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Alentejo
—  Region  —
Map showing Alentejo Region in Portugal
Country  Portugal
Capital city Évora
Area
 - Total 31,152 km2 (12,027.9 sq mi)
Population (2005)
 - Total 776,585
Time zone WET (UTC+0)
 - Summer (DST) WEST (UTC+1)
NUTS code PT18
GDP per capita (PPS) € 17,200 (2006)[1]

Alentejo (Portuguese pronunciation: [ɐlẽˈtɛʒu]) is a south-central region of Portugal. Its name's origin, "Além-Tejo", literally translates to "Beyond the Tagus" or "Across the Tagus". The region is separated from the rest of Portugal by the Tagus river, and extends to the south where it borders the Algarve. Alentejo is a region known for its polyphonic singing groups, comparable to those found on Sardinia and Corsica.

Its main cities are Évora (region's capital), Santarém (formerly belonging to Ribatejo region), Portalegre, Beja, and Sines.

Being a traditional region, it is also one of the more recent seven Regions of Portugal (NUTS II subdivisions). Today Lezíria do Tejo subregion, formerly belonging to Lisboa e Vale do Tejo region, is part of Alentejo NUTS II region.

Contents

Geography

See also: Subdivisions of Alentejo
Typical houses of the Alentejo in Porto Covo
Typical landscape of rural Alentejo

Topographically the countryside varies considerably, from the open rolling plains of the south of the Alentejo to the granite hills that border Spain in the north-east. To feed the water needs of this considerable area a number of public dams have been constructed, most notably the Alqueva Dam.

The landscape is mostly one of soft rolling hills and plains, with cork oaks and olive trees, or the occasional vine. In the north agriculture is based mostly livestock-based, with as cows, sheep and pigs (both white and black); to the south the agriculture is mostly arable.

Nature

To the east of Portalegre is the Parque Natural da Serra de São Mamede, a Nature Park Area that includes charming medieval villages that have changed very little from those days. In the south near Mértola is another Nature Park Area named Parque Natural do Vale Guadiana. This is mainly uninhabited and a contrast to the other above. To the west, the coastal strip that runs from the port of Sines down to Cabo de São Vicente is the Southwest Alentejo and Vicentine Coast Natural Park.

Demography

The resident population of the Alentejo stands at around 759 000 (fourth quarter, 2008 – 2 700 less than the fourth quarter of 2007), with 49% men and 51% women. It is the most depopulated region in the country, representing over one third of national territory but only 7.1% of its population. It is also the region with the oldest population, 22.9% being 65 years of age or more (while the national average is 17.5%).

The population is low and declining - especially to the east of Alentejo. Portuguese migrate from the villages to the towns and from the towns to cities beyond Alentejo. Virtually the only migration into Alentejo is from Northern Europeans looking to escape their overcrowded countries, either permanently or for sunny holiday retreats.[2]

Education

The illiteracy rate in the region is quite high between the people older than 60 years, though there has been much improvement in recent years as generations have been replaced. The rate of coverage of pre-primary education is amongst the highest in the country.

Institutions of higher education include:

Economy

The area is commonly known as the "bread basket" of Portugal, a region of vast open countryside with undulating plains and rich fertile soil. With very few exceptions all the major towns are mainly reliant on agriculture, livestock and wood. There are several types of typical cheeses, wines and smoked hams and sausages made in Alentejo region, among these: Queijo de Serpa, Queijo de Évora and Queijo de Nisa (cheeses); Vinho do Alentejo and Vinho do Redondo (wines); and presunto (ham). Marble, cork, olive oil and mining industries are other important activities in the region. The Alqueva dam is an important irrigation and hydroelectric power generation facility which supports a part of Alentejo's economy.

The region is the home of the world's most important area for the growing of cork. Cork-oak, known in Portugal as "sobreiro", has been grown commercially on the region for the past 300 years, with the areas between the trees typically given over to grazing, or on the more productive soils, to the growing of citrus fruit, vines or olives. As a consequence, a uniquely rich and varied eco-system has developed. The bark of the cork-oak is still harvested by teams of men using locally made hand-axes. No mechanical method has yet been invented that will allow the harvest to be achieved as effectively. The stripping of the bark is performed only in mid summer, when the bark can be removed more easily. The cork-oak is the only tree known that will allow this regular stripping of bark without damage. The harvest of one mature tree provides sufficient bark to produce about 4,000 wine bottle corks. The industry provides employment for about 60,000 workers.[3]

Subregions

See also

References

External links

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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

ALEMTEJO (i.e. " Beyond the Tagus"), an ancient province of central and southern Portugal; bounded on the N. by Beira, E. by Spanish Estremadura and Andalusia, S. by Algarve and W. by the Atlantic Ocean and Portuguese Estremadura. Pop. (1900) 416,105; area 9219 sq. m. Alemtejo is traversed by several mountain ranges, whose height does not generally rise much above 2000 ft. The low and sandy coast has a length of less than 25 m. and includes no harbour, except at the unimportant town of Villa Nova de Milfontes (pop. 1900, 825), which overlooks the Mira estuary. The principal rivers are the Tagus, which divides Alemtejo from Beira; its tributary the Zatas, or Sorraia, fed by a whole system of lesser affluents; the Guadiana, which, crossing the Spanish frontier, flows southwards through the province; the Sado, which rises in the Serra de Monchique, and flows to the north; and the Mira, which waters the valley between the Caldeirao and Monchique ranges. There are several extensive plains, notably those of Alemtejo, lying south-west of the Serra de Portalegre; of Beja, between the Sado and Guadiana; and of Ourique, farther south between the same rivers. Some portions of these plains are fruitful, others marshy, while large tracts are mere desolate wastes.

The climate in the lower parts of the country is exceedingly hot and is rendered unhealthy in summer by the stagnant marshes. Towards the Spanish frontier the soil is fertile, and in the south the country is covered by extensive forests of oak, pine, chestnut, cork and ilex, especially on the sides of the Mezquita and Caldeirao ranges. In the more fertile parts, grapes, figs, citrons, pomegranates and other fruits are produced. Wheat, maize and rice are grown, and some attention is given to the rearing of mules, asses, goats, cattle and sheep; while the Alter breed of horses, named after the villages of Alter do Chao and Alter Pedroso (3971), near Portalegre, is often accounted the best in the kingdom. Agriculture, however, is in a backward state, the sparse population being mostly concentrated in the towns, leaving extensive districts uncultivated and almost uninhabited. Droves of swine are fed on the waste lands, growing to a great size and affording excellent hams. The mineral wealth of Alemtejo is little exploited, although there are copper and iron mines and marble quarries. Medicinal springs exist at Aljustrel (3790), Castello de Vide (5192), Mertola (3873), Portalegre, Vimieiro (1838) and elsewhere. Chief among the local industries are the preparation of exceptionally fine olive oil, and the manufacture of cloth, pottery and leather. Alemtejo is traversed by three very important main lines of railway, the Madrid-Caceres-Lisbon, Madrid-Badajoz-Lisbon and Lisbon-Faro; while the two last are connected by a branch line from Casa Branca to Evora and Elvas. For administrative purposes the province is divided into the districts of Portalegre in the north, Evora in the central region and Beja in the south; but the titles of these new districts have not superseded the ancient name of Alemtejo in ordinary usage. The chief towns Beja (8885), Elvas (13,981), Estremoz (7920), Evora (16,020) and Portalegre (11,820) are described in separate articles.


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