Alfândega da Fé Municipality
||This article may require copy editing for grammar, style, cohesion, tone, or spelling. (March 2014)|
|Alfândega da Fé|
|Official name: Concelho de Alfândega da Fé|
|Name origin: alfândega de fé Portuguese phrase for hospice of faith|
|Center||Alfândega da Fé|
|- elevation||555 m (1,821 ft)|
|Length||21.11 km (13 mi), West-East|
|Width||25.70 km (16 mi), North-South|
|Area||321.94 km2 (124 sq mi)|
|Density||18 / km2 (47 / sq mi)|
|- location||Rua Camilo Mendonça|
|President||Berta Ferreira Milheiro Nunes (PS)|
|Municipal Chair||Nuno Maria Abreu Pinheiro Miranda (PS)|
|- summer (DST)||WEST (UTC+1)|
|Area Code & Prefix||(+351) XXX XXX XXX|
|Patron Saint||São Pedro|
|Municipal Holidays||29 June|
|Wikimedia Commons: Alfândega da Fé|
|Statistics from INE (2008); geographic detail from Instituto Geográfico Português (2010)|
The municipality has an origin that comes from mixed Moorish influences and Christian faith. Alfandagh, the Arabic term for this region, which means hospice, castle or frontier, or literally "a place of calm hospitality populated by peaceful or hard-working peoples". In a published work of João Manuel d’Almeida Moraes Pessanha:
- "Alfândega, public hospice, market likely, like the Kahn's Orient...Its is a village of Arab foundation, in likely the 8th century; The Arabs maintained their nomadic lifestyle. Charmed by the conquest of Spain, they immediately molded the country according to their use and customs: a soil that many liked, a land that, many said was similar to Syria in its climate and purity of its atmosphere, or Yemen in its fertility, in India its flowers and aromas, Hedjaz in its products, and in Aden in its ports and coasts."
There are historical convictions that Alfândega, during Moorish occupation, was an administrative seat of some importance, of a region referred to as Valiato de Aldandica. The conquest by Asturian Christians was to have likely resulted in the expulsion of the Moors, and the extension of its name with Fé (English: faith).
Some suggest that the settlement was the seat of an ancient order that pre-dated the Templars, that was referred to as the Ordem dos Cavaleiros das Esporas Douradas (Portuguese: Order of the Knights of the Golden Spurs). Legend suggests that these Templar Knights were responsible for liberating the lands, known as the Tributo das Donzelas.
The first foral was attributed on 8 May 1294, by King Dinis of Portugal, in a document that first defined the geographic limits of the municipality. On 17 September 1295, the monarch conceded a market charter, similar to one established for Covilhã (a new market charter was later passed by King John of Portugal on 13 January 1410). King Dinis then ordered the re-construction of the Moorish castle (yet, over time, the structure fell into ruins and its remains eventually disappeared). A 1530 census found the structure is ruins. The town's landmarks are considered the remains of the Moorish influences in the town, for example the clock tower Torre do Relógio. Tombo dos Bens do Concelho (1766) makes references to Moorish influences.
In 1385, King John forced the residents of Alfândega da Fé to rebuild the Torre de Moncorvo, likely to gain the community's support of the Kingdom of Castelo during the Interregum (1383–1385). The king visited to Alfândega in order to evaluate the Torre de Moncorvo, while travelling to Bragança.
In 1510, Manuel I of Portugal established a new foral, that redefined and expanded the limits of the municipality. The 1530 census noted that the castle was already "derrubado e malbaratado" (in ruins and of little value), and the 1766 assessments of the municipality identified that "the ancient walls" near the Tower Clock were located in a zone identified as "the castle", referring to the medieval castle. Historical records from this period until the 18th century are rare, and it is known that there were few inhabitants during these eras (less than 100 houses by one source). Yet in the second half of the 18th century the population had grown considerably, in part due to the export of 1.72 tons of silk (by 19th century).
On 24 October 1855, the municipality was abolished, and its parishes incorporated in the municipalities of Moncorvo, Vila Flor, Macedo de Cavaleiros and Mogadouro. But, by January 1898, this administration was restored.
Although there have been changes throughout its history, Alfândega da Fé has always maintained a few geographic landmarks: the Serra de Bornes in the north, the valley of the Sabor River to the south, the Plateau of Castro Vicente in the east, and the valley of Vilariça in the west. Covering an area of approximately 320 kilometres square, the extent is a synthesis of the Trás-os-Montes region, covering Serras, small plateaus and plains, as well as shallow and deep valleys. The flora is a mixture of natural and human-induced species from chestnut to cork oak, including olive, almond, cherry, or orange trees, vineyards and intensely cultivated cereal species (namely rye, which was still cultivated in this area, in lands ~1000 meters above sea level).
The region has a climate that varies between extremes: in the winter the mountains are covered in snow and temperatures are cold; in the spring, the region is covered in wild flowering plants, with enormous diversity, and the almond, cherry and apple orchards are covered in blooms; in the summer, the dry heat is responsible for an arid environment; and in the fall the temperate climate transforms the trees into several hues.
The population declined through the late 20th century. Much like other regions of the interior, there is a pull of emigrants towards the more urbanized centres in the south, and slow human desertification in areas such as Alfândega da Fé. The slow aging of the population and the difficulty in attracting a young resident base has depopulated many of the parishes.
The municipality retains its 1898 limits, from the Serra de Bornes until the Sabor River, and from the plateau of Castro Vicente until the Vale da Vilariça. Administratively, the municipality is divided into 12 civil parishes (freguesias):
- Agrobom, Saldonha e Vale Pereiro
- Alfândega da Fé
- Eucisia, Gouveia e Valverde
- Ferradosa e Sendim da Serra
- Gebelim e Soeima
- Parada e Sendim da Ribeira
- Pombal e Vales
- Vilar Chão
- Vilares de Vilariça
Electricity, indoor plumbing, basic sanitation and asphalted roads completely cover the municipality, and it was one of the first to close its public dump. Although the community is not without problems, it does have many services that are uncommon in the region, primarily due to its distance from the district capital. Its Centros de Saúde (health centres), along with private initiatives have made it one of the more dynamic in the country, guaranteeing local service, without unnecessary trips to distant hospitals. The local Bombeiros Voluntários (volunteer fire brigade) has been active in this role, responsible for both protection from civil and forest fires, in addition to transporting the sick and injured. The Lar da Terceira Idade da Santa Casa da Misericórdia, the Santuário de Cerejais (Mariano) and other smaller institutions in the parishes, provide local assistance to seniors, in addition to home-care. The largest schools, both primary and secondary education, are located within the city of Alfândega da Fé. And, while the establishment of a municipal library and Casa da Cultura have assisted education within these communities, the area has also experienced a decrease in local enrollment, resulting in the closure of several smaller schools. Sports facilities, such as the Pavilhões Desportivos (sports pavilions) and Piscinas (pools) have improved community activity, as well as providing a source of water instruction (in this landlocked region).
With about 7000 residents, the municipality still finds in agriculture the main economic stimulus and although growth has been difficult (due to changes caused by market competition, the introduction of industrialization and lack of a national agriculture policy), most of its citizens still identify themselves as farmers. The lack of a serious quality certification for local biological products, such as olive oil, almonds, chestnuts and many fruits, in addition to cheeses, local smoked meats/sausages, sweets, compotes and traditional liqueurs, has generally been a complaint of local farmers trying to expand their businesses.
A number of handicrafts from the traditional culture of the region are locally produced: embroidery and quilt-making, basket-weaving, metal-smithing, shoe-making and seamstresses, which have been abandoned in the modernization of Portugal. One of these, the creation of fine cloths from silkworms was also common in the region. Slowly, these traditions have been explored for their economic and tourist-friendly benefits. This reemergence of traditional handicrafts has, over the past decades, added to the tertiary sector of the economy, along with the expansion of commerce, hotels and small industries associated with tourism. The construction of a new municipal market has improved local commerce, as has the expansion of the medieval fair, which has been a lure for tourists, as has the Recinto da Feira and Feira da Cereja.
Industrial activities are concentrated in an industrial zone within the main city of Alfândega. Agriculture, the base of the economy, still requires many improvements, including the expansion of dams in order cover larger areas (another two projects have been planned). Tourism, although a recent important into the region, has been aided by the construction of a modern hotel in the Serra de Bornes (Estalagem Senhora das Neves) and new restaurants and the expansion of hunting lodges (for many clubs, associations or huntsmen). The opening of the Parque de Usos Múltiplos (Multi-Use Park) offers locals and visitors a mixture of natural uses that include camping.
- Armando Mansilha, ed. (2005). "Concelho: Alfândega da Fé" (in Portuguese). Régua, Portugal: Notícias do Douro: O Semanário de Trás-os-Montes/A Gráfica Duriense, Lda. Retrieved 17 May 2011.
- Câmara Municipal, ed. (2011). "História" [History] (in Portuguese). Alfândega de Fé, Portugal: Câmara Municipal da Alfândega de Fé. Retrieved 1 April 2011.
- Diário da República. "Law nr. 11-A/2013, pages 552 8-9" (pdf) (in Portuguese). Retrieved 16 July 2014.