In 1800, the number of emigrants from Galicia, Northern Spain, residing in Portugal was already close to 80,000.
Throughout the next one hundred years, selling water in barrels, they were to be found everywhere: between Rossio and the arcades in Praça do Comércio, between the Ministry buildings and the quaysides, at the doors of the large department stores, on street corners downtown and specially in Chiado, where there used to be a square known as the «Ilha dos Galegos» – «Galician Island».
In 1830 about 3,454 water-sellers crossed the Lisbon streets daily. But the Galicians also had other trades, such as taking messages, delivering parcels or helping to move house. Two Galicians and a rope, so the saying goes, were capable of moving almost an entire sitting-room full of furniture in one go.
Another saying had it that love without a Galician was indeed love without feet. What would have become of lovers without a messenger for their love-letters at a time when all affairs of the heart had to be protected from paternal wrath?
MARINA TAVARES DIAS
LISBON FOR THE TOURIST WHO LOVES HISTORY