In Spain, Portuguese is spoken in the small municipality of Olivenza (10,621 inhabitants in 1994) next to the Spanish-Portuguese border to the south of the city of Badajoz, capital of Badajoz province in the Autonomous Community of Extremadura.
The demographic growth rate in Olivenza has been declining for about twenty years as a result of a surplus of labour on the arable land and a lack of job opportunities, despite a slight recovery over the past five years.
The economic structure of Olivenza is based on seasonal activities, which occupy almost half the population: the olive harvest in winter, and fruit-picking and cereal-harvesting in summer. There is also a small processing industry for agricultural produce. The proximity of Badajoz enables a large number of people to find work in domestic service and in the construction industry, which has led to a decline in the traditional economic exchanges with neighbouring Portuguese towns and villages. However, in view of the fact that Olivenza is situated in one of the poorest regions of Spain, the standard of living there is considerably below the national average. The region's economic position is also considered to be highly precarious.
Lastly, as far as the linguistic demography of Olivenza is concerned, the municipal census of 1994 established that the number of people who normally speak Portuguese, all of whom are bilingual, is 3,645, i.e. 34% of the total population, and that most of them are over the age of 50. Around 1960, the proportion of Portuguese speakers was just over 60%.
Olivenza had its origins in the conquest of Badajoz by Alfonso IX, King of Leon, in 1230. Some years later, the Knights Templar seized Olivenza and built a citadel there. In 1297, Olivenza was ceded by Ferdinand IV, King of Castile and Leon, to King Dinis of Portugal in the Treaty of Alcañices. The King of Portugal raised Olivenza to the status of a royal borough and fortified it in view of its strategic importance at the border between the two kingdoms. After experiencing a Golden Age in the 16th century, Olivenza was caught up in the Portuguese revolt of 1640 and was captured by Spain in 1657 but restored to Portugal by the Peace of Lisbon in 1668. The town remained Portuguese for almost one and a half centuries before falling to the Spanish troops who invaded Portugal in the War of the Oranges (1801). Article III of the Treaty of Badajoz, concluded that same year between Spain and Portugal on the one hand and between Portugal and France on the other, confirmed Spanish sovereignty over Olivenza. Portugal did not recognize that annexation, and soon afterwards Prince Joao, the Prince Regent, denounced the Franco-Portuguese treaty. In accordance with the preamble to that treaty, his action also rendered the treaty with Spain null and void. Thereafter, the Treaty of Fontainebleau, by which Spain and France agreed to partition Portugal, effectively annulled the Treaty of Badajoz. Following the defeat of Napoleon, Article 105 of the Final Act of the Congress of Vienna (1815) laid down that the victorious European powers would act as intermediaries between Spain and Portugal with a view to the restitution of Olivenza to Portugal. The negotiations were never begun, and even today Portugal considers Olivenza to be a Portuguese territory de jure.
As far as the language is concerned, from the incorporation of Olivenza into Spain, the Portuguese spoken in that area became increasingly detached from its linguistic roots. In fact, during the first half of the 19th century, it was forbidden to teach or speak Portuguese, even in private. The Portuguese of Olivenza thus lost its social prestige and began to come under increasing Spanish influence, especially in terms of phonetics and syntax.
As for the sociolinguistic situation, the Portuguese spoken in Olivenza underwent an irreversible process of decline as a result of the vigorous cultural assimilation that was pursued after the area had changed hands. The lower classes, cut off from their traditional language and culture and susceptible to the growing influence of Spanish, gradually abandoned their language and feel no need to defend it nowadays. We can summarize the situation by referring to the social superiority of Spanish over Portuguese. In fact, the inhabitants of Olivenza consider Portuguese to be simply a vehicle of oral expression belonging to the rural world and the lower classes, whereas Spanish is regarded as the best means of social advancement, since it is associated with the economically and culturally privileged classes.
Portuguese is ignored by the national and regional authorities. Although Olivenza belongs to the Autonomous Community of Extremadura, the region's autonomy statute takes no account of the Portuguese cultural heritage. On the other hand, until recently the municipal authorities did their best to encourage the presence of the language in primary education. However, Portuguese intransigence concerning recognizing international frontiers has provoked the municipal authorities in Olivenza to consider the possibility of discontinuing Portuguese courses.
In 1983, the Provincial Directorate of the Ministry of National Education authorized the teaching of Portuguese in the primary schools of the municipality in response to a request made by the local authorities of Olivenza. Until last year, Portuguese was taught to about thirty pupils as an optional subject in some schools. From 1990 to 1993, one kindergarten received a grant from the Autonomous Government of Extremadura to organize courses in Portuguese. These courses, however, had to be stopped in 1993-94 because the teacher was no longer available.
Portuguese was taught as an optional subject in one primary school in Olivenza until the 1993-94 session, when the course was discontinued because of a shortage of pupils (only twelve had enrolled), the lack of preparation of the teaching body and the lack of teaching materials in Portuguese. It also appears that the less able pupils were steered in the direction of Portuguese, while the others were encouraged to take English. At secondary level Portuguese is not used at all. As far as technical education is concerned, some 45 students are following Portuguese courses at the Olivenza workshop school.
Since the 1988-89 session, a Portuguese course has been included in the adult education programme of the Ministry of National Education and has been a compulsory course since 1990-91. Some 125 people followed these courses in 1993-94. The People's University of Olivenza also organizes a Portuguese course for adults, which was attended in 1993-94 by about forty pupils. It was so successful that the organizers have had to limit the number of places on these courses.
By contrast, there is no programme for the initial or in-service training of teachers of Portuguese. As far as educational inspection is concerned, since the Portuguese courses are funded by the Instituto Camoes of Portugal, the Iberian Studies Centre in Olivenza submits an annual report on its activities to enable the Institute to monitor them.
The judicial authorities do not seem to use Portuguese at all. To the legal vacuum we must add the attitude of speakers. Because of the residual use of Portuguese and the enormous social and cultural prestige of Spanish, nobody would dream of using the local language in his dealings with the judicial or administrative authorities.
There also appears to be no use of Portuguese in the public services. Besides, given the situation of diglossia that exists between Spanish and Portuguese in Olivenza, Portuguese speakers never see the need to address the authorities in that language. On the other hand, most place names in the commune are written in their correct traditional Portuguese form, whereas the rules governing Castilian spelling are systematically applied to personal forenames and surnames.
No official policy has been adopted for the purpose of guaranteeing the use of Portuguese in the region's media. In fact, there is only one bilingual magazine - Encuentros/Encontros, founded in 1985, which specializes in linguistics and history. It is entirely financed by the local authorities. Local radio stations and television channels never use Portuguese. However, the inhabitants of the municipality can receive Portuguese radio and TV programmes. But this tends to be counterproductive, since the divergence between the standard Portuguese spoken in these programmes and the version spoken in Olivenza as well as problems with the comprehension of certain terms reinforce the feeling of speakers that their language is highly corrupted and that it is pointless to seek to pass it on to younger generations.
Apparently, no books in Portuguese have been published in recent years.
A few traditional music and dance groups have existed for some time: La Encina (dating from 1943), Acetre (1984) and La Badana (1985). The last two have recently recorded some discs. Other cultural activities take place regularly in Olivenza, including exhibitions on regional authors or subjects, programmes of conferences and Spanish-Portuguese linguistic and cultural congresses.
Portuguese is never used in the world of business or in other socioeconomic activities.
As we have already seen, the number of Portuguese speakers has been constantly decreasing over the past thirty years. One of the main factors underlying this phenomenon is the break in the oral tradition of the language. In fact, although 50% of parents still address their children in Portuguese, it has to be emphasized that this number has been reduced from one generation to the next since the fifties.
The social superiority that Portuguese speakers ascribe to Spanish means that young people are speaking less and less Portuguese. It should also be mentioned that the absence of a movement for the defence of Portuguese only serves to intensify their lack of interest in the language.
Cultural exchanges between Olivenza and Portugal are very numerous and have been increasing throughout the last few years: town twinnings between Olivenza and Elvas, Portalegre and Leiria, exchanges between the municipal libraries of Olivenza and Elvas, the establishment of a cross-border association in order to be eligible for grants under EC programmes such as Leader, Interreg, etc. Nevertheless, the fact that the territory of Olivenza is still the subject of dispute between Spain and Portugal makes it difficult for the two States to conclude agreements with a wider scope.
According to all the data at our disposal, the Portuguese spoken in Olivenza is clearly becoming extinct, and the experts (as well as speakers of the language) give it no more than thirty years unless the public authorities intervene in a more decisive manner in view of the fact that only people aged over 50 still have a good command of the language.
It would therefore be desirable if policies were created to encourage the acquisition of Portuguese in primary, secondary and technical education and to publicize the specific Portuguese culture of the municipality.