Once upon a time when I was attempting to blog about my summer studying in Portugal, I wrote about Dia de Portugal. Shoutout to my buddy Patrick for remembering my old blog and reminding me of that post and how much it means for me to share this day with people.
Unlike the Fourth of July, Dia de Portugal isn’t the anniversary of Portuguese independence. Portugal has a couple of days that you could call an independence day:
June 24, 1128: The Battle of São Mamede: Dom Alfonso Henriques beats his mother and her lover in battle, takes over the County of Portugal
July 26, 1139: Dom Alfonso Henriques acclaimed King of Portugal, because who wants to be a Count when you can be a King?
October 5, 1143: Kingdom of Castile and Leon (not Spain! Spain wouldn’t exist for a few hundred years!) recognize Portugal
May 13, 1179: Pope Alexander III recognizes Dom Alfonso Henriques as King of Portugal
December 1, 1640: Portugal, which had become part of the Spanish Hapsburg empire after the death of King Sebastian I, declares independence from Spain
April 25, 1974: Carnation Revolution, Estado Novo dictatorship overthrown
So, for those of you keeping score at home: Portugal is way older than Spain. It also is not part of Spain, though it was for eighty years that we don’t like to talk about. Now you know better, and you can never ask me if Portugal is a part of Spain again. Cool? Cool.
With all these choices, Portugal did something different. Portugal Day instead marks the death of Luis de Camões. He wrote Os Lusíadas, the Portuguese national epic. (Think the Portuguese version of Virgil’s Aeneid.) As if I wasn’t already proud of being Portuguese, the literature major part of me that will never die loves that Portugal celebrates itself not on the anniversary of a battle for independence, but in memory of a poet. For more about Camões, check out Part 2 of this post.
After 1974, the day was expanded to include the Portuguese communities abroad. As a Portuguese-American, this is my day, too! There are nearly 1.5 million Americans of Portuguese descent… which is only about 0.5% of the American population. I like to think we make up for it by being loud and proud of our immigrant heritage.
In spite of our small numbers, we impacted American culture more than you realize. John Phillip Sousa? He might have written Stars and Stripes forever, but his father was Portuguese! Emeril Lagasse? BAM! His mom’s Portuguese. Steve Perry? Don’t Stop Believin’ that he’s one of my people, too. I could go on, but I’m starting to sound like the Wikipedia page on Portuguese-Americans. Yes, that’s a thing.