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Freedom Makes You Dance

Reflections on 25 Abril 2022 and Current Events

Imagine that you are the dictator of Portugal in 1961. You know the history of the great Portuguese empire which included half of South America until 1820. You know that more recently, Portugal lost full control of its colonies in the east: Macau, Goa, Timor. But you still have resource-rich territories in Africa. When you include these, Portugal is not a tiny sliver on the western edge of Spain…in fact, its landmass would cover nearly 2/3 of Europe.

A Bit of History and Comparisons with Today

When I wrote the above, I was reminded of Vladimir Putin. During his lifetime the “Great Soviet Union” has relinquished more than 2 million square miles. So today let’s consider what lead up to the Carnation Revolution and the parallels I see with what is happening today.

Over the past 30 years, you have ruled Portugal. Dictatorships are efficient…you can build infrastructure that others thought impossible. Your name is on the bridge that crosses the Tagus River in Lisbon. But it is important to control the political discussion…you build prisons to house those that speak against you. You hold free elections…but you are declared the winner before the votes are counted. When your Chief Inspector of Portuguese Colonies, Henrique Galvão, documents the human rights atrocities he witnessed in Africa, the secret police confiscate all copies of the report and put him in prison. (The parallels are too numerous to mention.)

Meanwhile, living standards are rising rapidly in the rest of Europe. Democracy blooms as does the free discussion of ideas, values, and aspirations. It is easier to control an illiterate, uneducated populace…so you send thousands of students to Africa as conscripts. You suppress an uprising in Angola, yet the young conscripts you have sent there are increasingly uneasy. They know, they cannot win an immoral war. (Putin eliminates a free press and attempts to cut off all external media outlets. In addition, at least some Russian soldiers realized the propaganda was untrue.)

In 1970 Salazar dies and is succeeded by his protégé, Marcelo Caetano … he sees no need for change. But…

At 24 minutes past midnight, on the morning of Wednesday, 24th April 1974, José Vasconcelos, chat-show host and disc-jockey, was in his studio in Radio Club Portugues. He lowered the needle of his record player on to a single he had never played before, “Land of Brotherhood”. The lyric had been banned by the Salazarist censors. Several of the people who heard it were first time listeners to Vasconcelos’s show. They had switched on and tuned in, in response to a review of the show published in the newspaper the previous afternoon saying it had improved so much, it had become “obligatore listening”.

The new listeners were young army officers. Both the newspaper review and the playing of the banned record were their coded signal that the moment had come to put into action the plan they had spent the previous few months devising at secret meetings. — Martin Page, The First Global Village

At 02:00 Caetano is awakened. His minister of defense has noticed unauthorized troop movement in Lisbon and whisks Caetano to the National Republican Guard headquarters. By late morning, the building is surrounded. After a brief skirmish Caetano agrees to resign. (Must we wait for Putin’s successor? Is there a modern-day Bonhoeffer? How many will be killed as we wait?)

Part of the Annual Spring Festival in Tavira.

Big Weekend in Tavira

On a happier note, the Annual Spring Festival, which had been suspended due to Covid restrictions, returned to Tavira this year! The festival (22-25 April 2022) included craft and food vendors…that’s a cutting board we couldn’t resist in Denise’s hand.

There were lots of plants for sale and a young puppeteer.

Activities for children, like these making hats decorated with flowers.

Music and folk dancing lifted everyone’s spirits and inspired the women at the top of the post.

That is not a weather cloud in the clear blue sky.

One Final Note…For the Record

Ever the vigilant blogger, on the same morning, Denise and I left the house (with Onix) at 07:30. We walked to the Town Square (about 6 blocks from the apartment we are renting) because I had read on the city’s website that there was going to be an event to celebrate Freedom Day/Liberation Day at 08:00. There was a covered stage erected in the praça so I assumed some dignitary was going to say a few words, play the national anthem, raise a flag…that kind of thing. Instead, as the church bells chimed 08:00…BOOM! Onix freaked. Frankly, I couldn’t believe how loud it was. The few other people milling around at this time of day freaked. BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! Could the unthinkable be happening…were we under attack? One woman we passed, covered her ears and ran into an open cafe for cover.

Assuming this was the event we had read about, the three of us headed toward the sound. Onix wasn’t really crazy about that idea…but we persisted. We walked toward the sound (which I believe came from the river just 1 block from our apartment)…but sorry, the small cloud of smoke in the photo above is the only evidence of the event by the time we arrived. Later in the day, there was a singer in the square…but I would have preferred to photograph the cannon fire.

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Expat in Portugal
Expat in Portugal
Nancy Whiteman