Mapping the cultural heritage of Alcântara

Third exercise of the mapping process developed by the Outros Campeonatos in the Quinta do Cabrinha neighborhood.


In this exercise, we wanted to know the forms of cultural expression of the neighborhood. As such, the Cabrinha community was involved. Each participant should indicate in the neighborhood map forms of cultural expression developed, either individually or collectively, according to seven categories: arts, customs, knowledge and crafts, beliefs, institutions, objects and buildings. The group of participants was characterized by their age and gender. Below the legend of the symbols used.



The following responses were obtained:



Descriptive analysis of responses

Arts: 18 Answers

The following artistic subjects are practiced locally:

Handicrafts – several inhabitants are mentioned to have with enough skill to produce this type of objects, often through the reuse of materials such as brass, wood and others.

Music – fado is very popular in Cabrinha (especially among the older ones), with the community having at least one singer and one guitarist of fado; there is in the community a child who is studying violin.

Gastronomy – the food theme is given great importance, and many say that there are good cooks in the neighborhood; as for the specialities, these usually come from traditional Portuguese cuisine (like Porco à Alentejana (pork meat Alentejo-style), sweet rice).

Dance – there is a group that is dynamized by a local institution.


Customs: 13 answers

As true alfacinhas (people from Lisbon), the inhabitants of Cabrinha give great importance to the Santos Populares (Popular Saints celebrations), and especially to the Dia de Santo António (Saint Anthony’s Day). The activities developed in the context of these parties are:

  • participation in the Marchas Populares de Lisboa (Popular Marches of Lisbon);
  • organization of sports activities by the collectivities;
  • holding a party for the neighborhood (arraial) with popular music, dances, food and drinks, usually organized also by the collectivities;
  • visit of the march of Alcântara to Cabrinha, with a walk around the neighborhood.

It’s mentioned the participation of the community in the procession of candles, held on May 13, with the same passing through the neighborhood; the inhabitants of Cabrinha use this occasion to put candles in the Avenida de Ceuta, in the place where a member of the community passed away in the past.

It’s also mentioned the importance of the New Year’s Eve, where the community gather around the collectivities for the celebrations.

Another custom refers to the type of language used in the neighborhood: the vernacular is widely used, especially in collectivities (already existed in Casal Ventoso, but some say in here it’s worse); it is used both in public space and in the family; the community also uses some terms of their own, which also come  from the time of Casal Ventoso, such as, conta-horas (clock), tirante (wire), parro (watch), faz-barulho (gun) or anilha (ring).


Saberes & Knowledge & Crafts: 10 answers

The most common professions in the population of Cabrinha are in construction work, cleaning or as drivers. It is mentioned that the people of Cabrinha are, for the most part, resourceful people who know how to improvise. An example of this are the gardens that exist at the rear of the neighborhood, built and organized by the inhabitants themselves, in a totally autonomous way; or the participation in the construction of the structures of the floats used in the Popular Marches; or even the constant repair of cars from and by residents of the neighborhood.

Also mentioned are the existing football skills, especially in the younger males of the community.


Beliefs: 13 answers

Quinta do Cabrinha’s origins: It is believed that the name of the neighborhood has its origin in the nickname of a man who had many goats (cabrinha = little goat).

Religion: Most people are Catholic and go to mass in the local chapel; this is used by older people, especially in May; the chapel, when it opens, which seems to be not very frequently, is full; there are also Jehovah’s Witnesses; the elderly are more religious than the younger ones.

Taboos: the first response is that “there are no taboos; but later, with the development of the conversation, some are discovered (such as homosexuality, or witchcraft, or others that, as a precaution, we prefer not to mention).

Superstitions: they exist especially among the elders; for example, a ritual that is practiced when going to live in a new house (involving charcoal, salt and oil); or the belief that “when a dog howls, it is because someone died”. People also believe in the paranormal, there were told stories of visits of relatives already deceased. The children believe that a woman who lives in the back of the neighborhood buries the living people; they call her Maria Sangrenta (Bloody Mary). Finally, there is a superstition with the Benfica jersey, which should be worn when the club plays.


Institutions: 14 answers

Local institutions are referred to be a plus in the social welfare and cultural development of the neighborhood. The collectivities also provide a sports service for the population. However, it is also noted that there are many institutions that do not make any contribution to the neighborhood, even being harmful – because they occupy spaces that could be used for the benefit of the community.


Objects: 4 answers

It is considered that the symbols of the collectivities represent the neighborhood.


Buildings: 9 replies

The spaces of the multi-sport field and the playground are referred to as areas of important cultural development in the neighborhood. However, the inhabitants of Cabrinha have often complained that there is a lack of more spaces, such as outdoor spaces, community life spaces and the promotion of cultural development in the neighborhood.



During this collective mapping exercise, we repeatedly hear phrases such as “back in the time of Casal Ventoso there was …”, “at that time it happened …” or “Casal Ventoso stories are the ones worth telling.” They also repeatedly told us “here [in Cabrinha] almost everything has disappeared” or “there are no stories, no traditions, nothing that is ours, genuine”. In fact, we were told, by both older and younger people, many old stories, from the days when the Casal Ventoso still existed, and practically none, after the population was rehoused at Quinta do Cabrinha. This left us with the impression that the community was the victim of a kind of cultural emptiness, resulting from this movement, still not yet overcome.

The data obtained seem to want to show us how the culture in Cabrinha seems to be crystallized, clinging to the past. It is common sense that the culture of a given group or community constantly mutates as time passes, and when that does not happen, that group or community may not be well. In fact, it is difficult to arrive at any information, through this mapping, that would show us new forms of cultural expression developed from the time of rehousing to the present day. On the contrary, the data show us forms of expression that we easily recognize belonging to a traditional Lisbon culture from the past that has been so often repeated without any innovation or mutation, it has become somewhat artificial, stereotyped , flat.

In previous listening exercises,in which we try to understand the relationships of the Cabrinha inhabitants, community and public space, we observe how precarious they are. People hardly identify with the neighborhood or with the district of Alcântara,in social and geographical terms. As a result of this precariousness, not only relationships between people, but also the care for public and common spaces, get neglected.

The mapping of Cabrinha’s cultural heritage carried out here needs to be continued, as this is only the beginning (the sample was composed of 11 people). However, the data obtained seem to be already quite evident, in the sense of explaining how the strong and solid community relationship from Casal Ventoso’s time, socially and geographically, loses all its force when people are moved to the Alcântara valley.


This naturally leads us to put some questions on the table:

  • Could it have been the rehousing process done differently, in order to avoid such cultural emptying?

  • Will the frailties be overcome some day, with the emergence of new cultural forms, thus strengthening relations within the community and with the place where they live?

  • What will happen to the current residents of Quinta do Cabrinha? Will they insist on staying in the place, in the name of a strong cultural, social and community past, but which has almost ceased to exist? Or will they tend to leave the neighborhood, diluting and thus forever forgetting the history of a neighborhood that for centuries lived marginally, a kind of village of the Gauls of the city of Lisbon, with its own language, history, organization and laws, that we know nothing today?


This mapping, however, left us with a certainty: everything that is written here fully exists in the consciousness of the majority of the inhabitants of Cabrinha. People understand perfectly the cultural emptying they have suffered, and the negative consequences it has brought to the relations between them and the (new) territory in which they live. They do not accept it, but they understand it.

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