Oeiras is also a land of squatter gardens.
The previous days served us to follow the course of the Jamor, always inside the county of Sintra. On this day we pass to the other side of the IC19 (complementary itinerary 19) and we arrive at Oeiras.
The river Jamor is born in the Serra da Carregueira (Carregueira hill), county of Sintra, and flows into Cruz Quebrada, Oeiras municipality. It crosses two municipalities, both of Greater Lisbon, making Jamor an urban river, since it is born, runs and flows in a metropolitan area, Lisbon.. This is also one of the most populated regions of Portugal.
Dona Maria, Brejo, Belas, Pendão and finally Queluz. This is the route that Jamor does, and that we visited in the municipality of Sintra. On this day we entered the municipality of Oeiras, in Queluz de Baixo. Here the right bank of the river narrows and the terrain rises abruptly. There is only space for stone houses built on terraces, probably already very old. They are lined by the barracks and small gardens, all populated by many barking dogs.
On the left bank, on the contrary, there is room for many squatter gardens, and it was in one of them that we met Mr. José Amaral. He had come from Viseu to Lisbon for many years, he past his childhood on the banks of the River Dão. When we found him he had in his hands a noisy machine with which he was working the land, but as soon as he saw us he promptly hung it up and came to talk to us. He told us that he has been there for 40 years, squatting on lands that he knows to be from the state, but he is not afraid of being expelled. The Oeiras municipality is rarely present in that area; Mr. José remembers, for example, that he saw those banks cleaned only twice, in the last 40 years. However, the municipality technicians had been there for a short time, informing about the Eixo Verde e Azul (Green and Blue Axis), an inter-municipal plan involving the chambers of Sintra, Amadora and Oeiras, and that “aims to requalify the water basin of Jamor”, among others, through the creation of pedestrian and cycle routes, from Carregueira to Cruz Quebrada.. Until this axis is built (it seems that it has been planned for a good number of years) he will be there, taking care of a few dozen different species of fruit and vegetables, among herbaceous, shrubs and trees, more or less exotic, that he cultivates there. What he plants and manages to harvest is for his own consumption, of him and of the family that from time to time also comes to help. The neighbors are also winning. It was he who made the access walk of the margin of Queluz de Baixo (where it lives), to the margin where the gardens are. He spends the whole day there, and gets along very well with the squatter neighbors, who are about 8 in that area. They exchange tools and vegetables.
Right at the entrance to Carnaxide, before reaching the Santuário da Rocha, on the left bank of Jamor, we find Quinta da Gandarela. Mr. Jacinto and Mrs. Fatima have been living there for over 50 years, coming from the Alentejo, she from Oleiros. They use a small part of the land of the old farm, next to the Jamor, to cultivate. Here the river water is very clean, you can see fish swimming and everything. They practice organic farming, they do not want to use chemicals. “When the earth does not give, patience, it does not give”. But it does, and in what a way. What they produce, between fruit and vegetables, it’s enough for them, and still to give to the family, neighbors and friends. They do not remember the last time they bought vegetables at the supermarket. In his opinion, the parish council and the chamber are well with the gardens. “People today are more aware” and so they can see its importance to society. They have also heard of such a Green and Blue Axis, but since the lands they are occupying are private, they know that at least that section will take time to materialize. Until then, the vegetable garden is to keep…