The Mighty, Fierce Women of Nazare

Oct 28, 2013 by

The Mighty, Fierce Women of Nazare

by Maria G. Yates, special to eTN

Two hours north of Lisbon, on the vast expanse of the Atlantic coast, is the city of Nazare (Nazareth).

My stay here has been short. Two nights to be exact, but I have fallen in love with this small coastal community. I have specifically fallen in love with women of Nazare. They are mighty. They are fierce. So much so, that there is a monument in the city celebrating the hardiness of these women.

Many still dress in traditional wear, consisting of a short skirt with several petticoats. Overlaying the skirt is an embroidered apron tied with a large bow in the back. A blouse and slippers finishes the outfit. The older women can be seen wearing a scarf wrapped around their head, not unlike a turban.

Large striking gold earrings are worn, which seems absurd to the tourist in me. But there they are. Nazare women, married to fishermen, barefoot in the sand, with bloodied hands from gutting fish, wearing beautiful chunky gold earrings that glisten and sparkle in the bright daylight.

Woman fish merchant in Nazare, Portugal (Photo: Courtesy of mendoncajose.blogspot.com)

Woman fish merchant in Nazare, Portugal (Photo: Courtesy of mendoncajose.blogspot.com)

It’s not an easy life for the fisherman’s wife. Each day she waits for her man to come in from the sea. When he does, she is thankful, then begins the arduous task of processing the catch. She is fearless with an octopus. She guts countless sardines and mackerel. With surgical precision, she slices each fish down the backbone, unwrapping it open, revealing its meaty, pink flesh. She lays each silver headed fish in wooden framed nets and lets nature take over. Then, there is the art of selling. She brashly hawks her bounty and cuts the deal.

Nazare women, man (ha!) kiosks on the seafront, selling pickled lupini beans from large clear plastic bags, dried figs dusted in powdered sugar and a variety of sweet local treats. Holding signs in various languages, they greet tourists at bus stops and major intersections. “Quartos, Rooms, Zimmer,” reads her sign. If you need a room for the night, she offers, “Bom preco,” (good price) and, “Casa de banho privativa,” (private bathroom). Follow her as she briskly leads you through her familiar maze of streets, to your room in the family’s home. She walks quickly. Be sure to keep up.

For the tourist, it’s colorful and charming. It’s a place where photo opportunities abound. But this is not a tourist attraction. This is the way of life for the women of Nazare. This in turn, makes this city one of the most authentic and delightful places in Portugal.

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