Tag Archive for: Portuguese

Em todas as ruas te encontro – On every street I encounter you’
(from: Pena Capital, 1957)

To celebrate the centenary of the birth of Mário Cesariny de Vasconcelos (1923-2006), the country will mark a year of reflection on the work and life of its most famous surrealist poet, activist, and painter.

Last month the festivities reached the capital with a major exhibition O Castelo Surrealista’ (the surrealist castle) at the Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology (MAAT) – until the 18th of February. Some new publications are also in the pipeline as well as a series of lectures, concerts, and performances throughout the country.

At a very young age, Mário Cesariny learned chiseling to continue his father’s trade, goldsmithing. He didn’t like the subject and entered the Lisbon Conservatory (piano major). During the war, he was shown surrealist magazines from Paris by friends and became captivated by those anomalous texts and images.

In the immediate aftermath of the Second World War, he was initially interested in neo-realism, a movement dominated by the Portuguese Communist Party (PCP), that positioned itself as a viable alternative to the official art of the fascist Estado Novo (New State) of Salazar. But he left the movement soon after because of its fidelity to the representation of people in paintings and its stylistic dictates, including the obligatory use of figuration.    

In 1947, he got the chance to spend some time in Paris, where he visited the International Exhibition of Surrealism organized to reinvigorate the surrealist movement that had been on the verge of disappearing during the war. There he met André Breton, the founder and leader of the French surrealists, and later that year founded the Portuguese Surrealist group (Os Surrealistas).

In 1950, his debut poetry collection ‘Corpo visível’ (visible body) was published outside the censorship of Salazar’s dictatorship. He lived in London and Paris, sometimes for longer periods, to be free of the intrusiveness of the PIDE (secret police) as they kept an eye on him because of his homosexuality and political ideas.

‘Surrealism is a way of transforming life and the world’, he used to say.
‘It is one of the two great revolutions of the 20th century, the other is Lenin’s.’

Only in 1961, when the repressive regime had somewhat softened, his poems were published by an established publisher in Portugal. In 1974 – when the Carnation Revolution liberated the country from the fascist terror – he participated in the Poetry International festival in Rotterdam, the Netherlands after which all his work was published and he was able to make trips to Spain, England, the US, and Mexico.

Cesariny was first and foremost a great poet. Public recognition for his pictorial work came later with the EDP Grand Prize for painting in 2002. That same year, a major retrospective exhibition of his paintings and other visual work was held in several Portuguese museums and an oeuvre catalog was published.
But he also was an excellent translator of poetry, translating work from Rimbaud, Novalis, and Breytenbach.

Happy Holidays         Boas Festas                (pic Público/Zucamag)

Most Portuguese pilgrims depart from Porto

The pilgrimage to the north-western city of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia is world-famous. It is believed that the remains of Saint James the Apostle are buried there.

St. James the Great was one of the twelve disciples of Jesus and the first to be martyred. He preached the gospel in Hispania but returned to Judea upon seeing a vision of the Virgin Mary on the bank of the Ebro river. He is the patron saint of Spain.

St. James was called the Great because of his length rather than his importance. He was the brother of John the Apostle. It is said that James and John asked Jesus to grant them seats on his right and left in his glory. Jesus rebuked them by saying the honour was not even for him to grant.

King Herod had St. James beheaded ( AD 44, Jerusalem, Roman Empire) and his remains were later transferred to the place where nowadays the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral stands.

The traditional pilgrimage to the grave of the saint – also known as the Way of St. James – has been the most popular pilgrimage for Western European Catholics from the Early Middle Ages onwards. Rembrandt depicted the saint as a pilgrim in 1661. The feast of St. James is celebrated on July 25, Galicia’s national day.

The most famous starting point is in France.
Caminho Português (the Portuguese Way) is the second-most popular route, starting in Lisbon (about 610 km) or Porto (about 230 km) and passing through characteristic cities and beautiful vineyards.

While starting in Lisbon, pilgrims will walk through Santarém – a medieval town full of Gothic architecture – and Coimbra – holding one of the oldest universities in the world.

From Porto, the route will go through the Vinho Verde vineyards in the Minho region, the city of Barcelos – famous for its Portuguese rooster (Galo de Barcelo) and other pottery items – and cross the Lima river with its ancient Roman bridge.

Porto is the second city from which most pilgrims depart (over 40,000 last year) – after Sarria in Galicia, the most popular town on the French Way – according to statistics from the Cathedral’s Pilgrim Welcome Center.

Pilgrims should make the caminho with their Credential (pilgrims passport) that serves as a record and is stamped by certified people on the way. It entitles to the certificate of completion (Compostelais entitled), that is issued by the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela.

To be eligible for the Compostela, pilgrims must have completed at least 100 km by foot, or 200 km on horseback or bicycle.

Enjoy your week          Approveite a semana            (pic Ptnews/Wikepedia)

‘China is very powerful, with a clear vision. But it’s a secret state’ – Ai Weiwei

The Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei (1957, Beijing) is one of the most influential and creative names in contemporary art.
In 2020 he was elected as the most famous artist by the international journal The Art Newspaper.

His father, Ai Quing (1910-1996) – writer and well-known poet – was in the 60s the object of purges against intellectuals and artists, that Mao declared counter-revolutionaries and enemies of the Communist Party during the Cultural Revolution. 

Weiwei grew up in the far north-west of China, where he lived under harsh conditions, due to his father’s exile to a work camp in the Gobi desert. ‘The farthest place you can find on the map of China’, as he describes it himself.
Upon Mao’s death in 1976 the family returned to Beijing.


As an activist, he openly criticizes the Chinese government’s stance on democracy and human rights.
He was arrested several times and detained in 2011 for 81 days without charge and had his passport confiscated.

After being allowed to leave China in 2015, he subsequently lived in Berlin, Cambridge (UK), and since this year in Portugal.
In Montemor-o-Novo to be precise, in the Alentejo province.

This year he opened his first solo exhibition in Portugal.
Rapture (meaning ecstasy but also abduction) – with 85 pieces his biggest ever – reveals work from the different phases in his life.

For example, photographs taken during the 80’s – when he still lived as an unknown artist in New York. A serpent made of backpacks, symbolizing the more than 5000 children killed in the 2008 earthquake in the Chinese province of Sichuan.

A set of boxes with three-dimensional scenes from the days the artist spent in prison in 2011 and his video film Coronation, about the start of the coronavirus pandemic in the city of Wuhan.

But also works created last year in Portugal with local craftsmen and materials. Such as Pendente, a 10-ton marble toilet paper roll – produced at B Stone – which the artist sees as a symbol of a world struggling to free itself from the pandemic.

Odisseia – the massive tile panel made at the Viúva Lamengo factory – representing the odyssey of refugees around the world and last but not least a statue of the artist himself – brainless and sitting on a chair to which he is handcuffed – made of cork in collaboration with the Corticeira Amorim company.

On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), Weiwei declared that “The one-party system controls the army and the police, there is no freedom of expression and no independent judicial system. The CCP will rule China for a long time, even beyond our imagination.”

Rapture is to be seen until the 28th of November in the Cordoaria Nacional in Lisbon.

Stay healthy                          Fique saudável            (pic Lusolobo)

The only food the Portuguese are more crazy about than fish is soup.

Caldo verde is a thick soup made with thinly-cut strips of Galician kale and potato, and always a lump or two of chorizo floating in it. It is thought to originate from the northern Minho province in the 15th century and goes very well with Broa.

Broa de milho is cornbread consisting of plain flour, cornmeal, yeast, water, milk, sugar, salt, and butter. It is often used for dipping in soups and stews. In the past, broa de milho was considered a poor man’s food but is enjoyed today by all tiers of society.

Açorda is bread soup in numerous varieties. Most have a smooth and thick consistency and contain olive oil, salt, herbs (coriander), garlic, eggs, and boiling water poured over diced bread.

Bolinhos de bacalhau or pasteis de bacalhau are little deep-fried patties of salt-dried cod and potatoes.

Bifana is a sandwich that consists of pork steaks simmered in a garlic sauce and then placed inside a bun. It is suggested to have appeared first in Vendas Novas. When beef instead of pork is used, the snack is called prego. Both are such fast-food classics that Mc Donald’s produces a McBifana and a McPrego for the  Portuguese market.

Sardinhas assadas are synonymous with Portugal. First, the sardines are coated with salt before grilled over a hot charcoal grill. You usually eat them on a simple slice of bread with soaks up the delicious juices. There is even a sardine festival in Lisbon on the 13th of June when the city is filled with smoke.

Caracóis are seasonal and available from May until September. When you see signs saying ‘Há caracóis’ at cafés and restaurants you’ll know they are around. 

Amêijoas à Bulhão Pato is a simple dish named after the 19th-century poet Raimundo António de Bulhão Pato. It combines clams and a flavourful sauce based on olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, white wine, and fresh coriander.

Queijo da Serra is the country’s most famous cheese from the mountainous region of Serra da Estrella. The primary ingredient of this soft and salty cheese is unpasteurized ewes milk to which thistle is added to coagulate the milk.

Pasteis de nata is the famous egg custard tart, originally made around the 18th century by Catholic monks and nuns in Santa Maria de Bélem in Lisbon. The tart was made from leftover egg yolks, used in the starching of nuns’ habits. The owners of the shop Pasteis de Belém – a former sugar refinery next to the Jerónimus Monastery – are said to have acquired the recipe – they still use – in 1837 directly from the monks.

Stay Healthy                         Fique saudavél   (pic tasteatlas/expatica)

‘We can say anything, language has no limits’ – Georg Steiner.

Saudade is a unique word in Portuguese that has no direct translation in English. It means something like a melancholic or nostalgic desire for a person, place or event far away, either in space or time.
Esperto is another example. On the ball, brainy, smart, canny, with-it and intuitive, all help to approximate its meaning. In Brazil, the word can also mean someone who traps or fools others into trouble.

The Portuguese language exists more than 800 years and is spoken by over 260 million people (3,7% of the world population). It is – after Mandarin/Chinese, English, Spanish, Hindustani and Arabic  – the sixth most used language in the world.

Official vernacular in the nine CPLP (Portuguese Language Speaking Community) countries – Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, Guinea Bissau, Equatorial Guinea, Mozambique, Portugal, Sao Tome & Principe and East Timor, in use on virtually every continent and predicted to be spoken by over 380 million people in 2050.

Its expansion is closely linked to the history of the Portuguese Discoveries in the 15th century and still today echoes of Portuguese can be heard in the streets of Goa (India), Malacca (Malaysia) and Macau (China).
Although it was Portugal that expanded the language in the past, nowadays Portuguese-speaking countries like Brazil, Angola and Mozambique are mostly responsible for the growing interest in the Portuguese language.

Originating from Latin – from which it evolved into Galician-Portuguese – the language that would become Portuguese, began to be spoken in the Northwest of the Iberian Peninsula around the 6th century. It was expanded to the South with the Christian reconquest, at the same time influenced by Arabic from which many words derive, such as almofada (pillow), aldeia (village), alface (lettuce), alfândaga (customs) and açafrão (saffron).

The testament of King Afonso II – dated June 17, 1214 – is considered as one of the oldest written documents 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

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) declared in November last year the 5th of May as ‘World Portuguese Language Day’. Unfortunately, the opening celebration could only take place online as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Stay healthy                          Fique saudável            (pic Público/Sapo)

‘My grandparents had five children, three boys, and two girls. They all looked different,’ says Ermelinda – my 64 years old neighbor – when I ask her what actually makes the Portuguese Portuguese.

‘João was the smallest with his 166 cm. Both his hair and eyes were dark brown. Manuel was just about 190 cm. He had black hair and very dark eyes. Ana was also tall, 180 cm but she was blond and had greenish eyes. Cecilia just looked like a Swedish girl, with her blazing blond hair and crystal blue eyes. António had beautiful hazel eyes, his hair was brown too. Now, would you please tell me, who looks the most Portuguese ?’

The ‘typical’ Portuguese doesn’t exist in a country that has been occupied by a great number of civilizations – Phoenicians, Romans, Visigoths, Celts, Swabians, and Arabs.
On top of that, 400 years of slave trade has added black African genes to the population, something the white community here doesn’t like to be reminded off.

According to Manuel Sobrinho Simões – Head of the Pathology and Immunology Department of the University of Porto – Portuguese indeed have a remarkable mixture of genes. ‘If there is something typical of the Portuguese genome pole, then it’s the enormous diversity.’

The country is about twice as big as the Netherlands but has – with 10.3 million – much fewer inhabitants. In the last couple of years, urbanization has increased at the expense of the countryside and the coastal region has become more densely populated, younger and richer.
The two largest cities – Lisbon at the river Tagus and Porto at the river Douro – cover together only 5% of the territory, while 60% of the population and 50% of the industrial companies are located there.

The national territory can – according to the Ministry of Environment – roughly be divided into:

40% forest (pine trees, eucalyptus, cork oak)
30% farmland (agriculture and livestock)
20% urban area (towns, villages, railways, roads)
10% inland water (rivers, lakes, dams)

Over the past 22 years, farmland has decreased with 2000 km² while urbanization increased with 1000 km². During the same period, forestation increased with 2000 km² – an equivalent to about 250.000 football fields!

The bad news is, that this year already three-quarter of the increase has been destroyed by wildfires, including the tragic one in Pedrógão Grande, killing 64 people. And the nightmare hasn’t stopped yet!

(photos Público & Observador)                                                   Bom fim de semana

Portugezen kijken ernstig. Bijna net zoals de vele standbeelden, die in dit land niet van beroemde militairen uit een ver verleden maar van dichters en schrijvers zijn.

Als je een Portugees vraagt hoe het gaat, krijg je vaak als antwoord ‘mais ou menos’ (‘zo-zo’). Dat wil overigens niet zeggen dat hij of zij zich niet goed voelt. Eenmaal wat langer in het land valt aan de melancholische cultuur amper te ontkomen. Geen droefgeestigheid met een verdrietige blik op de wereld maar weemoed, waarin juist veel schoonheid en vreugde zit.


Misschien wel het bekendste Portugese woord. Onvertaalbaar en ongrijpbaar voor een buitenlander volgens Fernando Pessoa, Portugals beroemdste moderne dichter (Fernando Pessoa)

Saudade is een gevoel van tegelijkertijd verlangen, hunkeren, verlies, afstand, afwezigheid, droefheid, liefde en gemis naar een persoon, plaats of gebeurtenis. Het is meer dan heimwee, omdat je saudade ook kunt voelen over iets dat nooit gebeurd is of waarschijnlijk nooit zal gebeuren.

Het woord is ontstaan tijdens de Portugese ontdekkingsreizen in de 15e eeuw om uitdrukking te geven aan het verlangen naar diegenen, die naar onbekende streken vertrokken.

Het enige medicijn tegen saudade is geheugenverlies  – Carlos Drummond de Andrade

Saudade is een beetje zoals honger. Het gaat alleen over als ‘aanwezigheid’ gegeten wordt  –  Clarice Lispector


De muzikale expressie van saudade is Fado, het traditionele Portugese levenslied. Fado betekent lot en er is geen muzieksoort waarin melancholie en fatalisme zo wordt gecultiveerd. De muziek ontstond in de kroegen en bordelen van de volkswijken Alfama en Mouraria in Lissabon.

De eerst zangers waren vissersvrouwen, waarvan de man vaak niet uit zee terugkeerde. Ze zongen dat we het lot moeten accepteren, ook en vooral als dat wreed is. De belangrijkste fadozangeres was Amália Rodrigues, die van arm volksmeisje uit de Alfama uitgroeide tot wereldster.

O salty sea, so much of whose salt
Is Portugal’s tears! All the mothers
Who had to weep for us to cross you!
All the sons who prayed in vain!
All the brides-to-be who never
Married for you to be ours, O sea!
( Fernando Pessoa in Portuguese Sea )

Geniet van het weekend    –    Tenha um excelente fim de semana