Freedom Day, 25th April, History

Freedom Day, 25th April

Picture (1998)
Soldiers during the ‘Carnation’ Revolution, Museu Guarda Nacional Republicana, Lisbon
Picture (1385)
Newspaper reports of the ‘Carnation’ Revolution, Lisbon Story Museum, Lisbon

Walk around any town or city in Portugal and you will see streets and squares named after significant dates in Portuguese history: Avenida 24 de Julho in Lisbon, Rua 31 de Janeiro in Porto, Avenida 5 de Outubro and Rua 1° de Maio in Faro and Largo 1° de Dezembro in Portimão. Since 1974 many streets and other public places have been named after the most recent significant event in Portuguese history, the Carnation Revolution of 25th April 1974. The most famous example is Ponte 25 de Abril (25th April Bridge) in Lisbon, the former Salazar Bridge, which was renamed after the revolution.

The revolution ended the dictatorship which had oppressed the country since 1926. During that period one man had dominated Portuguese politics, António de Oliveira Salazar, who was prime minister from 1932 to 1968. He was an economist and during his years as prime minister he created a ‘New State’ and brought about economic recovery, but his economic policies meant that the country wasn’t able to develop and many people lived in poverty and had a low level of education. The New State was an ultra-right-wing dictatorship: it was nationalist, conservative, Catholic and colonial. There was widespread censorship, repression of political dissent and elections were rigged. People who spoke out against the regime were arrested and tortured by the secret police force, the PIDE. In the African territories of Angola, Guinea (now Guinea-Bissau) and Mozambique the 1960s and early 1970s were marked by the Colonial War, where the indigenous people were fighting for independence from Portuguese rule. There was a large Portuguese military presence in these territories and enormous amounts of money were being spent on this war. Many members of the military who had fought in Africa had become critical of the amount of money and lives being wasted in these conflicts and were in favour of these countries gaining independence. General António de Spínola, who had served in Guinea, voiced these opinions in a book entitled Portugal and the Future. A group of army rebels comprising left-wing officers who opposed the regime formed the MFA (Armed Forces Movement) and began plotting a coup.

By 1974 Salazar was dead. In fact, he hadn’t been prime minister since 1968 when an accident left him brain damaged. He died in 1970, but his successor, Dr Marcelo Caetano was continuing his legacy. The MFA planned the revolution to take place on 25th April 1974 and shortly before midnight on 24th April a radio station played a pop song which signalled the start of the revolution and at a little after midnight on 25th April another radio station played the song which has become synonymous with the revolution, ‘Grândola, Vila Morena’ by José (Zeca) Afonso. Afonso was a political folk musician and much of his music was banned from being played on Portuguese radio by the regime. The song’s lyrics begin: ‘Grândola, sunburnt town / Land of brotherhood / It is the people who give the orders / Within you, oh town’.

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Street art of José Afonso on Rua 25 de Abril, Lagoa. ‘Em cada esquina um amigo‘ (‘On every corner a friend’) is a line from the song ‘Grândola, Vila Morena’.

At this signal the army rebel troops began taking over key strategic places throughout the country. Caetano and his ministers took refuge in the GNR headquarters in Largo do Carmo, which the rebel troops surrounded, forcing Caetano to surrender and go into exile. Amazingly, it was an almost bloodless coup and the name ‘Carnation Revolution’ comes from the red carnations that were put in the barrels of the soldiers’ rifles as a symbol of this lack of bloodshed.

Picture (1993)
Gun with carnation from the 1974 revolution in Museu Guarda Nacional Republicana, Lisbon

Political stability didn’t come immediately and the period after the revolution was chaotic with several provisional governments and a counter-coup. The first free elections since 1926 were held in April 1975, but it wasn’t until late 1975, when another planned coup failed, that there were the beginnings of stability. However, Portugal was in turmoil for quite a few years after the revolution. The new left-wing provisional governments began undoing the economic policies of the Salazar regime, by nationalizing industry and distributing land to the peasants. The military were withdrawn from the African territories and it was agreed to give these countries independence, but as a result many Portuguese who had lived for decades in these countries fled to Portugal, causing an unprecedented influx of people into the country.

Freedom Day is a public holiday in Portugal. The main celebrations are in Lisbon where there is a march down Avenida da Liberdade, led by a tank followed by political parties, left-wing groups and unions. Some towns and cities hold musical concerts. Many people carry or wear a symbolic red carnation and join in with singing ‘Grândola, Vila Morena’, which continues to have significance as a song of freedom.

Folar de Páscoa (Portuguese Easter bread), Food and drink

Folar de Páscoa (Portuguese Easter bread)

When I started researching into traditional Portuguese Easter foods, I kept coming across Folar, but couldn’t find a definitive recipe. There seem to be as many variations of Folar as there are regions in Portugal. In the Trás-os-Montes region in the north-east of the country they eat Folar de Chaves, which is a savoury bread stuffed with meat such as ham, bacon and sausage. Meanwhile in the very south of the country they eat a sweet version called Folar de Olhão, made with cinnamon and sugar. However, I opted to make the version that seemed most appropriate for Easter, one with a boiled egg in the middle covered by a dough cross. The idea of the egg, a symbol of new birth, being inserted, still in its shell, in or on the bread, is common in Easter breads in other European countries, such as the Dutch ‘Easter Men’ and the Greek Tsoureki. It is thought to originate from a Sephardic Jewish sweet bread, known as foulare, which is eaten at the festival of Purim, where the egg represents Haman in a prison cell of dough with bars of dough (rather than a cross) across the top of the egg. To add further confusion to the subject, I discovered that even the version of Folar I had chosen to make had several variations; it could be flavoured with aniseed, cinnamon or lemon zest. The recipe below is for a brioche-style sweet bread made with lemon zest. I found several recipes for folar on the internet, but wasn’t happy with the results. I adapted these recipes and the result is a delicious bread with a lovely light texture. It is traditional to use a brown boiled egg and the colour of the egg can be enhanced by boiling it with a white onion skin.

Feliz Páscoa!

Makes 1 loaf 

Ingredients

20g fresh yeast

50g caster sugar + 1 teaspoon for the yeast

500g strong white bread flour + extra for kneading

½ teaspoon salt

140ml milk

250g butter

7 brown eggs

zest of 2 lemons

optional: skin of a white onion

olive oil for greasing

Method

  • Dissolve 1 teaspoon of sugar in 50ml of hand-warm water (35°C). Add the yeast to it and leave for 15-20 minutes until frothy.
  • Mix the flour, sugar and salt together in a large bowl and add the yeast mixture.
  • Warm the milk to hand-warm temperature (35°C).
  • Beat five of the eggs and add to the flour mixture, along with the warm milk and the lemon zest.
  • Mix well with a wooden spoon until all of the flour is incorporated and the mixture is smooth and elastic.
  • Add the softened butter and continue to mix well until all the butter is completely mixed in.
  • Cover the bowl with cling film and leave it in the fridge to chill overnight or until the dough is firm.
  • Remove the dough from the fridge and on a clean floured surface gently knead it to remove the air.
  • Grease a large clean bowl with olive oil. Put the dough in the bowl and turn it so that it is covered with oil. Cover the bowl with cling film and leave it in a warm place for the dough to rise for 2 hours or until it has doubled in size.
  • Meanwhile, put an egg in a pan of cold water and bring to the boil. Let it boil for 10 minutes, then remove it from the water. Optional: if you wish to enhance the colour of the egg, add the skin of a white onion to the pan while boiling the egg.
  • When the dough has doubled in size, pre-heat the oven to 190°C.
  • On a clean floured surface gently knead the dough to remove the air. Cut off a section of the dough big to make two strips which will be the cross.
  • Grease a baking tray with olive oil.
  • Form the dough into a round loaf shape and put it on the greased baking tray. Put the boiled egg (in its shell) on top of the dough.
  • From the smaller piece of dough, form two strips and put them across the loaf to form a cross, meeting over the egg. Press the ends of the cross into the loaf.
  • Beat the remaining egg and brush it over the loaf.
  • Cook the loaf in the middle of the pre-heated oven for 20-30 minutes, or until it is a dark golden colour and when you put a skewer into the loaf it comes out clean.

When cool, serve with butter. Remember to remove the egg before cutting the bread to avoid broken shell.

Carvoeiro Black and White Night 2015, Festivals

Carvoeiro Black & White Night 2015

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Who would have thought that Carvoeiro, once a sleepy little fishing village, would become Algarve Party Central? Well, that is exactly what has happened for one night a year since 2014 when Carvoeiro started hosting the summer solstice party known as Black & White Night. The event is organised by Ibérica Eventos & Espectáculos and the Lagoa town council and has grown from 10,000 party-goers in 2014 to 20,000 in 2015. The main roads in to and out of the town are closed to traffic, and on two of these roads stages are erected and restaurants and bars are able to extend their seating area into the road. It means that there is something happening all over the centre of the village, not just in the square by the beach.

We were lucky enough to be in Carvoeiro for the 2015 Black & White Night. The festivities got underway at 8.30pm when a pair of horses, one black and one white, and their stylish riders, walked down the Estrada do Farol. We watched the horses pass by from our table outside one of the restaurants on the hill. We had wisely booked a table the day before as, even with the extra seating, restaurants were struggling to cope with the deluge of people into the town. Be prepared to make new friends during the night, as seats at the tables outside the bars in the town centre are at a premium and we found ourselves sharing a table with complete strangers. We are normally quite reserved people, but the party atmosphere was infectious and by the end of the night we were happily chatting to our table companions.

Following the dress code, we were dressed in black and white, although we didn’t go as far as to dress in this year’s theme of ‘Burlesque’. From the start, the town was buzzing with activity and with crowds of people everywhere. As we walked down the Estrada do Farol we were drawn to the Algarve Jazz Orchestra on the large stage near the bottom of the hill playing big band standards. I noticed that next to the stage was a large screen and later found out that the film The Jazz Singer was going to be shown. I love the idea of watching a film al fresco on a warm summer night, but I wondered how the dialogue was going to be heard over the noise from the rest of the town. This turned out not to be a problem, as it was the 1927 version of the film with title cards, that was being shown, although I secretly would have preferred to see the Neil Diamond version! The entertainment was well organised, and when something finished on one stage, something else started on another. The entertainment on the stages on Estrada do Farol and Rua do Barranco started much earlier than the entertainment in the square, which meant that the businesses on these roads were able to share in the success of the night. There was an eclectic mix of entertainers, all connected in some way to the theme of burlesque. In the tradition of American burlesque shows from the 1930s, striptease acts in various guises featured heavily on three of the four stages, including a Gypsy Rose Lee-style dancer with feather fans called Lady Myosotis and  a male striptease act called Senhor Sardinha Boylesque. I do question whether this type of act is appropriate at an event like this, and as there were so many children about the town during the night, I’m sure some parents had some awkward questions to answer! Live music also featured throughout the night and, as well as the Algarve Jazz Orchestra, tango music was performed by Mariel Martinez & La Porteña and on the stage in the town square, Jasmina Jolie & Cosmopolitan Cabaret performed a selection of torch songs made famous by singers such as Édith Piaf and Billie Holiday.

No party is complete without a DJ and there were three at this party, playing music from different eras, which appealed to the wide-ranging demographic. People were literally dancing in the streets. DJ Charlie Mysterio played music from the 1920s to the 1950s, then a Carvoeiro favourite, DJ Alexandre Ramos, played music from the 1960s to the 1990s and, finally, once all the older people had made their way back home, DJ Charlie Spot set up his own stage on top of the toilet block overlooking the beach and thousands of people made their way onto the beach to dance until 3am, when the party officially ended, to hits from 2000 to the present day. It was quite a sight to see so many people crowded on to the compact town beach.

It was a perfect night. The air was hot and the sky was clear, with a pretty crescent moon. Despite the large number of people and an increased police presence we witnessed no trouble. The clean-up operation, after the party ended in the early hours, was incredibly efficient. There was no evidence that anything out of the ordinary had happened, except for a few bleary-eyed waiters the next day!