Olivenza – The Spanish-Portuguese border town with a shared history and heritage

 In Bi-lateral trade, City, Events, News

The Spanish mayor of Olivenza, Manuel José González Andrade, stressed that Portugal and Spain could not forget the border town’s shared past at a lunch organised by the International Club of Portugal on March 17.

The guest speaker, the latest in a line of keynote speakers from the world of economics, business, the military and industrial associations, chose as his topic ‘Olivenza looks to the future’ in which he discussed not only the past, but also the present and projects for the future.
“We cannot just deny the past”, said the mayor recalling that it was “an important part of our identity”.
Manuel José González Andrade praised a “remarkable people” that can live, work and play in this town of two nationalities which had become a “symbol of a union of two States”.
Olivenza (Spanish) or Olivença (Portuguese) is a town located in southwestern Spain, near the Portuguese border, on a historically disputed section of the Portugal–Spain border.
Its territory is administered by Spain as a municipality belonging to the province of Badajoz, and to the wider autonomous community of Extremadura.
“Today, Olivenza is much more than just a place where people come together in search of work. There are economic questions on the table, but also educational, academic, social, cultural, and even sentimental,” he said.
The mayor highlighted the “joint work” with the Portuguese Government to develop diverse and different activities and campaigns.
One was to strengthen the teaching of Portuguese in schools making it the first municipal to teach to languages with an emphasis of equal importance on both.
The town of Olivenza was under Portuguese sovereignty almost continuously between 1297 (Treaty of Alcañices) and 1801, when it was occupied by Spain during the War of the Oranges and ceded that year under the Treaty of Badajoz.
Spain has since administered the territory (now split into two municipalities, Olivenza and also Táliga), whilst Portugal invokes the self-revocation of the Treaty of Badajoz, plus the Treaty of Vienna of 1815, to claim the return of the territory.
In spite of the territorial dispute between Portugal and Spain, the issue has not been a sensitive matter in the relations between these two countries.
Olivenza and other neighbouring Spanish (La Codosera, Alburquerque and Badajoz) and Portuguese (Arronches, Campo Maior, Estremoz, Portalegre and Elvas) towns reached an agreement in 2008 to create a euroregion.
Culture, historic heritage, traditions, cuisine, literature and poetry are other aspects which have brought the Spanish and Portuguese together in a shared past and which are being safeguarded for future generations.
This explains the importance of the classification of Non-Tangible Cultural Heritage of Raia (Alentejo and Extremadura). They are also a bridge for the development of tourism on both sides of the River Guadiana which cuts through this town of dual nationalities and shared history and heritage.
In terms of tourism and historical heritage, Manuel Andrade said that efforts were being developed to preserve the importance that the Jewish community had in this region in the XIV and XVIII centuries.
All of these points “encourage and support trading relations between the businesses on both sides (of the river) but also provide potential opportunities for tourism.
On the day that the lunch took place the first batch of refugees who had fled from the war in the Ukraine arrived. The mayor used the lunch to condemn the “terrorism of any type of violence” and expressed the hope that this invasion “will end as quickly as possible”.