“Mental balance results in large part, and above all, from the fact that the material objects we are in daily contact with do not change or change little, and offer us an image of permanence and stability” – Auguste Comte
The Aldeia da Luz (Southeast of Portugal) is today a village built entirely from scratch.
Officially inaugurated in November 2002 by the then Prime Minister of Portugal, it was built to house all 363 inhabitants from the old village of Luz. The reason for this transfer was the construction of a dam on the Guadiana river – the dam of Alqueva – which would create the largest artificial lake in Europe, and would submerge the entire old village. Everything, from the private houses, with their vegetable gardens and orchards, to the Church and all the public buildings, to the areas surrounding the village, were submerged.
This entire process, which took a few years, uprooted an entire community!
“I’m not even an immigrant. An immigrant can always, whenever he wants, return to his homeland. I no longer have my homeland; mine is under water,” Manuel, an 84-year-old man I portrayed for this series, told me.
Anchored in the theory of Maurice Halbwachs expressed in his book “La mémoire collective” which relates collective memory and space, I went to meet this community 19 years after its forced migration to the new village.
I was interested in reflecting on how the symbolic universes of space can be decisive in the construction/destruction of collective and individual identities and memories. Would the construction of the new Aldeia da Luz have been able to generate a production and representation of the space that would allow the inhabitants of the old village to reconstruct spatial meanings, in order to keep alive the dynamics that characterized the old community? Or has this intention failed, originating its disintegration, causing around (today) 300 people to live orphans of their collective identity, living only on individual memories?