Rabo de Peixe_en

Seen through urban eyes, everything in Rabo de Peixe looks strange: the way people dress, talk, walk around, even the way they look. “They’re always saying we’re poor, does it look poor here?” Poverty depends a lot on the eyes of the observer. And yes, at first sight, we saw poverty. But can there be a better antidote to a tainted gaze than approaching people, looking them in the eye, talking to them?

It didn’t take us long to see the children we had seen as feral as children playing freely, who didn’t worry about tearing their clothes, captivated by “that pretty fish jumping up over there”. For us to learn that the men sat relaxing against the wall were called Inácio, António, Leonardo, Aurélio… fishermen with weathered faces and hands, signs of the hard work of those who, if the tides allowed, would go out to sea at five in the morning to only return in the small hours of the following day.

For women’s expressions to change from a look of distrust to smiles as they proudly described their traditions and why Rabo de Peixe might be “the best place anyone could live”. 

Their visceral repulsion of being labelled “poor things” doesn’t deny that life is hard, nor that there are families who need help—they live on an island, work opportunities are scarce and wages are low. But when the statistics throw them to the bottom of the pile, the inhabitants of Rabo de Peixe bristle. And they scorn two groups in particular: politicians on the mainland who have never come to speak to them for more than five minutes and journalists who paint them as “wild animals”.

Civil parish with the highest level of abstention in the 2024 parliamentary elections.

Source: Secretariat General Ministry of the Interior

Number of inhabitants in Rabo de Peixe, the most populous parish on the Autonomous Region of the Azores.

Source: Census 2021

Asked to remain anonymous, 69 years old

With a quarter of the inhabitants under 20, the population is younger than the national average (18%).

Source: Census 2021

Inácio, 20 years old, fisherman and skipper
Gabi, 40 years old, hairdresser

The percentage of inhabitants who completed obligatory schooling is in line with the median for parishes across the country (47%), but far from the parish with the highest percentage of residents who completed year 12 (18 years), which is Avenidas Novas, in Lisbon (87%).

Source: Census 2021

Idalta, 47 years, factory worker

In Portugal, the parish of Rabo de Peixe has the ninth highest percentage of inhabitants on income support—489 people of a total 6,280 residents over the age of 18. Monforte da Beira in Castelo Branco is the parish with the highest number of people who receive the benefit (20%).

Source: Census 2021

Pedro, 47 years old, fisherman

550 people work in agriculture and fishing. This is six times higher than the national average.

Source: Census 2021

Cidália, 67 years old, retired
Mauro, 36 years old, café employee

Artur, 44 years old, teacher