Artisanal salt production in Figueira da Foz inscribed in Intangible Cultural Heritage

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The artisanal production of salt in Figueira da Foz, which dates back to the 12th century and whose collection is entirely done by hand, according to ancestral techniques, was inscribed in the National Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage, the guardianship announced today.

In a press release sent to the Lusa agency, the Directorate-General for Cultural Heritage (DGPC) highlighted the inscription of “Traditional knowledge of the artisanal production of sea salt in Figueira da Foz” in that national inventory, recalling that the activity in the coastal municipality of the district of Coimbra continues today, “having known different cycles throughout history”.

“The collection is entirely done by hand, according to ancestral techniques that have been passed down between generations,” the DGPC pointed out.

The statement notes that, currently, “there are 37 active holders of this knowledge, “men and women almost all residing in the parishes of Lavos and Vila Verde, places with strong roots in the production of traditional sea salt, and most of the marnoteiros own their navy”.

Beautiful view of the Edgar Cardoso Bridge in Figueira da Foz, Portugal
Beautiful view of the Edgar Cardoso Bridge in Figueira da Foz, Portugal

“Although with common principles in the various producing regions of Portugal (Aveiro, Figueira da Foz, Tejo, Sado and Algarve), the artisanal production of sea salt assumes markedly regional characteristics, both in the layout of the marinas (salt pans) and in the techniques and practices of the marnotos, differentiated according to the environmental conditions”, argued the DGPC.

He added that the salt pans of Figueira da Foz are located in the Mondego estuary (with more expression on the south bank of the river and on Morraceira Island), “which gives them a specific morphology, determining the layout of the marinas, which is divided into three distinct parts – the water reservoirs, the evaporators and the crystallizers”.

Artisanal salt production in Figueira da Foz inscribed in Intangible Cultural Heritage

“The practices and techniques inherent to the production of salt in this geographical context are closely linked not only to the set of marinas still in activity (more than three dozen), but also to the salt warehouses of Figueira da Foz, a very characteristic and exclusive type of construction of this salty, of which there are still a few dozen examples that maintain their original characteristics “, sustains the document.

After at the beginning of the millennium the situation of the salt pans raised concern about the future, “having been at risk the survival of the activity and the continuity of its marks in the landscape – as well as its natural functions, as an ecosystem”, several initiatives within the framework of European programs allowed the municipality of Figueira da Foz “to develop actions to safeguard and boost the salt activity”.

More than 20 years ago, in the first term of Santana Lopes, the City Council – which has now proposed the application for registration – acquired the Corredor da Cobra salt pan, integrated, since 2007, in the then created Núcleo Museológico do Sal.

Heard by Lusa, the mayor of Figueira da Foz said it was “a reason for great satisfaction” to inscribe the local salty in the intangible cultural heritage, and also “an expression of art”.

“At the same time it is an economic activity, but it is a cultural wealth, an artistic expression,” said Pedro Santana Lopes.

The inscription, he noted, coincides with his desire to “give a new impetus to the valorization” of the space of Morraceira Island, noting the importance of the salt pans “for the identity of Figueira”.

“Salt, like the sun, is part of Figueira’s identity. So it is a day of satisfaction, which joins the recent day when [the monastery of] Seiça was elevated to a national monument. So it’s good news”, emphasized Santana Lopes.

Among other initiatives to enhance the salt, the DGPC also highlighted the recently approved project ‘Quinta Ciência Viva do Sal – cooperation, safeguarding and innovation’, supported by the European program EEA Grants.

“The interest of young producers, some of them heirs of family salt pans, was also decisive for the change. The new generation was able to adapt and recontextualize traditional know-how to the circumstances offered by the current economic context, in line with the gastronomic and tourist potential that the activity offers”, underlines the note.

It adds that with the inscription in the National Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage the DGPC “recognizes as relevant the safeguard measures proposed for the valorization and future viability of this manifestation, also valuing its articulation with the requirements of sustainable development in the social, economic and environmental aspects”.

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