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Portugal - A little history... and politics

As a Quebecer, I know a little about the history of France and England, where my ancestors come from, but Portugal had passed under my radar. Well, I know that it has a common border with Spain and that the capital is Lisbon, but it's little, very little, and I like to understand a country before approaching it.

When I decide this is my next trip, I remember a few facts and learn several others.

  • Vasco da Gama, a great Portuguese navigator, was the first European to reach the Indies by sea, bypassing Africa (1498).

  • Portugal has existed since 1139. Previously, it was a province of Spain.

  • There are few children, Portugal having the lowest fertility rate in Europe, and yet,... And yet, I feel very strong family ties. The majority of strollers I meet represent 2 or 3 generations. Young women, in particular, are very often with their mothers and even their grandmothers.

The great-grandmother and her great-grandson walking in Armação de Pêra

  • Portuguese is the 6th most spoken language in the world and the most spoken language in South America, all thanks to Brazil and its 205 million speakers... 20 times more than in Portugal.

  • Portuguese is spoken in Portugal, in the archipelago of Madeira and that of the Azores, in Brazil, in Angola, in Mozambique, in Cape Verde, in Guinea-Bissau, in Equatorial Guinea, in Sao Tome and Principe, in East Timor, Goa (India), Daman and Diu (India), Malacca (Malaysia) and Macau (China).

My learning of Portuguese therefore has a chance of being useful in the future... East Timor is already winking at me.

A dictatorship peacefully overthrown

  • For more than forty years, the country was subject to the authoritarian regime of António de Oliveira Salazar, until the Carnation Revolution of 1974 which ended the dictatorship and restored democracy to the country.

  • The Carnation Revolution had the particularity of seeing the military demand democracy (civil government, free elections and decolonization, etc.) and seek to overthrow the dictatorship without establishing an authoritarian and military regime. This name would come from the red carnation that the soldiers of the Armed Forces Movement would have worn in their buttonhole and in the barrel of their rifle as a sign of rallying.

  • The wars in the African colonies, from 1961 until the Carnation Revolution in 1974, cost the lives of 42,000 soldiers. On the civilian side, the death toll is estimated at 50,000 deaths in Mozambique, 50,000 in Angola, 5,000 in Guinea-Bissau and 5,000 white settlers killed, for a total of 110,000 civilian deaths. Add to this the 200,000 Timorese (1/4 of the population) killed by the Indonesian army following the Carnation Revolution.

  • After the overthrow of the dictatorship, five countries obtained their independence. Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Cape Verde, Sao Tome and Principe and Angola

I have the chance to visit Portugal 50 years after the revolution. This tells you how much the country is celebrating this year.

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