Algarve, southern Iberian Peninsula, is the most popular touristic destination in Portugal and one of the most famous in Europe. Glad to the beaches, Mediterranean climate and relatively low cost, the region has attracted the last 40 years tourists and expatriates – mainly from Britain – who started to own their properties and live there.
As a result appeared a scenery of fancy touristic landscapes with expensive houses; not easily affordable for the Portuguese locals.
It is common to hear that “Algarve is not Portugal anymore, is a British colony.” But in fact, if you travel to the interior, the scenery changes: old and beautiful abandoned houses appear…
The Artistic Association Satori managed to renovate an old mill and create cultural and social alternatives for the locals. We found them in this mysterious house in the village of Salir.
Once we first got there, we suddenly became impressed by the high quality of the graffitis outside. It is something surprising from a small town in the interior of Algarve, where the majority of the population is elderly.
Our curiosity led us to check their web page to see what was going on. The day after, we came to this dub music concert to discover what Satori was about.
In the middle of the music, appealing and friendly people around, we spoke with Tiago Guerreiro, the administrator of Satori. He approached us nicely, made us a tour around the building and offered us to come another day for an interview.
SupE: Tiago, tell us about Satori.
Satori is an artistic and social association that started 15 years ago. Our first main goal was to give a dignified opportunity to the underground artists. Nowadays, we also want to boost culturally the interior of Algarve.
This is our second house. Our first house was in Querença. We used to be 200 members on that time. Today we are 100. The decrease happened because we have been 7 years “on the street”, without a place.
During the firsts 6 years in Querença, we ran 365 nights of live music, 120 art exhibitions and 100 performances.
Afterwards, we were kicked out, basically! We were paying a monthly rent of 500 euros, till the day we received a notification from the bank saying that the house was belonging to the bank and not to the owner anymore. We had been paying 500 euros per month to the bank without knowing it… We didn’t want to offend the owner, he has always been attentive to us. So “we took our usual attitude of good workers and honest people” and left.
Then, even without a place, we kept doing what we had learnt between each others: artistic performances. And glad to those shows, we succeed to save money for this current building.
SupE: Why this building?
I usually say “we are always following the olive oil” (laugh). This building was an oil mill, as the previous one in Querença.
We needed a big space. First thought was a primary school, we tried to ask to the municipality council, but nothing was given to us. Thanks to that, we only decided to do things by ourselves. We never expected any help, especially from politicians. Some of them like us, but others hate us.
When we found the building, it still had some elements of the museum that we kept for the decoration: “a mix of the old and the modern”. We were not expecting such good results! As joking between us, we usually say that we are “the Black Jack of the poors” (laugh – black jack is a fancy disco club in Algarve.)
SupE: How was all the process till you got the building?
Difficult. It was 3 years in negotiations with the owner. People having this kind of big building here are often rich, those who can put their kids at school. Nowadays, things are changing, but not a long time ago, in Portugal, only the children of the rich people could get education. He seemed uncertain about us. I think he believed we were troubled people.
We have always been a bit discriminated by the locals. Because of the way we look: earrings, different hairstyles and clothes. Today we don’t feel it so much, I must admit. It is good to notice that mentalities have been changing the last 15 years.
We don’t discriminate anyone. I am proud that disadvantaged children come to us to ask for protection. We have an identity and we have our values and spirit. Some people come and integrate, others don’t. But I like to say that “Satori is for those who have the feeling inside them, for those who don’t, go away”.
And I know that loads of people hate us. Thinking we have a relaxed life here and do nothing. But for those who think that, I invite all of them to come, and see what we have done so far. Cause we definitely don’t have a relaxed life, we work hard everyday! And sometimes I just want to give up…
SupE: If I ask you what is the biggest obstacle, which one do you choose?
Money, for sure. For example, the other day a couple of artists from Porto came to ask us for help. Unfortunately, we had to say no, cause we still don’t have the conditions.
Money had always been our main fight. I remember times while rebuilding the house, it happened that money was over and we didn’t have food! We had 9000 euros when we started, but then we had to pay lawyers, the deposit of the house, and the rest was not enough… But we always gain some money from performances shows, and managed to pay the delayed debts and get the money again.
We had some helps also. I would like to say “thank you” once more to the fishermen from Quarteira. They offered us loads of fish, and I remember during that time we were only eating fish.
Other time we started to “tear copper” and sell it to gain some money also. We starved in this house, I have to admit, I usually say that in this house we had “tears, sweat and blood”.
SupE: What are those motivations that makes you keep going?
The people surrounding me. Without them I’m nobody, and without me, they are nobody. For a huge project like this you can’t be by yourself, you need people and the right ones. Cause for building a huge project, a lot of people is necessary, but to spoil it, only a few is sufficient. I always try not to think only about myself, I think about the collective. I consider Satori bigger than me or any other person here. And all the victories make me happy.
Text and Interview: Ana Perfeito
Photos: (cc) Alexandre Afonso