It is exciting to work in the area of nature tourism as I have the opportunity to be in contact with people from all parts of the world that are looking for a high quality, authentic experience, in touch with the natural beauty of this region and its local culture. It’s great to work with the Rota Vicentina team, a team of highly intelligent, dynamic people, dedicated to create a high-quality project. I feel that I am part of something very special. It is also very challenging, because we are working at a top level of excellence, dealing with high responsibility tasks, with very modest material resources and conditions. It’s really an incredible team of human beings that I am very proud to be a part of. It fits me very well since I love working as part of a team, where I can combine my skills with those of other colleagues, taking benefit of a collective wisdom that is greater than all our individual ones. Together we can go very far. I see the Rota Vicentina project as a fantastic visionary initiative that is helping my region to develop in a way that promotes and preserves the best things we have.
I was born in Mozambique, Africa, but my family came to Santiago do Cacém shortly after the revolution in 1974, when I was a little over 1 year old, so I do feel Santiago and the west coast of Alentejo as my homeland. I appreciate Portuguese people’s relaxed way of doing things and welcoming people, our openness to diversity, the relative freedom we enjoy. We are warm, informal, and practical, and in this sense I feel there is some proximity to Africa, more than to Europe. I do love this straightforward energy and simplicity, and at the same time, I feel very drawn to more Northern cultures, greener landscapes, the colder weather, a sense of pilgrimage, our celtic heritage.
It was not very easy to choose what to study, because I have always had a broad-spectrum of interests and love learning many things: I liked both sciences and humanities, arts and sports. At the same time I’ve always felt a special connection to nature: I love walking in the fields, observing life forms, drawing trees and birds, so that was a strong inspiration to study biology. After I graduated from Biology in lisbon, I wanted to continue studying abroad, because I always had this impulse of travelling and living in another country, knowing other cultures, speaking other languages but I didn’t get a scholarship to allow me do that, so I chose to do the Masters in Human Ecology in Évora and accept my boyfriend’s proposal to get married, so I chose to build a family, and study here instead of travelling, while also working as a teacher. That was a bit of a cornerstone at my life.
There was something missed in the biology I studied: a classic science is very limited, the subjective aspects of ecology are not taken into consideration, the human ecosystems, the psychological aspects, the spiritual relationship between human beings and natural elements. This always interested me very much: the integration of many aspects, the wholeness of different things: natural childbirth, or alternative education are two passions in my life, which always walked side by side. I have co-founded the Doulas Association in Portugal, to support childbirth rights for women and families and also a Waldorf kindergarten in Alentejo, where I am involved in the pedagogical coordination, communication and management. I also certified as a personal development coach and trainer and a Waldorf teacher. But besides all of this I had a job for 12 years: I was working in a water company as a coordinator of corporate responsibility systems, while being an activist of these causes in my free time. I was working during the day in the office, and then working late hours in the things that I was in love with, besides raising my kids, and of course time was not enough for everything. It was the peak of economic crisis in Portugal, I was 40 years old, and I decided to change my life and leave my job to work full time in projects I am passionate for. I gave trainings in schools with an NGO for 3 years, which was very rewarding from the emotional aspect, but unfortunately not sustainable financially. It was a concern for me that I needed to make an income from working in what I love.
I hiked parts of Rota Vicentina before, I loved the project and I was very proud that we have this here, and that it starts near ’’my castle”, the castle that I grew up looking at. I’m very happy when I see the traditional, simple, white old houses, in Portuguese we call them ‘monte alentejano’, how they are so cleverly designed by the wisdom of poor people from the countryside, and how they are organically connected to the Earth: the walls are very thick, the windows are very small so it is always naturally fresh inside. There are also those beautiful fireplaces on the floor, where the chouriço, linguiça, are hanged from the chimney. These are all part of the culture of this area, and also an individual heritage in my case. Getting lost in the view of a plain, or a cereal field, looking at the orange or cork trees, smelling the scent of clementines – for me this is Alentejo, imprinted in my cells, these are my childhood memories. These bring me a very deep sensation of happiness, they go directly to my heart.
The photos were taken in the castle of Santiago do Cacém.