Alfacinha (Ulva lactuca) is a popular term to denote a person that was born in Lisbon.
The first known reference arises in the mid-nineteenth century, in the book "Travels in My Land" by the portuguese writer Almeida Garrett (1846), "For you shall be Alfacinhas forever supposing that all the squares of this world are like the Palace Square ...".
According to one explanation, the term comes from the fact that in the region of Lisbon lettuce was an abundant plant, and given the Arabic origin of the word, had been cultivated on a large scale during the Muslim period.
The etymology of this popular term is unclear, but there are several versions that try to explain it.
According with the Office of Studies Olisiponenses, in the year of 1943, Fernanda Reis published an article at Friends of Lisbon Informative Report entitled "Alfacinhas", where she refers that she walked through the streets of our portuguese capital city asking locals about the origin of this popular name. "She was explained that the 'soubriquet' was given to Lisboetas due to their particular taste for lettuces and because they eat them a lot!"
Another explanation was written in 1984, in a column of "The Well of the City", a local newspaper, that mentioned the term was a consequence of the vast area of lettuce cultivation in the region of Lisbon and like the arab origin of the word pointed out, the lettuce had been cultivated in a large scale during muslim period in the Iberian Peninsula, particularly in Estremadura Region.This lettuce abundancy was also connected to the fact, according to the article, that during the long siege of Lisbon, the lettuce was the only available food to consume.
Similarly, other line of discussion also refers us that the term Alfacinha is related to the occupation of Lisbon by the Muslims, between 711 and 714. After the occupation the arabs must have begun cultivating the Ak-Hassa, word that ended up as Alface (Ulva lactuca) in portuguese.
In those days, lettuces were used with several purposes, from culinary to medicinal. In one of the several wars that occured during Arab occupation, a legend also says that locals only had lettuces to eat, fact that can explain the origin of this popular term.
Something still remains to this day: usually the Alfacinhas love salads and here at Pictures4Us, we all are genuine Alfacinhas. We do love salads: salad with lettuce and onion (of course), but also of tomato, onion and roasted peppers, or cress and onion, salad of all of those ingredients already mentioned sprinkled with little pieces of carrot, and so on. We eat salads, specially during Summer: salad with grilled fish, salad with fried steak, salad with mozarella and many more...
So what? We are proud of being Alfacinhas, and more, we are preserving the tradition of our ancesters.
From our point of view, there are two other important chracteristics of the Alfacinhas: we are very peaceful people and generally, the Alfacinhas get along with everyone else: foreigners, tourists, immigrants no matter their origin, and other fellow countrymen that chose to live in Lisbon.
These fellow countrymen that came to Lisbon several years ago and are still living here are indeed very funny and good hearted people but, you can be certain that they all have something in common: they love the portuguese region where they were born, they speak a lot about their amazing local culture, no matter if they are Algarvios, Alentejanos, Beirões, Minhotos, Transmontanos, Tripeiros…
However, they spend more or less fifteen to thirty days during Summer in their homeland and return to Lisbon immediately after, even if they do not have a job, a work, a business to run, etc to go back to. So, it's not even a professional matter, most of the times... They will keep on talking about their lovely region, culture and habits for the rest of the year but they do not return to their homeland, to their region of origin. They are funny people, indeed!
What do true Alfacinhas think about that? Oh, my dears, let us tell: those fellow countrymen, do love Lisbon too and they like Alfacinhas, but they are too proud to admit it.
The reality speaks louder: it is very good to live in a big, multicultural, european sunny town set by Tagus River, where everybody is truly welcomed! In fact, most of people that come to Lisbon, keep on living here for the rest of their lives, no matter the place or the country they came from.
1. Excerpt of the article "Alfacinha" found on Wikipedia.pt (https://pt.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfacinha)
2. Excerpt of an article found in VortexMag (http://www.vortexmag.net/porque-razao-chamam-alfacinhas-aos-habitantes-de-lisboa/)