Quarteira was a modest fishing village up until the 1970s, when it became one of the largest private tourist resorts in Europe: Vilamoura. It is a fractured parish, and you can tell: in the high-rise buildings and facades in need of a lick of paint contrast with gleaming semi-detached homes; in the plethora of languages that echo down the streets—from English to Bengali, the mix is immense; in the diversity of local businesses, from markets where you can still haggle, to shops where perfume can cost hundreds of euros; and in the different feelings of belonging among those who live there.

“I’m not from Quarteira, I’m from Vilamoura”, those who live next to the golf courses, hotels and luxury apartments, the marina and the casino rush to say. Separated from this reality, in the centre of the parish, is the fishing port where

you see—although in dwindling numbers—weatherbeaten faces; the fish market that survives despite the shrinking customer base; the constant coming and going of people and goods at the bus station and the sort of immigrants who have little left over to eat after paying the bills. Those living in Quarteira just want an affordable place to call their own. Outsiders, who come on a visit or to stay, are enraptured by the sea and the sun.

Nearly half the foreigners who live in the municipality of Loulé in the Algarve live in this parish. They, together with those born here and the migrants from the Alentejo, and the centre and the north of the country, comprise this mass of people who are the driving force behind a land where the seasonal work of tourism dictates life’s rhythm: “Save in the summer to spend in the winter.”

Number of inhabitants in Quarteira, the most populous parish in the municipality of Loulé.

Source: Census 2021

A fifth of residents are from other Portuguese regions. The 5,412 migrants are mainly from Alentejo (1,486) and the Metropolitan Area of Lisbon (1,465).

Source: Census 2021

Mariana, 63 years old, cleaner

Over half the houses in Quarteira (59%) are second homes.

Source: Census 2021

Benedita, 54 years old, cleaner

The proportion of foreign residents is four times higher than the national average (5%). The majority of the immigrant community are from Brazil (32%), which is in line with the national average (37% of immigrants are Brazilian).

Source: Census 2021

Maria João, 54 years old, chef

Wage inequality in the municipality of Loulé is the sixth highest in Portugal (the national average is 41.4%). And Loulé comes second highest in the Algarve for purchasing power per capita, 15.4% above the national average.

Source: Income Statistics and Municipal Purchasing Power Study 2021 (INE)

Maria, 55 years old, caretaker

André, 25 years old, market trader

Percentage of voters who didn’t vote in the local elections in 2021. It had the sixth highest rate of abstention in Portugal.

Source: Secretariat General Ministry of the Interior

Estela, 48 years old, shopkeeper

The hospitality sector employs more people than any other sector in Quarteira (2,183 workers).

Source: Census 2021

Fátima, 56 years old, municipal employee
Angela, 40 years old, cleaner
Carlos, 60 years old, fishmonger
Carlos, 67 years old, retired