I remember the weirdness attacking me the first time I read my name, which is related to the quality of “mayor”. A certain unease overcame me a priori as a kind of guilt that revived the pathetic almanac spirits.
This episode says a lot about the urgency of restoring the public integrity of the “local power” to which the national anecdote (and not just) has wrongly dedicated some of its pearls. In the past seven years of serving in local authority in Viseu, I have not met anyone who is as committed to their community – and inversely proportionate, as unrewarded – as some of the local council presidents.
This experience changed my perception of the irreplaceable place of local intervention, especially when its possibilities are interpreted far beyond “concrete guidelines”.
The ability to act locally and change a territory culturally is defined by a “short time” between the plan of will and the plan of implementation, as opposed to the “long time” of “big reforms”, which are generally also late . It is not just the “power to do” but also the “power to inspire”. “Proximity” is an irreplaceable force.
I must not forget how small gestures at the local level – active listening, exercising trust, or being willing to bring the right people together – enabled changes and “evolutions” of the flesh and bones. In culture and heritage, in the city’s tourist transformation, but also in the fight against the devastating economic and social effects of this pandemic.
Small gestures that explain how an empty “incubator” became a hotbed of artistic activity in a depopulated historic center; how an abandoned store made it possible to start the first “cultural travel” business in a place to wake up; how the ambition of a “city history museum” was postponed by 40 years; how a word of consistent encouragement led to the restoration of traditional heritage – from the workshop of the last blacksmith in Paraduça to the secular watermill in the Cepeda mill; how in an unprecedented agreement between the often controversial “local power” and the “central state” in a city without a public archaeological service an “archaeological pole” was established with archaeological reserves that had been closed for decades; or how the collection and collection of one of the great names in contemporary Portuguese art, José Mouga, is protected and valued, which gives a “contemporary art center” an irreversible vocation.
The impact of “small business” may be brief, but “critical mass” and “economies of scale” are not generated spontaneously. At the local level, they emerge as the root and feed on
Today we are blinded by ideas that, because of their repetition, resemble painful platitudes. Including the judgment on the unstoppable crisis of the place and its compelling substitution with scales of the “critical dimension”. We are exhausted from the fact that the future no longer passes here, but through “networks” and “agglomeration economies”.
The impact of “small business” may be brief, but “critical mass” and “economies of scale” are not generated spontaneously. At the local level, they emerge and feed like their roots.
To diminish or devalue the specific location of local intervention would not only be an unjust act, it would also be profoundly wasteful. We can’t afford to throw the baby out with the bath water.
I dedicate this text to the women’s community in the wonder village of Várzea de Calde, whose love of the ancient linen tradition has so inspired me, and to the president of the local authority, José Fernandes, an example of selfless commitment to his country.
The author writes according to the new orthographic convention