Posted on by
Porto, Portugal, March 2019

+ The place


+ My feelings and historical part

Porto is a great city where strolling in the narrow streets is a real pleasure: the small streets, restaurants in Fado for specialties, small bars on the banks of the Douro to finish the evening in front of the Douro with a small glass of porto. You will find the “Portuenses” (the inhabitants of Porto) who meet there, young and old. The only problem, but it’s temporary, are the number of visible cranes. The city is in full reconstruction. Many old homes, abandoned and in poor condition, are being renovated to turn them into hotel residences.
I invite you and especially, contact Ricardo, a great guide, who will pass on his passion for this city, and his knowledge of its history. He knows his city, its small corners and especially the good little addresses to taste a wine, to have lunch and to taste the local specialties. Thank you Ricardo for this long time spent together, it was a real pleasure.
Historical part
The Romans first baptized the place Portus, the “port”, in the 1st century BC. Porto has the nicknames Cidade Invicta (“the undefeated city”) and Capital do Norte (capital of the North). It gave its name to Portugal.Porto (Portuguese: Porto, pronounced [po?tu]) is known for the marketing of port wine, its monuments and its bridges on the Douro River. Porto, because of its history of wine trading with the United Kingdom, seems to have been influenced by this country and by a significant commercial activity. An adage evokes the character of the different Portuguese cities: “While Lisbon is beautiful, Coimbra studies, Braga prays and Porto works”. The inhabitants of Porto are called Portuenses (in French, we say “Portuan”) and, according to the local specialty, the tripe in the fashion of Porto, the “Tripeiros”.
In the middle Ages, the county of Portugal goes from Minho to Douro, it is the inscriptions on the ceiling of the railway station of the city. The fourteenth century sees the city encircling massive stone walls that protect the medieval town, on the one hand, and the port area, on the other. The historic center is thus protected by the so-called “Fernandine” walls, named after Dom Fernando, under whose reign they were completed in 1376. In 1415, under the aegis of Henry the Navigator, one of the illustrious sons of the city, an important expedition is set up for the capture of Ceuta. The city of Porto, in charge of the supply of the royal fleet, is then heavily used and must lose most of its food. After the departure of the soldiers, the inhabitants must be content with the remaining food, the tripe and the offal, difficult to preserve during military campaigns. Thus, afterwards, the term “tripeiros” (tripe eaters) is used to describe the inhabitants of Porto.
The islands (Ilhas) of Porto are a type of workhouse very different from other industrial cities, like Lisbon, where there are patios, or European industrial cities. They appeared for the first time in the eastern part of the city, but were soon extended to the center and neighboring counties. The appearance of the islands is thought to have contributed to the great English influence in the city. The island schema is often associated with Leeds’s first back-to-back houses, in terms of morphology, developers and construction. The origin of the islands is unknown, since in the eighteenth century the houses were already known as islands. In the investigations of D. Afonso IV, reference is also made to housing complexes with a single exit on the street. It was however at the end of the 19th century, with the industrial development of the city and the arrival of many migrants from the northern regions of the country, that this type of housing became widespread. It must be said that the demand for cheap accommodation then made these clusters of buildings covered by a single entrance attractive trade, mainly operated by small landowners who, with little capital, saw on the islands the guarantee a quick recovery of invested capital and in the long term, significant profits.
The big houses often had a garden. The owner opened a link under the house in a corridor at the back of the courtyard, 1 to 2 meters wide, and built small precarious dwellings on each side. These were small dwellings with an area of not more than 16m2/172sq-ft (some only 9 m2/97sq-ft), built in rows (sometimes also back to back), in the backyard of the building. patrician houses overlooking the street. The facades of these dwellings measured in general about 4 meters, they had a door and a window (which overlooked the central hall). The first division, which occupied almost all the house, was the room. In the background, there was a room and a kitchen. Sometimes a small room in the attic was improvised. The toilets were shared, with an average of 1 toilet for 5 houses.
The interior of these houses, inhabited by entire families, easily accommodating 10 or more people, was wooden, devoid of sewers, water and ventilation and small poorly lit windows. Adding to these conditions the current use of certain equipment, the coexistence with animals (in a survey they indicate 709 pigs on 1124 houses visited).
Between 1878 and 1890, 5,100 dwellings were built on the islands (half of those that existed in 1900), according to Ricardo Jorge, who lived in 1899 a third of the population of the city! According to a survey conducted by the City Council of Porto in 1939, the city had 1,152 islands with 45,291 inhabitants, or 17% of the total population! Following an attempt to clean up the city, to prevent the epidemic, from the 1940s, the municipal authorities committed to gradually demolish the islands of Porto and relocate families in large social districts, far from the center. Fifty years later, the islands of Porto and the Grand Port have not yet been completely eradicated. Many hold “stone and lime” firmly and try to renew themselves in a perspective of struggle against the cold and impersonal spirit that increasingly defines life in social neighborhoods. Recent data indicate the persistence of 1,130 islands in the city of Porto.
The housing is transmitted from parents to children, without a real rent update. By cons, in case of recovery by another person, the rent is updated. Thus, for example, a new tenant pays 250EUR a month just in front of an old lady, who lives there since childhood, and who pays only 27EUR (32$) rent. Of course, today houses have a bathroom and a toilet and some even have a floor. Life in the islands is like a small village, mutual help is constant. On Saint John or Christmas, each island is decorated and a competition is organized between all the islands. Unfortunately, some houses are now converted into hotel accommodation, AirBnb style. The spirit of these islands may be lost.


+ Linked pages

   • The night: As you know, I love night shots. A city reveals its beauty under the light of public lighting. This light allows to discover the details of the building hoping that the lighting has been previously studied by the municipality.
   • Frescos Murals: Passionate about mural frescoes, I deliver some of them. It is also graffiti or mosaics.
   • Special: Portraits, some special pictures, statues discovered over this long weekend.


As I repeat in the “Night” page, I broke the attachment of my main lens and had to hold the lens while shooting. So I have photos that are not as sharp as I would have liked, sorry.