The Latymer School History Magazine - page 3

Gomes, remembers being
escorted to the building
alongside one of the coup
leaders Salgueiro Maia and
the atmosphere of the
crowds that surrounded the
column of soldiers:
‘People shouted: Victory!
Victory! Victory! I remember
two men shouting two
different and politically
opposite slogans... Each of
them were shouting his own
slogans, his own feelings... I
think four or five thousand
perhaps [were there] at that
time.’
It was evident that the
revolution was an
opportunity for the people of
Portugal to express
themselves after so many
years of subjugation and
censorship.
Caetano seceded at 6pm to
General António de Spinola,
the very man he had been
determined to remove due
to his dissent over colonial
policy, and promptly fled
along with ex-president
Américo Tomás to Brazil. So
ended the Estado Novo’s 48
year grip over the nation.
The regime can be thought
of Europe’s forgotten
modern-time dictatorship – it
was the longest-running of
its kind in Western Europe,
eclipsing Franco’s Spanish
reign by almost 12 years.
Formed by a
coup d’état
in
1926, for the most part it was
ruled over as a fascist
dictatorship by António de
Oliveira Salazaar who ruled
from 1932 to 1968,
whereupon in ill health was
succeeded by Caetano.
The regime was similar to
that of Mussolini’s Italy: the
Catholic Salazaar wanted to
protect the country from
modernisation and instead
draw upon Portugal’s
heritage of rural life. Political
dissenters were often
silenced by the state secret
police, the ‘Polícia
Internacional e de Defesa do
Estado (PIDE) and
presidential appointment
became internalised from
1958.
Right up until the 1960s
good healthcare and
education was something
only the elite could access,
though certainly with the
instatement of Caetano there
was a more liberal and
progressive quality to
proceedings. However an
indisputable vice of the
Estado Novo was its
reluctance to relinquish its
African colonies. The two
main overseas territories,
Angola and Mozambique,
saw guerrilla warfare in the
struggle for independence
from Portugal. By the time of
Caetano’s ministry, around
40% of the national budget
was being spent one way or
another on retaining these
countries within her power.
It in was Salazaar’s autocratic
Portugal that Zeca Afonso,
composer of the song to
trigger the regime’s downfall,
was brought up. He was born
José Afonso in August 1929,
though spent 3 years in
Angola as his father worked
there as a judge. During
childhood, his uncle’s fascist
sympathies led to him to
enrol in the youth
organisation ‘Mocidade
Portuguesa’, a period that
Afonso himself recalls as
some of the worst days of his
life.
He was to become a popular
folk artist in Portugal – he was
an accomplished guitarist
and had a distinctively
beautiful voice – but what
truly made him an icon for
his country and his name
synonymous with revolution
was the political nature of his
compositions. His political
interest first became
apparent in 1958 after he
had finished his military
conscription, married with
two children and settled
down as a teacher having
released his first record
‘Fados de Coimbra’. It was
then that he became
enthralled with Humberto
Delgado’s presidential
campaign of that year.
Delgado had gained
democratic ideas whilst in his
position in the Portuguese
embassy in Washington D.C.
and consequently ran for
president as the opposition
to Salazaar’s party. His
opponent was the
conventionally conservative
Américo Tomás, who was
backed by the PIDE and
therefore had an almost
guaranteed victory. Despite
the extraordinary odds
against him, Delgado fought
a valiant and popular
campaign – when asked
about his attitude to Salazaar,
he uttered the brave and
famous line: ‘Obviamente,
demito-o!’ (obviously I’ll sack
him!). Despite only getting
half the votes of Tomás
(albeit down to some PIDE
ballot box stuffing), it was
enough of a threat for
Salazaar to subsequently
change legislature so that
presidents would be
internally elected from 1958
onwards.
After these events, Afonso’s
trademark style of songs
laced with political
connotations emerged and
he gained support
particularly from the working
class. Throughout the 60s
and 70s he became much
more politically involved in
events. He supported
student strikes, sung in
communist strongholds and
joined the democratic
Labour union movement. His
activity would have
consequences including
spending twenty days in
prison and expulsion from
public school teaching –
however he was not
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