Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen
Vasco da Gama Portugal
Vasco da Gama stands proud and immortal, contemplating the vast sea that he conquered during his lifetime. His gigantic statue stands next to the “Castle”, the fortress in which it is said he was brought into the world, and where he lived part of his life.
Now he stands forever united to the place.
On my way from Beija to Lagos I decided to travel along the coast and to make a stop in Sines. My small car had trouble driving through the narrow streets of the town on the hill, but the colorful tiled houses soon immersed me in the world of the fishing community that has lived there since the Middle Ages.
The view of the bay was dazzling from my balcony in the hotel Veleiro, and I could have spent the whole day capturing the subtle changes of colors and movements of the sky and sea with my camera.
Vasco da Gama Portugal
In the middle of the 13th century, Alfonso III conquered the region for the Christian state of Portugal and included Sines in the Order of Santiago. The construction of the “Castelo” defensive fortress, at a time when maritime trade was expanding and it was necessary to settle a population on the coast to protect it, was the condition that the king imposed on the good men of Sines to grant them administrative autonomy. The life of the town, between the Middle Ages and modern times, was marked by fear of pirate attacks, forcing the fortification of the defense structures.
As Odysseus yearned for his Ithaca, Vasco da Gama — the celebrated navigator who in 1497 discovered the sea route to India – yearned for Sines. When da Gama arrived back in Lisbon In 1499 in triumph, the king offered him a long list of prizes and offerings. However, it was Sines that he wanted to have as his reward. In March 1507, possibly due to pressure from the order of Santiago, King Don Manuel ordered da Gama to suspend the works he was building and expelled him and his family from Sines. Despite this, as a gesture of gratitude to his beloved land, Vasco da Gama rebuilt the Church of Nossa Senhora de Salas.
Today, Sines has one of Portugal’s largest coastal industrial complexes, made up of container ports, oil refineries, polymer refineries, and a thermal power plant that generates more power than any other in Portugal.
Pablo Munini © Milan, September 2021