By Lennie Araujo.
Photo credit: Lisboa SOS
Young people here enjoy healthy and vibrant urban living, but as a result of economic and cultural changes, some are dissatisfied with their life experiences -not different than other youths anywhere in the world- yet, not unhappy. The weather and cost of living make for an attractive place to live, destination for country youths and world wanderers.
Bairro Alto one of the city´s oldest neighborhoods is the heart of Lisbon’s youth culture and nightlife, a mix of cosmopolitan and traditional. Lisbon’s gay, punk, heavy metal, Goth, hip hop and reggae scenes all have the Bairro as their home. It has gone through major changes since the 1990s, in which dozens of new restaurants, clubs and trendy shops have opened, but it still maintains its local population, mixing with the new comers.
Although Bairro may at times be too fashionable –or expensive- for some, one can stumble upon young group gatherings in its periphery: the “Miradouro de Santa Catarina” with its beautiful views of the river gets quite crowded at sunset, bohemian youngsters and surfers drinking cheap wine or beer excitedly talking in different languages. Goth and queer kids congregate outside a fashionable café in the Baxia*. “We have no money”, said one youngster, “just creativity and imagination”.
Like in other metropolitan areas worldwide, Lisbon´s youth are interested in sustainability, and cheaper mobility choices. The municipality now views young people as effective advocates of change, facilitating venues like cidadanialx.blogspot**. “Is this the city where I want to live?” was the question one blog observes. Lisbon´s “creative class” –unmarried professionals whose career choices and family life are also strongly dictated by lifestyles- who wanted to live downtown, many working in the arts; actively help revitalize their neighborhoods, opening new businesses –design studios, craft and gourmet shops, are interested in sustainability and social action; hundreds of young people turned to up to squares and the National Assembly to protest against troika chanting “Negotiate the debt now!” As with most things these days, Lisboetas find their way to community activities through Facebook; networking has given more visibility, encouraging people to acknowledge that they can make the city they want.
Miradouro. Photo credit: coolisbon.com
In Lisbon the street is an extension of social life, people meet to protest yes, but also spill out from bars, to smoke, chat and flirt. At a friend´s brunch in the Bairro, people kept going outside and chat under the vigilant eye of elderly residents watching us from their balconies; we exchanged polite greetings and continue with our conversations. It´s cool how this younger mix of Portuguese and expats, comfortably share the street with our elders showing respect to their traditions. One of the older residents said: “the street it is like your village; you never feel there as an intruder”.
Nor did I feel anyone considered me as such; the city gives a general feeling of contentment, all feel comfortable sharing their Bairro; and there´s an urban vitality where people feel good about being young. Or young at heart.