I recently went on the first heritage walk, one of five organised by Lagoa council. During the walk around the town of Estombar, we were treated to a re-enactment by Faro’s Te-Atrito Theatre Group of the life of Algarve’s 19th century notorious guerrilla José Joaquim de Sousa Reis, nicknamed ‘O Remechido’.
Born to an agricultural family on October 19, 1796, Remechido was orphaned at seven and tutored by his godfather, the prior of Alcantarilha, thereby securing his future with an ecclesiastical career. However, the reality could not have been more different.
Aged 14, Remechido entered the Faro seminary. He rapidly progressed and gave his first sermon at a festival in Messines when he was 20 years old. It was at this festival that he met and fell in love with Maria Clara Machado de Bastos who came from a local affluent family.
Remechido worked hard to convince his superiors to allow him to give up the priesthood and to convince Maria Clara’s family to allow the marriage, and it was due to his persistence that his bride nicknamed him O Remechido (the remixed or dominated restlessness), a name that would stay with him forever and become infamous in Algarvean history.
The couple married in Messines in 1818 and had six children, moving Remechido socially from poor priest to noble landowner as he took over the family lands, became the local tax collector and captain of ordinance, the militia-type military territorial reserve of the army. He was respected by the community and was responsible for creating a communal bread oven and starting a public school.
However, life changed for everyone when King Pedro IV, who was also the Emperor of Brazil, abdicated in 1826 in favour of his seven-year-old daughter Maria, entrusting his brother D. Miguel with the throne until Maria was old enough to marry him and take over as rightful Queen. However, D. Miguel deposed his young fiancée and proclaimed himself King in 1828!
D. Miguel believed in the traditional absolute monarchy rule by one person, whereas many people wanted a new liberalist rule based on political liberty and equality. D. Pedro, who lived in Brazil, was forced to return to Portugal as political instability increased between proponents of Liberalism and those seeking a return to Absolutism.
The absolutists led by D. Miguel controlled many of the rural areas whilst the Liberalists fighting for D. Pedro and Queen Maria II occupied major cities including Lisbon and Porto. This division amongst the people led to Portugal’s civil war known as the Liberal wars of 1828-1834, which had such a devastating impact on Remechido and his family.
At the time, Remechido was the county’s military official and he was instructed to go to the hills of São Marcos da Serra to monitor the movements of the arriving Liberalist troops, thus becoming D. Miguel’s supporter and progressively defeating government forces to win over the Liberalist stronghold areas. He was known to steal from the rich and give to the poor and his men were responsible for assaults across the Algarve and Alentejo. Although Remechido punished those who persecuted him, he forgave soldiers he caught as they were, in his view, just obeying orders from above.
Did you know one of the worst massacres of the civil war took place in Albufeira? On July 23, 1833, Remechido’s men attacked the village, robbing and burning houses and fighting the Liberalist troops, which were made up of old soldiers and young inexperienced men.
On the morning of the 26th, council members, governors and many civilians were in the council offices when they decided to surrender. Remechido’s men, fuelled by alcohol, asked for permission to execute some of the Liberalists to set an example. Whilst Remechido initially refused, the villagers seeing a Liberalist ship out at sea and expecting imminent reinforcements, tried to revolt which led to the massacre of everyone in the council and the burning down of the town’s main buildings. Seventy-four people were killed and buried in common graves near the market and on the beach! Subsequently, Albufeira was renamed the ‘Black Village’ and, macabrely, blood stains can still be seen today on the municipal flag.
In 1834, the Convention of Évoramonte was signed to end the civil war, exiling D. Miguel from Portugal and pronouncing a pardon for all his supporters if they surrendered.
Queen Maria II was restored to the throne and Remechido, who had been in hiding for many months, wrote to tell her that he had dissolved his forces and was prepared to give himself up. However, he began to hear that those who had already surrendered had been executed. To show his willingness to cooperate, Remechido surrendered his son believing the boy would not be hurt. Instead, his son was imprisoned and narrowly avoided death by escaping. Determined to find Remechido, the Liberalist troops arrested and publicly tortured Remechido’s wife, ransacked and burnt their Messines home and killed their young son.
These acts led to the resurgence of Remechido’s band when on July 23, 1836 he took revenge on the village of Messines, for his wife’s torture and son’s murder, by killing 11 Liberalist Guards and destroying their village headquarters.
Remechido was rewarded by D. Miguel who nominated him Governor of the Algarve and Commander of Operations in the South, instructing him to recruit new forces to continue the fight in the hope of once again being proclaimed King.
Despite the official end of the Liberal wars, Remechido’s men fought another four years until he was finally caught by a special battalion instructed to catching him and destroying his army. After a brief trial, even though there is a belief that the Queen had pardoned him, Remechido was executed by firing squad on August 2, 1838 at the Campo da Trindade, which is the present site of Faro’s Tomás Cabreira Secondary School.
So, was Remechido a hero who fought and died with dignity believing that the principal virtue of man is obedience and claiming he had limited himself to dutifully obeying orders given by his superiors? Or, was he a guerrilla responsible for political instability whose men put fear into the Algarvean populations and who fought against the rightful king? I think it depends on whose side you were on. Had the Absolutists won the war, the outcome for Remechido would have been very different …
I thoroughly enjoyed this historical walk and the re-enactment brought history to life. Our group of 20 people swelled to around 60 as more villagers joined the walk. We ended with an amazing buffet of traditional Algarvean dishes, prepared by restaurant O Charneco, which was included in the ticket price of €7.50.
As part of 365 Algarve cultural events, other walks are programmed to include theatre, dance and music, and I will definitely be going!
So now you know …
* Remechido was the spelling in the 19th century but became Remexido in modern times.
By Isobel Costa
Isobel Costa works full time and lives on a farm with a variety of pet animals! In her spare time, she enjoys photography, researching and writing.