Saturday, 22 November 2008

England and Portugal - A Personal View of this Relationship

Nov 22nd, 2008

Portugal and England (as predecessor of United Kingdom) are allies since the Treaty of London, signed on June 16th, 1373.

It’s most relevant application was during the Napoleonic Wars, having revealed, on Portuguese soil, the one that would later defeat Napoleon: the Duke of Wellington.

It’s the oldest diplomatic Alliance in existence, and both countries do boast about that.

Apparently it would make these two nations very friendly between themselves.

Nothing could be more false, or hypocritical. Let me clarify that nothing moves me against either nation, and that I’m just stating facts, as I see them, and how they picture, de facto, this relationship that is the fruit of intertwined histories.

Let me demonstrate by using five examples.

Example 1 – The Portuguese National Anthem.

It’s a blatant war cry against the British.

Not metaphorically, but explicitly.

It was written after Portugal was humiliated by Britain to accept the physical separation between Angola and Mozambique, of what otherwise be the unification of the East and West coasts of Africa. A Portuguese dream, known as the Pink Map (sometimes fate does play some strange pranks), that conflicted with Britain’s interests of have an uninterrupted route from Cape do Cairo.

Thus the British Ultimatum of 1890. Guess who was on it’s knees, and who forced the other to be in such a position?

So, Alfredo Lopes Mendonça (lyrics) and Alfredo Keil (music), republicans, furious with the ruling Portuguese Monarchy, wrote “The Portuguese”.

It’s made up of three parts. The first one and the chorus (this one with a change that you will see later on), were adopted as the Anthem with the implementation of the Portuguese Republic, in 1911.

Let me give you my translation of the “A Portuguesa” as was written in 1890:

Herois do mar, nobre povo, (Sea heroes, noble people,)
Nação valente, imortal, (Immortal, valiant Nation,)
Levantai hoje de novo (Raise again today)
O esplendor de Portugal! (Portugal’s splendor!)
Entre as brumas da memoria, (From the mist of memory,)
Oh patria sente-se a voz (Oh homeland you can feel the voice)
Dos teus egrégios avós, (Of your distinguished forefathers)
Que há-de guiar-te à vitória! (That will guide you to victory!)

Às armas, às armas! (To arms, to arms!)
Sobre a terra, sobre o mar, (On land, on sea,)

Às armas, às armas! (To arms, to arms!)
Pela patria lutar! (Fight for the homeland!)

Contra os Bretões marchar, marchar! (Against the British, march, march!)

The only difference between these lyrics and today's Anthem, is, for obvious reasons, the last verse. So “Contra os Bretões marchar, marchar!” became: Contra os canhões marchar, marchar! (Against the cannons, march, march!)

Friends, as far as I know, don’t give each other ultimatums. And if that does happen, it’s commonly understood by all parties involved that the friendship is, in fact, over.

 Not the case, apparently. At least, officially. The man on the street might have another opinion.

Example 2 – Friends from Peniche.

This is what I picked up from Wikipedia: Amigo de Peniche, in Portugal, is an idiomatic expression referring to a false friend. It’s a person who’s only interested in receiving and winning the laurels, at your expense and giving nothing in exchange (…)

Says legend that this expression comes from the time of the Napoleonic invasions, as during the siege of Lisbon, the people of Peniche promised to get supplies to Porto, by sea, but these never appeared, and, as it seems, it wasn’t even tried, so the people Porto despaired each day for the “friends from Peniche”.

The legend described in the former paragraph is historically baseless, and is not in accordance with the most known (and credible) version, which is the following:

Its certain that the expression has its origins in the Napoleonic invasions, however the most common version (and there are historic facts that prove this thesis), refers to the fact that being Portugal and England allies for centuries, and being England the main party interested in having access to the main international seaports (which France wanted to blockade), it was of the utmost interest that the Port of Lisbon remain accessible to the English maritime commerce.

So, the English disembarked in Peniche, stating that they came to help Portugal, but what history has registered is that as soon as they landed immediately started to loot and do all kind of barbarisms.

From Peniche they advanced to Lisbon, by the route that history registered as “Torres Lines” (Torres Vedras).

Since then, the English started to be very little considered by the Portuguese, this was accentuated at the time of the British Ultimatum of 1890, which originated a big manifestation of indignation in the Camões Square in Lisbon.

Since then, the expression “Friends of Peniche”, started to designate all false friends.”

Example 3 – India

Goa, Damão and Diu, made up the Portuguese colony of Portuguese India.

It was invaded in 1961 by India and has been integral part of that State since then. Independently of where one thinks reason lies, it was an invasion of the territory of a sovereign state, by another. An act of war.

Portugal invoked the Alliance with the United Kingdom and requested the use of the british Air Bases in the region. It was refused.

Example 4 – Falklands/Malvinas

Argentina invaded the Falklands in 1982. Will not get into comparison with example 3, as the article is not about the reasons of this war, or any other for that matter.

Don’t know if the use of the Portuguese Azores’s Air Facilities were requested for use. Nor if it was used.

Relevant, is the fact that it was made available. In the sake of the Alliance.

The peculiar thing is that the Portuguese always referred to this conflict as the “Malvina’s War”.

Portugal must have been the only British ally to use the Argentinean terminology to refer to that particular territory.

Symptomatic, I do think. Ask any Portuguese on the street.

Example 5 – McCanns

Need I say anything?

"I tell you what to do and you do as you’re told". That's it. No need for ultimatums. Not required.

You’re too domesticated for that.

Never seen a state interfering within the sovereignty of another as much as in this case. Within the so-called western world. Never did a state abdicate its right to exercise its own justice as Portugal has.

Never did a state impose its will upon another’s internal affairs as the UK has done so far.


As you can see, the relationship between these two States can hardly be qualified as “friendly”.

Bullying is the word that occurs to me. The same kind as the one by a British citizen who feels comfortable enough to describe the Portuguese as “sardine-munching”, not only in writing, but in the official media itself.

He knows he is unaccountable for that act. The bully is on his side. And this bullying is going on in every minute and everywhere. In the blogs. In the forums. In the papers. In the police. It seems that there is a convention that states that anything that is British has the seal of quality stamped on it, unlike what is coming from Portugal.

The Portuguese say that he who plants wind, reaps a storm. So, the next time you’re in Portugal, if find yourself, like it happened to me, walking in the opposite direction of which you should be walking just because you were misdirected by some Portuguese that led you exactly that way when, just a while ago, you asked him, in English, for some directions, don’t think he’s an idiot. You are.

He’s just resentful.

Portugal was once an empire. It ended, as such, in the 16th century. Territorially in the late 20th century, just because it served international interests, but Portugal has not been a relevant actor in the world scene a long time ago.

The British Empire is over. The day Winston Churchill condemned colonization. The day India became a Nation.

The British have not yet grasped that.

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