A Man for the People

Eugénio Arez is the Presidente de Junta da Freguesia de Aljezur. He is in charge of the parish council’s administrative team. Voted in by the people three years ago with a significant majority, the hardworking Eugénio is dedicated to his position and passionate about local matters.  

“Aljezur Câmara (the local council) consists of four freguesias (parishes): Aljezur, Rogil, Bordeira and Odeceixe. The Junta da Freguesia has many roles in the community,” explains Eugénio. “Some of the duties are managed in collaboration with the câmara. The freguesias role is to support and address the needs and concerns of the community to the câmara, acting as an intermediary between the people and the local council. 

Eugénio was born in 1982 close to Arrifana Beach, and is proud of his birthplace and heritage. A true Aljezurense, his father is a third-generation fisherman, and his mother is from an agricultural family. “It is fishing blood that runs through my veins, and a fisherman is who I truly am!” Eugénio declares. “My steadfast political side, though, is motivated by the desire to do the best for my home.” 

Eugénio attended school in Aljezur and, during the weekends and holidays, helped his father with fishing. By the age of 15, it was necessary to travel each day to Lagos to attend senior school. “I have dreadful memories of getting up at 6 am to catch the packed bus to school, often having to stand all the way, and returning late in the evenings. I assisted my father with the family business whenever I had spare time. My childhood was busy!” 

Eugénio was raised beside the beach and is a competent swimmer and surfer. Using these skills, he completed a lifeguard course when he was 18. While still fishing in his spare time, he worked as a lifeguard at Arrifana Beach for 12 years and then for six years in the local swimming pool. 

“In 2013, my father had an accident at sea, breaking both an arm and a leg. I gave up working at the pool to take responsibility for my father’s profession,” he explains. In 2015, Eugénio bought his own boat, and from 2020–2022, he was the Presidente de Pescadores de Arrifana. He continues to fish now with his father, who has recovered well.  

Eugénio also owns a tour boat he bought in 2016. “As fishermen, we must pass written and practical exams to get our licences. For taking tourists on sea adventures, there is an obligatory separate licence, which likewise involves passing written and practical exams,” he explains. He now takes clients on fishing trips along the Arrifana coast as well as surf trips and group bookings. 

The number of fishermen in Arrifana has diminished considerably since Eugénio was a boy. “Sadly, the new generation wanted to avoid taking on the family fishing traditions, but, recently, four or five younger people have started up, which is promising. We do not want to lose the fishing community.”  

Eugénio was interested in politics from a young age and has always been enthusiastic about Aljezur. At age 19, it seemed fitting for him to join the junta de freguesia. He started on the bottom rung, but being ever dutiful and focused, he became the country’s youngest President of the People’s Assembly four years later. Due to the right mix of drive, intelligence and empathy for the local people, his popularity kept increasing.  

In 1999, Eugénio, who excelled at football, took a referee course. Yet again, being very advanced for his age, he became Portugal’s youngest referee in the National Football Championship. However, due to an injury in 2017, he had to stop this work. Still enthusiastic about the sport, he trained hard to become a football referee arbitrage advisor, which he still does today. “As an acessoria arbitragem, I find ways to resolve football-related disputes and produce a decision. I am keenly interested in football and wholeheartedly support the national teams.” 

Eugénio likes to keep busy, and on top of everything else, he owns a café in Vale de Cambra, in northern Portugal, with a business partner. A father of two girls (one recently born in March this year), Eugénio is a family-oriented man who loves to arrange events for children. He organised an egg hunt this Easter, and he has many activities planned for Children’s Day on 1 June. “Last Christmas, we installed an ice rink and Father Christmas bubble for children to play in and launched a fun competition to find the best home decoration display. We intend to do similar things for the Christmas holidays this year,” he announces. 

Eugénio organises an annual trip, Passeio das Gerações, for residents registered on the Aljezur electoral roll. Portuguese citizen’s with a citizens card are automatically enrolled. To be on the electoral roll as a foreigner, you must apply at the junta de freguesia with your passport or relevant ID document and proof of residency.  

Eugénio has seen Aljezur change immensely over his lifetime. Tourism has been increasing steadily, as has the number of foreign residents. “There is a shifting landscape with a much larger foreign population. I hope it is not the beginning of the loss of Portuguese identity in Aljezur. I would like to see foreigners making more efforts to speak Portuguese and to integrate into cafes, restaurants and local events. We need to aim for a greater sense of community and togetherness.” He suggests that the many independent schools worsen the segregation between foreigners and local people. “More pre-schools are needed here. The ones we have are full to the brim, resulting in many illegal schools springing up.” Eugénio also expresses the need in Aljezur for a school that offers professional courses to train electricians, carpenters, etc. The nearest are Odemira and Portimão, which are both far away.” 

“What worries me deeply about one type of immigration we have in Aljezur now is that many people live on land without habitation licences. As they are not registered, we are unaware that they are there. If a wildfire sweeps through the area, we do not know how to warn them to evacuate. It could become a disastrous problem,” he emphasises. 

Surf tourism is an essential part of the Aljezur area’s economy and is increasing. Eugénio recognises the importance of this industry, but a change that he intends to make is the implementation of rules and regulations to control the amount of space taken up by surfers in the sea and on the beach. 

“Additionally, one of my plans is to create a campanha de sensibilação, a campaign to increase awareness of the littering problem. I am deeply concerned about keeping public spaces clean. I’m especially unhappy about the wild camping that we have here as many of these travellers leave rubbish behind. We all need to be vigilant about keeping Aljezur tidy!” 

The president has also set up several places where dog poo bags are available.

During the reign of Foral de Dom Dinis from 1261 to 1325, Portugal witnessed the emergence of its national identity. Portuguese became an official language, and many municipal councils were established. Aljezur was granted its authorised name on November 12, 1280, and Eugénio has established the day as an annual celebratory dia de freguesia. 

Eugénio is keen that people should know about the local online portal Espaço Cidadão, an online network of administration services. “It is a valuable portal that unites services from different entities in one online space.” Eugénio emphasises the importance of his work colleagues at the junta de freguesia and explains how he and his team have introduced new concepts in Aljezur and have more plans. He has installed new colour-coded maps of Vale da Telha, which light up at night, and he is planning to set up two cabines de leitura in Aljezur to encourage people to exchange books. “You leave the book you have read in the cabin and, in return, take one left there by someone else.” 

Public health and safety are also high on Engénio’s to-do’ list. “We are doing our best to improve wheelchair access in many places locally. So far, we have installed defibrillators in two locations in the area (SBV/DAE) and initiated Projeto Gota de Aljezur. The project allows old and disabled local people to apply for a panic button that they wear around their necks. The button is linked to a 24-hour emergency service and, if pressed, will ensure they get help. It will also sense if they fall over, and someone will phone them to see if they need assistance. Twenty-five people in the area are wearing them already.”  

Eugénio is an approachable, courteous, and clear-minded spokesman for the people. He often attends important conferences, is confident as a public speaker and enjoys his involvement with the local community immensely. The people of Aljezur are incredibly fortunate to have him as their representative.  

“Those of us who live in Aljezur and the surrounding area recognise the beauty and wonderful quality of life here. I am pleased to welcome newcomers and encourage them to join and integrate well into our vibrant community. I am also more than willing to talk to people and discuss any issue. I will continue to be committed to Aljezur.” 

Did you know…

  • The responsibilities of the Freguesia include:
  • Maintaining rural roads and improving them where possible 
  • Maintaining and managing parks, and any grassy areas
  • Organising cultural activities, community meetings, exhibitions and events in schools 
  • Administering and authorising documentation such as attestation of residence, birth and marriage certificates, dog licences and proof of life. The legal work also involves keeping track of the criminal registry
  • Monitoring local development projects and enterprises to ensure they improve the quality of life in the parish

How to use Espaço Cidadão

Follow the link to apply for a chave movel digital (digital mobile key). This key links a password to your mobile number, email address, NIF and residency number. Once you have this, click on Espaço Cidadão da Junta de Freguesia de Aljezur, and you will have multiple options, from social security to renewing driving licences, tax payments, etc. It is an online network of administration services.” 



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