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Since March 2015, Jews living abroad have the right to obtain the Portuguese nationality if they can prove to be descendants from the Sephardic Jews –  Marranos – who were persecuted and banned from Portugal more than 500 years ago. At that time an estimated 200.000 were imposed to escape the Iberian peninsula and fled to the Ottoman Empire – present-day Turkey – North Africa and a smaller number to France, England and the Netherlands.

In the last four years over 37.000 Jews have applied for a passport. Around 20% succeeded in getting one, allowing them to travel visa-free in the EU. The requests mainly came from Israel and Turkey, but also from Brazil, Argentina, the US and more recently the UK due to Brexit.

The overwhelming majority of applicants from Israel are between 20 and 45 years old. ‘Many ask for it in view of their children – so that these can study in Europe – others for emotional reasons as if looking for a certain justice to be done’, declares Ruth Calvão, president of the Jewish Study Centre.
‘In the case of Turkey, the country’s political instability is important. People there no longer feel safe as Jews. If there is an opportunity to obtain a European passport, they go for it.’

Descendants to Muslims expelled from Portugal in 1496 now also want to be included in the amnesty, that has seen thousands of Sephardic Jews from all over the world reclaim their Portuguese nationality.

‘If there is a community of Muslims who have documents that prove they descend from Portuguese expelled, they should have the same right’, says David Munir, leader of the Lisbon mosque. ‘Indeed, it’s a question of equity and justice’, declares historian Filomena Barros from the Évora University in the newspaper Expresso.

Many of the expelled Jews have maintained the Portuguese language (or Ladino, a merger of Castilian and Portuguese), the religious and food rites of Jewish worship in Portugal and preserved family surnames, records, objects kept for generations and documents proving their Portuguese origin.

Muslims haven’t. They have instead been assimilated into North African populations at which it is difficult to prove whose family came from Portugal and whose not.

Aproveite a semana                    Enjoy the week                    (pic Público)

Coexistence

‘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)