We need the indifferent, the conformed and the sceptics
We need those who recycle excuses and nothing else
We even need those who do not harm
(Lisbon City Council)

Lisbon is Europe’s Green Capital 2020. A recognition of the work the city has been done over the past years towards a greener and more people-friendly city (

Halving of the municipal water use by putting a new drainage plan into place. A 30% reduction in consumption through investment in renewable energy. Nine out of ten municipality vehicles running on electricity. Expansion of the public transport network with cheaper tickets for metro, bus and ferryboat.
Extension of bicycle lanes to a total of 90 km. Selective waste collection up to 38% with 212 underground containers installed. A 250 hectares increase in green zones and 85% of the population living within 300 metres of a green area.

To date, the capital has around 800.000 trees. Lisbon’s biggest – 10 km² sized – Monsanto park, not only generates much-desired shadow but captures CO2 as well. One of the first initiatives of the City Council in January has been the planting of 20.000 extra trees. Another 80.000 will follow later this year.

But are the measures taken enough when science shows that climate emergency is real and that action must be swift and decisive?

Taking into consideration that the transport sector is responsible for 25% of the greenhouse emissions, it is amazing that 70% of the Portuguese still use their private car for urban transport with half of these vehicles running on diesel.
Although the sale of electric cars doubled in 2019, compared to the previous year, there are only 1000 public charging points in the whole country! A number that needs to increase to 20.000 over the next five years.

It is difficult to understand why the city is mobilized to be the Green Capital 2020 when major political decisions point into the opposite direction. Such as the ongoing expansion of Portela airport in the heart of the city, whose noise and emissions are detrimental to health. Or the construction of a brand new cruise terminal responsible for 10% of total national emissions and 3,5 times more sulfur dioxide emissions than all cars in the capital.

If Lisbon wants to be a genuine Green Capital, stronger measures to mitigate the effects of climate change are promptly required.

Aproveite a sua semana              Enjoy the week            (pic Público/Sapo)


In Portugal – where palliative care is no priority – a first training course of end-of-life doulas has started last September.
The program covers topics like active listening, symptoms of chronic ailments, nutrition and hydration, post-mortem care and legacy work.

An end-of-life doula is a professional, who guides the dying and opens up the conversation about death and loss. Topics that are often taboo for the dying and their family. Doulas promote family-led, home-based care and their role can supplement and go beyond hospice care. No easy task in a society that tends to react to sadness with a prescription of antidepressants.

The term doula originates from ancient Greece meaning a helping individual; a servant or in extreme cases, a slave. Since the 1960s the term is in use for women who support pregnant mothers during childbirth. Unlike midwives, they do not serve in a medical capacity.

The primary role of the end-of-life doulas is not only to provide emotional, physical and psychological support but also to educate and empower families to exercise their right to care for the dead.
Their work is relatively common in the USA (, Canada and Brazil and although they are not required to have medical training, many come from the healthcare field.

What happens if the family wants to continue curative care but the patient not?
‘It will be up to the doula to act as an intermediary between the needs of each other, to try to harmonize conflicts’, explains nurse Ana Infante, a palliative care nurse and organizer of the course. ‘There are signs and symptoms that are part of the end-of-life process. It is important to know how to recognize them and reassure the family, identifying those that may be causing the dying person discomfort.’

The work of doulas doesn’t replace that of health professionals and has nothing to do with euthanasia. Doulas do not delay or advance the process of dying: they merely accompany people. This work can be done at home or in hospital as long as the surrounding environment is comfortable, safe and peaceful for the patient.

Aproveite o seu dia                                                     Enjoy your day



You can wrap it in plastic, put it in Tupperware or do both, it still smells.

Portugal is the world leader in consuming salt-dried cod and the only country in the EU that consumes more cod than salmon.
One-third of the cod consumption occurs during the festive season. On Christmas Eve five thousand tons of cod – caught by the Norwegians in the arctic Barents sea – are being devoured.

What began in a country with a large following Christianity as an alternative food to the Church’s fasting of meat during Lent, later became associated with Christmas. The traditional meal is called Consoada. It consists of boiled salt-dried codfish – soaked for 2 or 3 days to remove most of the salt –  boiled potatoes, boiled eggs, boiled chickpeas, and boiled cabbage accompanied with a dressing of chopped raw onion, garlic, parsley, and lots of olive oil!

Cod (bacalhau) is the nation’s favourite dish. According to the locals, there are 365 different ways to prepare it. Well-known dishes are bacalhau à lagareiro, à brás, com natas, com broa and bacalhau de cebolada.  Bolinhas de bacalhau are delicious snacks. Lombos (loins) are the juiciest and most expensive parts that can be roasted, baked or grilled. Postas (steaks) are good for frying but also used in soups and stews.

The fish isn’t native to Portuguese waters. The Vikings – who used to take air-dried cod on their sea voyages – probably introduced bacalhau in Portugal. To preserve it longer, the Basques went a step further by salting the fish before drying.

But how did cod become so popular in Portugal? Through Terra Nova (New Land)
In the European Age of Discovery and Exploration, the Portuguese claimed Newfoundland (currently part of Canada) or Terra Nova as their discovery. The island was a fish mine and named Terra dos Bacalhaus (Land of Codfish) on old Portuguese maps. Except that the protein-rich salted cod served to feed sailors on pioneering ships, the fish became an integral part of the national cuisine after the Portuguese commercialized the fisheries in the 16th century.

Traditional fishing far away from home was easier said than done. Each fisherman was assigned a dory – a small flat-bottomed fishing boat – which was lowered from the mothership into the ice-cold waters once they reached the banks of Newfoundland. The fisherman then ventured all alone into the foggy sea and was left to his own till his boat was filled the day’s catch. The documentary The Lonely Dorymen from 1967 clearly shows the harsh conditions the men had to endure

Aproveite o seu dia                  Enjoy your day
            (pic Observador/Público)




‘We were the inventors of bad policy to buy and sell free and peaceful men as if buying and selling beasts’
( Padre Fernando Oliveira, 1555 )

During the Moorish occupation (8th – 12th century) Jews, Muslims and Mozarabs (as Christians were called) in Lisbon lived peacefully together. The three religions were socially integrated and participated fully in the city’s economic life.

After conquering the capital in 1147, Portugal’s first Catholic King Afonso Henriques guaranteed rights and conferred duties on the Mudéjars (Muslims living under Christian domination) in order to integrate the Islamic community into the kingdom. Religious freedom (with permission to build mosques), protection from the crown (with the obligation to work the kings’ lands) and the guarantee not to be harassed by Christians or Jews.

This balance began to fall apart in the 14th century, when the trend to isolate the non-Christian communities intensified, resulting in segregation laws and Jewish and Moorish quarters. Discrimination against Jews and Muslims grew steadily culminating in the Edict of Expulsion – signed by King Manuel I in 1496 – obliging these communities to convert forcibly to Christianity (and become Conversos) or to be expelled from the kingdom.

Around the same time Manuel I decided to give the monopoly in slave trafficking in the Portuguese empire to Lisbon. For two and a half centuries, a substantial part of the population in the capital – circa 10% – consisted of African slaves, performing the hardest tasks.
Black slaves lived outside the urban center in one of the western districts – called Mocambo – currently Madragoa.

The dirtiest work practiced by enslaved African women was that of collecting and carrying human waste, because of the weight of the excrement pot, its filthy content and the long distances they had to travel with it on their head. Not only in ancient Lisbon was the black women the hand that cleaned, even in our modern society this phenomenon continues to be very persistent!

The slavery of millions of Africans was justified by the argument that the Catholic faith had to be disseminated. The attitude of the church was that of saving the souls, representing  a form of salvation through suffering.
When Portugal prohibited the slave trade in 1761, a consequence was the sale of African slaves to Brazil, resulting in a labour crisis in the country. It would take more than a century before slavery was also abolished on the other side of the ocean.

BOAS FESTAS               HAPPY HOLIDAYS               
(pic PalPimenta/Observer)


The Chinese leaf that conquered the world

There are roughly two ways to say tea in the world. One is like the English expression – thee in Dutch, tee in German or thé in French. The other is a variation of cha – chay in Russian, chai in Swahili or shay in Arabic. Both variations come from China. The words that sound like cha spread across the land, the tea saying spread over water.

The term cha – Chinese for tea – originates from central China and made its way through Asia – along the Silk Road over 2000 years ago – becoming chay in Hindi and Persian.
But the Chinese character for cha is pronounced as te in the Min Nan variety of Chinese, spoken in the coastal province of Fujian.
This te form spread to Europe via the Dutch East Indian Company, who became the primary traders of tea between Europe and China in the 17th century.

Yet the Dutch were not the first in Asia. That privilege belonged to the Portuguese, who didn’t trade through Fujian but Macao, where cha is used. That’s why of all Western European countries only Portugal uses the cha word for tea!

Although it’s fairly commonly known that tea originated in China, it is far less known that it was a particular Portuguese woman, who inspired its popularity in England. Let’s go back to 1662, when Catherine of Braganza – daughter of Portugal’s King John IV – married England’s King Charles II, and became the Queen of England, Scotland, and Ireland. Travelling up north to join her husband, she is said to have taken along loose-leaf tea, that was popular among Portugal’s aristocracy.

When Catherine arrived in England, tea was being consumed there only as herbal medicine and very expensive. The reason for the cost was that England had no direct trade with China and the small quantities the Dutch were importing were so pricey, that only the wealthiest could afford it. Tea became associated with the elite women’s society around the royal court, of which Catherine was the famous centrepiece.

‘The best of Queens, and the best of herbs, we owe
To that bold nation, which the way did show
To the fair region where the sun doth rise,
Whose rich productions we so justly prize.

( Birthday ode to Queen Catherine. Edmund Waller, 1663 )

Aproveite sua semana                   Enjoy your week          (pic 2





In the heart of Lisbon – on the Santana hill between the Travessa da Pena and the Beco de São Luis – used to be the clothing manufactory of Ramiro Leão.
A textile factory of fabrics and shirts – surrounded by barracks for dying, laundry and ironing – build on top of a poor man’s cemetery of the long-gone hospital Todos os Santos (All Saints).

Ramiro Leão (1857-1934), born in Gavião moved young to the capital, where he became one of the most powerful merchants and founder of the cosmopolitan warehouse Ramiro Leão & Co (nowadays United Colors of Benneton) in the glamorous Chiado neighbourhood.
He also was the director of the Chamber of Commerce, manager of the Bank of Portugal and City Councillor of Lisbon.

Since the old factory broke down, it experienced a complete facelift and is nowadays a graceful blue eye-catcher in the skyline of Lisbon with nine apartments, a lush Mediterranean garden and a magnificent city view.

On the 11th of July, 1915 the newspaper Voz do Operário (the Worker Voice) publishes a letter from the father of a needlewoman working in the factory of Ramiro Leão. It reveals that the workers have to pay for the sewing threads they use ( 80-90 cent a week) and are forced to pay a deposit to cover any damage done to the machines they work with. Working hours are long, conditions very poor and their weekly salary only 180-220 cents.
In the August 8 edition, the Seamstresses Union – whose leaders belong to the hardcore of the Union of Socialist Women – declares to defend their companions. A committee, including three workers from the Ramiro Leão factory – Miquelina Furtado, Laurinda Pinheiro e Lucia Martins – is set up to promote a law that limits working hours. The factory manager immediately fires the three woman as ‘irreducible revolutionaries’ and ‘disturbing elements.’

In protest against this dismissal, a massive strike takes place the next day outside the gates of the factory. The strikers look for Ramiro Leão but he refuses to recognize the Union and its members. The peaceful protest lasts about four and a half hours and is finally swept away by military force.
The Ramiro Leão women’s strike was defeated but paved the way for a law in 1919, that limited working hours to eight hours a day.

Aproveite sua semana                    Enjoy your week              (pic Vozoperário)



What has Great Britain’s national dish to do with Portugal? A dish whose ingredients Winston Churchill called the nation’s ‘good companions.’ A dish described by George Orwell as the ‘chief comfort of the working class’.

It all began hundreds of years ago ( During the Moorish occupation of the Iberian Peninsula Jews, Muslims and Christians in Portugal lived in relative peace. This all changed at the end of the 15th Century when King Manuel I of Portugal married Isabel of Spain, who made one of her marriage conditions the expulsion of Sephardic (meaning Spain in Hebrew) Jews from Portugal. Their religious practices had already been banned from her country in 1494.

King Manuel, who was not pleased with this prerequisite, came up with an alternative, that Jews would be allowed to stay if they converted to Christianity. Some did and became New Christians (Conversos), others fled up north to Amsterdam, from which they spread across Europe and even to the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam – nowadays New York – becoming the first Jews in the New World.

When they left, the Sephardic Jews not only took their religion with them but also their culinary habits. ‘Peshkado Frito’ (fried fish) was one of them. A selection of white fish – typically cod or haddock – deep fried in a light flour coating. It used to be prepared on a Friday in order to be eaten cold on the next day – the Sabbath – as religious laws prohibited cooking on Saturday. This ‘fried fish in the Jewish manner’ became very popular in England.

But how did fish and chips ended up being served together? There are many claims about who created the pairing. Most trace it back to the early 1860s when Joseph Malins, a Jewish immigrant, opened up a fish and chips shop in London. Other theories point to John Lee, a man from Mossley, near Manchester, who ran in 1863 a ‘chipped potato’ restaurant that sold the popular combination.

Whoever came first, what cannot be disputed is the rapid rise to success of a meal that was sold primarily to members of the working class. A nutritious and cheap dish that wouldn’t have existed without pogroms in Portugal.

Aproveite sua semana                      Enjoy your week            (pic Observador)


When you enter a hospital at night and hear a sick man groan, approach his bed, and if you have nothing left to give him, give him a smile – Dr Sousa Martins

After climbing Lisbon’s second hilltop, you will encounter a curious phenomenon. In a cosy little park called Campo Santana arises, amidst sturdy crowing little roosters and slow belly rocking ducks, a very special statue.

In its back the former Medical-Surgical School – now the Faculty of Medical Sciences of the New University of Lisbon – at its feet an immense heap of marble plates engraved with thanks for graces and miracles performed. Remarkable is the complete absence of religious symbols on these ex-votes. Was the figure in bronze on the pedestal a prestigious doctor, a saint or both?

Born in a village of humble people some 30 km from Lisbon, he came at the age of 12 to the capital under the protection of his pharmaceutical uncle Lázaro and graduated in Pharmacy at the age of 21 and in Medicine two years later, both with the highest grades in his class. Became professor of General Pathology, esteemed for his professional skills, modest character and dedication to charity.

Dr Sousa Martins (1843-1897) gave special relevance to the doctor-patient relationship, teaching his students at the Hospital São José (St Joseph’s hospital) not only to treat but most of all to cherish the patients. One of his lessons was that if a doctor had nothing to relieve the suffering of the patient, he would still have a smile. Although famous as a pioneer in teaching, a brilliant scientist and doctor of the Royal Family, he never liked being credited with such notoriety and affirmed himself as ‘progressive and Freemason’.

He was especially loved for the generosity with which he served the less fortunate, earning him the nickname Father of the Poor. He charged the rich large sums for their medical appointments but his poorest patient nothing, and often left money on their bedside tables along with recipes for medicines.

Sousa Martins gained enormous prestige in his fight against tuberculosis – which at that time reached epidemic proportions in Lisbon – and his name will forever be linked to Portugal’s first sanatorium in the Serra da Estrella, a mountainous region in the centre of the country.

As a dedicated physician, he always was in direct contacts with his patients. The – at that time incurable – infectious disease he fought so hard during his medical career, coupled with a heart injury, eventually killed him.
At 54, he committed suicide with an injection of morphine after confining to a friend  ‘a doctor threatened with death by two diseases, both fatal, must eliminate himself.’
The brightest light in the kingdom went out, they said.

Enjoy your week                                                         Aproveite sua semana




‘There is no planet B’

Portugal prepares to vote in Sunday’s general election.
With thousands of youngsters filling the streets at Lisbon’s Global Climate strike, one wonders how ‘green in fact its political parties are?

The centre-right Social Democrat party (PSD) recognizes ‘the state of emergency the planet is in’ but only presents measures enhancing the country’s ‘adaptation to climate change’ by limiting urban expansion in risk zones and favouring garden roofs. The PSD argues the energy sector to adapt but doesn’t specify how.

For the ruling Socialist party (PS) climate change adaptation is also needed. But that isn’t enough. The party defines concrete targets for 2030 and others for 2050, such as carbon neutrality. The PS wishes to reinforce the capacity of wind farms and – faced with extreme weather – extend forecasting and warning systems. Empowering farmers ‘to adopt good practices’ is also called for.

The Left Bloc (BE) is in favour of a Climate Law, an Energy Base Law and a Ministry of Climate Action. The far-left party advocates the end of fossil fuel car production by 2025 and coal-fired power generation by 2023, in the meantime accelerating solar production. It also intends to ban cars from city centres and strives for free public transport, favouring investment in ‘rail mode’.

The Unitary Democratic Coalition (CDU) – an electoral coalition between Communists and ecologist Greens – rejects green taxation, the concept of user pays and CO2 licensing. Instead, the railway network should be modernized with ‘high-speed connections’ from Lisbon to Porto and the Spanish border. It also advocates a Forest Policy based on traditional ecosystems.

The millennium Animal and Nature party (PAN) – founded in 2009 – wants vegetarian meals at state-sponsored events, prevention of any exploitation of hydrocarbons and the closure of all coal plants by 2023. Furthermore financial benefits for cycling to work, measures to reduce car traffic, restrictions on night air traffic and the suspension of the construction of a new airport.

For the rightwing Christen Democrats (CDS) a Climate Law for carbon neutrality is warranted. The party wishes to materialize an energy transition with transparency in the energy market’. Other objectives include ‘green’ entrepreneurship, full electrification and expansion of the railways.

However, the level of commitment of all six major parties is far too low, argues a group of independent citizens, analysing the elections programs. None of the parties mentions sufficient steps to reach the 96 goals (metas) defined in the Roadmap to Carbon Neutrality.
The PS – with 40 targets – comes first, which is not surprising given that the Roadmap is an initiative of the current socialist government. The CDU closes the peloton with only 13 targets covered. PAN proposes the most CO2 reduction measures and BE is the party that most concretises the actions to achieve carbon neutrality.

The polls suggest António Costa’s Socialist party will win but fall short of an absolute majority in parliament.
If the climate were to choose, it would be a coalition of the Socialist party and the Left Bloc or the PAN- which is less ideologically fixed.

Bom fim de semana                Enjoy your weekend            (pic. Público/Sapo)


‘They sat down, lit their cigars, were about to discuss a business deal involving cork or canned fish, we would know for certain except that Ricardo Reis is now leaving’
(José Saramago, 1992. The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis)

Prepared in azeite (olive oil) or tomato sauce, canned fish – the country’s original fast food – is not only cheap but also rich in omega-3, protein and calcium. Sardines account for nearly one-third of canned fish, the remainder includes mackerel, tuna, codfish, eel, octopus and mussels.

Tinned fish has been part of Portugal’s culinary heritage since 1853 when the national canning industry was born. The traditional production process of selecting, cleaning and cooking the fish to individually canning and wrapping the tins – in 90% still done by hand – hasn’t changed much over time. Sardines are processed and canned the day they are caught and age in the can for maximum flavour.

Locals eat it with everything, from bread to salad. For many years tinned fish suffered from a bad reputation as it was considered food for the poor. That has changed. Restaurants across Lisbon now include dishes made with tinned fish on their menus. ‘It has once again become a national icon’, says Victor Vincente, partner of the Can the Can, a restaurant located in Terreiro do Paço.

What started as a method to preserve fish in the mid-1800s has turned into art. Conservas de peixe makes the perfect souvenir, not only for what’s inside but for the art of the can itself. Fish tins can be found adorned in traditional and contemporary artwork.

The Conserveira de Lisboa in downtown’s Baixa is a third-generation family-run grocery store founded in 1930. It looks like an old-fashioned apothecary but its shelves are filled with house-brand labels like Trincana, Prato do Mar and Minor.

None other than the ANICP – Portuguese National Association of Canned Fish Manufactures – is behind the Loja das Conservas, which opened in 2013. There one can find a wide array of canned fish from more than the dozen canning factories spread throughout the country.

On the advice of Europe’s scientific body ICES ( International Council for the Exploration of the Sea), the capture of sardines has been considerably decreased. ‘If we don’t limit the fishing on our Atlantic coast, we won’t have any more sardines within a couple of years’, explains Ana Paula Vitorino, the Portuguese Minister of Fisheries.

Bom fim de semana          Enjoy the weekend          (pic Potter/Eater/Público)