The Palm empreita is one of the major forms of craft in Baixo Guadiana and got this name because it is a job with price adjusted to the «empreitada». Previously it had much importance in the budget of many families, but today, despite being a kind of very representative crafts of the region, no longer has the importance of before. The empreita emerged from the needs related to rural work, which was necessary to have containers for packing and transporting agricultural products.
This craft is traditionally done by women, who usually start young. They took advantage of the winter evenings when there was no work in the field, to help mothers braiding ribbons of empreita from the dried leaves of the dwarf palm. This species of palm, abundant in the Algarve hills also came to be imported from southern Spain, to carry out the most delicate work.
Once washed and dried in the sun, clapboard is, to make more thin strips. Then, water to be easier to work. In some cases, it is dyed to produce artistic effects on objects. Subsequently, with the aid of a copper needle, empreita is baked with baracinha, which is a thin cord made from twisted palm.
Yesterday as today, is entwined in the most diverse shapes, creating baskets to pack agricultural products; mats for storing and drying figs; gorpelhas for donkeys carrying olive, almond and carob; vassouros for distemper and sweep the house; or capacheiras to inside sieving flour for bread. Originally it was used for goods essential to life in the field, but later was also used in the manufacture of everyday objects, such as mats, hats, abanicos, fruit and even coatings for glass bottles. Castro Marim, the baskets of empreita, however replaced by boxes or plastic bags, were also used to deposit the extracted salt in the salt mines.
In “A empreita de palma: do uso na agricultura ao aproveitamento no quotidiano”, Jornal do Baixo Guadiana, January 2013
Pedro Pires, Cultural Heritage Technician in NovBaesuris EM, SA