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April 25th: Freedom Day in Portugal

The Carnation Revolution took place on April 25, 1974, in Portugal, under a dictatorship that had been in power since 1926. This regime remained authoritarian and took on a fascist air with the rise to power of António Salazar, who took office in 1932 and changed the Constitution in 1933.

At that time, the country was also experiencing an economic crisis and was waging wars against its colonized African countries. Guerrilla groups formed in Angola, Guinea, and Mozambique, which the Portuguese armed forces had to combat, despite their opposition, generating dissatisfaction in this part of society as well. All of this culminated in the aforementioned revolution, which was swift and peaceful.

Subsequently, civil and democratic freedoms were restored, and other rights, such as voting rights, were gained. African countries went through processes of independence, and a new Constitution came into force in Portugal.


Credits to Shuttershock for the pictures



Historical context of the Carnation Revolution

The Portuguese political regime, until 1910, was that of a constitutional monarchy, but revolts led by the Portuguese Republican Party transformed it into a republic in October of that year.

The new republican regime and participation in World War I led to political and economic upheavals. Politically, faced with crisis, conservative movements began to emerge, culminating in the coup d'état of May 1926, which began the National Dictatorship, which lasted until 1933, when a new Constitution – also dictatorial – was established, and Salazar came to power, giving rise to Salazarism.

It is important to note that both the National Dictatorship and Salazarism were authoritarian forms of government, thus dictatorial regimes, so much so that Salazar was already involved in this first government as Minister of Finance. In 1932, he became head of state as prime minister and began coordinating with other ministers the approval of the new Constitution, which established a dictatorship lasting more than 40 years.


Salazar's dictatorship began in 1932 when António de Oliveira Salazar became prime minister. Consequently, in 1932, the dictatorship that began in 1926 took on a fascist character, inspired by the ideas of Mussolini from Italy.

A year later, the 1933 Constitution banned any freedom of organization and expression for the Portuguese people. Salazar's dictatorship lasted from 1933 to 1974, ending with the Carnation Revolution. Salazar remained in power until 1968, when he suffered a stroke and was removed from office, replaced by Marcello Caetano. Therefore, there were more than 40 years without democracy in the country.

The period of Salazar's long tenure is also called Estado Novo or the Second Republic of Portugal (the First starting in 1910). The political conception of this regime was conservative, based on the strength of the Executive and without giving proper value and legitimacy to the Parliament, leading to authoritarianism, ending the liberal period of the First Republic and also the previous constitutional monarchy regime.

Like other fascist regimes, Salazarism was also centered on the figure of the leader.


Origins of the Carnation Revolution

The Carnation Revolution had two main objectives: the desire to end the dictatorship, which had plagued the country for decades, and the desire to end the colonial wars in Africa, which had lasted for 13 years and were a source of discontent among the armed forces. During that time, economic crisis also afflicted the country, and Salazarism had lost strength after Salazar's death in 1970.

The colonial wars in African countries were significant reasons for the Revolution because, after World War II, the major European powers were forced to reconfigure their maps of influence and exploration worldwide, especially in the African continent. However, some of these European countries did not accept agreements and rearrangements, entering into direct conflict with the armed forces of the colonized countries, who also no longer accepted such subjugation. One of these was Portugal. The conflicts lasted for years and were very bloody, until 1974, with the Carnation Revolution, which marked the return to democracy in all Portuguese territories.

The Carnation Revolution was the popular and military uprising that took place on April 25, 1974, which ended Portuguese Salazarism. With it came major changes in the country, especially the restoration of democratic freedoms, which had not existed since the military coup of 1926.

During World War II, while remaining neutral, Portugal was affected by agreements and geographical and economic partitions and, as a result, refused to accept the independence of its African colonies, giving rise to liberation guerrilla groups in Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, and Angola. With Salazar's stroke, his former minister, Marcello Caetano, took over and pursued the same policy.

The economic crisis and the strain of the colonial wars caused great discomfort among the armed forces and the population in general, leading to the emergence of movements against the dictatorship. Thus, on April 25, 1974, the Revolution broke out.


The Carnation Revolution occurred unexpectedly for Marcello Caetano, with the radio broadcast of the song "Grândola, Vila Morena" by José Afonso and the occupations of the Armed Forces Movement (MFA) in strategic locations, quickly spreading throughout Portugal. The song, sung at midnight, caused 1 million people to gather around radios in search of further news.

Marcello Caetano, surrendering, first went to the island of Madeira. He then lived in Brazil until October 1980 when he died in Rio de Janeiro.

The Portuguese soldiers were given carnations, which were placed on the tips of rifles and used to name the Revolution, which occurred almost without bloodshed.

Below is the text of the song, and I've attached the YouTube link to the song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gaLWqy4e7ls



ORIGINAL LYRICS IN PORTUGUESE


Grândola, Vila Morena

Terra da fraternidade

O povo é quem mais ordena

Dentro de ti, ó cidade

 

Dentro de ti, ó cidade

O povo é quem mais ordena

Terra da fraternidade

Grândola, Vila Morena

 

Em cada esquina um amigo

Em cada rosto igualdade

Grândola, Vila Morena

Terra da fraternidade

 

Terra da fraternidade

Grândola, Vila Morena

Em cada rosto igualdade

O povo é quem mais ordena

 

À sombra duma azinheira

Que já não sabia a idade

Jurei ter por companheira

Grândola a tua vontade

 

Grândola a tua vontade

Jurei ter por companheira

À sombra duma azinheira

Que já não sabia a idade|


ENGLISH TRANSLATION


Grandola, Vila Morena

Land of brotherhood

It's the people who order the most

Within you, oh city


Within you, oh city

It's the people who order the most

Land of brotherhood

Grandola, Vila Morena


At every corner a friend

In every face equality

Grandola, Vila Morena

Land of brotherhood


Land of brotherhood

Grandola, Vila Morena

In every face equality

It's the people who order the most


In the shade of an oak

That no longer knew its age

I swore to have a companion

Grandola, your will


Grandola, your will

I swore to have a companion

In the shade of an oak

That no longer knew its age





Manifestants on a tank celebrate the end of Salazar's dictatorship on April 25, 1974. Credits to Wikipedia for the photo.


Consequences of the Carnation Revolution

The consequences of the Carnation Revolution were moments of workers' self-management and the conquest of various rights that had been lost during many years of dictatorship.

At the same time, Angola, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, Cape Verde, and São Tomé and Príncipe became independent countries in a process that lasted from April 1974 to November 1975, with the post-Carnation Revolution decolonization.

Until the end of that year, Portugal went through the Ongoing Revolutionary Process, which was turbulent, with several attempted coups by Salazarist forces that were still in the country and were organizing for the elections of the Constituent National Assembly.

After April 25th, there were some tensions, such as that of May 1975, and the country would undergo socialist reorganization.

On April 25, 1975, one year after the Revolution, the first direct elections took place after 41 years of dictatorship, and the socialists won. Another year later, in 1976, also on the anniversary of the Revolution, the new Constitution came into force.

In addition to civil and political rights, the new Constitution guaranteed: the right to health, culture, education, housing, social security, etc. However, as we have seen, processes of nationalization and independence occurred in the colonies.


April 25th Today


April 25th is a public holiday in Portugal, called "Freedom Day," which commemorates the liberation from dictatorship. This year is a particularly significant anniversary for the Portuguese because it marks its 50th anniversary. However, this April 25, 2024, leaves a bitter taste for many Portuguese because in the recent elections, the center-right won, and Portugal finds itself celebrating this important occasion with a right-wing government after many years of left-wing socialist executives.


Being Italian, I understand the significance of this event as it is a historic date that bonds me with my Portuguese friends. On the same day in Italy, we celebrate our April 25th, known as "Festa della Liberazione" (Liberation Day), marking its 79th anniversary. On this day, we Italians also commemorate the liberation from the Germans and the Nazi-fascist regime. Another shared experience is the return of right-wing leadership in Italy after many years of center-left governments. For this reason, more than ever: Happy Liberation Day to us!



More than 600 paper carnations commemorate April 25th at São Bento station. The exhibition is created by students and teachers from the Escola Artistica Soares dos Reis.

The message on the note says: "On April 25th in Portugal, the sky opened up, and in every heart, the spring of freedom bloomed." Photo credits to Porto Canal.


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