Monday, February 15, 2016

Innocent masked mischief

‘Entrudo’ is a traditional shrovetide celebration in Central Portugal.  Up in the mountains of Central Portugal they are trying to keep this typical village tradition alive by keeping up the annual Entrudo and encouraging new people to join in.   

Celebrating Entrudo means cross dressing and making your own cork mask (a local resource in the hills of Portugal).  Once suitably disguised you go and make some innocent mischief in the neighbouring villages. 


It’s harmless enough; moving flower pots, creating barriers in the quiet village roads, throwing cob nuts at people and generally making a noise.  The sounds of the accordion are never far from the ears and traditional limericks and bawdy rhymes are recited telling the story of the villages, it’s history and it’s residents. 

The group of revellers was organised by Lousitanea, a eco business set in one of these traditional hillside villages.  This tourism organisation helps to keep traditional village life alive.  They organise walking tours, bread making and traditional craft events in this stone built village set in the Lousa mountain range.  Lousitanea are the only group keeping the tradition of Entrudo alive in this part of Portugal, with support from the local tourist board.    

There were about 30 in our group (with about a third non Portuguese) and together we boarded a small coach (paid for by the tourist board) and we visited three local villages.  The tracks taking us to these small and sometimes remote old villages challenged the coach driver who barely left first gear! Home owners in the villages joined in the merriment, as they served us wine or sweets or danced along to the accordion.  

It’s a great tradition, but its dying out because people just don’t live in these remote villages anymore, these villages are full of holiday homes and rich owners from Lisbon and only a handful of year-round residents.  

I’m told that the heritage of Entrudo is not written down in the history books, instead it’s an oral history, passed down from generations of villagers.  It’s become less popular in recent years, since the Brazilian style of carnival took over in the larger Portuguese towns.  Carnival celebrates the same point in the religious calendar, but the Brazilian way is to add scantily clad dancing girls and samba music – all very well in Brazil, but in February in Central Portugal it’s a bit cold and these poor girls take on a blue tinge to their skin as they dance through the streets.

 So, this Entrudo is taken pretty seriously, you must keep your mask on in the village, as part of the group you cannot take out your phone and start taking photos, you are asked to remain in character during your visit to the village.  Posing excessively is allowed though!   A group of people in regular clothes join the group to keep you in check, make the visits run to time, clear up after you and take photographs.   

It’s exhausting!  Hiding behind the mask you start to feel dizzy, dressed up in lots of layers you quickly get hot.  One couple told us that they take part in something similar in Lisbon during June and that gets really hot!   

After three villages and a lot of noise we head back to the start and lunch is served, taking off the mask is a relief…you quickly realise that size does matter and the thinner the cork the lighted the whole thing is to wear!    

It’s a great bonkers tradition that I hope will continue in these villages.  But it needs a community to keep it going.  As more and more of these old mountain villages become places for summer homes or are abandoned almost completely these traditions won’t thrive and we’ve all got a part to play in making sure that does not happen.

 Thank you to Amilcar Martins and Goncalo Sousa for the photographs which I have taken from various facebook posts.

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