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Heritage building in the 'Historic Villages of Portugal': Social Processes, Practices and Agents

  • Centre for Research in Anthropology

Abstract and Figures

‘Historic Villages of Portugal’ is the label of a tourist network created by a local development programme applied in twelve villages located in the centro region of Portugal. This article focuses on the social processes, practices, and agents involved in heritage building within the framework of this programme. The main argument is that heritage building entails processes of protection, appropriation, and manipulation of cultural expressions for tourist consumption, following international trends on heritage and development. These processes implicate tensions, conflicts, negotiations and cooperation among those who intervene, above all political authorities, specialists in historic conservation (principally architects) the tourism sector, and local populations. Historic conservationists have a ‘monumental’ vision of heritage, which does not correspond to the ‘social’ vision of the majority of the residents in the protected spaces.
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© 2009 Estonian Literary Museum, Estonian National Museum, University of Tartu
ISSN 1736-6518
Vol. 3 (2): 75–91
PhD, Researcher
Centre for Research in Anthropology (CRIA)
Faculdade de Ciências Sociais e Humanas (FCSH)
Universidade Nova de Lisboa
1069-061, Lisboa, Portugal
‘Historic Villages of Portugal’ is the label of a tourist network created by a local
development programme applied in twelve villages located in the Centro region
of Portugal. This article* focuses on the social processes, practices, and agents in-
volved in heritage building within the framework of this programme. The main
argument is that heritage building entails processes of protection, appropriation,
and manipulation of cultural expressions for tourist consumption, following in-
ternational trends on heritage and development. These processes implicate ten-
sions, conicts, negotiations and cooperation among those who intervene, above
all political authorities, specialists in historic conservation (principally architects)
the tourism sector, and local populations. Historic conservationists have a ‘monu-
mental’ vision of heritage, which does not correspond to the ‘social’ vision of the
majority of the residents in the protected spaces.
KEYWORDS: cultural display • historic built heritage • Historic Villages of
Portugal • time
‘Historic Villages of Portugal’ is the label of a tourist network comprising twelve villag-
es located in the Centro region of Portugal, mainly in the districts of Guarda and Cas-
telo Branco (see Map 1). These villages are Almeida, Belmonte, Castelo Rodrigo, Castelo
Mendo, Castelo Novo, Idanha-a-Velha, Linhares da Beira, Marialva, Monsanto, Piódão,
Sortelha and Trancoso. The network was established by a political programme of lo-
cal development entitled Programa de Recuperação de Aldeias Históricas de Portugal
(Historic Villages of Portugal Recovery Programme). Implemented between 1995 and
2006, the programme was designed by the national government and the Commission
for Coordination and Regional Development of the Centre Region (CCDRC). The idea
was to use funds oered by the European Union for promoting tourist products (Silva
2009a; 2009b) according to a global “ideology of tourism” (Ribeiro 2003), which sees the
* This study is based on a postdoctoral research project funded by Fundação para a Ciência e
a Tecnologia and supervised by Prof. Paula Godinho.
sector as a prior and ecient tool
for the development of depressed
areas. Much like other countries
where similar guidelines have been
applied since 1980, such as France,
the programme aimed to promote
social and economic revitalisation
through cultural tourism (PPDR
1995; CCRC 1999). The programme
was started in collaboration with
the former Portuguese Institute of
Architectural Heritage (IPPAR), the
now defunct General Board of Na-
tional Buildings and Monuments
(DGEMN), the National Institute
for the Advantageous Use of Work-
ers’ Free Time (INATEL), local gov-
ernments, and private agents.1 The
villages were selected in two stages,
ten in 1995 and two in 2003, namely
Belmonte and Trancoso. The over-
all managers of the programme justied the selection of these villages through various
criteria, among them the “existence of architectural, archaeological or environmental
classied heritage”, “formal unity of the urban fabric”, and “lack of tourist infrastruc-
tures” (Programa de Recuperação... 1994: 2).
The aim of the article is to reveal the social processes, practices and agents impli-
cated in heritage building within the framework of this programme. To aord this, I
will explore the design and implementation of the programme, the physical interven-
tions on the urban environment of the villages, and the operations associated with their
introduction into the global tourist market.
The data presented in this study was collected in 2008 and 2009 through anthropo-
logical eldwork with direct observation, open interviews, and documental and biblio-
graphical research. The study comprises two complementary strategies of data collec-
tion, and two scales of observation. I performed extensive research across the Historic
Villages of Portugal, and intensive research in three villages, namely Belmonte, Castelo
Rodrigo and Sortelha.
The majority of the Historic Villages of Portugal are small and concentrated rural com-
munities which played major geostrategic and administrative roles for centuries, formed
an advanced line of defence of the Kingdom of Portugal until the seventeenth century,
and housed the municipalities up to the nineteenth century. In the late twentieth cen-
tury, the villages suered from depopulation and abandonment because of the colonial
war, the rural exodus, and the crisis in the primary-sector-based economic model. Be-
Figure 1. The districts of Guarda and Castelo Branco,
Silva: Heritage Building in the ‘Historic Villages of Portugal’ 77
tween 1995 and 2006, the programme invested around 44 million Euros in the villages,
mostly derived from the European Fund for Regional Development (EFRD). As Isabel
Boura (2002) reports, these investments were unequally distributed through the vil-
lages due to the number and type of projects developed. Generally, the programme in-
vested in historic monuments and basic infrastructures. Investments were also made in
the paving of squares, in the placement of urban furniture, and in the renovation of the
facades and roofs of most of the buildings located within the classied areas of the vil-
lages, as well as in the advertising and promotion of cultural activities, such as historic
re-enactments. The programme also funded the creation of tourist trade and services,
including tourism oces, local museums, country house hotels and tourist lodgings.
The objective of these investments was to convert the villages into tourist aractions
that would relate to history and heritage. Barbara Kirshenbla-Gimble (1998: 151–152)
sees heritage and tourism as collaborative industries, and the world as a mosaic of
destinations that compete with each other. In her view (1998: 149), “heritage is created
through a process of exhibition (as knowledge, as performance, as museum display)”.
In a similar way, Bella Dicks (2003: 1) argues that places are handled, modelled, and
even simulated in order to become “visitable”. Accordingly, as I shall show below, the
buildings of the historic villages were exhibited and staged in order to aract domestic
and international tourists.
Photo 1. The village of Xystus, Piódão.
Photo by Luís Silva 2008.
The Historic Villages of Portugal network currently has various protected objects,
namely 14 “national monuments”, 22 “buildings of public interest”, and 2 “buildings of
municipal interest”. These include military and religious buildings, such as castles, fort-
ress walls, churches, etc. Also included are archaeological relics and folk architecture,
among them a necropolis, dwelling houses, barns, etc., a fact that indicates the extent of
the concept of historic heritage (see Choay 2006 [1982]: 12; Lowenthal 1985; 1998). Ac-
cording to current Portuguese cultural heritage legislation, the Institute for Managing
Architectural and Archaeological Heritage (IGESPAR) classies national monuments,
whereas the municipalities are in charge of classifying other kinds of objects (Law
107/01, article 15º). In this case study, the protected objects are mainly owned by
the state and the church, although some belong to municipalities, parishes and private
entities. However, the state is responsible for the guardianship of national monuments
(Law nº 107/01, article 31º), even if their current management has been aributed to the
municipalities. This situation proceeds from a dierentiation between ownership and
guardianship. As Pereiro Pérez (2009: 166) notes, the former is an inalienable right of
the legitimate owner, whereas the laer demands a public responsibility for the object,
which limits the actions of the owners.2
It follows that classication of national monuments also involves appropriation of
space (see, for example, Gravari-Barbas, Guichard-Anguis 2003: 14). Thus, appropria-
tion focuses not only on the objects protected, but also on the space where they are built.
Photo 2. 'Flowered houses', Monsanto.
Photo by Luís Silva 2008.
Silva: Heritage Building in the ‘Historic Villages of Portugal’ 79
In fact, each protection zone extends to 50 metres, counted from the external limits of
the object, or to special zones of protection, which may include non aedicandi areas. The
Historic Villages of Portugal have zones of protection, and special zones of protection.
In this case study, the classied areas have dierent administrative statuses: the
historic centre of one town (Trancoso), the historic centre of two small towns (Almei-
da, and Belmonte), and two villages (Sortelha, and Marialva), as well as seven urban
wholes (Castelo Mendo, Castelo Novo, Castelo Rodrigo, Linhares da Beira, Monsan-
to, Idanha-a-Velha, and Piódão). Although we are not dealing with a homogeneous
group of places, they were all subjected to the same processes of heritage building and
commoditisation. Any intervention into these protected areas must be signed by an
architect, and approved by the governmental body responsible for the conservation of
national relics, the IGESPAR. It is on this point that questions of authority come to the
fore. The municipalities, the CCDRC, and above all the IGESPAR, decide what can or
cannot be done, and how, in the classied area, and express judgements on all urban
projects within it. There are two points worthy of mention here. On the one hand, there
are cases in which these bodies express contradictory judgements, giving rise to cases
of contested jurisdiction. This is the case with a restaurant in Piódão, which works with
the permission of the CCDRC and the IGESPAR, but without the permission of the
respective municipality of Arganil. On the other hand, there are cases in which the
bureaucratic authority nds undesired interventions in protected spaces, such as the
case of the sewage wastewater system constructed in Castelo Rodrigo, and certain ap-
propriations of space presented later in this article. In Linhares da Beira, the question of
authority is more complex as the village is situated within the Natural Park of Serra da
Estrela, which is managed by the Institute of Nature and Biodiversity Conservation.
The act of classication shows that cultural heritage is neither a natural nor a univer-
sal feature, but rather an artice produced by someone in a particular place and time,
that is, a “social construction” (Prats 2004 [1997]: 19–20). In Portugal, the classication
of cultural heritage is a social process mainly performed by specialists, above all by
architects, according to technical criteria. Architects also played a decisive role in the
implementation of the programme since they had know-how to design the material
interventions on the villages. They designed all the Planos de Aldeia (village plans) deliv-
ered by the municipalities to the coordinating institution of the program, the CCDRC,
which approved or rejected each plan according to the judgement of the technical group.
These plans identied the work to be done and the responsible entities (the DGEMN,
the IPPAR or the municipality) in order to add value to heritage, promote urban reha-
bilitation and economic revitalisation (see PPDR 1995). The municipalities proceeded
dierently at this point. Some commissioned independent and celebrated architects to
design the plans, while others worked with their own teams of professionals. The tasks
specied in the plans were oered to contractors in public and limited tenders, depend-
ing on the value of the contract, whether above or below 100,000 Euros.
Considering the data collected through eldwork and interviews with the designers
of the village plans, material interventions in the villages were made according to the
scientic and aesthetic criteria of the architects. The aim was to create a representation
of the past, mainly the medieval period.
The interventions on historic monuments followed dierent philosophies, depend-
ing on the case. Some of the monuments were preserved, that is, the interventions main-
tained the stability of their structures, which may well be ruined. This took place in
almost all castles and fortress walls,3 in the ruins of the palace of Cristóvão de Moura in
Castelo Rodrigo, as well as in the churches of Santa Maria do Castelo in Castelo Mendo
and Santa Rita in Sortelha. Other monuments, in turn, were conserved as “conserva-
tion may involve preservation but also restoration of the physical fabric” (Graham et
al. 2000: 16). This could be observed, for example, in most of the churches, such as the
church of São Vicente in Castelo Mendo, the church of Rocamador in Castelo Rodrigo,
and the church of São Pedro in Marialva, as well as in the King’s riding school of Alme-
ida.” In general, it was assumed that through the use of materials such as iron and steel,
the modernity of the interventions was signalled, and the monuments were marked o
and visits disciplined. In some instances, the interventions included modernisation, as
in the case of the tourism oce constructed near the ruins of the palace of Cristóvão de
Moura in Castelo Rodrigo, in the virtual belvederes collocated in the castles of Castelo
Novo and Linhares da Beira, as well as in the polemical amphitheatre and washing
rooms made in the castle of Belmonte.
These interventions are closely related to national and international trends in inter-
ventions on historic monuments and built heritage, such as the Leers of Venice (1964)
and Kraków (2000), as well as the recommendations of the European Council (EC), the
United Nations Educational, Scientic and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and the
International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS). As Françoise Choay (2006
[1982]: 172, 187) points out, in the last decades scientic knowledge and capacities gave
a new actuality to the ideas of John Ruskin (1819–1900), allowing minimal and soft
interventions on historic monuments, including the cult of ruins. At the same time the
principle of preservation of antique extensions to the monuments and historic quarters
is accepted as correct, as is the doctrine of Gustavo Giovannoni (1873–1948), which sup-
ports the integration of monuments into the surrounding space. The idea proposed by
Camillo Boito (1836–1914), according to which modern interventions must be signalled,
is also accepted as accurate.
Thus, intervention is now very dierent from those made on national monuments
during the Portuguese dictatorial regime (1926–1974), in which Salazar’s doctrine of
longing for the good old days applied one unique model of intervention, inspired by
the ideas of Viollet-le-Duc (1814–1879) (see Neto 2002). Viollet-le-Duc defended the res-
toration of monuments according to their allegedly original form and volume, that is,
the restitution of a monument’s purity or unity of style, and the elimination of later
extensions. Notwithstanding, the campaign of the dictatorial regime had the virtue of
reanimating monuments that were very degraded and ruined due to abandonment
(Correia 2000: 2). The Historic Villages programme produced similar eects. Most of
the aected monuments were “failing in health”, abandoned, decayed and dirty. In the
more or less recent past, some of these monuments were used as washing rooms by the
local population, as places of sexual intercourse and as quarries for construction. With
the programme, they acquired a “second life” as heritage, to use the words of Barbara
Kirshenbla-Gimble (1998).
As Maria Gravari-Barbas (2005: 11) remarks, heritage entangles two seemingly con-
tradictory practices: the exclusion of the objects from their current life and their sub-
sequent reintegration into society. In this case study, the exclusion of objects proceeds
through the already explored processes of classication and appropriation. The reinte-
Silva: Heritage Building in the ‘Historic Villages of Portugal’ 81
gration, in turn, was realised in various cases through reutilisation. For example, some
structures of the walls of the fortress of Almeida were re-employed as a tourism oce, a
museum and a centre for the study of military architecture, while the local King’s riding
school continues to function as such; the tower of the castle of Belmonte was converted
into a museum, whereas the jail located there was transformed into a tourism and at-
tendance oce; in addition, the church of Santiago was transformed into an interpreta-
tive centre and the convent of Nossa Senhora da Esperança into a country house hotel;
the cathedral of Idanha-a-Velha also functions as an exhibition room and playhouse;
and one of the towers of the castle of Linhares da Beira was converted into a tourism of-
ce and exhibition room, while the other tower received a paragliding simulator. Other
historic monuments were alloed exclusively to tourist functions.
Local populations tend to reprove the cult of ruins as well as the use of modern ma-
terials on monuments. On the other hand, the residents of Sortelha criticise the conser-
vation of the church of Nossa Senhora das Neves, while the residents of this and other
villages complain about the fact that the roof tiles used in their churches break and fall
easily. However, they say that they can do anything because they are not the owners
and do not have authority over the churches. Notwithstanding this, the residents of
some villages, particularly Castelo Mendo, Castelo Rodrigo and Sortelha, say that their
villages were spoiled during the interventions since some of the relics found there were
stolen, including coins and gold, a statement that derives from the idea that they have
property rights over these items.4
Photo 3. The cult of ruins, Marialva Fortress.
Photo by Luís Silva 2008.
In most villages, the programme also intervened to alter private buildings, represent-
ing both classical and vernacular architecture, located within the protected areas. In all
cases, the intervention aimed to recover former building paerns as well as to “rectify
architectural dissonances” (CCRC 1999; Boura 2002). The proceedings of these inter-
ventions may be summed up as follows: conservation of facades and roofs, aesthetic
homogenisation of buildings, and the removal of all alleged modern impurities, such as
television antennae, guer pipes, clothes lines, aluminium. The stonework of the facades
was in most cases uncovered and highlighted by puing mortar into the joins. At the
same time, roof tiles were standardised and use of wood became compulsory for out-
ward-facing doors and windows. It is a model of intervention in vernacular architecture
that in recent decades has become common among architects. As Graham et al. (2000:
217) note, “conservation architects, builders and planners are as fashion conscious as
other practitioners, while professional training and the transfer of technical and artistic
practices establishes and transmits currently acceptable methods of working”. There-
fore, these interventions were similar to those applied to national monuments during
the Portuguese dictatorial regime, in the sense that all kinds of alleged impurities were
removed. Nevertheless, in some buildings this model proved unworkable for a variety
of reasons. On the one hand, there were owners who could not be contacted or whose
properties were not correctly registered. On the other hand, the work was completed in
stages, and funds were at times lacking. Another reason was the fact that these build-
Photo 4. Modernity in a monument, Castelo Novo.
Photo by Luís Silva 2008.
Silva: Heritage Building in the ‘Historic Villages of Portugal’ 83
ings were not made of stone, but of brick or cement block. In these cases the architects
decided to cover the facades with plaster and paint.
Preservation and conservation of facades and roofs were the unique interventions on
private buildings sponsored by the programme. Within the buildings, the programme
only intervened to demolish or convert them into tourism trades and services, such as
shops, lodgings, restaurants, bars and museums. For instance, the corn loft of the family
of Pedro Álvares Cabral (1467/8–1520/6), the discoverer of Brazil, in Belmont, was con-
verted into a museum; the historic court and jail of Castelo Mendo were transformed
into a local museum; a set of stables in Idanha-a-Velha were restored and adapted to
receive students and archaeology researchers, while the local press for olives, powered
by animals, was converted into a museum; two manor houses in Linhares da Beira
were converted into a country house hotel; and the ancient court and jail of Sortelha
now functions as the seat of the local parish and a meeting hall, after being used as a
primary school that was recently closed due to a lack of students. In some cases, local
populations collaborate in the construction of these local museums, as in the cases of
Castelo Mendo and Piódão.
The residents who want to improve the living conditions of their houses have to
do so themselves, undertaking all the expenses. It is important to note the existence of
dierent relationships between heritage and owners, which means that people inhabit
heritage in dierent ways, as Maria Gravari-Barbas (2005) reports. There are those locals
and non locals who live in the heritage space permanently, those who live there tempo-
rarily during weekends and holidays – including locals who live elsewhere in Portugal
and abroad, and non locals who have made second homes there –, those who have
abandoned it for several reasons (death, disease, old age, disinterest, lack of knowledge,
etc.), and those who don’t use it because of misunderstandings related to inheritance.5
Generally, the majority of the houses are unoccupied for the majority of the year, while
a good number of other private buildings are unused.
The intervention on the houses was the most critical one for local populations be-
cause it related to their living places. Inhabitants of several villages criticised the follow-
ing situations: i) the selection of some of the private buildings to be renovated, because
this included empty houses, while not all of the occupied houses received aention;
ii) the poor quality of the materials applied to the roofs, doors and windows of several
houses, which are permeable, become warped, break and fall easily; and iii) the al-
leged favouring of some owners over others. On the other hand, most residents also
criticised some architecturally protectionist measures created by the programme, and
said that “with the [Historic Villages] programme they no longer possess their own
houses”, and “cannot intervene in them except as they [the IGESPAR] want”. It should
be noted that the disposition of historic conservation does not allow new construction
within the protected areas, open windows and skylights in the facades and roofs, turn-
ing lofts into living quarters, and placing materials other than wood in the doors and
windows that face outwards. The programme ended up promoting the “suspension of
real time” (Herzfeld 1991: 11) in favour of an idealised past or an “invented tradition”
(Hobsbawm, Ranger 1983).
For these reasons, most local populations have a bad impression of the architects,
contractors and builders who have worked in their villages. In reaction to these sit-
uations, beneting from the lack of vigilance and control, in some villages there are
private owners who act in ways that dier from the dispositions of historic conserva-
tion. They install aluminium doors and windows in their street-facing houses as well
as other forbidden objects like skylights, clothes lines, window awnings, aerials and TV
satellite dishes. However, their appropriations of space go far beyond these. In several
villages, people use public space to live, and some residents put rewood beds and
bench shops on the streets, while others put chairs there or park automobiles. Moreo-
ver, children play in some monuments, and residents use them as meeting places or for
drying clothes.
Therefore, the construction of heritage implies tensions, conicts, and negotiations
between specialists and other individuals. Michael Herzfeld’s comparative study (1991)
of the perspectives of the specialists and the inhabitants of Rethemnos (Greece) regard-
ing heritage is illuminating on this point. This author distinguishes ‘social time’ from
‘monumental time’. Specialists have a formal, technical, and monumental perspective
of heritage, which doesn’t consider the ways of life, feelings and ties of people to the
spaces they inhabit. Residents, in turn, relate cultural goods to their everyday lives,
memories and identities (ibid. 10‒16; 248‒259). This study shows that the same happens
in the Historic Villages of Portugal. Specialists valorise monumental time to the detri-
ment of social time, like almost all tourists and visitors. Residents valorise social time to
the detriment of monumental time, with a few exceptions. These exceptions are the few
non-locals who have recently come to live permanently in the villages, and also those
Photo 5. A garden in a small tower, Castelo Rodrigo.
Photo by Luís Silva 2009.
Silva: Heritage Building in the ‘Historic Villages of Portugal’ 85
who have made second homes there, above all non-locals. This is related to the dierent
ways of inhabiting heritage, mentioned above, and to the existence of dierent sensibili-
ties, tastes and economic situations.
On the other hand, the majority of the residents feel disturbed by the fact that the
entities related to historic conservation oblige them to use traditional materials in their
urban properties, and use modern materials in their own interventions. These include
not only the historic monuments, mentioned above, but also newly constructed build-
ings, such as the tourism oces of Castelo Novo, Castelo Rodrigo, Marialva, and Sortel-
ha, as well as the mortuary house in Castelo Rodrigo, the multifunctional building in
Monsanto, and the country house hotel in Piódão.6 Reacting to these situations, the
employees of the tourism oce of Castelo Novo refused to work in the new facilities,
and the inhabitants of Marialva vandalised, with paint, the local tourism oce, which
was later repainted in a dierent colour from the initial pink.
However, the construction of heritage in the Historic Villages implies not only fric-
tion, but also cooperation between specialists and local populations. Inhabitants of
most villages participate actively in the process of embellishment and cleanliness of
spaces. They pick up garbage from the streets and clean space near their houses. They
also put owerbeds near their homes, and owering creepers and ower pots at the
fronts of their houses.7 These are appropriations of space allowed and applauded by the
historic conservation organisations, which is not the case with the other appropriations
described above.
As already mentioned, the processes of cultural display analysed in the previous pages
aims to create a product for sale in the global tourist market. In the process, heritage has
been transformed into a commodity. As Eric Wolf (1982: 310) notes, commodities are
“goods and services produced for a market […] [that] can be compared and exchanged
without reference to the social matrix in which they are produced”. According to Yorke
Rowan and Uzi Baram (2004: 6), “not only has heritage become a commodity, it is a
wildly popular one around the planet”. This situation derives from the democratisa-
tion of the interest in heritage (Choay 2006 [1982]: 184–185; Lowenthal 1998: 10–11),
and from “the universalisation of the tourist gaze” (Urry 1999: 224; 2002 [1990]). But it
is also related to current capitalist ideology, which impels the production of authentic
and dierentiated endogenous goods and practices that were, until 1960–1970, outside
the market sphere, in the domains of tourism, leisure, cultural activities and personal
services (Boltanski, Chiapello 1999: 37, 533–534). Accordingly, the Historic Villages of
Portugal result from “a strategy […] focused on the promotion of genuine and dier-
entiating resources, such as history, culture, and heritage”, as mentioned on the ocial
website of the network (Aldeias Históricas de Portugal).
As Françoise Choay (2006 [1982]: 185) remarks, the industry of heritage implies not
only the production, but also the packing and advertising of heritage. In her view, this
is done by so-called “cultural engineering”, a task performed by public and private
agents and entities – animators, communicators, agents of development, engineers, and
cultural mediators –, who act in order to enhance the number of heritage consumers.
The current case study reiterates this idea. The question of production was explored
earlier in this text. Its analysis supports the idea of Rautenberg et al. (2000: 2) that herit-
age is a question of social agents and its construction has normally to do with a personal
or a collective, economic and cultural project, in which there are several individuals and
institutions. Rautenberg et al. (2000: 2) note that the list is huge, and includes people
with dierent opinions, such as inhabitants, elites, agents of public entities, potential
investors, researchers, mediators. In this case study, I have already identied political
authorities, architects, constructors, builders and local populations. However, tourists
also play a role, as happened in Castelo Rodrigo, where the parish president asked au-
thorities to protect the surroundings of the ruins of the palace of Cristóvão de Moura
after the complains of tourists.
As for the packaging of heritage, it should be noted that this is made through the
creation of tourist itineraries and packs elaborated by ocial Portuguese tourism de-
partments, associations, national and international tour operators and other kinds of
enterprises. These tourist routes and packs are multiple and varied. For example, there
are cases that promote visits to all villages, like the Historic Villages itinerary elabo-
rated by one of the public tourism departments, and Great Route 22, developed by one
private enterprise. At the same time, there are cases in which a visit to some villages is
integrated into a tourist pack that includes visits to other aractions, such as a cruise
on the Douro river or a visit to the Naturtejo Geopark. Additionally, there are cases in
which a visit to one or another village is integrated into a pack that includes lodging
and food with the aim of selling domestic objects, such as those promoted by some
types of enterprises.
The marketing and advertising of heritage, in turn, is made through websites, leaf-
lets, tourism guides and other texts, as well as informative panels disposed in dierent
parts of the villages. Most of these advertisements have narratives that focus on the his-
tory of the villages, their importance in national history, and their monuments, pointing
out what deserves to be seen (see Graça, Espírito Santo 2000).
The texts advertising the Historic Villages of Portugal present the villages as pictur-
esque, beautiful, extraordinary, and xed in a certain historic period; that is, as unique
(Rowan, Baram 2004: 20). This image building is performed by architects, journalists,
travel agencies, tourism public entities, and the Association for the Tourist Develop-
ment of the Historic Villages of Portugal. There is a promise of travel in time, usually to
the medieval period, which invites the visitors to “travel into history”.
The narratives included in these advertising texts, which I do not explore here, show
that the construction of heritage implies not only the appropriation of space, but also
the appropriation of time. The appropriation of space is legitimised through the ap-
propriation of the past, which requires the construction of founder discourses (Gravari-
Barbas 2005: 615–616).
The production and consumption of heritage can be associated with heritage or cul-
tural tourism, depending on the denition adopted. Cultural tourism has been dened
as a kind of tourism related to the production and consumption of cultural products,
such as museums, palaces, churches, historic and archaeological sites, and festivals
(McKercher, du Cros 2002: 3–8; Pereiro Pérez 2009: 108, 120). Heritage tourism has been
dened has the “travel to archaeological and historic sites, parks, museums and places
of traditional or ethnic signicance. It also includes travel to foreign countries to experi-
Silva: Heritage Building in the ‘Historic Villages of Portugal’ 87
ence dierent cultures and explore their prehistoric and historic routes” (Rowan, Baram
2004: 8).
The idea of the programme was to convert the historic built heritage of the villages
into a source of revenue, that is, to monetise it. This operation is conducted through the
collection of fees from foreigners who intend to get into the castles of Linhares da Beira
and Marialva, into the ruins of the palace of Cristóvão de Moura, and into the museums
of Belmonte and Piódão, as well as to those who intend to use the King’s riding school
at Almeida. It is also conducted by the merchandising of products of current use and
mnemonic objects (books of local history and other themes, postcards, pencils, crafts-
manship, etc.) in tourism oces and local museums, as well as through the renting of
places to produce movies, television series and advertising spots. Other forms of herit-
age tourism are guided visits by the employees of the tourism oces, rides on donkey
and cart in Castelo Rodrigo and Linhares da Beira, and the sale of craftsmanship in
the streets of Monsanto, Sortelha, and Idanha-a-Velha. This process of monetisation ex-
tends to local trade and tourism services, such as lodging, restaurants, bars and shops.
The creation of most of these local trades and services were funded by the pro-
gramme. This process diers from village to village due to the unequal investments
made by the programme, local governments and private agents. Because of these dif-
ferentiated public and private investments we can segment the Historic Villages of Por-
tugal network into three groups of villages by considering the importance of tourism
Photo 6. Making and selling creaft items, Sortelha.
Photo by Luís Silva 2008.
in local economies: those with good implementation (Almeida, Belmonte, Castelo Rod-
rigo, Monsanto, Piódão, Sortelha, and Trancoso), those with moderate implementation
(Castelo Novo, Linhares da Beira, and Marialva), and those with weak implementation
(Castelo Mendo, and Idanha-a-Velha).
In order to aract more tourists and visitors, most of the villages stage cultural ac-
tivities, some of them developed in historic monuments, such as theatrical and musical
performances, exhibitions, feasts and festivals. These include the cale market of Cas-
telo Rodrigo, the folklore festival of Sortelha and the paragliding festival of Linhares
da Beira. These cultural activities also embrace medieval markets and historic episodes
such as bales and aacks on castles, which produce “living history” (Handler, Gable
1997; Dicks 2003: 122–126). Examples are the cases of the historic re-enactment of the
siege of Almeida by Napoleonic troops in 1810, the medieval markets of Belmonte, Cas-
telo Mendo, and Monsanto, and the feast of history of Trancoso.
It should be noted that the programme analysed in this article was the rst step of a
work in progress that is transient and dynamic. The practices associated with the con-
struction and commoditisation of heritage must be continuous in order to guarantee
its perpetuation, including physical maintenance, animation and marketing. This is the
task of those who intervene in the heritage industry, especially political authorities,
experts on heritage management, tourist entrepreneurs and local populations. The His-
toric Villages of Portugal programme, and the involvement of the national government
in it, nished in 2006. Private agents can still obtain funds for their tourist projects from
a national programme of economic valorisation of endogenous resources created there-
after, called PROVERE. However, the managing of the product is being handed over to
local and municipal political authorities and local business people. Driven by the leader
of the programme, Isabel Boura, from the CCDRC, the creation in 2006 of the Associa-
tion for the Tourist Development of the Historic Villages of Portugal derives from this.
The main objective of this private-public association is to consolidate the label ‘Historic
Villages of Portugal’ as a tourist product with potential in the areas of cultural tourism,
ecotourism and rural tourism.
The anthropological study of the Historic Villages of Portugal has shown some relevant
trends within the construction of historic built heritage. The construction of heritage
comprehends processes of classication, appropriation, manipulation and commodi-
tisation of cultural goods for consumption in the global tourist market, according to
international trends in heritage and development. These processes imply tensions, con-
icts, negotiations, and cooperation among those who intervene, above all formal po-
litical powers, historic conservation experts, the tourism sector and local populations.
Historic conservation organisations and the majority of the inhabitants of the Histor-
ic Villages have dierent visions of heritage. As in the case study by Michael Herzfeld
(1991), specialists have a formal, technical, and monumental perspective of heritage,
which doesn’t take into account the ways of life, feelings or ties of people to the spaces
in which they live. In contrast, the majority of residents relate cultural goods to their
everyday lives, memories and identities.
Silva: Heritage Building in the ‘Historic Villages of Portugal’ 89
The main objective of the programme that led to the creation of the Historic Vil-
lages of Portugal network was to promote the local development of some rural vil-
lages through heritage or cultural tourism. This is due to a global “ideology of tourism”
(Ribeiro 2003: 54), which sees tourism as a priority and an ecient tool for the devel-
opment of depressed areas; and also to the existence of funds oered by the European
Union for the creation of tourist products, such as the EFRD and the LEADER. In this
process, heritage has been converted into a commodity, something that is produced,
marketed, managed and consumed in the global tourist market. The construction of
heritage is related to the creation of visitable tourist destinations through operations of
cultural exhibition or display (Kirshenbla-Gimble 1998; Dicks 2003). The marketing
of heritage insists on exclusivity, and is performed by individuals and entities related to
the tourism industry. The management of heritage is the task of experts, municipalities,
parishes, one association and local populations.
The daily presence of tourists and visitors in the villages is one of the local impacts
of the programme. However, questions remain to be answered, such as: what are the
impacts of this initiative in terms of local development? How does this initiative impact
on local stratication processes? Answers to these questions permit us to evaluate the
success of the programme as it relates to the desired regeneration of the social and eco-
nomic fabric of the villages, and to perceive other societal transformations, including
those on the local social and power structures.
1 The changes in the institutions relating to cultural heritage in Portugal resulted from the es-
tablishment of the Institute for Managing Architectural and Archaeological Heritage (IGESPAR)
in 2007 (Decree-Law No. 96/2007).
2 The IGESPAR also has legal aribution enabling it to judge the preference rights, obligatory
for the state, in every case of transaction or alienation of a classied good.
3 The more recent intervention on the castles of Belmonte, Marialva and Trancoso was made
under the framework of a national programme developed between 2000 and 2006, entitled the
Castles Recovery Programme (IPPAR s.a.).
4 Outside the framework of the programme, residents of Castelo Mendo, Linhares da Beira,
and Monsanto complain about the pillage of sacred art from their churches, which is the reason
why they tend to be closed. On the other hand, inhabitants of several villages complain that ex-
ternal lighting for historic buildings is frequently vandalised, while those who live in Monsanto
complain about the theft of the coat of arms from one of the doors of the fortress.
5 I use the term “locals” to designate people who were born in the villages or come to live
there in their childhood. The few non-locals who live there permanently tend to be linked with
6 All the villages have tourism oce, except Castelo Mendo.
7 On ower decorations as a way to appropriate cultural heritage, see Hamon (2003).
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... Plus, the residents have initiated a difficult relationship with the architects and historic conservation agencies due to dissonance regarding architecture and the aesthetic characteristics of houses. While historic conservation supposes an endeavour to freeze architecture in time, the residents wish to continue to transform their social habitats according to changing circumstances (Silva 2009a(Silva , 2011. ...
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Michael Herzfeld describes what happens when a bureaucracy charged with historic conservation clashes with a local populace hostile to the state and suspicious of tourism. Focusing on the Cretan town of Rethemnos, once a center of learning under Venetian rule and later inhabited by the Turks, he examines major questions confronting conservators and citizens as they negotiate the "ownership" of history: Who defines the past? To whom does the past belong? What is "traditional" and how is this determined? Exploring the meanings of the built environment for Rethemnos's inhabitants, Herzfeld finds that their interest in it has more to do with personal histories and the immediate social context than with the formal history that attracts the conservators. He also investigates the inhabitants' social practices from the standpoints of household and kin group, political association, neighborhood, gender ideology, and the effects of these on attitudes toward home ownership. In the face of modernity, where tradition is an object of both reverence and commercialism, Rethemnos emerges as an important ethnographic window onto the ambiguous cultural fortunes of Greece.
The New History in an Old Museum: Creating the Past at Colonial Williamsburg. Richard Handler and Eric Gable. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1997.260 pp.