Located between the courses of the rivers Tagus – [o] (rio) Tejo – and [o] (rio) Guadiana, the historical region of [o] Alentejo (etim. “além-Tejo”, [land] beyond the Tagus) at first glance seems like a long, mainly flat plain; but it’s actually a plateau slowly dropping towards the Ocean or towards the mountain ranges that separate it from the Algarve.
While seemingly a flat plateau, the most common features are [o] montado, rolling low hills mainly used to grow grasses for grazing and as growing grounds for trees of the oak family, especially the cork oak – [o] sobreiro – , from which cork – [a] cortiça – is harvested. Being native to Southwest Europe (and also Northwest Africa), cork is one of Portugal’s most-highly sought after products, and an increasingly important and versatile export.
Alentejanos have a bit of a bad rep with the rest of the country: their sun-kissed land, hot weather and measured, langorous accent has correlated the locals with laziness and siestas in Portuguese, [as] sestas – under the cover of trees (the fact that the region’s political economy made it a stronghold of radical movements – first and foremost the Communist party, even in secret during the dictatorship – surely has some bearing on that negative image). If anything, alentejanos represent a way of life that sees contact with nature and relaxation as a blessing – a good antidote against the stress-filled environments of most cities.