Many people will be familiar with the Carnation Revolution in Portugal that on April 25, 1974, overthrew the authoritarian Estado Novo (New State) regime, established by fascist leader António de Oliveira Salazar.
Last month its 49th anniversary – a national holiday coined as Dia de Liberdade (Freedom Day) – was celebrated all over the country.
But how became the carnation the symbol of the military coup organized by military officers of the Armed Forces Movement (Movimento das Forças Armadas, MFA), that opposed the brutal regime and the ongoing war in Portugal’s African colonies (i.e. Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique and Saõ Tomé and Principe)?
An explanation is, that almost no shots were fired during the peaceful takeover of the military and that when the population took to the streets to celebrate the end of the dictatorship and the colonial wars in Africa, carnations were put into the silent muzzles of the rifles of the armed forces.
However, an alternative interpretation is related to a special woman named Celeste de Caeiros. On April 25, 1974, she was 40 years old and a waitress at the Franjinhas restaurant, on Braamcamp street, next to the Marquis of Pombal square.
That date happened to be the restaurant’s 1st anniversary and red carnations were purchased to hand out to the customers. When Celeste arrived, she was told to go home because a revolution was underway and the restaurant closed. She ended up taking the flowers home when she ran straight into Portuguese soldiers and tanks making their way to the government buildings.
One of the soldiers asked her for the cigarette but as Celeste didn’t smoke, she offered him a red carnation instead which he put into the barrel of his shotgun. In no time his fellow soldiers started doing the same. Photographs capturing the occasion and images of soldiers with carnations in their guns became the symbol of Portugal’s revolution.
Although the Carnation Revolution was peaceful and within hours brought an end to the oppressive regime – at the same time opening the door for the independence of the African colonies – the transition to a stable democratic government was delayed until 1986, when Portugal entered the European Union.
In honour of the revolution, Lisbon’s ionic suspension bridge (a lookalike of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge) formerly known as the Ponto Salazar ( Salazar Bridge), was renamed Ponte 25 de Abril (April 25 Bridge).
Enjoy the week Aproveite a semana (pic Público/Ptnews)