Islamic Festival De Mértola.
Islamic festivals in southern Portugal and Spain (Mértola and Almonaster).
Mértola and Almonaster la Real, two villages respectively located in the South of Portugal and Spain, each one on its side of the border, share an important Islamic past and heritage. Taking advantage of it, both villages engaged on development projects grounded on the promotion, display and commodization of this heritage. In 1990, Almonaster la Real hold its first Islamic festival, organizing academic and leisure activities to attract tourism to the village and surrounding areas. Later on, and inspired by its neighbour, Mértola – an important archaeological site which was explored and developed by a leading left-wing archaeologist during the 1980s as to become a Village-Museum – promoted a similar festival. These projects and twined festivalization of a common past and its display, built and enacted alternative maps that blurred the national borders, while sustaining an alleged southern islamophilia. Past and present also merge, especially through the participation of the members of a Muslim Spanish community, who since early participate in the organization of both events, performing their Andalusian Islamic religiosity to visitors. For this converted – some of them preferring to be called reverted – religion and heritage are commutative terms used to build identities and conceive alternative models of society and market. Through ethnographic fieldwork combined with documental and media analysis, HERILIGION wish to examine how current narratives and practices try to break an historical border through the enactment of a time and space where/ and when it didn’t exist, and how different participants and agents cooperating in this process, use these arenas to legitimize their own political and/or religious claims. Furthermore, at a wide ranging scale, we will be following the path of both of the national heritage regimes, to understand how these festivals are co-opted to configure broader narratives on international, national and regional identities and agendas.