Photographer's Note

OLIVENÇA is a quiet place where old men pace the main square surrounded by white-washed buildings dating back to Portugal's 500-year control of the area. But it is one of the last disputed frontiers in western Europe.

For this community is part of Spain - as is a 200-sq-mi area of rolling open country around it. Eight miles away, the river Guadiana acts as the de facto border, but it is acknowledged by only one side. There is a sign welcoming travellers to Spain on one bank, but none greeting visitors to Portugal.

The Portuguese have never acknowledged Spanish sovereignty over the region. Campaigners spurred on by Spain's apparent progress in pursuing its claim on Gibraltar say the Spanish position is hypocritical.

According to Mario Rodrigues, a leading member of the Group of Friends of Olivenza, the fact that most inhabitants are Spanish is irrelevant. "Most of the inhabitants are Spanish colonists planted over the past two centuries," he said.

"Spain says the will of the Gibraltarians is not important; we say the same thing about Olivenza."

His group of 500 people is one of three Portuguese organisations dedicated to winning back Olivenza. Although the government is not directly involved in the campaign, Lisbon funds Portuguese classes for Olivenza's residents.

Spain took Olivenza from Portugal in 1801. Mr Rodrigues said: "Spain signed a treaty in 1817 acknowledging totally and unconditionally the rights of Portugal. But the Spanish state has never honoured the commitment."

Official Portuguese maps do not mark the border in the area. Two bridges across the Guadiana symbolise the dispute. A 15th century fortified structure lies in ruins after being destroyed in one of the many wars between the countries. Until the second bridge was completed two years ago, people heading for Portugal had to travel 20 miles north to cross the river.

Fearing that it would amount to an acknowledgement of the border, Portugal refused to build the new bridge until the European Union agreed to fund it. Last year Portugal stopped Spain from restoring the old bridge for similar reasons.

Spain ridicules the Portuguese claim. The regional president of Extremadura recently dismissed it as "the work of a handful of lunatics".

In the same way that Gibraltarians want to remain British, the 11,000 residents of Olivenza have no wish to return to Portuguese sovereignty.

"The town was Portuguese. Those are our roots but it was a long time ago. Our culture has changed. The next generations speak Spanish," said Jose Emilio Senaron, 64.

His friend Raimundo Marredo, 71, added: "This town will never be Portuguese. Why not? Because we don't want it.

By Isambard Wilkinson in Olivença
Published: 12:01AM GMT 23 Feb 2002 - THE TELEGRAPH

In the photo it can be seen the gate of San Sebastian that was erected around 1306, as a part of fortification ordered by King D. Dinis of Portugal.


Model - NIKON D700
DateTime - 2009:08:27 18:16:59
Artist - ruisc_pt
Copyright - rui camposinhos
ExposureTime - 1/80 seconds
FNumber - 9.00
ExposureProgram - Manual control
ISOSpeedRatings - 250
MeteringMode - Center weighted average
FocalLengthIn35mmFilm - 24 mm
Contrast - Normal
Saturation - Normal
Sharpness - Normal
SubjectDistanceRange - Unknown

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Additional Photos by Rui de Camposinhos (ruisc_pt) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1819 W: 126 N: 2822] (11594)
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