Tag Archive for: slave trade

Portugal has a romanticized interpretation of its past.

Portugal was the European country with the longest historical involvement in the slave trade, kidnapping and forcibly transporting about 6 million African men, women and children across the Atlantic between the 15th and 19th centuries.

Although it abolished slavery to the Portuguese mainland in 1761, the trade to Brazil continued and slavery was not completely eliminated across all territories Portugal controlled until 1869.

Portugal’s colonial era lasted more than five centuries, with Angola, Mozambique, Brazil, Cape Verde, São Tomé and Príncipe, East Timor and some territories in Asia (Goa, Macau) subject to Portuguese rule.

Decolonization of the African countries and the end of the empire in Africa happened months after Portugal’s ‘Carnation Revolution’ in April 1974, toppling the longest fascist dictatorship in Europe.

“People find it hard to admit that the racism fostered by slavery and colonialism still exists, let alone acknowledge how thoroughly it has penetrated in the Portuguese society,” says Evalina Dias, project manager at Djass – Portugal’s Association of African Descendants. “The problem here is the systemic and structural racism, that frustrates black people every day when it comes to employment, health, education and housing.”

With regard to its history there are similarities between Portugal and Netherlands. “I think the way the official memory in Portugal operates is similar to the way memory around ‘the Golden Age’ exists in the Netherlands”, explains Paul Cardullo, curator of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in the British newspaper the Guardian.
“In Portugal it is ‘the Age of Discoveries’ that provokes the same longstanding and fierce desire to protect it – without acknowledging the pain that comes along with that for a lot of people. Why? Because it’s caught up in the national identity.”

“Unfortunately, kids still learn at school that Portugal was an excellent colonizer, that the country ‘discovered’ other countries and that Portuguese people are so unique that they mixed with different cultures as if no violations occurred”, says Paula Cardoso, founder of the Afrolink online platform for black professionals in Portugal.  

Plantacão  (Plantation), the contemporary piece of art and memorial to the victims of slavery – conceived by the Angolan artist Kiluanji Kia Hendi in 2017 should long have appeared but lack of political will and arguments over where it should be located have dogged the project’s progress for more than seven years.
“Portugal has a romanticized interpretation of its past”, Kia Hendi believes.

Enjoy your week                   Aproveite a sua semana      (pic Público/Lusa)