The times are they a-changin’?

Portugal is living a time of austerity. Portuguese people are leaving the country, mostly the young and qualified adults, due to the difficulties and sense of no hope for a future felt since the arrival of the IMF (International Monetary Fund) in the country.

©Miguel Von Driburg All Rights Reserved

Portuguese people are known for their ‘mild manners’ (‘brandos costumes’), for the acceptance of the difficulties without a public active positioning. It was this way during the dictatorship (1933-1974), which ended with a peaceful military coup d’etat on 25 April 1974 in Lisbon, known as the Carnation Revolution, since this flower became the symbol of change and freedom when soldiers placed carnations, distributed by a local florist, on the barrels of their rifles.

Another symbol of the revolution is the song “Grândola, Vila Morena” by José Afonso, the ultimate green signal to put the revolution in march (Once it was broadcasted military forces would know they could move forward. It was played on the radio at the early dawn of April 25, 1974). These symbols of a desire for a change, and a call for action,  are now being resurrected in public and civic demonstrations.

©Miguel Von Driburg All Rights Reserved

From younger to elder generations, many portuguese people assume they are outraged. Many have lived under an authoritarian regime with fear and without hope, others remember their parents’ and grandparents’ testimonies about such reality. No one wants history to be repeated. And if forty years ago the anxieties were caused by a providential political regime, nowadays, they are motivated by an external (and also an internal) asphyxiant  economical and financial model.

The results are a constantly rising unemployment rate, the sense of failure of the social state, and the certainty of a severe crisis of a country in debt, without a glimpse of improvement or realistic solution. Surely, people wanted to go out in the streets singing “The Times They Are A-Changin’”, instead they are forced to shout “Troika Out”, “F*** Troika! We want our lives!” and to hopefully sing: “Within thee, O city/Within thee, O city/ Who orders the is the people /Land of brotherhood.

©Miguel Von Driburg All Rights Reserved

The last of these demonstrations ocurred on the 2nd March 2013. After many others during the last year, all of them organized apart from any political parties or affiliations, it is expect that people continue to take the streets to make their voices of despair heard. But, until when?

©Miguel Von Driburg All Rights Reserved

All photos by Miguel Von Driburg

About the author

Sandra Bettencourt
Sandra Bettencourt holds a research fellowship in project CILM – City and (In)security in Literature and the Media at the University of Lisbon. She holds a degree in Art Studies (specialization in Film Studies), as well as an MA in Literary and Cultural Studies. She obtained formation on Digital Journalism, at CENJOR (Center of Professional Formation for Journalism). She’s addicted to movies, passionate about literature, and a music lover.
Other 3 posts by

7 Comments

  • Thanks for sharing this Sandra, it is good to read your perspective on the situation. I hope things will get better soon.

    After reading what you wrote I wondered, do Portuguese people fear a return to authoritarianism, or rather they fear the same living conditions but with a different cause?

    Also, great photos! Congratulations to your husband.

  • Sandra Bettencourt

    Thank you for your comment, Lucy.

    In fact I don’t think Portuguese people equate the possibility of a new authoritarian regime (even if the new financial and economical measures are imposed, and Portuguese are very aware of that). But they are reacting to any remote possibilty of losing control over social, political, economical or financial realities.
    The main concern really is the downgrade of living conditions, what reminds ‘old times’.

    The reappropriated symbols are a way of keeping hope for a better future, and not to forget that Portugal have found the way to freedom in a recent past, I believe.

    Sandra

  • “Portuguese people are known for their ‘mild manners’ ” – Kind of hard to believe considering the atrocities they committed in India when they colonised a part of the country!

    • Dear Bindhu, it is always sad to hear comments like this. Bad things have happened, and continue to happen in many places in the world. My opinion is that people (of any nationality) allow themselves to commit atrocities because they forget that the ‘others’ are people just like them. It’s one of the reasons we founded PocketCultures – let’s hope that by getting to know and understand each other and our countries and cultures, we can stop someone from committing an atrocity in future.

    • Sandra Bettencourt

      Dear Bindhu Unny,
      I said “portuguese people are known for…”, not that they really are, were or will be. And within the context of the text, I believe one can read that those “mild manners” refer to the way portuguese people deal with internal policies, not with external ones, or the Other.
      Unfortunately, History is full of regretful events. The portuguese history as well, and not only in India. I do not think that anyone with a minimum knowledge of our past is proud of it. I am not. And I don’t think that past historical episodes are the only way to define people. Specially when they were not participants or supporters of it.
      All the best,
      Sandra Bettencourt

  • Sandra Bettencourt

    Dear Bindhu Unny,

    I said “portuguese people are known for…”, not that they really are, were or will be. And within the context of the text, I believe one can read that those “mild manners” refer to the way portuguese people deal with internal policies, not with external ones, or the Other.

    Unfortunately, History is full of regretful events. The portuguese history as well, and not only in India. I do not think that anyone with a minimum knowledge of our past is proud of it. I am not. And I don’t think that past historical episodes are the only way to define people. Specially when they were not participants or supporters of it.

    All the best,

    Sandra Bettencourt

Leave a reply

(will not be published)

optional