Tourist Patrimonialization: Ethnography and Power in a Portuguese Village

Carla Sousa


This paper presents the case study of an inland rural village in the Algarve, the most popular tourist region in the south of Portugal. The village, Alte, is promoted, on the coastal tourist market as a cultural attraction and as model of a “traditional village” in the “backstage” of the region. This objectification of the village is also used in discourses and local social practices. Alte “the traditional village” belongs, above all, to the local identity, which has incorporated this metaphor over the generations as a symbol of communitarian distinction. This process is the outcome of a long lasting transformation that began in the 1930s, propelled by the State tourist propaganda. The, then, totalitarian regime made Alte an example of rural authenticity. As a consequence, from the 1950s onwards, the village was appropriated as “cultural capital” by bourgeois groups self-converted into local ethnographers. In this way, they legitimised the urban re-creation of the “traditional village” and began its folklorization. Nowadays, the bourgeoisie promotes a new paradigm – “Alte, inland cultural village”. This is a new traditionalist distinction made for the tourist commoditization which brings new practices and new meanings to “tradition”. The ethnographic and cultural knowledge embedded by its inhabitants, in earlier times, is replaced by a new process of local, exclusivist and memorial patrimonilization. Therefore, power and tourism continue intertwined. It is the dynamics of interaction, during this period, between the village as an ethnographic tourist destination and the forms of distribution and consolidation of power that this paper will cover. The dynamics implying different local and national social processes, such as acceptance, conflict and contestation, will also be analysed in the paper.


Tourism, Ethnography and the Patrimonialization of Culture, Alte

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