Although the story of the Quinta da Saraiva is fundamentally one of family andlegacy, it must however begin with the actual house, which is estimated to have been built sometime in the second half of the 18th century by the greatgrandfathers of the oldest surviving generation.
Ester, Analia, Salete, Sidónio, Alzira, and Heliodoro (from oldest to youngest) comprise the last generation of siblings to have been born in the Quinta da Saraiva to Francisco Joaquim Figueira, Jr. and Inés Conceição Figueira (née Baptista), all of whom were also delivered by the same midwife or parteira, Senhora Agostinha.
The majority of the background story about the Saraiva property has been compiled through many interviews and joint discussions recorded by the
descendants of the Figueira siblings.
The surname “Figueira”, even though it means fig tree in Portuguese, is also largely believed to have a Jewish origin. Many Sefardic Jews who lived in the Iberian Peninsula during times of the Inquisition would be forced to change theirlast names for hiding, or signal their conversion as Cristãos Novos or New Christians, to appease inquisitors. Historically, fruits, trees, and/or flowers were common choices for these new names. However, as Madeira (and Portugal overall) is a land of mixed heritage, it must also be highlighted that the Figueiras from Quinta da Saraiva all have light eyes, and some are even natural redheads – perhaps there might be some Celtic or Nordic blood mixed into the family heritage as well.
No one truly remembers anymore how the Figueira genealogical tree looked like over two hundred years ago, but you can now instead actually see a real Figueira tree in the Saraiva property – just please ask our manager Roberto or our fazendeiro (groundskeeper) Luis where to find it.
Moving on from this origin story, what historically used to be known as the Quinta da Saraiva area comprised 3 different houses, of which only one remains today, making up the central house of the Hotel. The original Quinta da Saraiva area would also comprise the lands of what were (and still are) locally referred to as Quinta do Leme, Estreito, and Jesús Maria José.
Much of what existed back then is no longer the same today, as many of the pictures in our digital gallery will show you. Just to highlight one example, the large water well that still stands within the property used to be a famous public sightseeing spot that was extremely popular with British and Gibraltar tourists who sought to admire the beauty of the Câmara de Lobos valley and its coast.
Regarding the older generations, the Figueiras of the Quinta da Saraiva were traditionally prosperous landowners who produced Madeiran staple crops such as wheat, sweet potato, semilha (Madeiran way of calling potatoes), sugarcane, tomatoes, onions, grapes, figs, medlars, prickly pears, and sweetsop, among other fruits and vegetables.
Quinta da Saraiva also had cows (for milk and butter – too valuable for meat) as well goats, chickens, and pigs (who would be slaughtered for the Christmas feast).
Pork would then be stored in tinas or pipas which were barrels where the meat could be salted and preserved throughout the year, and pig fat would be used as butter which would then be kept shut inside a slaughtered pig’s bladder.
Electricity was a luxury that was unavailable to Madeiran households at the time, which meant that there were no refrigerators, and light outside of day hours would come from either kerosene or whale oil lamps, as the northern Madeiran town of Porto Moniz was known for this hunting activity.
A popular (and special Christmastime) recipe that would require pork was carne vinha e alhos, which consisted of cooking pork meat with water, Dry Madeira wine, vinegar, black pepper, laurel, garlic, and some lard steamed on a pot until it became dry and chewy – and thus ready to eat! Please ask our manager Roberto for a sample of this Madeiran delicacy during your stay.
Work & Life
As for the day-to-day of the property, many of the Câmara de Lobos locals wouldcome to Saraiva in hopes of finding a job as day laborers. Thursdays were heavy workdays, which meant that the owners of Saraiva would cook and offer cabbage soup mixed with pork meat and potatoes – a real treat for
The older Figueiras also had a unique approach to conducting express job interviews, which simply consisted of analyzing how a worker would eat an offered meal. If the potential worker took to long to finish, it meant that he was lazy – “não presta”, or “not useful”, and thus would be rejected. Nevertheless, the Saraiva owners were not just known for being bosses and hard workers, but also for being generous and extremely supportive. Madeira has traditionally been a poorer region of Portugal, mostly due to its condition as an island cut off from the infrastructure and networks that exist in mainland Europe.
The living Figueiras recall the rampant poverty that afflicted Madeira while they were growing up, so much so that many hopeful day-laborers would appear barefoot looking for work, while also many other people would come to Saraiva asking for an esmola, or alms. At the time, it was common to say to recipients “tenha paciência” or “be patient”, implying that there would be better times to
come. As an additional help, on Saturdays, the Saraiva owners would give out free food and some money to those less fortunate who came to ask, as the weekend allowed for some free time outside of fieldwork.
Despite the poverty, Madeirans would also love to party and get together as a community. The men of Saraiva, as was customary for other affluent locals, would volunteer as festeiros (or party patrons) who would oversee collecting (and then selling) donated wine from local producers in order to fund the celebrations.
The Figueira girls and young women would wear hand-sewn dresses commissioned by their parents, especially for the arraial (village party) of São João or Saint John, which would occur every 24th of June.
The three most important parties throughout the year were the Day of São João (Saint John), São Francisco (Saint Francis), and of course, Natal or Christmas, and there isn’t a Madeiran Christmas without bolo de mel or honeycake – something which the Saraiva household made without fail, almost to a point of honor.
The bolo de mel, a traditional (and uniquely) Madeiran treat, is made with wheat dough, walnuts, Sweet Madeira wine, some aguardente de cana (sugarcane rum), fruit cider, almonds, raisins, confiterie fruits, Madeiran sugar cane molasses,yeast, baking soda, white and black ground pepper, cumin, cinnamon, and sugar – one of the only recipes to feature this last ingredient considered to be a great luxury at the time. The baking process would take constant pounding of the cake dough mixed with all components, which would then require 2 days and one night of rest before it could be ready for consumption. A bolo de mel remains good for eating for up to 6 months after it’s properly baked! Bolos de mel are also available for your enjoyment in Quinta da Saraiva.
Growing up in Madeira during the first half of the 20th century meant that you would most likely only receive an education up until the fourth grade specialized in grammar and arithmetic, and would then be expected to work in a commercial business or agriculture (for boys) or learn housekeeping and wifely duties (for girls). The only schools available that would offer education beyond the fourthgrade were located in the capital city of Funchal - which was not practical for the Figueiras.
The Figueiras and their parents did not have cars. To go to Funchal, only a bus called the horário would be available, which would take approximately one hour to reach the regional capital’s city center from Quinta da Saraiva. It was quite expensive to maintain as a recurring personal expense.
Additionally, great-grandmother Inês did not want her children to go alone toFunchal for school, and instead decided they should attend the local Franciscan Order convent for an education taught by the priests and nuns of the Irmãs da Congregação da Nossa Senhora das Vitórias (Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Victories) would be enough. The Figueira children would go everyday to the convent from 8am to 4pm taking their food with them in traditional cestos de vime, or wicker baskets.
Nevertheless, the Figueiras would also have a once or twice a year island-wide trip whereby a group of family, friends, and neighbors would all rent a bus and explore the island. It is quite amazing to think that a trip to Faial from Câmara de Lobos back then would have the same implication as a trip to a different continent for most people today, at least in terms of yearly recurrence.
The Quinta da Saraiva of old was a rich household, but even them sometimes basic amenities which we take for granted today would not be available. In the odd occasions when the house would not have access to water, the Saraiva girls would have to go to the nearby creek at 3am or 4am, in the dead of night, so as to not risk the embarrassment of the local community seeing the wealthy girls bathe just like the rest of them. In such an isolated and peaceful environment, gossiping has become one of the island’s favorite pastimes.
On that note, gossip culture mixed with a conservative Catholic society also meant that social interactions across teenagers and young adults of different genders were near-taboo and severely limited to certain special occasions, or loopholes. One of these encounters occurred when the Saraiva girls would loiter around the house’s main balcony and watch young suitors approach from afar –
almost at binoculars’ length!
“Lá vem o da camisa verde!” or “Here comes (the one with) the green shirt!”, would be heard among the girls giggling with excitement. Talking would be a scandal, and the young Madeirans would settle for an exchange of longing, and even bold, glances instead. It is during one of these exchanges that Ester, the oldest Figueira sibling, met her eventual husband Arnaldo.
Another one of those occasions where it was more acceptable for both genders to interact was during Catholic Mass, which was near-mandatory on every Sunday for Madeiran society at the time.
During Christmastime, Madeirans would have to attend the Misa do Galo (Mass of the Rooster) at midnight on the 24th, and then four hours later would have toattend the Misa dos Pastores (Mass of the Shepherds) at 4am on the 25th – an exhausting night especially for those who were younger.
Nightclubs or night bars were of course non-existent at the time, or the few that existed were not socially acceptable places for young women. Instead, the island surprisingly had many cinemas across its many villages, and young girls and boys of all ages would get together to watch the evening shows which started religiously at 5pm every weekend.
Saved for last, we must dedicate a section to the special connection between the Quinta da Saraiva (as well as Madeira at-large) with the country of Venezuela. Afflicted by poverty, many rural workers were stuck in a vicious circle of generational stagnation, with very little to no local opportunities available for overcoming their situation.
Mixed into this stark reality was dictator Francisco Salazar’s Estado Novo policy of maintaining Portuguese colonies at all cost, which meant that all young Portuguese men were drafted into the military as soon as they would turn 18 to go fight wars in Africa.
To escape the vicious cycle of agrarian Madeiran poverty, or worse, gunshots or malaria further down south, many young Madeiran men - many of those who
tried to woo the Figueira girls - took on a boat to distant countries of opportunity, such as Australia, South Africa, Venezuela, or even Brazil – which all today represent some of the largest colonies of Madeiran Portuguese all over the world.
All but two of the Figueira siblings eventually moved aboard at a young age and developed their lives and families permanently in Venezuela. “A Venezuela era um oásis” was a common phrase used by Portuguese immigrants at the time – a country with an open-door immigration policy, plenty of opportunities for hard workers, and a tight-knit Portuguese community that would support each other
until eventually becoming one of the most important groups in the national economy creating some of the largest businesses the country has seen to date.
Analia, the second oldest Figueira sibling, eventually married fellow Câmara de Lobos neighbor José Rodrigues Diniz, who took over the maintenance and development of Quinta da Saraiva with great love and affection until his passing in March 2018.
QUINTA DA SARAIVA HOTEL
To maintain the legacy and spirit of Saraiva, it is the descendants of Analia and José who took over on making Quinta da Saraiva Hotel a reality over a span of 3 years from September 2016 until its inauguration in November 2019 – led by grandson Juan Daniel Gonçalves Rodrigues.
We all hope that you can join us and share an unforgettable and authentic Madeiran experience that will live on with you and your loved ones forever. Quinta da Saraiva truly is a special place that is meant to be shared.
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All new incoming reservations for future dates may now be cancelled at no additional cost for up to 48 hours before arrival date.
Reservations made for stays prior to May 31st, 2020: Eligible for full cancellation and refund.
Reservations made for stays starting from June 1st, 2020: We allow for the modification of the date of arrival until December 2021 without the need of having to pay for any penalty (any applicable room rate differentials must be paid for by the Guest(s))
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