Senior squatters between Belas and Queluz.
At the entrance of Queluz we learned to apply a new concept: farm squatter.
Mr. Patrício is a squatter at Quinta das Andorinhas. It is a squatting that lasts for more than 40 years, which makes Mr. Patrício (and we affirm it with all respect) a senior squatter. He divides the land, which is private property, not from the state, with at least one other person. This squatter farm is located between Belas and Queluz, but it is not the only one, in the surroundings. There are dozens of other farms squatted on the terraces, well-treated, both down (toward the river) and up (toward the hills). In the case of Mr. Patrício, the Sintra City Council (CMS) made him sign a declaration, in which he undertakes to vacate the land, if there is interest in this, either by the owner or by the State itself. He likes to treat the farm, and he does it mainly to entertain himself: he makes breeding (has a dovecot) and grows some fruits and vegetables (onion, garlic, tomato, peach, pomegranates). However, he says that relations between the local squatters are not the best. He has suffered enough robberies and relies little or nothing on the neighbors. To water, he uses water from a well that exists on the farm, or he fetches water on the Jamor through a pump. All the farms around it, he says, are watered by the water of Jamor – to prove this there is the intricate system of pipes that can be observed by the hill above.
Mr. José is a senior squatter of a small plot located on the right bank of Jamor, a little further down from Quinta das Andorinhas, right at the entrance to Queluz. It was his brother-in-law, equally squatter, who passed it to him, more than 25 years ago. A quick glance over the garden was enough to see how well it was treated: potatoes, beans, onions, tomatoes, Portuguese cabbage, lettuce, cucumbers were some of the plantations we managed to recognize. We also identified some trees: fig tree, pomegranate, quince tree. For irrigation, he also uses a pump that carries water from the river – all squatters have a pump, he says. There seems to be a better neighborhood environment between squatters, with the sharing of machines and tools, or the direct exchange of vegetables. Mr. José takes the horticultural activity so seriously that it even took a license to apply agrochemicals to his crops, and sets the example of sulphate. Depending on the season, there are days when he spends from morning to night working in the garden. When the daylight hours aren’t enough to keep up with the work, there is a brother who comes to help him. He thinks Jamor is clean today, and this is thanks to the collector pipe that was installed along the river, and prevents it from being contaminated by dirty waters. Also the cleaning actions carried out by CMS help in the maintenance of the river – even two days ago it was there to cut disorderly bush of the margins and to remove trash from the bottom. But he – just like his squatter neighbors, he assures – is equally responsible for the cleaning of the river, removing plastics and other materials that, brought by the flow, there stay stranded. He complains that, despite all this, unfortunately there are people who still do not respect the river, throwing garbage or making discharges of polluting products. Besides this, he afirms that it is the same to cultivate here, in the middle of the city, or in the province, if there is water to irrigate. There is another squatting area, more to the top of the hill: although there he has no water from the river, he still can produce fava beans, Portuguese cabbage, he has 7 fig trees there to give figs. Even on the other day he caught more than 15 kilos of them, which, sold at the train station, yielded more than twenty euros.
Mr. Camões, the third senior squat we met that day, was already leaving the garden when we picked him up. It was with great kindness that he reopened the impromptu door of his small squatter. Originally from Alentejo, he lives in Lisbon for almost 50 years and has been there for more than 30 years. He has a taste for gardening, entertaining himself during retirement, instead of being home all day. Mr. Camões clearly has a collecting spirit, he has his garden full of objects, some of pure agricultural utility, others with purposes, we would say, more ornamental. There are dozens of water reservoirs, scattered throughout the garden, and made from the most diverse improvised materials (refrigerators, bathtubs, pots, bottles, buckets, etc.), which serve for the days when the water of the river does not run so well. Like his fellow senior squatters, he praises the cleanliness of the river, which it’s due, in his opinion, not only to the cleaning actions carried out by the CMS (he states that the river is cleaned more or less every two years), as well as to those cleanings made by those who squat on the banks of Jamor. In fact, this is a “win-win” situation: often the materials taken from the river are used in the garden itself – for example, canes, which serve to build infrastructures. He did not say much about the neighbors, but it was he who finally clarified how the process of squatting on the banks of the Jamor occurs: “they pass [the lands] from one to another.”