When in the middle of the city the field breaks out
The gardens in Queluz are impressive by the contrast they create with the surrounding buildings. It seems that the countryside is invading the city, finally the triumph of nature.
From the promenade that is over the huge plain that accompanies the Jamor, near the train station of Queluz-Belas, there are always many people working the land. On that day, we set up a conversation at the distance with two gentlemen, who, down below, watered with a huge hose what appeared to be baby cabbages. We wanted to know how to get off. They shouted at us that we would have to go to the end of Miguel Bombarda Avenue and enter through an opening between two buildings.
We found such opening and walked along a path, along the left bank of Jamor; we saw how the river there is so clean, with little ducks and some underwater plants; we could also see closely the dozens of vegetable gardens on either side of the river, being treated by a number of no lesser squatters.
Back to the plains near the station, now at the bottom, we find Mr. Joseph, with his 40-50 years. With his forehead dripping with sweat, he was digging the ground to plant new cabbages for Christmas. Mr. José is from the north of the country and has been working the land for about a year. “But Mr. Candeias (and points to the gentleman of the giant hose whom we had called shortly before) has been here for more than 30 years.” Explain that the land is not theirs, that they belong to another owner. There is a person who manages the occupation and people pay anything to use that land. We also realize that the occupation is not totally peaceful, on the contrary, it is very competitive; to be able to be there is not only to wait for some space to wander (which rarely happens), but you have to be right in the middle, meet the right people and know what else. He told us that community gardens are being set up not far away, on Mount Abraham, but that he does not want to leave, from near the river. Without water there is no possible agriculture, and there is not lacking of it: in addition to the Jamor, there is a well and still a mine of water – that arrives there running under the buildings of Miguel Bombarda, and that joins the Jamor further down, already in the zone of the palace of Queluz. For him, agriculture has become a true addiction, and in it he makes a sincere smile.
Luís Pereira is a reformed mathematics teacher squatter. Luísa Gomes is a squatting housewife. Both share a small portion of squatting land on the right bank of the river Jamor in Queluz. They’ve been here for three years. It was her who “inherited” the land, from an old man, her neighbor of building and squatter, but who could no longer deal with the land. Not beinga a very large land, it was still too much work for her. And so he challenged Luis, to whom she usually cleans the house, to help with the horticultural activities. She already knew agriculture, since she worked in the field from an early age to help her parents. He had never taken a rake, but now he even knows that putting together certain types of crops helps to combat pests and plant growth. They practice organic farming, they do not use medicine. They prefer so, they keep what they are going to eat free of chemicals, but also the river. His main motivation for being there is to leave home, from the middle of the buildings, “breathe the air that is very much like the countryside” – being close to the land, seeing things grow, having the satisfaction of harvesting them. Relationships with squatter neighbors are also likely to be a good motivation: in addition to sharing tools and knowledge, they still make a direct exchange of what they produce, in a true community spirit.
This day ended up watching the last portion of the river Jamor in Queluz: the one that passes through the Parque Urbano Felício Loureiro (Felício Loureiro Urban Park). There are no squatter gardens here, but the river continues to serve the community, allowing it to use its banks to play, run, read a book or rest. Food for the spirit, that is.