The racist and xenophobic discourse and practices that have been seen in Europe over recent years led the Luxembourg artist Doris Sander and her Portuguese husband António Almeida to proposing to the Casa das Artes de Tavira (a local art gallery) the organisation of a collective exhibition to repudiate such attitudes.
The CAT embraced the suggestion and invited various associations from Tavira to join a movement against racism and xenophobia by simply dedicating one part of their 2011 programme to this movement.
During 2011 more than 30 associations became directly or indirectly involved, and in the following year more followed.
Throughout its history, Tavira has been an open and inclusive city, allowing in its past the peaceful coexistence between Moors, Jews, Christians and atheists, and present-day Tavira warmly welcomes people from all over the world.
According to the SEF (the Foreigners and Frontiers Service), among the 25,700 inhabitants of the Tavira municipality (2011 official statistics), around 2,900 are foreigners coming from 60 different countries. In such a situation, intercultural dialogue is an everyday necessity for communication between citizens.
The movement has gradually become a larger platform to include, as well as the questions of racism, xenophobia and human migration, reflections about cultural developments that in our present times do not seem to include everyone.
In 2011, the programme comprised scientific, literary and political conferences, art exhibitions aimed at giving body to the movement, and performances of various kinds designed by the associations to embody the movement’s objectives.
The movement has no pretension to stage large-scale media events. There is no promotion of competition between associations. On the contrary, it is intended as a platform to promote togetherness, to encourage a natural and peaceful coexistence between citizens.
The Tavira Illimitada (Tavira Unlimited) movement against racism and xenophobia has gained the attention of certain academic researchers, and through them the town has become known internationally.
For example, Tavira Unlimited has been proposed as a subject for study by a team of researchers from the Centre for Social Studies at the University of Coimbra, as part of the resarch project “Governing cohesion and diversity in urban contexts”, within the ambit of DIVERCITIES, a project led by Universität Viadrina, Frankfurt.
It is also part of the Red(e) Ibero Americana Território & Economia Cultural e Criativa, an informal network with more than 500 Iberian and American participating members. (http://industriasculturaisecriativas.blogs.sapo.pt/)
In addition, it is on the Global City Network map (http://www.globalcitynetwork.org/), a space for reflection on the potential of emerging forms of grassroots democracy. This is an initiative of the Cidades pela Retoma (lit. “Cities for Recovery”) movement, a partnership of organisation from Portugal, Brazil, Spain, Argentina, Italy, UK, Estonia, Israel, Australia and the United States.
Early in 2013, the movement was joined by the newly-formed ZBFC Association, which is dedicated both to culture and to survival, and is the first association in Tavira formed by the local Roma community.
Tavira Unlimited has enlarged its platform by creating a facebook page in addition to its blog and mailing list, which are used to promote the social and cultural activities by citizens in general, and by artists residing in the Tavira council area, whether through associations or as individuals, activities presented in the most varied spaces, both public and private.