Colour and tradition at Lisbon’s Marchas Populares

THIS YEAR’S Marchas Populares (Popular Marches) in Lisbon promise to be bigger and better than ever.

Parading through the streets and winding up in Avenida da Liberdade on Monday, June 12, the traditional marches will represent swashbuckling 18th century scenes and 19th century lisbon laundry women, and there will be a fantasy summer garden parade, complete with children dressed as bees.

Thanks to an invitation from organisers Egeac, The Resident’s Chris Graeme caught a sneak preview of this year’s Marchas Populares, which paraded last Sunday at Pavilhão Atlântico.

Originally conceived in 1932 by José Leitão de Barros, the colourful, annual parade has come to be an enduring symbol of the simple Lisbon folk, who inhabit the older, traditional and historic city neighbourhoods. They represent a rapidly vanishing rural and urban social identity, depicting scenes in an allegorical form of life under the old regimes.

This year, Lisbon Câmara has invested a massive three million euros into the event, which is already considered one of the best European, summer carnival-type festivals, ranking up high with others such as Seville’s April Fair and Madrid’s St. Isidro Fair.

The city council plans to make the event a truly international affair, by inviting components from foreign carnivals to take part, starting this year with the Italian show, Gigli di Nola, which will be parading in Rossio this Saturday, June 10.

This year’s front runners to win the Melhor Marcha (Best March) are Campolide, Alfama, Bela Flor, Beato and Alto do Pina.