For over fifty years Portugal’s inland regions continue to grapple with widespread depopulation.
The exodus was first propitiated by the rampant poverty all throughout the Estado Novo dictatorship alongside the economically challenging conditions of subsistence agriculture. This was a territory of micro-land estates, infertile soils, and ill-suited mechanisation if any. The survival of families and social rituals largely derived from the artisanal production of olive oil, cereals, and cheese.
Upon the transition to democracy in 1974, livelihoods and living changed considerably. Among the youth that did not leave to central Europe, most ended up moving to the industrialised coastal regions and settled there seeking better employment opportunities, education, and access to services and infrastructure.
Today the Interior of Portugal is inhabited by an ageing population in the small villages that punctuate this territory. Rural traditions and popular knowledge are now at the brink of extinction. A fragmented and economically unfeasible agricultural sector compounded by negligent rural landholders has resulted in a mass of unplanned forestland that recurrently plagues the country with uncontrollable wildfires every year.
Yet some still call these places their home.
The report is about their stories. “Interior” is an ongoing project on the social, economic, and environmental aspects affecting rural regions in Portugal.