© Benedict Hilliard 2008
Portugal was traditionally a country of emigration before it became a country of immigration beginning in the 1960s. Before then, there had however been some foreigners present in the country from as far back as the 15th century: because of its geographic location, many European merchants, as well as African slaves who were brought against their will, had reached its shores.
The arrival of the first African workers from Portugal’s colonies occurred in the first half of the 1960s when Cape Verdian people were recruited for construction and manufacturing jobs to fill the growing labour shortage associated with the emigration of Portuguese men.
"My goal for the future in the area of arts and creativity
is that this is only the first of a thousand
of films that I can do!"
From the 1970s, the process of decolonisation linked to the political and military instability in the Portuguese speaking countries of Africa (PALOP) resulted in emigration to Portugal. For example, the decolonisation of Mozambique, Angola and Guinea-Bisseau led to the sudden movement of half a million people to Portugal, in particular to Lisbon. The majority were “retornados” – people born in Portugal and their descendants. Alongside the retornados came Africans, especially from Cape Verde and Angola.
Following the “Carnation Revolution” that led to Portugal becoming a democracy in 1974, and later the independence of the empire’s territories in Africa in 1975, major changes occurred. Alterations in Immigration law from then reduced the automatic right to Portuguese citizenship for Africans born in the PALOP states whose parents, grandparents or great-grandparents had not been born in Portugal or who, until the 1974 revolution, had not been living in Portugal for 5 years. Very few Africans could fulfil these conditions, except those who had served in the Portuguese colonial army or its administration.
Later in the 80s and 90s, with an increasing demand for labour, Africans, Brazilians and West Europeans were granted the right to settle. Since Portugal joined the European Union (EU) in 1986, other groups from Africa and South America have immigrated, and, in the past few years, there has been a rise in arrivals from Ukraine, Moldova, Russia and Romania.
"I'd like to be able to do more sketches, be more adapted to making short films and other films in the future. I'm honored to have worked with such a humble, professional and nice group of people."
Timed with the new arrivals from the mid 1970s to the mid 1980s, several neighbourhoods such as Bairro de Fontaínhas, Vendas Novas and 6 de Maio were formed in the district of Amadora in the outskirts of Lisbon. The majority of their inhabitants came from Cape Verde.
The new inhabitants built their own houses, extending them gradually as their families grew by adding a floor to their dwelling as is traditionally done in Cape Verde. The houses were improvised and the streets narrow, but this made for close living: the doors were always open, making relationships with neighbours crucial to people’s social lives.
For a long time, town planning was non-existent in those areas, making lack of electricity and deficient sanitation/sewage systems problems of the inhabitant’s everyday lives – reinforcing the bonds that linked the inhabitants to each other, as neighbours and exiles.
When the land where Bairro de Fontaínhas and its surrounding neighbourhoods were reclaimed by its owners, the local authorities created a relocation programme for all its inhabitants. In 2002, most were relocated to Casal da Boba, a new purpose-built development.
As the families moved into new buildings and flats, their lifestyle changed dramatically from that in their old neighbourhoods and that of Cape Verde: the tower blocks flats in which they were re-housed had closed doors which kept them apart and more isolated from each other.
© Benedict Hilliard 2008
The neighbourhood is composed of different groups but is not very diverse: in 2005, 63% of Casal da Boba inhabitants were of Cape Verdian origin, while 31% were of Portuguese, 5% of Angolan and Sao Tomé, and 1% Gipsy origin.
Low levels of education have been an important factor in the social exclusion of new arrivals since about 23% of the heads of family could not read nor write.
Currently, low levels of education, lack of qualifications and therefore high unemployment are strongly affecting the younger generation which constitutes nearly half the population of Casa da Boba (49% is between 0 and 24 years old).