UM MAR DE ILHAS
A Sea of Islands
Aurelia Natalini, Frithjof Heinrich, Niklas Doka
Porto, Portugal‘s second largest city, has more than 1500 years of history. It is located in the north of the country on the Atlantic coast and attracts many tourists with its idyllic atmosphere. One eats ba-calao in quaint taverns, walks at the mouth of the Douro or enjoys the famous port in the medieval old town of the picturesque portos. However, Porto has a second face that hides behind the facades of the houses from the gaze of the visitors and behaves as controver-sial to the bustle of the city as the title of the documentary „A Sea of Islands“.
Ilhas (Islands), so call the Portuguese homes that exist exclusively in Porto and thus represent a unique phenomenon. The gardens of the mansions were then converted into makeshift shelters for workers of the factories and housed thousands of people in tiny rooms without sanitation. They fled the country to find work in the rapidly expanding city. Remnants from the age of industrialization, which still exist today and shape the life of the city, because in 2017, still 8% of the population live in these dwellings, so nearly 30,000 people. Many of them do not have their own toilets even in the 21st century, let alone their own bathroom. Conditions that one can barely imagine in Europe and which remain invisible to the an-nual crowds of tourists. The documentary illuminates the situation from different perspectives and shows what it means to live there. Residents talk about life in the Ilhas, while experts illuminate the problem from the outside. How does the city deal with the phe-nomenon? What role does tourism play in the current situation and what is the future of the Ilhas?
“I owned another house for eleven years, but I have practically never used it. It was a house by the sea, with ground floor and one floor, fireplace and all amenities. But this house, even if it had all this equipment, meant nothing to me. Here I feel safe, here I feel good. Here I still know the neighbors who are from my generation. I may not live up to the standard I once had, but I like my Ilha, my neighborhood.“
Gui, architect and activist
„There are many Ilha ruins in the whole city. Half of the population lived in the back-yards at the end of the 19th century. Today it is about eight percent of the popula-tion. The city chamber has made a map around the year 2000, in which the Ilhas are located, which have survived until then.“
„An Ilha is better for me than an apartment, I do not like apartments, I hate them. This is a life, this is truly original, this is called a person from Porto. Friendship, friendship develops, family ties are formed in an Ilha, and that‘s why I feel well.“
„Here is our problem that we can not get help. Ok, my house is in that condition, but there are a lot worse and I can not just talk about mine, you also have to mention the other people. There are houses that are so rundown, there are houses with holes in the roofs, with children, with serious health problems.“