Inés Benítez, MDes ADPD 2019; Melissa Naranjo, MLA I AP 2019

Summer 2018

Organization: Arganil Municipality, Arganil, Portugal

Sponsor: International Travel Community Service Fellowship


“During our second week, we started to map the existing socalcos. It has not been an easy task, as the whole valley is surrounded by them and there are also crops and forests growing on top of them. Still, we now have a better understanding of their functions within a bigger system, as well as a better understanding of the area of study.

At this point, we are curious about the hydric systems that feed the villages and small populations around the study area, as well as the manipulation of the hydric systems for the socalcos. By mapping both of them, we can understand if it is possible to overlay them. Then, perhaps by opening some of the intubated areas, we could foster a more humid environment around certain areas of the study in order to prevent wildfires.

At the same time, our research is beginning to indicate to us that the structures of the socalcos would be very hard to reuse in agriculture. In that regard, food systems around Benfeita have become central to this research project. There is apparently a locally-produced crop selection that seems to stay here between the residents. Nevertheless, there is a big weekly food supply coming in from bigger cities.

Aside from all the research and field work, we have really started to feel like residents here. The Portuguese have been the warmest, most open and generous hosts. They are constantly sharing pictures, stories, memories, and also several glasses of wine. We have traveled a bit around the other surrounding villages for festivities, hikes, and to satisfy our curiosity.

We also met some of the foreigners who live here, and that has added a different layer to our project. There is clearly a language barrier, yet some of the foreigners that really speak Portuguese are more connected with the community. They have already begun to participate in the community as horticulture enhancers, eco-friendly leaders, and organizers of different sorts of activities.

We have an ambitious agenda, and so we’re currently working to rigorously plan out our time in the coming weeks to make the most of it. We’re also already starting to look towards the completion of our project and are beginning to work on the exhibition proposal at the conclusion of our time here.”