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About Madeira : History Last Updated: Jun 28, 2008 - 12:29:23 AM

The Quintas of Madeira and Portugal today - a socio-political reflection
By Jorge Barbosa
Jun 10, 2008 - 10:42:16 AM

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Quintas - still a fight for survival for some

It must not be understated how “loaded” the term Quinta is though - still today. It has political and social connotations that for the casual observer might not be apparent when visiting Madeira and Portugal over a short spell.

The social upheavals Portugal underwent through much of the twentieth century still have some former landlords upset at how their former possessions were affected. Many of them, their descendants or surrogates, still fight to this day to resolve property issues related to the great political changes that transformed their status as legitimate owners of properties they held. A point in case is the Hinton family of Funchal, once one of the wealthiest and most influential families in Madeira, having to take the local municipal authorities to court for claiming damages in the way some of their properties in downtown Funchal were expropriated illegally.

It was under the fear of this type of governmental meddling that some landowners devised ingenious solutions to retain as much land of theirs as possible and prevent the encroachment of public ownership of their property. The Blandy family, for example, another important and wealthy English family that has become part of the history of Madeira, transformed part of their significantly large estate at the Quinta do Palheiro Ferreiro into a golf course! The creation of a hotel and the opening of the spectacular gardens – part of the private section of the family property - made it more difficult for the governing authorities to acquire and transform the vast stretches of land they owned into, say, industrial parks or other social or agricultural engineering projects.

At least when these vast estates were being used to provide a positive contribution to the development of the tourism industry of Madeira the local authorities were kept at bay.

But a new attitude, especially with the advent of modern communications in the late twentieth century, has pervaded the governing authorities. Instead of viewing the grand old Quintas as relics of a past Portugal wishes it could forget sooner than later they seek to embrace them now. The Quintas have become important references in a culture that seeks to find its own unique identity in the face of an onslaught of global socio-economic trends that would transform Portugal and Madeira into something indistinguishable from anywhere else in Europe. Also, the reemergence of former Eastern European countries as holiday destinations for travelers, competing for the same vacation trade that Portugal and Madeira enjoyed for decades, forced the local authorities to reconsider re-branding Madeira and Portugal as merely destinations for sun and beach vacations but also as a destination to enjoy culturally interesting tours and holidays.

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