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  • Writer's pictureNelson Nóbrega

The Message of Hope in Quarteira’s newest Graffiti Murals

And the Sub-Saharan African influence on the Algarve

Quarteira is known for its beaches, hotels and restaurants, its promenade filling with holidaymakers from June to September, but there's so much more to the city than palm trees and sea views - a darker past that has been covered up by shiny resorts and tourist traps, but that has moulded the people who live here and make the city what it is today.

This post spans the marks left behind by the slave trade, all the way to the message of hope that shines through Quarteira’s newest street art while exploring a more recent migration from Portuguese-speaking Africa, which led to the city becoming more multicultural than ever before - a facet displayed proudly in the new murals painted behind the Parish Council Building in 2019.

15th Century Slave trade

The first slaves ever taken from West Africa were brought to Lagos port in 1444, marking the start of the European slave trade and the founding of Europe’s first Slave Market. From then on, thousands of Africans would make their way through the town, even after the country’s main slave market was moved to Lisbon. From the 16th century onwards, these Africans would find themselves integrating into Portuguese society at various levels, used as the workforce for everything from household duties to farming and on ships, leaving traces of their religions, customs, traditions, music and dancing on Portuguese culture as a whole.

Though slavery was abolished in Portugal between 1761 and 1773, the practice would go on for far longer, with high numbers of slaves registered within the country for at least another hundred years. The influence of this longstanding presence can still be seen and felt to this day in the country’s food, for example Piri-Piri sauce (made using Mozambican chillies); Fado music; and the Portuguese language, examples being words like “bué” (very/ a lot) and “bazar”/ “vazar” (to leave/ run away).

1974 migration

Marking the Carnation revolution, which brought about the end of the colonial wars in the Portuguese African colonies, 1974 meant the end of the dictatorship and the independence of Angola, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, and Cape Verde (followed by São Tomé and Principe a year later).

However, this independence was far from peaceful, and with Portugal retreating, Portuguese citizens were forced out of these countries from one day to the next. But it wasn’t only Portuguese citizens who left and, with nowhere else to go, many of these “retornados” (returned) came to Portugal, the country seeing an influx of thousands and thousands of both black and white Africans.

Lisbon felt most of this influx, but in the Algarve, Quarteira was the focal point of the migration, the “bairro dos Pescadores” (fishermen’s quarter) filling with these migrants, many of whom would go on to work in the construction industry – one that was booming at the time with the rise of the tourist industry. This mixture of people, all living alongside one another, led to Quarteira becoming a multicultural, diverse, multi-levelled society far beyond what the tourist gaze of sandy beaches and palm trees tends to take in.

Dino D’Santiago

Portuguese singer of Cape Verdean descent, Dino, is a prime example of this migration, his parents having migrated to the outskirts of Lisbon in ’74 before settling in Quarteira soon after. Having lived in the fisherman’s quarter until he was 15, he talks about how music kept him off the streets in a less than easy time in Quarteira’s history, when a new generation was being formed, different ideas coming together in a society becoming more culturally diverse by the day.

Dino’s music itself is a reflection of this influence, with lyrics in both Creole and Portuguese, his activist message spread through Funaná, which he traces back to the rhythm of workers cutting sugar cane in Cape Verde, and batuku, which D’Santiago calls “the most ancestral rhythm in Cape Verde”.

Named a “filho da terra” (child of the land) in Quarteira, he was honoured in the new murals painted on the walls behind the Parish Council building, which he was present for the inauguration of in October 2020. A source of pride, the three murals painted by local artists show off the talent in Quarteira as part of the “Sou Quarteira” movement, serving as a platform through which to express the city’s creativity, exposing its deep cultural roots and celebrating its diverse population.

When talking about the mural, which is entitled “Nova Quarteira” (New Quarteira) in homage to one of Dino’s songs, artist Menau calls Dino “a catalyst of culture” in the city, presenting him as a central image surrounded by the local nature – the sea, the wind and the sun. The boy on the artist’s shoulders is holding a carnation – a Portuguese symbol of freedom following the 1974 revolution – which contrasts with the masks worn by both, the overarching message being one of peace, hope and unity as we find ourselves in yet another period of conditioned freedom brought about by the Covid 19 pandemic. Dino’s t-shirt, which reads “Como seria” (how would it be?), reinforces this look into the future as being one of hope, unity, and cultural growth as Quarteira embraces its multiculturality.

Want to see the mural for yourself? Here's a map to help you on your way:

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