Barcelos, Portugal - Intercultural City
The city of Barcelos is located in the Minho region, in the north of Portugal. It is the seat of a vast municipality with 61 parishes and a population of close to 117,000 inhabitants. Crossed by the Cávado river, its origins date back to prehistoric times, having been inhabited by Carthaginians and Romans. It has a rich architectural heritage, out of which the Mother Church (14th century), the Bridge (14th century), the Town Hall (14th century), the Medieval Tower (15th century), the Church of Bom Jesus da Cruz (18th century), and many other monuments can be highlighted.
The Barcelos municipality is located in the coastal north of Portugal and is a part of the Braga district. With a temperate climate, it is traversed by two important waterways, the Cávado and Neiva rivers. Barcelos has a size of 379.4 km2 and a total of 61 parishes.
The current population size is 116,766 with a predominance of female residents in the municipality, in line with data on a national scale. In the last two decades, the resident population in Portugal has been 52% female and 48% male (INE, 2022).
The municipality of Barcelos proudly sees a positive evolution in the number of immigrants in the city. According to data from the Foreigners and Borders Service (SEF), the immigrant population of the municipality has more than doubled in the last five years, with 1,704 residents with a migrant background in the municipality at the end of 2021. This number has further increased in 2022, as the municipality has welcomed persons fleeing Ukraine. It is worth to note that in 2017 the population with a migrant background was 781, meaning the municipality has seen an increase above the national average.
The municipality is home to persons representing 70 different nationalities, and in the last five years, the leading nationalities were: Brazilian, Ukrainian, Spanish, and Venezuelan, where the Brazilian community is the by far largest with 893 residents, a number greater than the other 69 nationalities all together.
The activity sectors with the greatest economic impact in the municipality are the manufacturing industries, which are the most representative with 49% of the total value, followed by construction, commerce, human health and social support activities. The fifth largest activity is agriculture, animal production, hunting, and the forestry sector.
Barcelos City Council has developed a set of intercultural strategies, based on the principles of partnership, equal opportunities and non-discrimination as well as in valuing multicultural diversity. The city has several ongoing projects and practices to promote active citizenship and develop a more inclusive and accessible city, fostering relationships of respect and proximity among all its inhabitants. To this end, the city implements integration, equality and intercultural policies. A recent example includes the monitoring, welcoming and integration of refugees from Ukraine in areas such as housing, healthcare, education and employment, a work which has been carried out in solidarity with the local community. Another relevant project is the municipal mediators programme, whose protagonists come from the Roma community, working to fulfil their needs towards full integration.
Known as the home of the rooster, an icon that represents the municipality as well as the country, Barcelos has been recognised as a Unesco Creative City in the field of crafts and folk art, as a result of the creative diversity of its artisans, especially in clay figurines and pottery, woodwork, ironwork, basketry and wickerwork, and sieve embroidery.
Through this handcraft richness Barcelos combines tradition with innovation: the city is strong in the textile and clothing industry that employs almost 40% of its active population; at the same time as it has a modern and dynamic commercial and services sector. Served by the Polytechnic Institute of Cávado and Ave (IPCA), one of the most developed Polytechnic Institutes in Portugal, the city hosts over seven thousand students, mainly young people from all over the country and abroad who choose Barcelos to complete their higher education. Crossed by the "Camino de Santiago", in a route of about 44 kilometers, Barcelos has its municipal holiday on the 3rd of May, when the "Festival of the Crosses" takes place, the largest religious, cultural and recreational manifestation of the Barcelos territory.
Mário Constantino Araújo Leite DA SILVA LOPES