Last 6 October 2019, the Portuguese elected the new members of the parliament. Without much surprise, the Socialist Party led by Antonio Costa took the lead, followed by the Social Democrats and the Left Block. In the following days, the debates focused on the future coalition Costa might bring together, replicating the anterior minority government supported by the Left Bloc and the Communists (called here geringonça). Eventually, the Socialist Party will govern alone, and will have to request support and make compromise – a fragile position to hold.
I decided to check what this all means for the residents of Trás-os-Montes, and for (potential) returnees to the area.
First of all, the north-east of Portugal is actually a social democrat bastion, as this map illustrates. I asked around, and understood that the north of the country is traditionally more conservative – because of the influence of Catholicism. Looking back at the interviews I conducted this summer, I also thought that this can be a result of the economic structure: people are more involved with agriculture and small businesses than in big industries. I remember some discussions where people living thanks to welfare benefits were scolded for “having two hands, and still sitting lazily at home”.
In any case, Costa’s new government was made public on 21 October and five State secretaries are from Bragança area! I thought to share here three people – two being from Bragança – that might influence what is happening in this region.
The first is Berta Nunes, now State secretary for Portuguese communities. Berta Nunes is a doctor. Between 2005-2009, she coordinated Bragança sub-regional health authority. She was also active in networks for the promotion of health professionals in rural areas. In 2009, she was elected and became the mayor of Alfandega da Fé, a municipality of Bragança district with around 5000 inhabitants. She left in 2019 to run for the socialist party. In the interview she gives here, she insists on the contribution of emigrants to the north-east territories, and the example emigrants gave through their sacrifice, their hard-work, their entrepreneurial spirit and the risks they take! Haaaa, the patriotic self-made migrant!
The second, Isabel Ferreira is now the State secretary for the Valorisation of the Interior, a new position created this year. Isabel Ferreira is a researcher at the Instituto Politecnico of Bragança, working in agroscience. In an interview she gave to Diario de Trás-os-Montes, she argues that the region needs funding, to invest and retain talents.
The last I thought to mention is Cláudia Pereira, who will occupy the new position of State secretary for Integration and Migrations. Cláudia Pereira is an anthropologist associated with ISCTE-UL. I was in touch with her through mail because she coordinates the famous Rede Migra, a network from which we get news on migrations in Portugal! She was also the director of the Observatory of Emigration in Portugal.
So, let’s see what will be done in the upcoming months!