XXVIII– Art of Xávega

When a sailor arrives at a safe haven, returned from adventures in tropical seas, he finds memories. There are two lines that cross again. Line that had different, independent dynamics, that followed their own lines and logic, reconstructing their memories.
Over the course of yesterday, two stories related to these old stories, returned to memory.
The first was lived in Caparica, the splendid beach at the gates of Lisbon, which over the years has been transformed from a fishing village, to a bathing area and dormitory area on the south bank.
Throughout his youth it was a safe haven for family summer holidays. With the first heat of June, after the time of the popular saints lived in Lisbon, an old pickup truck arrived in the morning. It was a busy day at home. Gradually mattresses and bedding packed and loaded. Some pots, pans, dishes and boxed cutlery, sent to the summer house, rented at the beginning of the year, then the month. The family there would take baths until September, with the head of the family making daily trips, by bus between Cacilhas to Costa da Caparica, as it was a time when the luxury of holidays was not yet universal.
There were routines that continued, such as going to the beach in the morning, visiting family members with stalls at the market, for food supplies. In the afternoon, a siesta and an exit to the “woods”, where some friends met, books bought at the local stationery store were read (at that time I was reading the “Sete” collection. But the moments that were most pleasant for me were visits to the “Mouras”, an old family who spent the summer in a house on the beach, which meant that they would take their swimming trunks and we would stay there until sunset.
Sunset in Caparica is a sacred moment of the day. The moment when the star king fell over the horizon, flooding everything with golden rays and leaving the sea the color of silver.
Also at that time, the fishermen of the art of Xávega fell on the sand. With its fish boats drawn in the bow. Trammel nets with bag. Always bundled up to withstand the cold that is felt at night. And the end of the harvest, the sardines jumping, silver. Sometimes, I suppose it would be on Saturdays, we would buy a box there on the beach and take them home and bake them on the coals of coal.
At that time he was not a great admirer of sardines, but he liked that beach ritual and, with any child, playing without hours on the beach until the darkness took over the dunes.
Years later, as a young adult, visiting my aunt with a stall at the market, I was challenged to “do anything for life”, who is like my old aunt, Adelaide, married to a cunning fisherman who I remember blue and face stained by the sun, gave to “work”.
There I accepted the challenge and during a harvest, there and dedicated myself to the art of xávega. I settled on the coast of Caparica. At the end of the afternoon, we would concentrate on the “Fisherman’s Quarter” with a snack to appease the hunger, in case she came, because before she left the house without a good plate of soup “à pescador”. Then we went on a cargo van to Fonte da Telha, where the master and the arrais had gone to take a siesta in the afternoon, to observe the sea, choose the exit point and mark the place. As a rule, the boat was in the immediate vicinity, as each “art” had, as it were, a given fishing territory. A right that was signaled by the presence of the arrais on the beach, which gave an indication of the intention to leave a certain point, where experience and intuition indicated a greater probability of extracting a good fishery.
The “companha” was made up of about twenty men and women who divided the fishery into parts. The boss and the arrais had a part for the boat and the nets, another part for the tractor and the truck that took the people and the fish to the auction. Each rower also had a part. Whoever was on the ground alarming the nets had half a share. That was what I had to do at first, until I was considered capable of rowing.
And so I spent several months. Earned according to fishing. Sometimes enough, other times, little more than bringing some fish home for the next day, which were also part of the payment, in rules taken from the last boxes, which did not go to the auction.
And so I was an art fisherman from Xávega for a year!

Por Pedro Pereira Leite

Pedro Pereira Leite:
Guest Professor at Lusophone University where he is a member of the executive board of the UNITWIN Chair of UNESCO "Education, Citizenship and Cultural Diversity" (2018-2022). He has been a professor in the PhD and Master's programs in Museology since 2011. He is currently promoting the installation of the MED Museum of Global Education and Cultural Diversity, a program to include local knowledge and memories to create sustainable communities.
He is Member of the Direction of the International Movement for a New Museology (MINOM / ICOM). Integrates the member bodies of ICOM Portugal (2014 - 2020). He is part of several research networks and has collaborated with the UNESCO School Network and the Educating Cities Network in Portugal. It develops research activity in Portugal, Spain, Brazil and in Mozambique.
It maintains the research book Education, Citizenship and Cultural Diversity ( and Social Museology and Ecomuseus in Portugal (
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