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Residents of Old Lisbon Experience Growing Pains Amid Portugal's Efforts to Capitalize on Tourism

Aired May 30, 2000 - 2:10 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: President Clinton's trip to Europe is under way. With his term nearing its end, some are calling this week- long tour a Clinton victory lap. It began today in Portugal, the current holder of the European Union's rotating presidency. Tomorrow, Portugal hosts a U.S.-European summit.

From Lisbon, the president's trip is to take him to Berlin, where he'll hold a meeting with German Chancellor Gerhardt Schroeder. Then it's on to Moscow for a meeting between Mr. Clinton and the new Russian president, Vladimir Putin. The president is to make a stop in Ukraine before returning to Washington next Monday.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Mr. Clinton is to spend three days in Portugal, which is a far different country than the one President Reagan toured back in 1985. In the 15 years since the last time an American leader visited, it's become a popular tourist haven.

And as CNN's Chris Burns reports from Lisbon, that's caused some growing pains.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRIS BURNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The annual procession of Santa Cruz and St. George, a ceremony dating back to the Crusades at St. George's Castle, where Christians drove out the Moors in the 12th century. They marched through the winding streets of the Castle quarter, a crumbling area in rustic splendor.

Now a major restoration effort is under way to save Old Lisbon, where officials have recognized the tourist potential.

(on camera): The city of Lisbon is spending millions of dollars to revamp this neighborhood. It's offering housing subsidies to families who have to move out while the work goes on. But one woman has decided to dig in her heels, and she's fighting City Hall.

(voice-over): Helena Vaz has been on a hunger strike since last week. She's run this creaky but well-known marionette museum for the past 25 years. She welcomes the city's plans to move her out of this rickety 17th century building and into another venue, but when the city sought to take tighter control of the museum and the marionettes, she launched her protest. HELENA VAZ, MARIONETTE MUSEUM OWNER (through translator): To create a marionette is emotional. It takes about two months to create one. The relationship between the object and the creator is so strong, you prefer to sacrifice yourself than to be separated from your work.

BURNS: Vaz is hopeful she'll win her battle, but city officials say considerable public funding is going toward revitalizing her museum. Some residents have moved back into their renovated buildings, but with older locals dying off and their homes now occupied by the more well-to-do, others worry the old town will slowly lose its atmosphere.

One adopted local, Marsha Smith of Tulsa, Oklahoma, has run a gift shop here for the past five years.

MARSHA SMITH, GIFT SHOP OWNER: If it becomes Disneyfied or -- I don't know how to put it -- it's -- where it becomes a showplace and the community is just in the background of this rather than the most important thing here, this could alter the nature of the community, for sure.

BURNS: As Old Lisbon tries to make time stand still and keep itself from looking like another slick movie set.

Chris Burns, CNN, Lisbon, Portugal.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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