(based on texts and books written by Luís Filipe Maçarico)
Old documents attest the century-old existence of smuggling, the illegal transport of goods across borderlines. Smuggling is engaged to avoid the payment of legal duty; but it was between 1935 and 1960, on the border region of Campo Maior, Elvas, Sobral da Adiça and Santana de Cambas that smuggling became rampant.
The poverty and unemployment that affected Portuguese and Spanish people alike have been determining for the involvement of an extremely high number of people in smuggling. It was the misery in Alentejo and the Civil War in Spain that triggered an intense movement on the two sides of the border in search of survival. Coffee and eggs were some of the goods that were smuggled into Spain, whereas corduroy was brought into Portugal. People of all ages smuggled in order to survive.
THE FISCAL GUARD
The fiscal guard and the carabineers were the other side of the same coin. Constantly chasing, arresting and even killing smugglers, their goal was to see that the goods were taxed. However, without the illegal transport of goods their jobs would be threatened. One did not exist without the other… that is why some elements of the police sometimes were more humane. There have been smugglers that became guards… and guards that became smugglers!
Smuggling involved great risks. Drowning when they crossed rivers and streams in cold and rainy winter nights did happen. There was also the risk of being arrested. And the well-aimed shots. And there were the denouncers. The risks were the price of despair, but also of courage.
Courage, fearlessness, was undoubtedly the fundamental engine of smuggling. Many took risks by themselves but the majority divided into groups. The organization of smuggling involved secret pacts and solidarity that have helped the development of local trade and social status.
THE PRESERVATION OF MEMORY
Smuggling left a mark on the heritage and the memory of the border people. Alentejo is no exception.
There are many reports and accounts by people that have been involved in smuggling; many stories of smuggling have developed on the basis of the heroic deeds of their characters and because of that have been celebrated by poets and writers. There are legends and even a few articles, surveys and local political intentions…