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)