In Reverend Father Jacinto Nunes’, book Alvaiázere, parte do meu contributo para a sua monografia, he explains that Alvaiázere is geographically located in the centre of the country, in an area between the Nabão Valley and the Valleys of "Tomar and Barquinha which, passing through Cabaços, where they meet, also pass Pontão and Penela, ending in Coimbra.” He goes on to explain “This area is based, almost entirely, in a mountain range that extends from South to North, and whose highest point is Alvaiázere’s hill, 618 meters altitude".
According to the same source, Alvaiázere has become a mandatory passage for "all people coming from Europe, pressured by the need to expand in search of better living conditions." In other words, this area is seen as “a land that had the privilege to remain the route that pours out all human and migratory movements of the European continent".
The history of the Parish of Pussos is wrapped in a veil that with the passage of time, is created around the history of people and hinders the diachronic perspective one intends to create. Although it is difficult to identify the time this parish was created, Reverend Father Jacinto Nunes has done research work on it which has been compiled in a text in “Percursos”, published by this group in 2005, through which this historical review was done.
Thus, according to the author, it is known that the administrative territory of this parish was given "by the order of the Temple in 1231 to Maria Pires, the widow of Estêvão Pires Spinel, with the clause that upon her death, it would return to “Convento de Tomar”. "This condition would ensure that this land would continue to be part of the Templar assets, (...) military knights whose purpose was to pray and fight the infidels ".
This order was abolished in 1308 and was converted to the Order of Christ, headquartered in Tomar, in 1319. Their territories were vast and "D. Dinis, as Grand Master of the order, divided the territory into patches that he called “Comendas” in 1321”. Altogether 84, these “Comendas” were scattered throughout the nation’s territory and led by a Friar-Knight, known as Commander.
The parish was then born and is “surrounded by identified landmarks still well- preserved today ". This territory was therefore administered by a Commander and the various patches of land were explored by many farmers who rented the land and had material, civil and religious responsibilities.
Considering "its importance, D. Manuel gives it charter in 15/06/1514, in the so-called “Forais Novos da Beira”, which gave it the right to have its own judicial system, including judges and administrative staff." This parish, then, becomes a County, being ruled by its own administrative code – its Charter.
Initially, the county’s headquarters was in Pussos, a place which became a village under the charter issued by “D. Manuel and later its headquarters changed to Vila Nova de Pussos" where it remained until the extinction of religious orders by a decree dated 13/08/1832.
"The census of 1527, ordered by King João III to Jorge Fernandes [Chancery Clerk in the province of Estremadura], held on 4th and 5th October, says the following: This village of Pussos, has only one “fogo” (neighbour) in the village because there are only few houses in the “Comenda”, the Town Hall and Ermida de Nossa Senhora (a chapel) as well as following places and their number of “fogos”; Pinhanços and the Church with its square-11. Casal da Piedade, Farroeira and Terras – 21. Venda da Lousã, including Loureira, Vale do Oivado, Santa Clara and Castelo – 22. Caparota and Casais – 5. With a total of 79 “fogos” (neighbours). In this document written by Jorge Fernandes, one can read that this village "which belongs to Christ's Order(...)is divided between Alvaiázere, Arega and Maçãs de Dona Maria ".
According to Maria Izabel Corrêa (author of the book Contos, written in 1924, in an attempt to revisit her childhood) the invasions of the peninsula and the Civil War were also felt in this parish. Furthermore, the author explains that the French "killed fourteen of her family members". Thus, the adult population "fled to Loureira where they hid in small caves, suffering from hunger, cold and all kinds of difficulties. They had left their assets at home". In fact, her "great-grandmother, as she refused to reveal the whereabouts of her husband, was stabbed fourteen times but did not die".
The registers made by Reverend Father Jacinto Nunes confirm this information since he makes clear that the partisan fights of the late 19th century led to many civilian changes. For example, the county of Cabaços was created in 1832 and extinct in 1836. There are records in Parish council minutes and reports (dated from 1896) which confirm that the Parish of Pussos was once part of Ferreira do Zêzere county. These facts prove the successive changes which the territory has been subjected to and administrative changes involving Portugal.
Considering today’s administrative division, the Parish of Pussos is part of the Municipality of Alvaiázere and Terras de Sicó and includes, "as a whole, fertile land, suitable for some crops, such as vineyards, cereals, cherries, chestnuts, “Chícharo” (a cereal similar to chickpeas) and olive oil. There are no plain grounds, nor large irrigated areas in Pussos. The parish rests upon a slope with some hills of shale and Jurassic limestone.
It’s vital to visit the parish church (Igreja Matriz de Pussos) to admire the beautiful oil paintings and 18th century, handmade artistic tiles. The churchyard is a pleasant place and it is a great lookout point from which you can appreciate the vast horizon facing west.
This important parish (belonging to the Council of Alvaiázere) is characterized by a tremendous cultural and ethnographic wealth which is characteristic of a people who devoted themselves to working the land. They have kept a legacy of ancient traditions alive and have passed them on from one generation to another. Many of these traditions are related to the simple activities of daily life and the crafts of a people who based their economy on subsistence agriculture.
This working of the land and everyday activities are strongly related to this people’s religiosity whose lives were strongly linked to the Church. There are numerous religious traditions which determine the identity of the people of Alvaiázere since they sacralised rituals associated to the religion’s practice, as well as profane practices. One can see the popular wisdom of the elders of the Parish of Pussos and of the Town Council of Alvaiázere, including an intangible heritage, in terms of prayers, beliefs and rituals. Some of the rituals involved home-made remedies which have always proved to be helpful and comforting in difficult times. Over the centuries, a religious calendar determined the best time to perform certain tasks in the fields and the breaks that the workers needed to take from working the land. It also imposed certain times to do household chores, as well as the colours of clothes to be worn and the times of festivities.
One can define people from Alvaiázere as being homogeneous in spite of its idiosyncratic characteristics related to the territory. Nonetheless, one can also conclude that its culture was influenced by the contact established with other regions. Therefore, regarding the traditions and ethnographic heritage of the Parish of Pussos, one can identify influences which were brought to the territory because of migratory movements. At that time, people would return to Alvaiázere with new trends and real-life experiences.
One must refer to the hundreds of “alvaiazerenses” (Portuguese term used to refer to people who live in Alvaiázere) who used to move around to other parts of the country every year in search of work in order to make ends meet. They used to go away from home for short periods of time, for instance, to the regions of Ribatejo, Alentejo and Beira Alta where they worked during the reaping and pruning seasons. These larger scale migratory movements help one identify many of the songs and choreographies as being ours. However, we know as a fact that they were brought to Alvaiázere because of the influence related to these excursions throughout Portugal. Although Rancho Folclórico da Freguesia de Pussos (RFFP) is part of the Alta Estremadura, regarding ethnography and folcklore, one can identify influences from the region of Ribatejo in many songs and choreographies performed by the group.
The Parish of Pussos can be seen as a mosaic in which each piece represents the history and evolution of its inhabitants.