The main event

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The main event of 1974 was on the 25th April. After years of resignation something out of the ordinary hit my country of Portugal and  enthusiasm grew on what future would lay ahead. Would the country become a democracy and would we end the war and pull out of the colonies?

Reports came in but they did not tell you much. The armed forces had made a coup and ousted the 48 year-old regime. This was done almost without casualties. There was an enormous expectation. I sensed it from far away and listened as often as I could to the radio, on a short wave wireless that had belonged to my father in law. Newspapers were welcome and delivered by my father. It was strange to see those places in Lisbon full of people expressing their joy while being part of history.

I could see pictures from the Carmo barracks where the prime minister Caetano negotiated his escape to Brazil. This place that I had been to so often as a kid and not far from where I lived. Then there was the gigantic marches of 1st May. Freedom had to be breath in and people were almost suffocating with the new breaths of fresh air.

Carnations were everywhere where simple soldiers became heroes of peace. I learned that a singer and songwriter had given the signal for the beginning of operations .  His name Zeca Afonso and the song Grandola. It was chosen by the military to be played as a signal that things were going well and according to plan. Who were these men in uniform? What was going to happen? Did they have a plan?

A Junta was formed to front the first anxieties and the call for information. A provisional government and President with monocle were appointed. Dates were set for general elections aiming at making a new constitution. Things happened fast and for my liking I would have been there myself to help on whatever was needed. So was not to be, but my return was now a clear possibility even if it would only be for a holiday.

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Marcello visita Londres

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O português ajusta-se bem ao mundo. É flexível e integra-se. Por isso temos portugueses espalhados pelos cantos do mundo. Além do mais gosta do seu país. Vibra com a sua seleção de futebol e com outros feitos desportivos. Orgulha-se da beleza do país e da sua cultura.

Na escola aprendi tudo sobre o heroísmo dos portugueses, país mais antigo da Europa, quase um mundo aparte. Heróis do mar, nobre Povo, aprendi a cantar ao lado do órgão do maestro Cruz no Colégio Valsassina.

Mas nem tudo estava bem. O meu contacto com a imigração dá-se em Londres quando durante alguns meses trabalho para o Banco Português do Atlântico, cujo escritório nas instalações do Banco do Brasil apenas tinha a função de encaminhar as poupanças dos imigrantes para as suas contas em Portugal para onde quase todos ansiavam retornar.

Em 1973, Portugal já levava um período de ditadura de 47 anos. Era o regime autoritário mais antigo da Europa. Era um país que já não nos podia orgulhar mas antes envergonhava. Com os índices de analfabetismo a rondar os 50%, uma pobreza gritante que obrigava centenas de milhares a procurar outros sítios para ganhar a vida, as prisões recheadas de presos políticos e uma guerra absurda para manter um Império Colonial. Éramos o país do pé descalço governado por sujeitos autocratas que queriam manter o país na ignorância e na pobreza porque um certo António Oliveira Salazar achava que a felicidade do povo era viver no campo e ir à missa. Ainda há pessoas que dizem que querem voltar a esses tempos. Não sei em que estarão a pensar…

É nesse ano em 15 de julho que Marcello Caetano faz uma visita oficial à Inglaterra com o intuito de celebrar os 600 anos de aliança Luso- Britânica. É uma visita acompanhada de manifestações e protestos. Não fui lá, nem sabia que tais manifestações se estavam a organizar, mas filmes dessa ocasião mostram Mário Soares entre os manifestantes.

É neste contexto nacional que volto a emigrar no ano de 1973 para a Suécia que tinha sido um país mais pobre que Portugal mas que tinha evoluído para uma das sociedades mais bem organizadas onde os seus cidadãos usufruíam de direitos sociais ímpares no mundo.

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Fashion and politics

King's Rd

Needless to say if you were young and lived in London you couldn’t miss King’s Road, Chelsea.

This was one of the London streets where the sophisticated liked to come and show off. There were plenty of boutiques, pubs and restaurants. I have some vivid memories from my time in London that I can associate with King’s Road. Mário Soveral and I certainly went there quite often in late summer- autumn of 1970.

How did I bump into Mário? Well quite naturally… My mother knew his mother the actress Laura Soveral. Laura could very well have taken lessons at the British institute, so when they came to London it was only natural that they should get in touch with me. As Mário was a little younger than myself-he sometimes called me “Papá Pinheiro” – I was seen as someone who could give him support and calm him down a little! Whether this is his picture I do not know as I have lost track of him, but am convinced and hopeful that he will get in touch with me, as I have initiated a search all over Portugal to get hold of him.

It was in King’s Rd that I was invited for lunch with Laura and her husband José Maria. We went to one of many small posh restaurants along the street. We got into talking about the situation in Portugal and I clearly remember criticizing the regime and the relatively new Prime Minister Marcelo Caetano. I noticed that José Maria tried to say that things were developing and a process of democratization had been launched. -Yeah, sure…Was my comment! When we left the restaurant Mário had the courtesy to inform me that José Maria was the son of Portugal’s dictator Marcelo Caetano.