Tag: Portuguese history

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Portugal - within roughly its present boundaries, with its capital in Lisbon and the name Portugal, has a history going back to the middle of the 13th century. But before that the Latin language, the basis of modern Portuguese, arrived in the area with Roman armies in the second century BC(E).

Why did Portugal want to explore the world?

Fausto Bordalo Dias "O barco vai de saída"

Fausto Bordalo Dias "O barco vai de saída" (The boat is setting out)

Here are several possible answers I've come across reading about Portugal. I'm not sure about how much importance to give each one.

1. Portugal is located in the far southwest of Europe, squeezed between the mountains and the sea. There's not really anywhere else to go in Europe. Across the mountains are “Castilians with knives”.

2. Fishing has always been a key industry, so Portugal had the sailors. Also you have to go a long way for some catches (e.g. to Newfoundland for cod), so the sailors had deep-water Atlantic sailing skills, not more coastal Mediterranean experience.

3. The best land in Portugal is along the coastal strip in the north and centre of the country. As you go south (into the Alentejo) it gets dry - not an overwhelming problem for modern agriculture but a big challenge in the past. Till you get to the far south coast (the Algarve), which has some potentially fertile mountains and rivers. But, back in the past, to make much use of the Algarve you really needed to control both sides of the sea - the European and African coasts. Otherwise raiders would steal your workforce or set up their own castles and mini kingdoms. So immediately after driving out the Muslim Moors the Portuguese Christian kings set about seizing land on the African side too. (Which of course the Moors had had themselves - it was the only way to make the Algarve viable).

4. With the Algarve conquest the new

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Portugal's Eurovision entry 1974 - consolation prize: Revolution!

Paulo de Carvalho "E Depois de Adeus"

Paulo de Carvalho "E Depois de Adeus" (And After Goodbye)

Flopped at Eurovision - but started a revolution back home

The song is about the end of a relationship. It's not in any way political. Paulo de Carvalho gives a good professional vocal performance, and he's singing in Portuguese. It's a respectable entry. But the musical paradigm is entirely American. And, even for 1974, out-of-date.

Eurovision is a song contest - it's for the best original new song. And the Portuguese entry sounds like something Sinatra, Matt Munro or any Sinatra clone might have sung. It is a mainstream American-style song, old-fashioned and behind the times. The UK had Matt Munro sing at the Eurovision contest - but a decade earlier, in 1964.

Stuck back in time

Portugal in 1974 was itself old-fashioned and behind the times. In fact so far behind the times it was still in the grip of a backward-looking fascist dictatorship, and running a ramshackle colonial empire after all the other European powers had turned away from empire. It was stuck in a timewarp, and its people were suffering - locked in a long war, economically going nowhere and with no end in site.

Culturally Portugal was isolated, and the autocratic regime was afraid of anything subversive or modern. Economically, it was ultra-protectionist. Coca-Cola, even though it was American, was banned - to protect the local soft drinks industry.

Singers and music were licenced by the state and song lyrics subject to censorship. Older American music was accepted, but not the new 60s stuff or anything with anti-war or political

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Why Portugal?

Introduction: A perfect musical storm

Portugal has very good music!

A number of highly unusual circumstances have combined to bring this about.

Portugal has had an eventful past. Portugal was the first European country to set up an overseas empire, and the last to leave its far-flung colonies. This took a revolution to achieve. So Portugal today is also a post-revolutionary society.

This is in the same way as the United States rather than Russia or Cuba, but the changes made in the period 1974 to 1975 have had deep effects on Portugal's institutions and culture - including especially music. And the effects continue to this day.

It should be said immediately that Portugal is a perfectly normal western society now. It's in the EU, NATO etc, it has an open economy, music festivals, surfers, a big tourist industry, a lot of personal freedom and a low crime rate. But it did have a very significant revolution in the period 1974 to 1975.

From a musical point of view this had a major impact, because of what went before as much as what came afterwards. Several active streams of popular folk music have been preserved right into the modern era. And their influence lives on, as they have been creatively combined with imported mainstream popular music.

Preserved in a fascist time warp

What came before the Revolution was a repressive dictatorship that went right back into the fascist era of the 1920s and 1930s.

Portugal's home-grown dictator Salazar helped Franco to power in Spain. Though staying formally neutral, he also assisted Germany with war materials (principally Tungsten) in

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