‘The Portuguese history is not just white, Mocambo may not remain forgotten’.

Around 1500 King Manuel I decided to give the monopoly of slave trafficking in the Portuguese empire to Lisbon. For two and a half centuries circa 10% of the population in the capital consisted of black slaves, performing the hardest tasks. In one of the western districts, next to the Tagus river, between Bairro Alto and  Madragoa – the first African neighbourhood of Europe was born.

It was here that many Africans – enslaved or freed – found shelter. Mocambo – a word in Umbundu (one of several Angolan languages ) meaning ‘place of refuge’ – became in the 16th century one of the most populated neighbourhoods in Lisbon. Away from the white Portuguese gaze, the place was essential for African memories and the preservation of social and religious practices (weddings, funerals)  

Those who lived there worked in the maintenance of Lisbon’s public places. Sweepers, water distributors, whitewashers – preserving the houses, monuments, and sidewalks. The black or mulatto women worked as a maid or ran barefoot all over the capital to sell fish or coal.  

It is from the 16th century onwards that the arrival of enslaved Africans gave rise to physical and social rejection (‘black as coal’, ‘smelly, ‘ugly’) An image of the African slave, as inferior, and subordinate was established. For a long time, looking at black people were looked at as an ethnic group that was not worthy of being studied.

In Madragoa – where the Portuguese tradition was born of covering façades with tiles to protect property from the humidity rising from the Tagus – there are still some reminders of slavery. Next to the Santa Catarina church, is the Cruz de Pau (‘Wooden Cross’), the place of punishment inflicted on the enslaved. Rua do Poço dos Negros (‘Black Wells Street’) was the place where King Manuel had a well-built, where the dead bodies of the enslaved were thrown in.

One of the most remarkable moments in Mocambo happened in 1882 when the Queen of CongoDona Maria Amália I – stayed there along with her entourage. She had traveled to Portugal to pay homage to the king of Portugal but it were the ‘amazing’ African festivals in Mocambo, that caught the attention of the newspapers.

At the same time, the descriptions of Mocambo changed from ‘one of the best suburbs of Lisbon’ to a ‘dirty’ place, full of ‘epidemics’. The neighbourhood began to receive more and more fishermen and Africans headed to other parts of the country, especially after slavery was abolished in Portugal in 1773.

Maps from the late 19th century no longer show any reference to Mocambo. All that remains is Casa Mocambo with an African restaurant and an Art Gallery. A stage for African Lisbon where film cycles dedicated to the black community are organized, as well as theatre sessions and concerts by African musicians. ‘We have such a mixed Lisbon and all we talk about is white Lisbon. I want to change that’, explains the owner Mafalda Nunes.

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

We are often accused of being lazy’

Leaving the parental home is considered a milestone in the transition from childhood to adulthood. The reasons behind this step may vary from being materially independent to studying, working, moving in with a partner, getting married, or having children.
Portuguese men and women seem to remain forever young and stay with their parents for quite some time. In fact, making them the oldest to leave home in Europe.

According to Eurostat the average age at which youngsters leave their home in the EU is 26,5 years but varies greatly between member states. Although Portugal (33,6 years) records the highest average age of young people leaving their parents’ home, Sweden has the lowest (19 years). A difference of more than 14 years!

This disparity reflects the various challenges young people face across Europe as well as cultural differences between countries.

On average young women (25,5 years) move out of their parental household some two years earlier than men (27,4 years) and countries where young people leave home at an older age are more likely to have a lower force rate of participation.

For youngsters in Portugal, housing and income are the biggest challenges. The scenario is well known: buying a house is nearly impossible (prices have increased by 50% in the last five years), rents are far too high, wages do not grow at the same pace and there are more and more obstacles to accessing credit. Moreover, inflation is skyrocketing and energy prices increasing by the day.

Sociologist Lia Pappamikail believes that living with parents should not be perceived as a negative thing.
‘The two things can be reconciled: I can be perfectly independent and live at home with my parents. This does not mean that I am not autonomous; it means that I can do what I want and also have the resources to do it’

However, this does not apply to everyone explains Ana Lopes, a 26-year-old occupational therapist. ‘We are often accused of being lazy. But in reality, it is the external conditions that make the process of leaving home complicated. I get along very well with my parents but what I really want is my own space, a place to be myself and build my life’.
Susana Peralta, professor of Economics at the Nova School of Business and Economics, agrees with her. ‘We are less free when we live together. You are never as free as when you are alone’.

Enjoy The Week                    Boa Semana                 (pic Público/Sapo)