First visit to Trás-os-Montes

Memorias do Salto.

That was the event I came across while scrutinising the webpage of Vinhais municipality last month. The cultural centre of Vinhais was hosting, after Bragança’s Museu Abade de Baçal, and Mogadouro, the interactive exhibition Memorias do Salto.

I decided to go to the opening, organised last Friday evening in Vinhais. I took an early bus in Lisbon, and… seven hours later, I arrived at the neighbouring city Bragança.

The ride itself was worth it! I am just going to post here some pictures from the road, the highlight of them being the sculpture A Familia Emigrante at a junction in the middle of the city of Mirandela!

I met with three persons involved with the exhibition, and we drive to Vinhais, crossing green hills and the village of Vila Verde. Entering Vinhais, I am surprised by the size of the village. The main square, surrounded by large white buildings, including the city hall, is decorated for Christmas.

Cultural Centre, Vinhais

At the cultural centre, hosted in an elegant solar (renovated with EU money), people are expecting my companions. The opening starts with some opening speechs, of the Friends of the museum’s association, and of the mayor. I record the speeches, catching key words such as courage, adventure, and freedom, but also sentences stating the poverty experienced at the time. The mayor talks about his parents, who have themselves experienced o salto. The council member in charge of culture reminds that her parents did it in 1963. Three persons in the crowd tell about their own salto. When talking to the attendees after the opening, I meet with former emigrants who speak great French, and with municipal workers who have relatives living in France. Everyone seems to connect with the history of emigration!

The group then enters the exhibition. It is organised around several panels, mannequins of local peasants and of a guardia civil, two booths with testimonies, a screen playing those same testimonies, and a belt with a virtual reality device, allowing the walker to cross the border in five minutes, together with three other people. That last piece is actually a highlight! The mayor puts on the glasses and walks on the belt, doing himself the salto!

Credit: Câmara municipal de Vinhais

This was a very interesting point of entry for fieldwork, not only to meet with people involved in the issue, but also to understand better how past emigration is framed at institutional level. The exhibition will stay in Vinhais until 17 January, and will move to another municipality of the area.

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