The Broaderview: Lisbon, Portugal

The Broaderview is a monthly series by broad Laura Turner, a Denver local traveling the world with Remote Year. Every month, Laura moves to a new country with approximately 60 other digital nomads. The Broaderview is a glimpse into the life of a local woman in each country, getting a sense of what it means to be a broad beyond the Mile High City. This month, Laura interviewed Maria de Fátima dos Santos Ferreira from Lisbon, Portugal.

By Laura Turner | Global Content Contributor

I met Maria de Fátima through an organization called A Avó Veio Trabalhar which roughly translates to as “Grandmas Go to Work” in Portuguese. The concept: instead of being confined to a staid “old folks home” like so many of their American counterparts, elderly Portuguese women are encouraged to shine in their community. A Avó utilizes the grandmothers’ traditional skills in textile mediums like knitting, embroidery, crochet, and cross stitch and puts a contemporary spin on their projects. The grandmas’ fabric art has been featured as flower décor for the Cannes Festival and shown in an exhibition in the Budapest biennale. A Avó branding is incredible: full of catchy slogans like “Old is the new young” and inviting vibrant neon photographs of the grandmas.

Fátima is one of the younger grandmas and she told me she is not technically a grandmother at all. Fátima self-identifies as a bit of an outlier to the group. She’s from a younger, less conventional generation (only a decade or so makes a huge difference) than many of the older women in the group. Fátima joined before she knew anyone. She first heard of A Avó on Facebook. Friends taught her how to crochet and knit and she learned even more from other women in the program. One of Fátima’s favorite A Avó projects involved grandmas “photographing in the street with an analogue camera. We made a photograph of one thing that had to do with each of us [the grandmas]. Then we made black and white photos printed on the fabric, did embroidery on the photos, and turned them into pillows.”

  Maria de Fátima. Above:   A Avó projects on display and a creative gathering of the grandmas.

Maria de Fátima. Above: A Avó projects on display and a creative gathering of the grandmas.

In the last two to five years, tourism has grown drastically in Lisbon. “Some things are very positive, other things sometimes not so much,” Fatima remarks. “I go to the Center and I don’t feel like it's Lisboa anymore. Or I live in the neighborhood Campo Ourique and it is near the Tram 28 line. Now it’s very hard to commute using it because of all the tourists.” Aside from that though Fátima recognizes tourism has helped the city recover from its economic crisis felt throughout much of Portugal between 2010-2015.

Similarly, A Avó has helped many women find comfort and community. More than the production of beautiful and spunky textiles, the purpose of A Avó is to promote socialization among Grandmas--many of whom are widowed--other women their age, and young people. Fátima confides “loneliness can be very hard on the elderly.” The spirit of A Avó is evident in a heartwarming video of the Grandmas dancing at a summer music festival; I dare you to not smile while viewing.

On the RegVirginia Santy