In Portugal, we are surrounded by history. The Romans, Visigoths, Moors, and Christians have all left their mark. But if you look around, there is also “living history” in our midst.
When you see a quaint village, an old taverna, a rustic ruin, or the remnants of a donkey water wheel, you are looking through a window into the past.
Such is the case with the arty, colorful Schweppes tile murals. If you drive around the Algarve, you’ve probably seen at least one or two. They are almost 70 years old, but they look as strikingly beautiful as ever.
In 1956, the Schweppes beverage company asked one of Portugal’s biggest tilemakers, Aleluia Cerâmicas, to design and create these lovely panels for a Schweppes advertising campaign.
Aleluia is still a thriving family-owned company and produces a wide range of gorgeous tiles. There were at least three Schweppes designs; the first, and most common, depicts several sculptural limestone formations towering over the sand and sea; the second version has an illustration of a classic Algarvian chimney with a sprig of almond blossoms; a third design has an intricate section of Algarve architecture and a pine tree.
All panels have a blazing sun, rich blue sea and sky, and a strip of sand. Schweppes has always been known for simplicity in their advertising copy, and this campaign is no different. The panels all say “ALGARVE…E Schweppes”.
I have become obsessed with the Algarve Schweppes murals. Their originality, uniqueness, and vintage style are just fabulous. I’ve made it my mission to photograph them all.
Luckily, I’m not the only one who is excited about them. There is an active Facebook group called “Azulejo Publicitário Português” (translation: Portuguese Advertising Tile). You can also link with a website: azulejopublicitario.pt. For those who wish to become very involved, there is “O Coletivo de Defesa do Azulejo Publicitário Português” (The Collective for the Defense of Portuguese Advertising Tiles). Members have conveniently mapped the locations of Schweppes panels throughout the Algarve.
The advertising panels were originally placed on private buildings. Over the years, with construction or decay, they have been slowly vanishing. During my recent treasure hunt, I encountered some that are in perfect condition, well protected and cared for. Some have been altered or partially removed. Others seem to be on the brink of destruction.
The effect of 70 years has added mystery and excitement to my journey. It’s a thrill to see these beauties survive with life going on around them. In all my travels, I seek out the blend of old and new, and this is another example of many in Portugal.
If any of our readers know of any that I missed, feel free to send me a photo and/or the location at [email protected]
By Eric Roth