Not all Portuguese share the feeling of hyperidentity that Eduardo Lourenço praised during the transition from dictatorship to democracy. Historical criticism is seen by some as an attempt to be collective, while literary criticism, including authors who distinguished themselves by the caustic judgment of their world today, like Eça de Queirós, immediately sparked a chorus of protest. Literary or historical heritage is not a relic; Eça joked about the subject. There is a negative oversensitivity that does not appear spontaneously but is part of the recent political game.
Criticism is inherent in the development of a nation, there is and cannot give a unified vision of what we are today and what we were in the past. Every country is riddled with social divisions with different and even conflicting interests, which are reflected in contradicting visions of the past and the present. Out of this dynamic, a nation is created as a collective dimension of a people with a multidirectional linguistic and cultural heritage in permanent construction and reconstruction.
When I organized the book The Memory of the Nation (1991) with Diogo Ramada Curto, the aim was precisely to understand the diverse dimensions of a historical becoming that models power relationships in constant negotiations, rights versus privileges, property regimes, religious forms and configurations that contributed to multiple forms of identity. This project was inspired by three authors, Pierre Nora, of Places of Memory, who published an extensive collective study of French heritage as a mark of identity, Alphonse Dupront, who is interested in the history of the Crusade myth and the creation of national sentiments, and Eric Hobsbawm, the most influential English historian of the 20th century who studied invention processes of the past. Although the dimension of social class and historical construction was present, the gender dimension and the ethnic or racial dimension were not assimilated.
The difference between historical memory, which is based on a critical analysis of the past, and collective memory, which is necessarily in the plural, in permanent change due to the realities of the present that reorganizations and amnesias impose in the perception of the past, was nevertheless clear . There are interfaces between historical memory and collective memory, as the memory guidelines developed by authorities aim to celebrate events and erect monuments that anchor the foundations of the respective regimes.
The conflict over the centenary celebrations of Infante D. Henrique in 1960, which left its mark on the Padrão dos Descobrimentos and the Praça do Império arrangement, contradicted a view of history based on religion and providence, a clear Salazarist appropriation of the past. to a vision of history based on the collective dimension of mass emigration (one and a half million by the beginning of the 19th century in a population of one to three million) in which economic and commercial interests played a decisive role without forgetting religion. The elitist vision of Salazarism, which took care of the interests of the rich, as Eduardo Lourenço emphasized, is expressed in the fountain on Praça do Império with the coat of arms of the noble houses that would have brought about the Portuguese expansion. I have never advocated the demolition of these monuments for two reasons: the Padrão dos Descobrimentos has been the subject of a good adaptation, memory and updating of the program, while the source must remain there as a testimony to a dictatorial and elitist regime that cannot inspire anyone with their heads in the 21st century. I am not even talking about the proposal to restore kitsch gardens with colonial heraldry, it is simply offensive to African and Asian countries with which we must have good relations.
The 1991 project, in which the appropriation of the national language by the nostalgic extreme right, which I distinguish from the liberal right, was rejected, needs to be updated. Over the past 30 years, Portugal has deepened its ties with the European Union, despite the fact that the economy has experienced relative stagnation since the 2000s, exacerbated by the financial crisis of 2008 and the Covid-19 crisis of 2020. This relative stagnation has created tension in a population that has created expectations for a better life that have not been met. Economic and social inequality between rich and poor, which had weakened by the late 2000s, is increasing again, with 1% of the richest population appropriating much of the wealth. Emigration has had its ups and downs, but Portugal has one of the highest accumulated emigration rates in relation to the total population. Finally, immigration, which peaked with the independence of PALOP, continues to flow to meet the need for agricultural labor that does not attract the Portuguese, to respond to intolerable political conditions in other countries and to take advantage of new visa gold and tax opportunities. Preferential benefits for foreign pensioners.
Above all, the surveys show the ignorance of the anti-racist norm that has prevailed in the world since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This is an obvious failure in civic education that the Education Council has already warned about and that requires action from the competent minister
Although there are no statistics on the new racial reality of the Portuguese population, it is clear that the effects of two generations of immigrants from different backgrounds require integration efforts. Historical memory of the realities of our own multicontinental emigration can help. The racism debate cannot be swept away as an artificial problem, making racial and anti-racist equivalents a malicious maneuver for naturalization and justification for discrimination. Accusing national identity of breaking the denunciation of racism is an attempt to silence those who suffer and are on the side of the law. The latest economic studies on racial discrimination like Heather McGhee’s in relation to the United States, certainly with a deeper problem, show the importance of an integrated development policy.
We are all familiar with the latest European polls which show that 60% of the Portuguese population hold racist opinions. My definition of racism has two components: prejudice against ethnic origin combined with discriminatory measures. The majority of the population is not involved in minority discrimination, but the problem needs to be taken very seriously as there are regular racist crimes such as the recent murder of Bruno Candé, the constant physical and verbal attacks on associative leaders and the football player , the insulting graffiti on the walls of clubs and schools, the interruption of school hours with racist messages. Children need to be protected from lifelong injuries.
Most of all, the polls show ignorance of the anti-racist norm that has prevailed in the world since the 1948 United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which influenced our constitution and criminal law based on the notion of dignity and equality. People. This is an obvious failure in civic education that the Education Council has already warned about and that requires action from the competent minister.
The author writes according to the new orthographic convention