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A Crazy-Ass Moment

I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned this account in here before but it really is a great source of minor historical weirdnesses if you are a fan of Portuguese History. I mean, this for example.

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O Príncipe Fresco de Bel Air

I’ve got a backlog of texts I’ve written for this blog but there aren’t many correctors around so the last couple of days’ posts are still sitting in drafts. They’ll all arrive in a rush, five at a time, I expect.

OK, let’s try and decipher why this tweet is funny. I have no idea but I expect finding out will be an educational experience…

Bazar is a sort of slang way of saying “leave” and Fazer a folha a alguém means making a leaf but as an expression it means plotting against someone. So…

The Mestre de Avis getting out of Paço after scheming against Count Andeiro (1383)

Basically, the gist of the story is here, and it goes back to the interminable story of Spain (Castille) wanting to dominate Portugal. After the death of Dom Fernando I in 1383, there was a wrangle over succession. Fernando’s only daughter had already been promised in marriage to King Juan I of Castille (despite being er… Only ten years old at the time… OK, let’s try not to think about that too much) but there was a treaty in place (O Tratado de Salvaterra de Magos) that explicitly ruled out Castille claiming dominion over Portugal as a result of that alliance.

João Fernando de Andeiro, known as Conde Andeiro had been a close advisor of Dom Fernando and remained a power in the land and a powerful influence over Fernando’s wife, Dona Leonor. But he was galician, born in Spain and there were rumours that he was too friendly toward Castille and that he was sleeping with Leonor and using his leverage as a way to undermine Portuguese independence. Things came to a head when Juan turned up in Santarém “persuaded” Leonor to renounce her regency and to allow the monarchy to pass to him and his primary-school-age wife.

O Mestre de Avis a matar o Conde Andeiro
“Take My Wife’s Name Out Of Thy Mouth”

The Mestre de Avis, later known as João II, meanwhile had been proposed as an alternative successor to the throne by the court of Coimbra, and he rocked up one day in Paço with a bunch of friends and beat Andeiro to death. Thus started a crisis in the Portuguese succession which lasted a couple of years, culminating in the Battle of Aljubarrota, in which the Spaniards had their arses handed to them. Hilariously, the wiki page of the battle enumerates the forces on both sides and includes “1 padeira” on the Portuguese side. That’s a reference to A Padeira de Aljubarrota, a national hero. Her real name was Brites de Almeida and when she returned to her bakery after the battle she found seven Spaniards taking refuge in her bread oven (what? How big was the thing?) so she beat them with a shovel, slammed the door and lit the fire to bake them to death along with her bread. I have difficulty visualising this story to be honest, but I guess I’m not an expert in mediaeval bread-making technology.

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Second title in a row that hasn’t had any proper words in it but I think you’ll agree it’s merited: I mentioned a while back that I have been following a “Portuguese History” course delivered by two University lecturers, at least one of whom is also a TV pundit and alleged plagiarist. The course title is a bit of a misnomer because they mostly just deliver sermons on Marxist theory using Portugal as an example, but that’s cool, I don’t mind a little light Marxism.

Anyway, today I came across this clip of her on TV “a papaguear” (brilliant verb meaning “to parrot”) Putinist propaganda. Sigh. I think I might see if I can switch to a different course. I can’t be arsed with this.

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A Portuguesa: TL;DR

For the benefit of anyone who is too lazy to read that last post, here it is in the form of a meme. I actually posted it on a world history Facebook group and it was modded out of existence almost immediately. Not surprising I suppose but I thought there might be one or two people willing to do the work to decipher it.

Henrique Lopes de Mendonça dealing with some critics of his new national anthem, A Portuguesa.
Look, I Made a Meme

Posted in English

A Portuguesa

This post is long overdue. I said back in November that I was going to do a post about the Portuguese national anthem but I haven’t got around to it yet.

National anthems are often written in the heat of some patriotic fervour, often caused by conflict with another country. God Save the Queen, for example, has an apocryphal verse that someone tried to shoehorn in, about fighting the jocks* although contrary to what the nationalists might have you believe, it was never part of the official national anthem. I think if you did a survey of all the countries whose national anthems specifically refer to Britain being evil it’d probably be about two-thirds of them. The United States for a start: the Star Spangled Banner is about looking out for the flag and hoping it doesn’t get blown to bits under the British shelling. Well that’s fair, we have put ourselves about a bit and we were pretty much the last empire to openly call itself an empire so people remember us for that and that’s often set down in writing. So in a sense, national anthems are like Taylor Swift break-up songs but on a diplomatic scale.

Surprisingly, despite being our oldest ally, Portugal is a former member of the BBC (The Britons are Bastards Club) too, because they used to have us in their anthem. Oh my god, Becky, why are you so obsessed with us? Well, here’s why:

Portugal became a Republic in 1910 as a result of a chain of events sparked by the British empire reneging on its treaty and issuing an ultimatum – in 1890 – claiming the land in between Mozambique and Angola which the Portuguese had intended to settle, as part of a strategy referred to as “A Mapa Cor-De-Rosa”. The monarchy was powerless to stop Britain and the Portuguese people were pissed off about it. The opinion of the Africans on the matter was not sought. Anyway, the resulting crisis saw the monarchy replaced by a Republic and, a few years later, the Estado Novo. Portugal’s Hino Nacional (National Anthem), called “A Portuguesa”, was written in response to the initial crisis in the last decade of the 19th century, and it is everything you’d expect from an anthem – “Heroes of the sea, noble people, valiant, immortal nation, lift up again today the splendour of Portugal”. Stirring stuff. But the chorus originally ended with a call to arms: “Contra os Bretões marchar, marchar!” March, March against the British!

Luckily, long before it was adopted as the national anthem in 1911, cooler heads had prevailed. They had time to think it through and they decided not to pick a fight with the most powerful nation on earth at the time, so the new anthem had the slightly less incendiary “March, March against the cannons”, which saved a lot of awkwardness.

O hino nacional de Portugal

Soirce: Wikipedia Data: 1890 Letra: Henrique Lopes de Mendonça
Música: Alfredo Keil

Heróis do mar, nobre povo,
Nação valente, imortal,
Levantai hoje de novo
O esplendor de Portugal!
Entre as brumas da memória,
Ó Pátria, sente-se a voz
Dos teus egrégios avós,
Que há-de guiar-te à vitória!

Às armas, às armas!
Sobre a terra, sobre o mar,
Às armas, às armas!
Pela Pátria lutar!
Contra os canhões
marchar, marchar!

Desfralda a invicta bandeira
À luz viva do teu céu!
Brade a Europa à terra inteira:
Portugal não pereceu!
Beija o solo teu jucundo
O oceano, a rugir d’amor,
E o teu braço vencedor
Deu novos mundos ao Mundo!

Às armas, às armas!
Sobre a terra e sobre o mar,
Às armas, às armas!
Pela Pátria lutar!
Contra os canhões
marchar, marchar!

Saudai o Sol que desponta
Sobre um ridente porvir;
Seja o eco de uma afronta
O sinal de ressurgir.
Raios dessa aurora forte
São como beijos de mãe,
Que nos guardam, nos sustêm,
Contra as injúrias da sorte.

Às armas, às armas!
Sobre a terra e sobre o mar,
Às armas, às armas!
Pela Pátria lutar!
Contra os canhões
marchar, marchar!

*It’s OK, I’m Scottish, I can say the J word

Posted in Portuguese

Rainha Jinga

Ana de Sousa vestida em roupas tradicionais
Rainha Jinga

Jinga (ou Ginga) Amande foi uma rainha no século XVII numa parte do território atualmente conhecido por Angola. Durante a ocupação portuguesa o seu pai, Quilombo tornou-se rei do território de Dongo. No seu falecimento, o seu irmão conquistou* o trono e Jinga fugiu para Matamba com o filho. Em 1621, o rei português mandou a conquista do território de Dongo para alimentar o mercado transatlântico de escravos. Perante esta ameaça, o irmão de Jinga pediu-lhe para enviar uma embaixada a Luanda onde o governador português tinha a sua sede. Jinga apresentou-se vestida em roupas tradicionais, mostrando a sua independência do poder dos europeus. Achando a sala de audiências sem cadeiras e com apenas uma almofada (para forçar os africanos a assumir uma posição de submissão face ao governador) ela mandou que um soldado ficasse de gatas no chao para que ela o pudesse usar como móvel humano.

Conseguiu fazer um tratado com os portugueses, preservando os direitos mais importantes em troca de conversão e ensino do cristianismo e de ligações comerciais com o império. Jinga foi baptizada e a partir dessa dia chamou-se Ana de Sousa, baseado no nome da sua madrinha, a esposa do governador. Mas esta transformação não foi o mais esquisita na vida dela como vamos ver a seguir.

Após a morte do seu irmão, Angola Ambade (Angola significa “Rei” além de ser o nome do país), o rival dele, Hari (também conhecido por João por aliança com os cristãos) tomou o trono. Jinga fugiu para Luanda, reuniu um exército e reassumiu o trono por força de armas.

Como a maioria das sociedades, Dongo era uma cultura machista. Jinga não foi capaz de ganhar a lealdade do povo nem da aristocracia por ser mulher. Portanto, em meados da década de 1640, “tornou-se homem”. Daí em diante, ela (vou continuar com “ela” para simplificar esta narrativa apesar do disfarce!) era “o rei” e liderou a gente em batalha contra os portugueses e contra um outro império, o holandês. Foi relativamente bem sucedida. No fim do seu reino, os territórios sob o seu controlo eram livres e com potencial de desenvolvimento apesar dos longos anos de guerra. Permaneceram neste estado feliz até 1741 quando foram integrados na Angola Portuguesa.

Há uma última lenda que quero abordar neste texto: segundo um boato da época**, Jinga manteve um harém de escravos masculinos. A vida destes amantes da rainha não era assim tão má, tirando o facto que de cada vez que ela escolheu um com quem ter relações sexuais o mesmo era morto no dia seguinte.

Noutras palavras era a Madonna da sua época.***

*=I was going for the idea of “seized the throne” as a result of a power struggle, not a straightforward ascent. Tomar or conquistar seem to fit here, not either of the words I originally chose!

**=The corrector pointed out that calling it both a lenda (legend) and a boato (rumour) is a bit contradictory… Well, maybe but I’m pinching all this from Wikipedia and the line between legend and rumour is a little blurry there…

***=I don’t even know why I wrote this except that it was a good excuse to use the phrase “noutras palavras”. Madonna is not, to the best of my knowledge, a Viuva Negra (black widow spider)

Thanks to Talures for the many, many corrections

Posted in Portuguese

Portugueses Na Grande Guerra

Portugueses Na Grande Guerra de Carlos Baptista Mendes

Um dos meus projectos de estimação é tentar aprender mais sobre a história de Portugal. Deparei com este livro durante uma visita à uma livraria online e fiquei interessado porque confesso que raramente ouço falar do facto de que Portugal fez parte do conflito que devastou a Europa durante 4 anos mas fez, mesmo, e não só na Europa mas também em África onde os portugueses lutaram contra as alemães no sudoeste do país na fronteira de Angola e Namíbia por exemplo.

Portugueses Na Grande Guerra (The Portuguese in the Great by Carlos Baptista Mendes)

Quase achei que estava a ler uma sequela ao Auto À República porque os eventos neste livro decorreram logo depois do nascimento da República e tiveram raízes na mesma conferência em Berlim que deu à luz a grande época do colonialismo, a partilha de África que alimentou as rivalidades entre os impérios europeus. Felizmente, neste conflito, os nossos países lutaram lado a lado. “Com os Bretões marchar, marchar!”*

Os contos de heroísmo são narrados na forma duma série de bandas desenhadas e são histórias verídicas, claro. O livro tem prefácio do General Loureiro dos Santos cuja carreira abrangeu vários papéis importantes nas forças armada e no governo do país.

*This is a sort of joke based on the national anthem. I’ll be doing a post about that fairly soon.

Posted in Portuguese

Um Auto À República

Opinião d'”Um Auto À República” de Cidália Fernandes

Este livrinho é um texto dramático – um guião duma peça de teatro que podia ser apresentado numa escola enquanto parte de… Suponho… um programa educativo sobre a cidadania e o crescimento da democracia em Portugal.

Um auto à República

Mas há uma peça dentro da peça. Ou seja as personagens são alunos e a sua professora pede-lhes apresentar uma peça de teatro. Então, eles assumem papéis de pessoas históricas tal como o Rei D. Carlos e o poeta Guerra Junqueiro, e representam a história daquela época, explicando o Mapa Cor-De-Rosa, o ultimato da Grã-Bretanha, e a perda de confiança no papel da monarquia.

O livro foi escrito há 12 anos. O que mais me chamou a atenção foi o seu modo como fala de África. Não só os protagonistas da peça-dentro-da-peça mas até os alunos e a sua professora (que vivia no tempo presente) falam do território disputado como se pertencesse ou a Portugal ou à Grã Bretanha e ninguém perguntou “Hum…e os africanos?”. Não há dúvida que nós ingleses sofremos da mesma cegueira de vez em quando… Acho que hoje em dia um professor de qualquer destes países seria mais cauteloso e lembraria que há mais de um lado – e até mais de dois – em cada história!

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Not-So-Super Nova

I mentioned a couple of days ago that was a minor kerfuffle about the teacher on my Portuguese history course.

A History of Europe by Raquel Varela

It seems there’s was more to it than I thought. Some of her scholarship students have complained about her having abused power, apparently, and in one case even claimed she had plagiarised a big chunk of one of her books from a student essay. Blimey!

I don’t know what to make of this, and I’ll tell you why my cluelessness is interesting: when I’m online in my normal guise, reading about scandals in English speaking countries, I tend to have a pretty good idea of who is where on a sort of graph where one of the axes is ideology (where they are likely to come down in an argument between different points of view) and the other is honesty (whether they are prepared to bend the facts to fit their narrative, whether they fight dirty). Crucially, I can usually spot sarcasm, shitposting , spitefulness and attention-seeking when some British ideologue (Owen Jones say) or American (Candace Owens, maybe) is doing what they do, but I am absolutely unable to read it in most Portuguese tweets. Unless people are very obvious, I don’t really know what’s fake and what’s real. This one seems reputable but really, I’m a hopeless naive and maybe he’s a well-known partisan hack, shilling for some very Conservative paper that has targeted her for her opinions.

And I suppose it’s worth pausing at this point and asking who we trust online and why? I know there are a lot of sources I’d basically trust all the way. Like the BBC. They aren’t always right but they’re always trying. They’re not Fox News or Infowars and I trust their basic integrity as a source of facts. But there are other sources I’ve sort of grown to trust over the years but how well do I really know them? Are they just the people who have told me what I want to hear for so long that I’ve become blind to their biases? Yeah and not just me, reader. What about you, eh? I’m waving my finger at you as I type this. What about you, eh? How sure are you that the people in your social media feed are trustworthy?

Posted in English

My History Course Turns Out To Be Both More and Less Interesting Than I Thought

I’ve been thinking for a while about writing a post on the course I’m taking about the history of Portugal, but today’s Twitter news has made me finally stretch my thumbs to do it now because… Wow, I was not expecting this!

The course is bi-weekly, presented online by the Bertrand chain of bookshops. I missed the first one so I’ve only actually attended one class so far. It’s taught by a woman called Raquel Varela, who is Portuguese, and a Brazilian guy called Roberto Della Santa. I was a bit non-plussed by the session I attended. It was about the origins or liberalism and the unification of the national market in the 19th century but there weren’t many references to actual historical events; the bulk of the lesson was given over to explaining Marx’s theories about capitalist production. OK, well, Marx does set out to explain historical processes so yeah, fine, but it seemed likes strange digression for a course on Portuguese history, going into abstract realms of economics and historiography without much reference to the real sequence of events. It felt more like a come-to-Jesus, or rather, a come-to-Karl… appeal than a lesson. That’s OK though, I’ve studied Marx at uni, and I’m quite happy to listen to other people’s points of view. I’d have asked a question if my grasp of the language was more secure but no, not today!

I’m not complaining – I enjoyed it. I hope the remainder of the course will be less abstract though.

Anyway, fast forward to today. I open twitter and there’s a tweet right at the top of my feed with a link to an article and a picture that looks familiar. It takes a while to realise it’s one of the course teachers, Raquel Varela, and the article is about a petition signed by “more than a hundred intellectuals” in support of academic freedom in general and of her specifically. It turns out she is quite a well-known figure. This surprised me because the price of the course is so low I’d assumed the teachers were just keen amateurs they dragged in from the store’s popular history counter. I wasn’t expecting star power! Its like attending a year-long study group at your local Waterstones for a hundred and forty quid and finding it’s being run by Simon Schama. You’d go “bloody hell, i wasn’t expecting this!” She’s a kind of public intellectual, attached to the Universidade Nova de Lisboa, author of several books and occasional TV pundit. She’s taken a lot of fairly controversial positions, not least on covid, but that’s another story for another day.

Anyway the reason she was in my twitter feed was to do with a public hoo-ha that has been going on for a couple of weeks now. It started when rumours began appearing on social media that her academic CV had been inflated by repeating items multiple times to make it seem like she had more academic clout than she really has. I don’t know where these rumours came from originally but she refers to them in her blog in July, describing them as a “campaign of defamation”. The matter came to a head around the 20th of September when the newspaper Público reported that the Instituto de História Contemporânea had withdrawn its support for her candidacy in a scheme run by the Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia called the Concurso de Estímulo ao Emprego Científico Individual after checking the allegations and finding that she appeared only to have published about half as many articles as she claimed. Now, I know inflating your cv is not exactly uncommon, but integrity is a big deal in academic circles, especially when you are using your track record as a platform for competing against other academics as in this case.

Varela didn’t take this lying down, instead using her legal right of reply to demand (the verb is “exigir”) an apology from Público,

Varela Claps Back

But it didn’t come and they continue to report on the progress of the ongoing investigation.

This brings us back to the present day where Sapo’s i online site reports on the letter of support from a hundred or so writers and academics. Their petition refers to a “campaign of character assassination”, involving Público, which it accuses of “promiscuity” with anonymous sources spreading misinformation. It also mentions other, more unpleasant allegations in “ultra-Conservative” sources and throws in a reference to “o crescimento de fake news e da extrema-direita”. In one particularly weird flourish of denunciation they say “Este é um caso exemplar de como o nepotismo dentro de um sector da academia e a necrofilia de alguma imprensa procura silenciar uma intelectual”. Wait… What? Nepotism? Necrophilia? Calm down lads.

The effect seems to be to associate the (perfectly legitimate, it seems to me) story in Público with some more shadowy stuff online, implying they are somehow part of a co-ordinated smear campaign. This seems a little unfair, since whatever the online muckrakers are doing, Público are at least reporting on matters of public record: either her CV is padded or it isn’t, and that question is being adjudicated by the relevant scientific bodies. Whether they find in her favour or not is up to them but fairness and transparency seem to be essential in upholding trust in the scientific process. Mixing it up with conspiracy theories doesn’t help either side.

Anyway, I will certainly carry on attending the course and I’ll enjoy it a lot more knowing the backstory!