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Portugal - Spain (ESPT)

Commune of Tourém and the borders of Portugal

In the northern border of Portugal there is a “finger” of Portuguese territory that penetrates into Spanish territory, into the autonomous region of Galiza (Galicia). It is the rural commune (“freguesia”) of Tourém. When the Spanish built a dam on the river Salas, perhaps in mid-XXth century, the northern tip of the narrow strip was separated from the rest of Portugal by the waters of the new lake (Encoro or Embalse de Salas). There is now, however, a bridge connecting the two sides of the Portuguese territory.

Spanish Centro Geográfico del Ejército

Portugal has the oldest unchanged borders in Europe, but this region of Tourém was for centuries in a limbo and its status was in some aspects ambiguous. Tourém was part of the diocese (Catholic religious administration) of Ourense (in Galicia, Spain) at the same time that it was a civilian administered Portuguese commune. In a XIXth century referendum the people of Tourém confirmed the will to be part of Portugal. In the beginning of the XXth century it became also part of the Portuguese religious administration.
Michelin, at
It must be noted that the peoples of both sides of the Portuguese-Galician (Spanish) border never minded about this political frontier, centuries before Schengen or Europe without internal borders. During the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) Tourém was a shelter for the Galician republicans and those who fled the war.
The Galicians are linguistically and ethnically akin to the Northern Portuguese. The Roman province of Gallaecia had its southern confine in the river Douro, thus including all of present day Galicia and northern quarter of Portugal. Still today the Galician and the Portuguese languages are very similar; some experts say they are just two variants of the same language. Galician is an official language in the autonomous region of Galicia.

Automóvel Club de Portugal; scale 1:350.000

RV Reise- und Verkehrsverlag GmbH; scale 1:300.000.