Smuggling Festival returns in March, connecting the banks of the Guadiana

With the end of the Algarve 365 cultural programme, the annual festival no longer receives funding.

The Guadiana’s Smuggling Festival is back this to its original format between March 24 and 26, following two years of restrictions due to the pandemic.

Taking place in Alcoutim and Sanlúcar de Guadiana in the Spanish province of Huelva, the festivities include an emblematic floating pedestrian bridge connecting both river banks.

“With the bridge’s return, visitors will once again be able to cross between Portugal and Spain. The festival will thus recover one of its “most symbolic” elements, which was absent in the last two years”, pointed out the mayor of Alcoutim, Osvaldo Gonçalves.

Festival Contrabando 2023

This year the municipalities of Sanlúcar and Alcoutim supported the costs of the festival’s organisation, without the financial backing that allowed it to “gain dimension” and constitute itself as one of the “main events of the year”, boosting an ageing territory affected by desertification, said the mayor.

Osvaldo Gonçalves recalled that the festival was created by the municipality and Algarve 365, the cultural revitalisation programme designed to boost tourism during the region’s low season. He underlined that the end of the funding left the Smuggling Festival without one of its “makers”. It consequently meant that the organisation’s costs had to be supported by the municipalities.

“The Smuggling Festival has conquered, in a short time, an important place in the regional events agenda. In Alcoutim, it has an enormous relevance. It is the great cultural event of the year”, said the president of the Algarve municipality.

Osvaldo Gonçalves highlighted the “very relevant role” that the festival has, having “been created thanks to a partnership in which the 365 was fundamental for its take-off”, granting the financial support necessary to boost and give dimension to the event.

The mayor regretted the end of the 365 Algarve cultural programme, which left the festival without this support. He classified the loss of funding as “a betrayal”, which he hopes can be corrected with other backing.

“I usually say that the “makers” of the Smuggling Festival are the municipality of Alcoutim, naturally in collaboration with Spain, and the 365 programme. As the creation of these two makers, it is conditioned because it now has to survive with just one of them, and that is bad. We have already appealed to official entities and expect that we may still be awarded some support. But at this moment, we haven’t received anything yet”, he noted.

Despite this loss of funding, the municipalities of Alcoutim and Sanlúcar maintained their commitment to the festival, which will resume post-pandemic normality with “small market stalls and street entertainment” and with “the floating bridge as the great link between the two river banks”.

“We ended up financing it ourselves, but hope we can have some support from Turismo de Portugal and the Algarve Tourism Region”, said the mayor, who has appealed to the Government for funding for the event to be recovered as quickly as possible.