(work in progress)
The first street where I set foot in Dublin was O’Connell Street. I arrived unaccompanied on a typical cold Irish winter evening. Misty and overcast. As soon as I left the bus, coming from the airport, the traffic of buses and the mob of people walking alongside the Liffey left me slightly disoriented with regards to my current location and what direction should I take to get to Abbey Street Upper. I took a few seconds to spot the Heineken building on the other side of the Liffey. I started walking towards the building’s opposite side, entering O’Connell Street Lower.
In Dublin, you always feel a cold chill in your face when you’re out on the street. This was the first corporeal perception I had about the city. An introduction. All the rest comes after.
Since the second half of the 19th century and for about 100 years, the fishermen of Vieira de Leiria, during the winter months, when the sea was angrier and kept them to enter the domains of the Atlantic Ocean, migrated from these treacherous waters to the more calm currents of the River Tagus. There, they would find ways to subside from what the river provided them and their own and they could also sell their best catch in the town market. Families settled in villages along the riverside, such as Escaroupim, Valada do Ribatejo, Aldeia da Palhota, Vila Franca de Xira or Póvoa de Sta. Iria, among a few others. Many of these families, eventually would end to remain in these Tagus villages and never return to their origin place.
In the 1940’s, a neo-realist writer named Alves Redol, lived among them for a few years in Aldeia da Palhota near Santarém, with the intent to document and relate their ways of living. From this, resulted the novel, Avieiros, which is the name that these men and women are called because of their origins in Vieira de Leiria. Alves Redol would also refer to them in his book as the Gypsies of the River.
In 2011, fueled by his novel, I went to document the Avieiros of the River Tagus in Vila Franca de Xira and what of the ways of their living would still relate to Redol’s novel. 2011, would also be the centenary of the birth of Alves Redol in Vila Franca de Xira.
“I know what I didn't reach from all that seems necessary. And it passed thirty years. In this variation on a theme from 1940 I established a compromise. Keep the tone of the first edition, but serve it with another tool, fond to a popular way. I would like to read to them who heard the first version from my mouth, so they can tell me if I am wrong. But it is too late. Life parted some; death took many others. At this point I remember Joaquim Soeiro Pereira Gomes and Carlos de Oliveira.
And I have to add Jerónimo Tarrinca, to whom I also dedicate the book. His death belongs to the history of this novel and to all of us. Unable to face the competition from the truck companies that took from him the boat freights, my friend decided to buy a motor to make it faster. Committed to buy it, a hope had born in him, but the machine was too weak for the weight of the boat and the hardeness of the journey. Without the money for replacement, Jerónimo Tarrinca began to endure on his new failure. And one day, at the sight of the Tagus, where the boat swung useless, he jumped in front of a fast train. Face to face, without lowering his eyes.”
- Excerpt from Alves Redol written in the 70’s and published in Avieiros.
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