The Palha family goes as far back as the XIIth century, but the ancestor most frequently referred to is Pereira Palha Almeida, who in 1385 was part of the Portuguese combatants who defeated the Spanish in Aljubarrota, guaranteeing Portugal’s independence.
In 1853 António José Pereira Palha married a young Spanish lady by the name of Laura Rodriguez Blanco, from Malaga.
On the 14th of January 1854 his only son was born, José Pereira Palha Blanco, the most famous of the entire dynasty. He was gifted with intelligence above average and a remarkable working capacity, on top of a crystal clear vision of both things and living beings. He showed an enormous curiosity for everything related to agriculture, making himself constantly available to investigate and experiment new ideas.
Originally from Alentejo, the Palha family settled in the Ribatejo in the area of Vila Franca de Xira. The family’s ‘Casa Grande’ (main house) was built on the ‘Quinta das Areias’ property in the beginning of the XXth century, on the slope of a hill located on the right bank of the Tagus river, between Vila Franca de Xira and Carregado. The property already had a patio and a set of solid constructions in a simple and traditional architecture, where the landlord and the farm workers lived, and from which emanated a great will and dynamism very characteristic of that time. The property has a view over the river and the other family properties, located next to it, both on the right and left riverbanks of the Tagus river. In that area, most of what didn’t belong to the ‘Companhia das Lezirias’ belonged to the Palha family!
A revolutionary in agricultural matters, José Pereira Palha Blanco, not allowing himself to be blindfolded by tradition and with a great vision of the future, bought some of the first tractors that came into Portugal.
A great landowner both in Ribatejo and Alentejo, José Pereira Palha Blanco welcomed in his home king D. Carlos of Bragança on his visit to Vila Franca de Xira. That visit became famous for the toast king D. Carlos made on that occasion:
“I, Carlos of Bragança, King of Portugal and Landowner from Alentejo, drink to the King of Portuguese Landowners”.
Together with his brother in law, Fernando Van Zeller, a graduate in engineering, he carried out pioneer hydraulic and industrial works that made writers at the time consider that “with the crop cultivation and its agricultural facilities, [Quinta da Foz] can consider itself to be a role model in the district of Benavente”.
His qualities as an administrator and vision had convinced the inhabitants of Vila Franca de Xira, who elected him Mayor. José Pereira Palha Blanco was as competent administrating public matters as he was in managing his own properties.
A renowned Cattleman, bullfighting owes him the construction of its first bullfighting arena in Vila Franca de Xira, known as the Bullfight Arena “Palha Blanco”.