Photos by Maria Fialho
To see the people be
During her years as a student, Maria Fialho sought out the river Tagus to find calm and restore her energy levels. ‘Watching the Tagus and the traffic of boats between its two banks – ferrying to-and-fro the commuters who worked in Lisbon but lived across the water – gave me courage and the confidence that I, too, would one day depart for unchartered waters.’ For citybooks Fialho returned to Lisbon, with a single line by Fernando Pessoa in mind: “Não é por nada que olho: é que eu gosto de ver as pessoas sendo” (‘Not for nothing do I look; I love to see the people be’). Because, according to Fialho, seeing people be helped her imagine how she would wish one day to eventually become.
The Lisbon of her memory has since been transformed into a more tolerant and cosmopolitan city, one that has finally found a way to begin to integrate its diverse ethnic communities. Africans and Brazilians, immigrants to the city’s suburbs decades ago, today work alongside other Lisbonites, and all go out to party in the streets and allies of Madragoa, Bairro Alto or Cais do Sodré ‘in cheerful and vital surroundings that, for me at least, seem a very long way away from the saudade, nostalgia, and fado-drenched atmosphere of yore.’