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May5

The language in which the Portuguese Nobel Prize winner José Saramago wrote, the Cape Verdean Cesária Évora sang, the Brazilian Chico Barque used to sing and the Mozambican Mia Couto continues to write.

In 2019, UNESCO officially proclaimed May 5th as ‘World Portuguese Language Day. With more than 260 million speakers over five continents (200 million in Brazil only), Portuguese ranks fifth – after Chinese, English, Spanish, and Hindustani – among world languages in number of native speakers.


It is also the fifth most used language on the Internet and the fourth most used on Facebook.
Portuguese can still be heard on the streets in Goa (India), Malacca (Malaysia), and Macau (China) as a reminder of the Portuguese Discoveries in the 15th century.
Someone who speaks Portuguese is called a Lusophone.


Spoken by 3,7% of the world population, Portuguese is the official language of the nine member countries of the Community of Portuguese Language Countries (CPLP) – comprising Portugal, Brazil, Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea Bissau, Equatorial Guinea, Mozambique, São Tomé Príncipe and Timor East – an intergovernmental organization created in 1996.

Mainly due to the expected population growth in Africa, the United Nations estimates that in less than 30 years, the Portuguese language is to be spoken by some 400 million speakers worldwide. 


Originating from Latin – from which it involved into Galician-Portuguese – the language that would become Portuguese, began to be spoken in the Northwest Iberian Peninsula around the 6th century. From the 11th century onwards it expanded with the Christian reconquest to the South, at the same time influenced by Arabic from which many words derive. Especially the ones beginning with ‘al’ – like aldeia (village), alfândega (customs), or almofada (pillow).

The testament of the country’s third king Dom Afonso II – dated June 17, 1214 – is considered to be the oldest written text in Portuguese.
It marks the beginning of the period of ancient Portuguese that would last until the publication in 1572 of the first book in modern Portuguese, The Lusiads, Portugal’s national epic by Luis Camões.


Unlike English, Portuguese is binary, meaning that it only contains masculine and feminine gender in its words. Adjectives vary in gender, as do the articles that precede them.
The verb conjugation in Portuguese is usually classified as irregular, and for each person, a different verb conjugation is used.


The Portuguese of Brazil differs from that of Portugal. At the initiative of Brazil the last orthographic reform – aiming to unify the way of writing in all CPLP countries – was made mandatory in 2010, as the simplified spelling was still far from being applied everywhere, especially in Portugal.  



Enjoy your week                             Aproveite a semana               (pic Lusa)









 







Flag


Historically, flags were used for identification in battles.
The oldest national flag is Denmark’s 13th-century flag with its white cross on a red background. The legend goes that it was sent from Heaven to help the army during the Battle of Lyndanisse in 1219.
It inspired the cross design of the other Scandinavian countries – Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Iceland.


Most national flags portray the country’s history, beliefs, and strengths. They are used to show unity and pride, clearly evident during a state visit or international sports events.
 

The color red represents struggle, courage, and bloodshed whereas green depicts prosperity, hope, and agriculture. White signifies peace, purity, and harmony while blue is for good fortune, determination and liberation. Orange stands for sacrifice, courage, and selflessness, and yellow for wealth and energy. 


Portugal’s flag (Bandeira de Portugal) has evolved since the Kingdom of Portugal was formed in 1139.
After the Republican revolution in 1910, the royal colors blue and white and the crown – symbols of the monarchy – had to be substituted.




The painter Columbano Bordalo Pinheiro – brother of the famous ceramist Rafael Bordalo – was tasked with the new design. He chose the colors of the Portuguese Republican Party, representing the hope of the nation (green) and the blood of those defending it (red).



The country’s coat of arms in the center remained as it had been present on most of Portugal’s preceding flags. The five blue emblems on the shield – displayed as a Christian cross – are a reminder of the five Moorish kings (from Seville, Badajoz, Elvas, Evora, and Beja) defeated by Portugal’s first king Afonso Henriques in the 1139 Battle of Ourique.



The five white coins within each emblem represent Christ’s five crucifixion wounds. The seven castles around the emblems symbolize the enemy fortresses  King Afonso captured during the conquest of Portugal’s most southern part – the Algarve – in 1249.  



The flag of the Netherlands is the oldest tricolor. As a state flag, it first appeared around 1572 in orange, white, and blue as used by Prince William of Orange but from 1630 the red-white-blue version became the national symbol. The Dutch tricolor has inspired many flags most notably those of Russia, New York City (New Amsterdam), and Slavic states such as Slovakia, Serbia, and Slovenia.



The best-known flag in the world today is probably the Ukrainian blue and yellow bicolor. The blue on top represents the sky and the yellow stripe stands for fertile land. It was officially adopted as a state flag after World War I by the Ukrainian People’s Republic, outlawed when Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union, and restored in September 1991, following Ukrainian independence.
The Uranian flag, not only stands for national pride and sovereignty but also for international solidarity with its people.



Enjoy the week                                                          Aproveite a semana




















Majority

Absolute majority doesn’t mean absolute power’ (António Costa)

Against all odds, Portugal’s centre-left Socialists won a straight parliamentary majority in last week’s general election, securing a strong new mandate for Prime Minister António Costa. It is for the first time the Socialists have won an absolute majority after six years in power. This means the country will have a stable government to oversee the application of the EU pandemic recovery package of 16.6 billion euros.


The striking victory didn’t remain unnoticed abroad as was highlighted in the international press headlines.

 ‘Socialists win surprise outright majority (Guardian)
‘Antonio Costa, the shrewd negotiator’ (El País)
‘Prime Minister with few obstacles and more longevity’ (El Mundo)
‘António Costa builds its legend’ (La Vanguardia)
‘The indestructible socialist, who united the left’ (El Español)
‘António Costa’s revenge’ (Le Monde)
‘Portugal promotes the Costa model’ (La Republica)
‘An overwhelming majority, animosity with Chega’ (Folha de São Paulo)
Portugal’s Socialists win an Outright Majority in Parliament (New York Times)
‘António Costa’s impressive victory’ (Politico)

The Socialist Party (PS) smashed its former far-left allies, the Left Bloc (BE) and the Communists (PCP) both losing more than half of their seats in parliament. The centre-right fared barely better. The second-largest Social-Democratic Party (PSD) gathered only 30% of the vote (against the Socialists’ around 42%).
The People and Nature party (PAN) lost three of its four MP’s and the Christian Democrats (CDS) lost all its five MP’s in parliament, including its leader. 


Despite the coronavirus pandemic, turnout was on track to beat 2019’s record low participation of 49%.


But the election results also showed a less pleasant surprise.
The far-right Chega (Enough) emerged as the third-largest parliamentary force, making a big leap from just one MP to 12 in the 230-seat parliament.



Costa – PM since 2015 – has won plaudits for turning around the country’s 2011-2014 debt crisis, reversing unpopular austerity measures, decreasing the budget deficit, and overseeing one of the most successful Covid vaccination programs in Europe. Still, Portugal remains western Europe’s poorest country. His biggest challenge will therefore be to promote economic growth.


The PM declared in his victory speech: ‘An absolute majority doesn’t mean absolute power. It doesn’t mean to govern alone but to govern with and for all Portuguese’.
But there is also a warning. The last time the Socialists had an absolute majority was with José Socrates in 2005 and that administration was marked by corruption and authoritarianism.



Enjoy your week    —      Tenha uma semana fixe        (pic Público/Sapo)







Kapok tree

Cascais, Portugal

Carnage

540 wild animals shot – a super record, the hunters said

Just before Christmas, on December 17, over 540 deer and wild boar were brutally slaughtered by 16 Spanish hunters in a walled estate in Azambuja to make way for a gigantic solar energy park with an investment of 170 million euros.

‘It was a massacre’ declared Silvino Lúcio, vice-president of the Azambuja town council. ‘This can’t be called a hunt. Those animals had no way of escape as they were confined within the property walls.’

The hunt was organized at the Quinta (walled estate) Torre Bela by the Spanish organisation Hunting Spain Portugal Monteros de la Cabra, that yearly organises hunts in Spain and Portugal.

A shocked minister of environment Joao Pedro Matos Fernandes immediately withdraw Torre Bela’s hunting licence, stating that the organizers, the owners and possibly the hunters who took part, will most probably be prosecuted by the Public Ministry.’

In a joint statement, various environmental organizations called on the minister not only to implement his decision to review the hunting law but to also solve the inexistence of proper inspection to prevent crimes against nature.


An outraged political party PAN – Party for Animals and Nature – wondered in despair, how it was possible that no official public entity had received any forewarning about the indiscriminate hunt in the ancient estate.

It is unclear whether the bloody incident will affect the installation of 650.000 solar panels at the estate, an area described by the local paper Valor Local in September as ‘forest and agricultural land equivalent to 775 football pitches.’

Pending the investigation by the Public Ministry, the government has instructed APA – the Portuguese environment agency – to immediately suspend its evaluation of the environmental impact study for the solar project and start a thorough investigation into the facts.

Some days after the culling hit the headlines, the owners of the estate issued a statement – through their spokesmen – that they had absolutely nothing to do with the hunt and had heard about the barbarity only through the media.

Journalists’ attempts to discover the identity of the owners have raised questions. There are rumours that the real owner is Isabel dos Santos – the former first daughter of Angola – now immersed in the Luanda Leaks scandal. In fact, nobody seems to know for sure. The only thing clear is that whoever owns Torre Bela prefers to stay anonymous.

Stay healthy                          Fique saudável             (pic Públic/EsqNet)








Unsustainable

Portugal’s brittle healthcare system is under growing pressure due to an unprecedented rise in coronavirus infections as a result of a relaxation of the measures during Christmas.

Even after a stricter lockdown was put in place on the 15th of January, the number of new cases continued to rise to over 1000 per 100.000 inhabitants. Nearly double that in hard-hit Spain and three times as much as in the Netherlands. This week’s increase is even the biggest in the world!

The health system – which prior to the pandemic had the lowest number of critical care beds per 100.000 inhabitants in Europe – can accommodate a maximum number of 675 Covid patients in ICUs. Currently, more than 95% of the ICU beds are occupied and a further increase in the number of patients is expected over the coming weeks.

‘The impact in hospitals is huge because the number of beds doesn’t increase, the walls are not expandable and health workers are not multiplying’ declared Antonio Pais de Lacerda, a doctor at Lisbon’s biggest hospital Santa Maria.

It is predicted that as many people will die in the next two months as in the last ten and that daily case numbers will not drop before February. Media images of ambulances with patients queuing outside major hospitals in Lisbon waiting for beds, raise fears whether the National Health System (SNS) is on the verge of collapse.

At a recent Infarmed meeting – where government hears the opinion of experts – it was estimated that it will take at least two months for the country to return to pre-Christmas levels. The feeling also was that testing – currently around 47,000 tests a day with around 18% positive results – should be increased, especially in old people’s homes.

With a daily death toll reaching a record high of 218 – one death every seven minutes – and 10.455 new cases, the authorities desperately try to put a lid on the spread of infections. In a country just over 10 million already over 9000 people have died since the start of the pandemic.

In view of the unacceptable rise in the number of cases and deaths, Prime Minister António Costa issued – just 3 days after a stricter lockdown was put in place – even tougher restrictions, similar to the ones during the lockdown of March/April last year. Schools, however, will remain open, much to the dislike of the Ordem dos Médicos, that has called for an immediate closure to save lives.  

It will be clear that protection of the elderly has failed and that until a successful roll-out of the vaccination programme is in place, tension will prevail.

Stay healthy                          Fique saudável             (pic Público/Expresso)


Mains

Traditional food is based on fish, seafood or pork with lots of olive oil.

Bacalhau is the undisputed National dish, especially on Christmas Eve when 4 to 5 thousand tons of Norwegian cod is devoured.
Cod became prominent during the Discovery Era because it could be stored for longer periods. You can see and smell the large hard chunks in shops, where a small saw is often used to cut the fish. Salted cod is primarily soaked for at least 24 hours in water before cooking, grilling, frying, or braising

Popular dishes are cod baked with cream (bacalhau com natas), stir-fried with shredded potato, eggs, and onions (bacalhau à brás) and cod with chicken peas (meia-desfeita).
Meia-desfeita (‘half-undone’) stems from the times when one used to order only half the dish.

Arroz de marisco consists of rice, monkfish, and seafood like prawns, mussels, squid, or clams and is usually seasoned with fresh herbs and white wine. Unlike the Spanish paella, it is not fried and often described as a thick rice stew.

Polvo à Lagareiro is made in the style of Lagareiro. In this case, the octopus is boiled, then cut into pieces, grilled, and brushed with extra virgin olive oil. The dish is dressed with a combination of garlic, coriander, lemon juice, and salt, served with small roasted potatoes with their skin intact and lots of olive oil.

Cataplana de marisco refers to a popular fish- or seafood dish sharing the same name as the clam-shaped copper pan in which it is prepared. The Moors introduced the dish which usually includes white fish, shellfish, red peppers, onions, and a bit of chili.


Alheira is a smoked sausage typically made with various types of meat, bread, garlic, olive oil, and paprika. It is believed to be invented during the Inquisition by Portuguese Jews. To disguise as Christians they started producing pork-like sausages but would replace the traditional pork with poultry and game.


Feijoada à portuguesa is a hearty bean stew originating in the north of the country before it was introduced in Brazil, where it is considered the National dish. It is made with red kidney or white beans and usually includes pork (ears, foot), morcela (blood sausage), or chouriço.

Iscas com elas are thin strips of cow’s liver, sautéed in wine and garlic. They’re served with boiled potatoes (referred to as elas – meaning them). The dish was brought to the country by the Galicians, who arrived in the 18th century to work in, and later own restaurants and cafés.


Cozido à portuguesa is a rustic stew for meat lovers. It usually consists of beef, pork, chicken, and smoked sausages, such as morcela, chouriço, or alheira. It might also contain other bits of animal-like pig’s ear or foot – and potatoes, cabbage, or carrots. All the ingredients are cooked together in a single pot with different items added at different times.



Boas Festas        Stay Healthy      (pic tasteatlas/roads&kingdoms/sapo)










Recovery

Before the pandemic, the Portuguese economy grew at a faster pace than the eurozone and the country ranked 28 on the list of wealthiest nations, despite its low rates in advanced education (50% of the population has only primary education; the highest percentage in Europe!) and average income (807 euro/month).

When the Chinese president Xi Jinping visited Portugal 18 months ago, the country willingly signed a multitude of cooperation agreements. At that time the socialist minority administration felt positive about the so-called ‘new Silk Route’.

In the meantime, its ‘golden visa program’ had opened the floodgates to Chinese buying up all sorts of property, banks, hotels and insurance companies.

But the tide has turned. The current public health crisis will drive a contraction in real GDP, and the long-lasting impact of the coronavirus on tourism will prevent a quick recovery in 2021.

An important economic lesson learnt, is to reduce dependence on imports from China. ‘This is the moment for Portugal to return to producing much of what we have been habitually importing’, Prime Minister António Costa declared.

To support the economy and prevent a debt crisis, Portugal can get 26.361 billion euros – 15.526 billion in grants and 10.835 billion in loans – from the European Economic Recovery Fund.

In order to access these funds, the country has to commit to the implementation of a reform plan program approved by the European Commission and the majority of the EU Council.


The government intends to use these assets to decarbonize the economy and reduce the imports of natural gas by developing an industry around hydrogen.
A European hub of ‘green energy’ (so-called because it is produced from renewable energy) close to Sines, one of the country’s major ports.

Sines is the perfect choice with its coal and oil-fired plants being disabled, and the network of existing gas pipelines 70% ready to distribute hydrogen. ‘Green hydrogen will be very cheap to produce and boost qualified employment’, says João Pedro MatosFernandes, the Minister for the Environment and Energetic transition  

Another strategy to overcome the economic crisis caused by the pandemic, is to transform the country into ‘a cluster of industrialisation’, explains Minister of Foreign Affairs Augusto Santos Silva. ‘Portugal wants to be at Europe’s reindustrialisation forefront. We are talking here about textiles, clothing, shoes but also engineering, pharmaceuticals and agrifoods’.

He stressed that the country has important assets it can use like, qualified human resources, low wages, technology, quality of services and dominance in renewable energies.

Stay healthy        Fique saudavel            (pic Público/Sapo)














Boas-Festas-3

Climate-proof

‘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)