In 2001, under the leadership of former prime minister António Guterres – nowadays UN’s Secretary-General – Portugal became the first country to decriminalize the possession and consumption of drugs.

Twenty years later, the first controlled drug consumption room – also known as the ‘chuto’ (shot) room – opened in Lisbon. In six months nearly 900 drug addicts – 200 of whom attend the premises daily – were registered, three times as much as expected!

‘These numbers were surprising because we had initially assumed that around 300 consumers would circulate in this neighborhood”, says Elsa Belo, technical director of Ares do Pinhal, an association dedicated to the recovery of drug addicts and manager of the premises, located in the Vale de Alcântara area. ‘Users come here to smoke or inject drugs under the supervision of a health team, who provide them with sterilized material and help them in case of an ‘overdose’.

Reducing damage is important. On the one hand by the distribution of aseptic material to prevent disease transmission and on the other by supervised consumption. ‘It is these conditions and the acceptance without judgment, that make you return’, says a 47-year-old user. I feel very safe and comfortable here’.

Most users are men (85%), one third are homeless. The average age is 44 years (range 20-70). In three out of four cases drugs are inhaled. After consumers enter the space for the first time, the health team begins a process of rapprochement, that may lead to screening tests (HIV, hepatitis, tuberculosis) or simple nursing procedures (e.g. changing dressings).

As soon as you pass through the main entrance there is café Conforto, where you can watch TV, have a coffee, and keep your pets. There are also changing rooms, laundry services, a cloth bank, and areas for psychosocial care and clinic consultations. Besides users, there are also homeless visitors, who only come to take a shower, wash their clothes or look for a dignified place to eat.

Upon entering the consumption room, the nurse asks what drug is going to be used, what drugs are taken in the last 24 hours, and what regular medication users are on (e.g. methadone).

‘The room is always full’, explains Inês Pereira, a psychologist, who together with a nurse monitors consumption from a glass space from which they observe who is smoking drugs, on one side, and who is injecting, on the other. All the material used by consumers is provided within the space and substances they bring from the street are registered.

There can be up to 10 people in the two rooms at the same time. Users have 30 minutes to inject, 40 minutes to smoke, and another 20 minutes to ‘recover’.

Control of the type and quality of substances that users are going to take is not yet being carried out, but Ares do Pinhal is finalizing a protocol on this. A necessary move considering for instance the continuous increase in cannabis potency (i.e. the percentage of THC – the psychotropic component of the plant) in the last couple of years, increasing the risk of psychotic effects.

In view of its success, the City Council plans the construction of a second supervised consumption room this year in Lumiar, close to the Cruz Vermelha neighborhood.

Enjoy your week          Aproveite a sua semana                (pic Sapo/Públic)


God created the black and white man; the Portuguese the mulatto (Anonymous)

It is often said that Portugal is not a racist country, despite enormous structural inequalities and decades of documented discrimination. All over the country, you can find monuments and statues dedicated to navigators – glorifying the epic 15th to 17th-century discoveries; crusading missionaries – converting indigenous people to Catholicism, and soldiers – fighting colonial wars in the 20th century against African independence.

But until now there has never been a memorial to Portugal’s pioneering role in the transatlantic slave trade nor any acknowledgment of the close to 6 million lives stolen until the 1960s when the country was still using de-facto slave labor in its colonies.

The forthcoming Memorial-Homage to the Victims of Slavery in Lisbon by Angola’s most successful contemporary artist – Kiluanji Kia Henda – will be the first of its kind. The installation – due to be unveiled at the Campo das Cebolas this spring – features 540 three-meter-high aluminum sugar canes, set five feet apart and painted in black. The artwork refers to the cold economic rationale that drove the lucrative slave trade.

Most of the Black population in Portugal today are immigrants and their descendants from the former Portuguese African colonies – Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea Bissau, Mozambique, and São Tomé Principe – holding in their memories and histories a very different version of Portugal’s famous past.

‘Our history is full of blanks on how Africans have been portrayed, declares Christina Roldão, a sociologist researching the histories of Black women in Portugal since the 16th century. ‘It is important to know how Black people lived, not only for the Black population today but for everyone else in Portugal’.

It is of note that the memorial is not an initiative of the Portuguese government, but of the Djass Afro-descendent Association, an NGO founded by the Portuguese MP Beatriz Gomes Dias.

Interesting as well is the fact that the memorial’s artist comes from Angola, the country that suffered the most catastrophic loss of lives during the Portuguese slave trade. By the 19th century, Angola had become the largest source of enslaved people taken to the Americas, in particular to the sugar plantations in Brazil.

The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights – recently stressed that Portugal should do more to confront its colonial past and role in the transatlantic slave trade in order to help fight the increasing racial discrimination and xenophobia in the country.

The Council also expressed concern at the rise in racist rhetoric in political discourse, singling out the far-right Chega (‘Enough’) party, whose sole MP Andre Ventura keeps making derogatory remarks against ethnic minorities.

Initiated by Black Portuguese and conceptualised by an African artist, ‘the slavery memorial will finally bring a visual counter-narrative against the supposed absence of racism and lack of racial prejudice in the Portuguese’, concludes Marcos Cardão, a historian of Portuguese culture and identity.

Stay healthy                          Fique saudável             (pic Público/EsqNet)


Lisbon and Porto – the country’s two largest cities – are rivals.
Not equivalent or complementary, much less comparable.

Fernando Lemos (1926-2019) – artist, photographer, painter and poet expressed it his way.

‘I am from Porto but I am a Lisboeta. More than Portuguese, I am a Lisboeta.
I think Lisbon is the place from where to leave and Porto the place to stay. Porto has everything to live in.
In Lisbon one does not reside. Lisbon is a place to start from. And, over time, has expanded and become a place of offices, almost without homes.
Porto is an excellent place to live in. The construction, its physical form – regardless its architecture – gives distinction to the residencies, the love of living. Our home is our stage, the place where we live and express our life. Lisbon doesn’t have much of that, because everyone leaves.

Lisbon is full of first and second and third and ninth opportunities. In Lisbon everything is possible. Lisbon is full of people by day – giving way to different people at night – and people who renew themselves constantly. Those who dream of great achievements arrive into Lisbon every day. Ex-dreamers leave Lisbon, crushed by the city’s impatience. And amidst these people – who come and go – we discover resistant people, who teach us the defence techniques to resist the city’s blows. Black belts of friendship, experts in making their followers feel welcome to Lisbon. In them we find company, support and distraction. The Lisbon that seemed hostile becomes a Lisbon available to us.

I was shaped in Porto but defined in Lisbon.’

Stay safe                                                                      Fique saudável


‘Ik heb een koper voor je’, schreeuwt de makelaar opgewonden door de telefoon als we op een zonnige najaarsmiddag vanuit São João do Estoril over de N6 naar Lissabon terugrijden. Een koel briesje glijdt de open ramen van de hoogbejaarde Landcruiser binnen.
‘Jullie moeten wel binnen 24 uur beslissen want de kopers hebben ook andere appartementen op het oog en de deal moet in verband met de Brexit binnen twee weken rond zijn’.
De weg meandert langs een fonkelende groene zee, die in de verte geruisloos samensmelt met een strakblauwe lucht.
‘Ik zou jullie willen adviseren op hun bod in te gaan. Ze bieden weliswaar minder dan de vraagprijs maar een beter aanbod hebben jullie dit jaar nog niet gehad’.
In de brede monding van de Taag liggen vrachtschepen als reusachtige nijlpaarden op broodnodige lading te wachten.
‘Het zijn Schotten, die in Hong Kong wonen en voor hun twee zonen, die in de Filipijnen studeren, een huis met paspoort in Portugal willen kopen’.
Het zandkleurige Cultureel Centrum van Belém schittert als een fata morgana in de ondergaande avondzon. Hoog boven de 25ste April brug zet een rij vliegtuigen hun daling naar de stad in.
‘De koper heeft met Google Translate in de notulen van de Vereniging van Eigenaren gelezen dat een bewoonster over mieren heeft geklaagd. Kan de verkoper garanderen dat het geen termieten zijn die het gebouw ondermijnen?’
Thuis in de tuin is het heerlijk koel nu de zon definitief achter de heuvels van de stad verdwenen is.
‘De koper kan geen voorschot geven omdat zijn advocaat er niet slaagt een buitenlandse rekening voor zijn zonen te openen.’
De overrijpe citroenen in de schaduw van de bananenplant dreigen zich verontwaardigd uit hun boom te laten vallen als ze niet meteen geplukt worden.
‘De koper heeft in de notulen gelezen dat de bewoonster al geruime tijd haar maandlasten niet betaald heeft’.
Het eenjarige sinaasappelboompje laat verlegen haar eerste vruchten zien.
‘Kan de verkoper garanderen dat ze niet door de andere bewoners gemanipuleerd wordt en haar maandlasten niet hoeft te betalen zolang ze maar volhoudt dat de termieten in haar huis gewoon mieren zijn? ’

De Passievrucht op het dak van het tuinhuisje is in hevige discussie met de Bougainville over wie de achterwand van het tuinhuis mag bedekken.
‘De koper zegt dat zijn zonen nu een buitenlandse rekening in Portugal hebben maar dat het geld nog niet gearriveerd is.
De Toscaanse jasmijn laat de Passievrucht en de Bougainville weten dat zij zich niet met de begroeiing van de achterwand zal bemoeien, zolang de zijwanden maar voor haar blijven.
‘De koper deelt mee dat de internationale geldhandel ernstig leidt onder het Kerstreces maar denkt dat na de feestdagen de koop kan worden gesloten.’
De Bougainville heeft de strijd met de Passievrucht over de begroeiing van de achterkant van het tuinhuis opgegeven en zijn blad laten vallen.
‘De koper beweert dat het geld nu in Portugal is maar dat de Portugese ambassade in Manilla geen tekenbevoegdheid voor zijn zonen kan afgeven en hen doorverwezen heeft naar Macau’.
Vlak naast het tuinhuis is onenigheid ontstaan tussen de Papajaboom en de Bougainville over het laatste stukje vrije muur.
‘De koper mailt dat zijn zonen er niet in geslaagd zijn de Portugese ambassade in Macau te bereiken in verband met een vulkaanuitbarsting in de regio’.
De klimop heeft al laten weten dat hij zich door het geruzie tussen de Papajaboom en Bougainville niet van zijn kerntaak zal laten afhouden, namelijk muren bedekken.
‘De koper geeft aan dat een gewaarmerkte tekenbevoegdheid uit Macau met DHL onderweg is en het koopcontract kan worden getekend’.
De Brexit wordt definitief een feit en in de tuin ruikt het voorzichtig naar jasmijn.


‘Olá Pedro, wat ben jij mooi afgevallen, gefeliciteerd!’, lispelt de zwaarlijvige, naar adem happende Dona Maria Filomena Chuva da Souza Pinto tegen een in het gangpad hangende dikzak, terwijl ze in het voorbijgaan even zijn spierwitte – in een veel een te kort broekje gestoken – bovenbeen beroert, waarna ze steunend haar weg naar het podium in het Auditório Camões vervolgt om daar met een luide zucht tussen haar mede bestuursleden neer te ploffen en als voorzitter bijna drie kwartier te laat met een forse hamerslag de vergadering te openen.
‘Dank je Maria, we doen ons best’ mompelt Pedro, met tegenzin zijn ogen afwendend van de opvallend forse billen van een graatmagere buurtbewoonster, die voor in de zaal staat te wiebelen om daar – zodra ze de kans krijgt – haar grieven over het in haar ogen compleet falende wijkbestuur in de microfoon uit te storten. Een kortharige, in roomwitte overall gestoken afgevaardigde van de sociaaldemocratische PSD is haar echter te vlug af. ‘Op de eerste plaats wil ik het voltallige bestuur feliciteren met het elektrische vuilniskarretje, dat onze buurt sinds kort rijk is. Ik maak me echter zorgen over het grote aantal ratten in de Rua Zaire en het feit dat het huisvuil deze zomer zo lang is blijven liggen.’ Nog voor ze verder kan, wordt ze bruusk onderbroken door de vinnige woordvoerster van de communistische PCP, die de tafel toebijt. ‘Over zomer gesproken. Waarom is het zwembad eigenlijk nog gesloten? Onze kinderen kunnen niet eens schoolzwemmen?’ Het blijkt het begin van een ellenlange tirade, minstens zo lang als de tot haar middel hangende muisgrijze paardenstaart. De bestuursleden trekken hierop en masse hun smartphones, waarop ineens erg veel interessantere berichten blijken te staan. De voorzitter reageert op het communistisch geweld door met haar balpen onder luid gekraak een zak chips te openen en de inhoud ervan – geholpen door de nog openstaande microfoon – duidelijk hoorbaar met de zaal te delen.
‘Moet er niet gewoon een nieuw schoolgebouw komen?’, vraagt de licht zwetende in pak en das gestoken vertegenwoordiger van de christendemocratische CDS. ‘Deze zomer heb ik hoogstpersoonlijk onze school bezocht. De vloeren zijn rot, er kan geen raam meer fatsoenlijk open en het dak lekt nog erger dan het zwembad!’ Hij was bijna anderhalf uur te laat het buurtoverleg binnen geslopen en kon zich dus geen uitvoerig betoog veroorloven. De voorzitter likt het zout van haar lippen en antwoordt fijntjes, dat zowel de problemen met het zwembad en die van de school te groot voor de wijkraad zijn en dus bij het centrale stadsbestuur thuishoren.
‘En als er verder geen dringende zaken meer zijn, wil ik u nu vragen om allen te gaan staan en – op verzoek van de communistische partij –1 minuut stilte in acht te nemen ter nagedachtenis aan Carlos Pereira, buurtbewoner en activist van het eerste uur, die afgelopen maand op 81-jarige leeftijd is overleden.’
Op het moment dat de aanwezigen uit hun stoel omhoog komen, verlaat de christendemocratische afgevaardigde alweer hoofdschuddend de zaal.


85% of all waste found on beaches in the world is plastic.

Disposable cutlery (plastic plates, cups, forks, and knives) should be forbidden in the catering industry if it is up to Portugal’s left-wing parties.

A draft legislation thereupon was submitted in July 2017 and discussed in Parliament early this year. Heloísa Apolónia – MP of the Ecological and Green Party (PEV) – explains ‘our proposal is to ban the use of plastic disposables in restaurants and bars and to look for biodegradable substitutes within 3 years.’

The director of the Hotel and Restaurant branch organization AHRESP, Jose Manuel Esteves, is not happy with the proposition and has more confidence in recycling. ‘This idea doesn’t make sense at all. If there is one sector that is exemplary for a circular economy, then it is ours.  Besides, the main users of disposables are not restaurants but institutions, hospitals, and public festivals.’

António Fonseca, the president of the Association of Bars in the Historic Center of Porto (ABZHP) – that encourages the legalization of the use of alcohol in public places – believes that the plans are irresponsible in the light of the danger glassware can cause in nightlife.

The MP of the ruling socialist party (PS) Joao Torres agrees with the proposals but doubts if a timetable of 3 years is realistic. He is more in favor of a ‘gradual implementation to enable the industry to develop sustainable alternatives’. The socialist government has therefore set up a working group and intends to present a bill on the matter in May.

To mobilize the public opinion, the Party for Animals and Nature (PAN) has written an open letter to Al Gore – former US vice-president and author of the documentary Inconvenient Truth – to involve him in their campaign in the social media to reduce plastic cutlery in Portugal (#AlGoreReplytoPan).

‘We have written this letter given his engagement in the pollution of our oceans – where the ‘plastic soup’ has meanwhile reached a size that is equivalent to 17 times the surface of Portugal – declares Andre Silva, MP of PAN. ‘The problem is too big to wait because in 10 to 20 years there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans and microplastics (from cosmetics and cleaning agents) will not only have killed the fish but also entered our bodies via the food chain.’

The non-profit environment organization Quercus recently challenged the Portuguese not to use disposable plastic products for the next 40 days (#40diassemplastico), at least until Easter.

Bom fim de semana                                                  Have a great weekend





‘The question is not whether another major earthquake will take place but when.’

On January 15 at 11.15 am, the population of Arraiolos – some 120 km east of Lisbon – was startled by an earthquake with a magnitude of 4.9 on the Richter scale. There were no casualties and the damage was limited to a few cracks.

‘This earthquake can be considered as moderately severe’, says Fernando Carrilho, chief seismologist at the IPMA (Portuguese Institute of the Sea and Atmosphere). ‘People shouldn’t worry too much as the southern part of the country has always been seismic active.’

‘It has to do with earth crust activity, where 2 tectonic plates are pushing against each other over the last thousands of years’, explains Pedro Cunha, a geologist at the University of Coimbra. ‘The African plate moves to the northwest and lifts the Iberian plate, that is moving to the east. So, the question is not whether a major earthquake will take place but when. Unfortunately, nobody can – despite all our sophisticated measuring devices – predict the latter.’

‘Preventive measures are warranted’, especially in the densely populated areas in the south – like Lisbon and the Algarve – that are most at risk’, says Daniel Oliveira, a civil engineer at the University of Minho. ‘Although a law from 1958 requires earthquake-proof construction, most buildings in the historic capital date from before that time and there is hardly any monitoring of the implementation of the law.’

Over the past 500 years, Portugal has suffered four major earthquakes – in 1531, 1755, 1909 and 1969 – with a magnitude of 6 or more on the Richter scale. The biggest and by far most tragic one was in 1755. With a magnitude of 9 on the Richter scale, it developed apocalyptic proportions and completely wiped out the lower part of the capital. This earthquake (terramoto) inspired poets, influenced philosophers, activated prophets and motivated politicians – like the Marquis of Pombal – to a completely new architectural reconstruction of the Baixa, Lisbon’s city center.

The last severe earthquake was in 1969. Although it had a force of 7.9, the damage was limited as its epicenter was 250 km away from Lisbon. ‘The bigger the distance, the less harm’, says Maria Baptista of the Geophysical Center at the University of Lisbon.

In memory of Portugal’s main natural disaster, the City Council has recently approved plans to build – in collaboration with the private company Turicultur  ( Tourism and Culture in Portugal) – within two years an earthquake museum (Museu do Terramoto) in Belem.

Bom fim de semana                                               Have a great weekend




 49  Rua de Xabegras


  November  4 – 26



‘Everywhere you go it’s buzzing and electric’ – Bloomberg

What do have the Portuguese António Guterres (Secretary-General United Nations), the Yemeni Tawakkol Karman (Nobel Peace Prize laureate), the American Al Gore (former vice-president), the Chinese Meng Hongwei (president of Interpol), the British Suzy Menkes (editor Vogue), the French Francois Hollande (former president), the Russian Garry Kasparov (former world chess champion), the Brazilian Julio Cesar (goalkeeper), the Irish Kenny Jacobs (CMO Ryanair), the Greek George Papandreou (former prime-minister) and the Saudi robot Sophia in common?

They are all speakers on the Web Summit 2017 (November 6-9), Europe’s largest technology and digital culture conference to be held in the Altice/MEO Arena in Lisbon (

In 2016 – when the summit was held in Lisbon for the first time – almost 53,000 people attended, including 20,000 companies and over 2000 journalists from 166 countries ( )

This year the event will be even bigger. Networking and pitches (selling ideas ) are keywords, getting to know each other and looking for investment.
Not only at the conference itself but also at the ‘night summit’ downtown.

But what has actually been the result of Web Summit 2016? Which international companies could be enticed to settle in the country? Which impulses were given to attract startups and young people, that are badly needed for the future of the local economy and the demographic equilibration in an aging population?

It is estimated that the 2016 Summit injected 200 million euros into the national economy.
However, half of it was absorbed by the local hotel industry and suppliers, directly linked to the event.

So, why another summit in Portugal? To promote more tourism? To sell the few digital companies to international investors, losing, even more, local know-how? Or serves the summit as a platform for people, who love to take selfies and posts on social media, saying ‘look at me how I succeeded to enter a place, where a ticket costs nearly € 1000 and industrial hotshots tell us how to gather fortunes?’

Ana Lehman, the Secretary of State for Industry, emphasizes the importance of the event and hopes the summit will remain in Lisbon for some years to come. She disagrees with the criticism. “You have to go there and see for yourself. We know dozens of companies that had contracts closed during the summit.”

BOM FIM DE SEMANA                                                       (photo’s Observador/Sapo)




Lissabon in de 16e eeuw
Multiculturele hoofdstad van een handelsimperium in de Renaissance

Museu National de Arte Antiga ( MNAA), Lissabon

van 23 februari  tot  9 april