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segunda-feira, 10 de junho de 2013

June 10

Statue of Prince Henry, the navigator, in Fall River, MA, USA

On this date we commemorate the Day of Portugal, Camões and the Portuguese Communities. If you live in Portugal it is a holiday and you can watch a variety of ceremonies and celebrations that take place every year in a different city. Normally there are speeches from the local authorities, guests and the President. The high point would be a long and important ceremony, where people receive decorations for their contributions to society.

However, if you live abroad, perhaps in a country with a large community of Portuguese descendants, like the USA, this day is felt in a very different way.

Depending on where you live, there are many parties, either given by the ambassador or consul or maybe the presidents of many different Portuguese associations.

Day of Portugal in the Consulate of Portugal in New Bedford (MA) with Cardinal O´Malley, then Bishop of Fall River

When I lived in southeastern Massachusetts I recall a ceremony, many times presided by local mayors, where the Portuguese flag was raised. Fairs also take place as do artistic exhibitions by students of Portuguese schools, shows with Portuguese music, races and celebratory masses organized by the local dioceses. As for the latter, I can’t forget attending a service in Attleboro. The consul was invited, and it was the first time a Portuguese official came to the area for that celebration.

The church, very well decorated and full of people, had a fantastic choir. The voices echoed throughout it, making it a particularly memorable event. After the service, the priest told the crowd that the Portuguese consul had joined this celebration and that it would be a pleasure for him to say a few words. The consul was brief but his words touched each and every one of us, even the priest, who asked the choir if it perhaps wasn’t time to sing the Portuguese anthem. And then, the choir and all of us sang  A Portuguesa, in the most touching way I will ever remember, felt only by those living abroad.

As for funnier events, it was the first time I ate the Portuguese flag (a delicious cake, I must say).


As for fashion, it was one of the only occasions I wore a hat or a long dress in the USA.

Last but not least, I was very proud when my husband was decorated by the then President, Mário Soares.

The National symbols:

The Portuguese flag

The red stands for revolution, courage and sacrifice of the Portuguese Heroes, the green for hope.

The armillary sphere (a navigational instrument of the Age of Discovery) commemorates Prince Henry the Navigator, who inspired the sea voyages that led to the discovery of new lands, leading to the creation of Portugal’s colonial empire.

The central part of the shield shows the arms of Portugal, adopted by Afonso Henriques after the great and glorious battle of Ourique in 1139.

The five blue shields represent the defeated Moorish Kings of Lisbon, Badajoz, Beja, Elvas and Évora.

The divine assistance that enabled Afonso Henriques to be victorious is commemorated on each shield by white dots representing the five wounds of Christ.

The red border which is decorated by seven yellow castles was added to the arms after the annexation of Algarve and the wedding of King Afonso III and Beatriz of Castile in 1252.

This flag was adopted on 19th June 1911 .

The Portuguese anthem

Alfred Keil must have composed the patriotic march A Portuguesa as a protest against the English Ultimatum of 11th January 1890, which was soon adopted by the Portuguese republican movement. Then, after the republican revolution of 5th October 1910, A Portuguesa became the national anthem of the republic of Portugal.

Camões (1525-1580?) wrote The Lusíadas, the great poem that celebrates the History of Portugal and Portuguese Heroes. It was first published in 1572.

The beginning of The Lusiadas:

Arms are my theme, and those matchless heroes
Who from Portugal's far western shores
By oceans where none had ventured
Voyaged to Taprobana and beyond,
Such as drew on more than human prowess
Among far distant peoples, to proclaim
A New Age and win undying fame;

Kings likewise of glorious memory
Who magnified Christ and Empire,
Bringing ruin on the degenerate
Lands of Africa and Asia;
And others whose immortal deeds
Have conquered death's oblivion
- There words will go wherever there are men
If art and invention steer my pen.

As armas e os Barões assinalados
Que da Ocidental praia Lusitana
Por mares nunca de antes navegados
Passaram ainda além da Taprobana,
Em perigos e guerras esforçados
Mais do que prometia a força humana,
E entre gente remota edificaram
Novo Reino, que tanto sublimaram;

E também as memórias gloriosas
Daqueles Reis que foram dilatando
A Fé, o Império, e as terras viciosas
De África e de Ásia andaram devastando,
E aqueles que por obras valerosas
Se vão da lei da Morte libertando,
Cantando espalharei por toda parte,
Se a tanto me ajudar o engenho e arte

Happy Day of Portugal to the Portuguese Community spread all over the world!

Maria Teresa Relva
10th June 2013

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