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The Quintas of Madeira and Portugal today - a socio-political reflection




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A socio-political reflection of the Quinta heritage in Madeira and Portugal

The vast and formerly aristocratic Quintas, usually owned by a select few, and then oftentimes intertwined, families in much of early 20th century Portugal, saw the rapid dissolution of their ownership, either by the division of their property into parts ľ many of which were subsequently surrendered to labourers who had lived and worked on their properties, or by being expropriated by the government to achieve some social, industrial or agricultural engineering scheme.
 
When, under the bloodless coup which overtook the authoritarian government, formerly led by the dictator Salazar, in 1975, many of the still remaining landlords and their surrogates resigned themselves to the fact that their lifestyle was about to undergo the most dramatic change ever. The threat of ensuing communistic undertones in the mid seventies had many landowners scampering to leave the country or selling their properties at cut-throat rates before having to entertain the threat of losing everything they owned. Those landlords that had the courage to remain steadfast faced the total extinction of their feudal lifestyle - either by merciless expropriations under the new government or by the rapid change of the legal system ruling property rights.

As such it is still expressed as recent history the way that Madeira, and Portugal for that matter, dismantled the yoke of feudalism that it had subscribed to for centuries. Many former farmers and labourers on the fields surviving today can still remember the system they endured in the past.

Vestiges of the feudal system still persist in many anachronistic laws here and there. A slow process of correctly distributing land that still has registrations and bureaucracy in its old feudal form still continue to find their way to lawyers, notaries and courts of justice, who assess and award land tenure to either the former landlords and their heirs or to the descendants of the serfs that farmed on them. It is not uncommon for many properties unto which it cannot be determined who the rightful owners are, either because the former absent landlords forgot to bequeath them to their descendants, or due to the resulting confusion descendants of the farmers had as to how to claim their rights to possession of the land under the new laws regarding property rights.

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



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