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45 Years Ago… The Carnation Revolution

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The Carnation Revolution happened on 25th of April 1974, a turning point in Portugal’s history.
After almost 5 decades, the country was finally freed from the longest dictatureship happening in Europe at the time. After the commemorations of the 210th anniversary of Ponte das Barcas, in March this year, it’s time to remember what happened 45 years ago…

Before the dictatorship

Though Portugal had its first Republic established in October 5th 1910, the country was very unstable and it took a long time before Portugal became an actual democracy. Before 1926, many problems were pulling down the country. The monarchists were opposed to the Republic and Europe was going through an economical crisis. The poorest working classes were very unhappy as the social commotion was constant and the Republicans did not seem to find a way to solve the multiple problems.
Besides this, as the First Republic of Portugal was secular, the catholics lost a lot of privileges which they were trying to get back. The banks and the big industry attempted to set up a feeling of social tranquility but yet nothing got better.

End of the First Republic

On May 28th 1926 and to end this commotion, the military Right organized a putsch against the actual government, imposing what would become the longest European dicatorship. Very quickly, all the work done during the 16 years of the first Republic of Portugal were ruined by repression and political regression. The Catholic Church played an accomplice role in these changes. This was the Second Republic of Portugal or better said, the National Dictatorship. Soon, the supression of all fundamental freedoms and rights will become reality.  Until 1933, the military dictatorship and its leader Mendes Cabeçadas direct the country without creating a new State structure.

António de Oliveira Salazar

Who is Salazar?

This young teacher in economy at Coimbra’s university, António de Oliveira Salazar, was coming from a rural and conservative environment. On its 39th birthday (1928), he becomes the Minister of Finances and resigns 4 days later as he could not work as he wanted without having the full powers.  However and to escape Portugal’s bankruptcy, the government has no better solution than asking the help of the League of Nations. This periods profits to Salazar and two years later in 1928, Óscar Carmona names him once again, Minister of Finance. Salazar accepts under one condition : No escudo must be spent without his agreement.

His economical restrictions paid off and a year after, Salazar manages to do what no one would do up to that point. Restoring the fiscal balance and stabalizing the currency.

The 100th Prime Minister of Portugal

The turning point of the dictatorship happens when Óscar Carmona the President of the Republic names him as the 100th Prime Minister of Portugal on the 25th of June 1932. Salazar strenghtens the authoritarian regime and creates the National Union, the unique political party of the country. 

In 1933, he proclames a new Constitution, giving him full powers and total control of the State as the President of the Council. The Estado Novo (New State) is born.

António de Oliveira Salazar (no. 3 left) and his ministers are sworn in by President Carmona on July 5, 1932.

The "Estado Novo"

The “Estado Novo” is a conservative, nationalist, catholic and authoritarian regime. Though it is anti-communist, it does not claim to be a facist State. In the same year, the Polícia de Vigilância e de Defesa do Estado, PVDE (“State Defence and Surveillance Police”) was created. Its main goal was to secure the regime. Yet, it was in charge of supressing the opponents to the regime in the country but also in the colonies and apply censorship. In 1945 the name changed to PIDE, Polícia Internacional e de Defesa do Estado (“International and State Defence Police”).

Furthermore, in the detention center of Caxias near Lisbon and in the Tarrafal’s prison on the Cape Verde islands, the political prisonners are held and tortured. The role of the “bufos”, indicators melted in the population, is to denunce the opponents to the Portuguese regime.

Spanish war

During the Spanish Civil War, he supports Franco’s regime in his fight against the Republicans and his support is decisive in the Spanish Dictator’s victory in 1939. Following this, a treaty of non-agression and friendship is signed in between Portugal and Spain. After The French defeat against Germany in 1940, a protocol was added to the treaty, becoming the Iberian Pact. This pact played a major role in keeping Franco’s Spain neutral in Hitler’s Europe.

Neutral During WOrld War II

The First Republic of Portugal participated to the World War I, but Salazar’s tries to keep Portugal neutral in World War II. The portuguese dictator wants to preserve its alliance with the United Kingdom and stays very mistrustful towards Hitler’s Germany. An annexation of Portugal in Hitler’s Europe was planned. This mainly due to his high interest in Portugal and its colonies. 
However, he still maintains the commercials relationship with the Axis forces and sells rare metals to the Nazi Regime.
Paradoxically, the Azores would become soon a military base open to the Allies to monitor the Atlantic and fight against the German submarines.
Portugal becomes in 1949 a former member of the NATO, thanks to its
geostrategic role of the Portuguese colonies and Salazar’s anti-communist ideas.

The end of Salazar

The political crisis happening in 1958 during the Presidential election pushes Salazar to introduce new amendments. However, nothing changes.

The Portuguese dictatorship is weakened when Salazar suffers from an intracranial hemorrhage. The role of Prime Minister is transmitted to Marcelo Caetano. As Salazar was named as “The President of the Council” for life, no one will ever tell him his eviction. He will keep believing that he still governs the country until he dies on July 27th, 1970.

Joaquim Coelho, author from Espaço Etéreo, a compilation of texts and pictures from people involved in the war.

Portuguese Colonies

As Europe decolonizes Africa, Salazar keep extoling his colionialist politic. For years, half of Portugal’s budget is spent in colonials wars, in Mozambique, Angola, and Guinea Bissau.

Marcelo Caetano seemed more liberal at the beginning and people would hope for better days. Unfortunately, he was not able to solve the situation, and yet the mandatory military service would last 2 to 4 years, 55 000 soldats were present on the Angolan soil, 60 000 in Mozambique and 27 000 in the Portuguese Guinea.

Many of the soldiers decided to leave the country and exil themselves in other European countries instead of fighting for their independance in the different African colonies. Portugal was poor, under war, and was not showing a sign of hope for a good future for the people.

My grand father actually participated to the Angolan colonial war, and after 3 years of services, as many other did, he left Portugal with my grand mother and their kids (including my dad) to go to France and escape the regime forever. That’s the reason why I’m French!

Street Art in Lisbon, The Carnation Revolution © Jeanne Menjoulet / Flickr

The Carnation Revolution

A few years before the Revolution happened, António de Spínola the governor and commander in Guinea tries to convince Caetano to find a policitcal solution to the colonial wars. As the time passes, more and more people are being killed and the soldiers were becoming very weak. Caetano refuses.
Short after, the MFA (Armed Forces Movement) was created together with officers opposed to the actual regime. They create the program of the 3 D’s: Democratize, Decolonize and Develop.
After a first failure of a putsch, the MFA re-organize themselves.

Otelo Saraiva de Carvalho and a group of militaries, occupy the barrack of Pontinha on the 24th of April 1974.

Short after midnight on 25th of April1974, a song is played on the radio: “E Depois do adeus”This is the signal for the MFA to operate their putsch without the government noticing it. When all the forces were in place in Lisbon and around the barrack Carmo (the government’s headquarter),  the putsch quickly transformed into a revolution. All the inhabitants came on the streets of the country to support the militaries operations. Radio Renascença plays “Grândola Vila Morena” from Zeca Afonso, a forbiden song by the Regime which clearly marks the beginning of the Revolution. 

Caetano‘s government had no other choice than giving up, he exils himself in Madeira, and later in Brazil. The dictatorship ended.

But a question remains, what carnations have to do with the revolution?

Why is it called the Carnation revolution?

In a street of Lisbon, a restaurant was supposed to open its doors to celebrate its first anniversary, the 25th of April 1974. For that day, the owner decided to offer a carnation to the ladies that would visit his restaurant and a port wine to the gentlemen. However, because of the situation in the country, the owner kept the restaurant closed. He gave the flowers to the employees. One of them was named Céleste Caeiro. She explains in 

“When I arrived in front of the stationery, on Liberty Avenue, I saw the troops, the other colleagues decided to go home, I went towards the troops, to ask them to where they came from. They said they were from Santarém, and they had been there since dawn, so I asked them if they needed anything, but I had nothing. No drinks, no cigarettes, so I offered them the only thing I had, which were my carnations”
The military simply placed the flower in their rifles and proove their pacifism. The red carnations became the symbol of the revolution, as it remained peacefullAlthough, 4 civilians were killed by the PIDE, when they tried to keep the power in place.

This Year's Celebrations - 45th Anniversary

This day became the Freedom Day in Portugal, and every year on the 25th of April, the full country remembers together. All sorts of events are created especially for that day. And this year again, Porto will also be part of it!

In Porto you will be able to enjoy concerts, fireworks, traditional games, a tribute to the antifascists resistants and the traditional Parade for Freedom.

A great way to enjoy the commemorations, all the events are free. The commemorations are organized by Porto’s City Hall and the Promoting Committee of the Popular Commemorations of 25 April in Porto, involving several associations in the city.

The Full Program

Program of the 24th of April

  • 10pm: Concert of Kumpania Algazarra – Avenida dos Aliados
  • Performance from the “Coral da Faculdade de Letras da Universidade do Porto” – Avenida dos Aliados
  • 12am: Fireworks – Avenida dos Aliados
  • 12.20am: Concert of Piruka – Avenida dos Aliados

Program of the 25th of April

  • 10am: Traditional Games for young kids – Praça de D. João I. 
  • 2pm: Tribute to the Anti-fascists Resistants – Museu Militar do Porto
  • 2.30pm: Freedom Parade – From Largode Soares dos Reis until Avenida dos Aliados
  • 3.30pm: Traditional Music Chulada da Ponte Velha – Avenida dos Aliados
  • 4.00 pm: Traditional Music Ronda dos Quatro Caminhos – Avenida dos Aliados

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Tour Director | Content Creator

Besides touring with the client as a private tour guide in Porto, Jimmy is our content creator. Always looking to share his knowledge, he writes all the articles for Portours in order to keep you up to date with what is going in Porto and Portugal.

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