are congregating round an arrow-straight concrete strip about 20 meters long.

Some of the men were holding two square metal discs with rounded corners which they then slid/threw with more force than precision (to my untrained eye) along the strip of concrete to dislodge a wooden pin situated at the far end.

I was fascinated, and even, almost, but not quite, plucked up courage to ask one of the spectators the name of the game they were watching. This is where I become so cross and frustrated with myself becuase I lack  courage confidence in using my limited Portuguese.  So I sat in the car taking photographs instead.  Even my friend felt frustrated by my lack of courage, took my camera and positioned herself to take a unobscructed photograph of the concrete strip.

The moment I returned home I plagued Mr Google for answers. Nothing!
Well what did I expect using such a vague search term as “Portuguese men playing a game with metal discs”. I then emailed a couple of Portuguese subscribers who comment on my blog. Result – they thought the name of the game was Jogo da Malha.

Jogo da Malha, or Jogo de Chinquilho as it is called in some areas of Portugal, is a traditional Portuguese game reported to date back to the 15th Century.

Jogo da Malha - Meco and Mesh

Jogo da Malha - Pino (Meco) and Mesh

The game is played on a hard surface, and as you can see from the photographs of the game we observed, there is a long concrete strip sprinkled with what looks like sand or fine grit. A wooden pin called a meco is set up at the far end of the track and the players slide/throw a metal disc (mesh) to knock down the pino (meco). Please note the game does vary in that I have noticed in most photographs on other websites there is not a concrete strip, just hard ground. The discs may also be thrown and in some cases even stones are used.

I struggled with translation issues to find information I could use concerning the rules as they seemed to vary. I smiled because when I used Google translate for some text I was presented with

Player or team that knock down the stick a time will be able to still obtain that to another one sweater thrown stay more near to the stick that the of the adversary, being able to in that case earn 3 points; THE Player that knock down the stick twice will obtain 4 points; case the sweaters that They knocked down the stick they stay
more near to this that the of the adversary, will earn 6 points. The stick after knocked down is put once again in the same small farm where was, small farm that that previously should be designated.

However, I eventually struck lucky and found a website advertising a Jogo da Malha tournament. Unfortunately since I last visited the site a few weeks ago, my anti-virus software is now alerting me the site poses a security threat and is unsafe.

Rules of the game
(as far as I can tell)

There appears to be so many variations to the rules across the country that I’ve taken an overview from a Portuguese organisation who have organised a Jogo de Malha tournament.

* Each team consists of two players and each game consists of two teams. The players have two meshes each.
* The meshes are 9.5cm with a weight of approximately 1.3kg. The mecos are approximately 20cm high and 5cm diameter
* The minimum distance between the pinos (mecos) is 12 mtrs with a maximum of 16 mtrs
* A perpendicular line one mtere in front of the pini (meco) will mark the zone of launching the meshes
* Each player has two meshes which they throw alternately to topple the meco and leave as close as possible.
* When the meco is toppled they gain 4 points for their team

This part became lost in translation:
“after the four meshes plays, they get closer to the pino (meco) sum 2 points, and a team scoring 4 points if your two fabrics are the closest of meco, being the partner of the player whose fabric won the points who will first and third releases of meshes, and so on”

* The first team to achieve 30 points wins the game.
* Each match consists of a maximum of five games.

A friend in Northern Portugal advised

In some areas this is called Jogo de Malha
In my area it’s called Jogo de Chinquilho & has different rules
Same disc are used back & forwards between both players

Need a fairly hard surface – 2 pins at a distance from 12-18 meters
1 Player each end with a round metal disc
Whoever plays 1st has 2 disc’s & they throw to knock over pin.
Pin down 2 points – nearest to Pin 1 point
If ONE player get’s both discs very close to the Pin without knocking it over they count as 2 points each
Game finished when 1 player reaches 31 points
Rules seem rather complicated ?

I try, but to be honest sometimes researching a topic using only Portuguse websites is like trying to do a doublesided sky jigsaw puzzle. (I only have the edges and corners for clues)

If anyone has any further information about this game I would love to know more.