The changing scale of Póvoa do Varzim

On Easter Sunday, in Póvoa do Varzim, Portugal, a longtime resident helped us find an open store on an evening that almost everything was closed. His pride in his city was contagious – 40 years, born and bred – an old fashioned Good Samaritan of the first order.

But equally on display was his disappointment in his hometown of 65,000 people. He said things had gotten worse lately, and I asked him why. Too many new, tall buildings, he said, causing diminished access to light and air.

We commiserated a bit more and he did not seem to care about the economics of land development or how ubiquitous his sentiments might be in certain circles today. Nor did he find it interesting that I had been writing about this issue for years. All that mattered to him was something deeply personal; he maligned what he insisted was very detrimental change to the city he had known forever.

Where we live defines us and betrays us when our senses see unexpected change. We share this apparent betrayal with friends and neighbors, and even with strangers passing through. In this case, as the stranger, I regret that I could offer nothing helpful, only that his disappointment was both global and familiar, as I had heard his story so many times before.

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