In rural Portugal of 1916 it would not have been unusual to see children leading their family flocks to pasture. This is what the children of the Marto and Santos families, cousins all, did on many days. Often it was Lucia Santos, Francisco Marto and his sister Jacinta, who gladly undertook this chore, grateful for the chance to be outdoors and to play as the sheep silently grazed. They would take their families few sheep to graze on small plots of land owned by their parents in different parts of the sera, the mountainous plateau on which was located the village of Fátima (where the parish church was) and Aljustrel (where the children actually resided).
Two favorite grazing areas were the hillside facing Aljustrel, near an outcropping called Loca do Cabeco (Place of the Head) and the Cova da Iria (Cove of Irene) at some distance beyond Fátima. At first one, then the other, would occur the apparitions which would change the course of the children's lives and the history of the 20th century.