On December 15, 2021, the Festas do Povo of Campo Maior were classified as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity during the XVI Session of the Intergovernmental Committee of UNESCO.
They consist of the decoration of the streets of Campo Maior (mainly in the Historic Center) with paper flowers and other objects made of cardboard and paper, made by the residents of each street.
The Festas do Povo that are not held cyclically, but when the people want. The last Festas do Povo were held in 2015, the year that marked the return of this great popular culture event.
Describing them is not an easy task. A world of effort, dedication and poetry surrounds them, which makes it very difficult to define and transmit. They are months and months of struggle, work of enthusiasm without limits dedicated to their preparation. They are countless hours, stolen times for a fair rest, that everyone in Campo Maior dedicates to the preparation of this wonderful and unforgettable surprise, that admirable and fascinating flower garden that will appear, as if by charm, at the dawn of a September.
All the thousands and thousands of flowers, all the roses, all the carnations, all the tulips, all the wisteria, all the bright poppies were prepared with love, care and a great spirit of will. Rare spectacle offered to us, in addition to the wonderful “enramadas” streets are also the charming and soft melodies – the famous “Saias” – inspired by loose courts and accompanied by a lively and cheerful rhythm with tambourines and castanets, which are sung and danced, in all the streets of Campo Maior.
For the stranger, in addition to all that was mentioned before, it will also be the glass of fresh water from the Alentejo pitcher, the sidewalk bench or the atrium of houses that have open doors, eager to provide moments of rest for him it is also a graceful flower that female hands will place on her lapel, symbolizing the consideration and friendship that the People dedicate to them.
So it has always been and so will always be the Festas do Povo. An entire village covered in paper with days and nights full of joy, fascination, and charm.
THE SOUL OF A PEOPLE
The song says that “Numa manhã de Setembro a vila acorda mais bela”, but for reasons that do not sympathize with tradition, the latest editions of the Festas do Povo, brought the Spring back to Campo Maior at the end of August.
Painting the houses, the places of the sticks are marked, whose role is to serve as a skeleton for the entire structure, and the last sheets of paper are formed from where the flowers that attract the crowds will be born. The Festas do Povo belong to the People, because it is the People who give them the greatest contribution. They sacrifice the well-deserved hours of rest to give shape to the flowers and other arrangements without which Campo Maior could not transform, overnight, into the most beautiful of gardens.
It all starts in January (or earlier), the “cabeça de rua” (person in charge of organizing the work) is chosen, the work is drafted, the color of the paper is chosen and the work is started. After dinner, they gather at the house of one of the neighbors. Adults and kids fold, cut and glue paper and, between the conversations and the comments to the novel, the magic begins. A rose is born, a tulip blooms, an olive grows. All unique pieces. Made almost in series, the same at first sight, but unique, each bearing the stamp of those who made them, with their hands and their hearts.
There is a lot of excitement, tiredness too and sometimes the fear of not having everything ready for the night of the “enrramação”. But it´s like that, people have been used to suffering from nervousness and sleepless nights that the Festas do Povo bring with them for a long time, however they also bring the joy of seeing the charm on the faces of outsiders, marveling at such a manifestation of Popular art. Feeling that your work is recognized and praised is the only reward for those who left a little bit of themselves in each flower they formed. A proud people comes to the fore and, why not, vain, a vanity allowed by those who appreciate the world of dreams they have entered and, it must be said, more than deserved.
From the smallest of details to the most elaborate entrance to each street, all this transports us to a world made of paper and the dreams of a people. For the originality, the beauty, the poetry, the art, for all this and for much more it is worth watching the show that these Festivals are, unique in the world, but certainly Portuguese.
Congratulations Campo Maior, its well-deserved and we are enormously proud!
@ Campo Maior