I have learned many things about Portugal in the short two weeks I have been here. For instance, the ‘jegging’ fad is still going strong, you can get a decent glass of wine for $1.50, and pastries are the fifth food group. However, the most beautiful and heartwarming thing I have learned thus far during my time here is the pride the people have for their country.
Now, I know a thing or two about pride. I’m Canadian and we wave our flag like a badge of honour. We plaster it on our backpacks when travelling and if anyone (and everyone does) ask if we are American we proudly state “I am Canadian”. Canada was actually voted the sixth most patriotic country in the entire world and we all have our red Olympic mitts to prove we bleed maple syrup and gold medal hockey.
But patriotism is different here and I think that is due to a variety of reasons. One of the first being, Portugal is old. Really fucking old. We’re talking being founded in 868 and as a Canadian whose country was founded in 1867, that takes some time to wrap your head around. Portugal was also the first global empire in history, and the longest-lived of the modern day European colonial empires. I’ve been taking a lot of walking tours, but if you want to verify my facts, you know where to look!
Now, I’ve only been to two cities in Portugal, but in both the pride of their country and respected cities felt like it was oozing from the residents. They way they spoke of their history and forefathers. They way they described their national dishes and the lay of the land. It was honest, it was heartfelt, and it was inspiring.
From Portugal’s early explorations of the world, the countless battles fought against invading forces, rebuilding after devastating natural disasters (Lisbon earthquake of 1755), and the Carnation Revolution of 1974. The Portuguese people I have encountered talk with passion and pride about their country.
They welcomed questions from unknowing tourists and seemed genuinely excited to share their country with us. However, they are also willing to discuss their frustrations as well.
The young people we have talked with have discussed the problems with youth unemployment throughout the country, the mass migration of their generation and what they perceive to be a ‘crappy’ government.
Yet, regardless of their current hardships they still hold their country, their history and their cities in the highest regard and that is the sentiment I wanted to share.