1 The December 1st celebrations program was long. It started at 9:00 am, with the raising of the flags, and lasted until 8:00 pm, when the Concerto de Portugal ended. This year, with magnificent novelty: the Concerto for Clarinet and Band, composed already this year, directed by its creator (maestro Samuel Pascoal) and very well interpreted by Banda da Armada and by the soloist, clarinetist Filipe Dias. When it’s published in a few days, you’ll be able to see and hear how magnificent it was. A clasp with a gold key.
Early in the morning, when I was walking to Restauradores, I came across a lady, a girl my age, who had already entered the Marquês, who approached me and asked me:
– Look! Excuse me… Aren’t you the Ribeiro e Castro of bands?
– Yes, I am the Ribeiro e Castro of bands. Why ask?
– Because it’s today. The parade of the bands, the 1st of December. I know very well. And what are you doing up here at this hour?
– So I’m going down there for the 1st of December.
– For the 1st of December? But that’s later, the bands are in the afternoon.
– Okay, but the 1st of December is not just bands. Now, there are the official celebrations.
– Oh yes? And what are you going to do there?
– Look, ma’am, I’m going to Portugal’s 900 years.
– Oh! How funny! And what does the 1st of December have to do with the 900 years of Portugal?
– It has everything. (and I explained)
If Portugal wasn’t formed 900 years ago, there would be nothing to restore on that December 1st. And there being nothing to restore, he would not have lived December 1st. I get tired of saying this. On the other hand, if there hadn’t been the 1st of December, we wouldn’t have 900 years of Portugal to celebrate either. We would have ended up there. We would not have arrived today. I also get tired of saying this.
Therefore, the 1st of December has everything to do with the 900 years of Portugal and the 900 years has everything to do with the 1st of December. I’ll tell you more: the 1st of December has everything to do with every day in Portugal. Every day that we are free, own and independent, that has everything to do with the 1st of December.
On that day in 1640, what those men dreamed of was the same ancient Portugal as Afonso Henriques. Or the Portugal of D. Dinis, who founded the University, gave us our language as an official language and founded the Navy, which, years later, took us out to sea, taking the language all over the world. Or the Portugal of Mestre de Aviz and Nuno Álvares, brave, the defender of our independence. The men of 1640 wanted to rescue the free country of 500 years ago, because that country had an ancient history and its people had formed a character and an identity that were very worthwhile. If it wasn’t worth it, it wouldn’t have had the audacity, audacity, courage, or even the idea of Restoration. It even had to be so strong that 60 years of being a foreign king did not fade, either asleep or interrupted. Therefore, the 1st of December owes everything to Afonso Henriques and all those who, after him, made us.
two The lady interrupted:
– Oh Mr. Ribeiro e Castro, but for that of 900 years there is still a long way to go…
– Look no! The Battle of S. Mamede, the first major milestone in the foundation cycle, took place in 1128. It will be 900 years already in 2028, five and a half years from now.
– Oh! Yes, actually… – agreed the lady.
And I continued, in my enthusiasm:
– In fact, before that. in 1125, Alfonso Henriques, very young (14 or 16 years old) makes himself a knight, in the Cathedral of Zamora, clearly showing his desire to be king. And I believe that, although prior to the foundation cycle itself, this is a preparatory fact of the utmost importance that we should already be celebrating 900 years, in Zamora, on Pentecost Sunday, in 2025. Here is already the melody, the tone of the nine centuries of Portugal. Look, ma’am: between us, I even think that we should invite our President of the Republic to go to Zamora that day. What do you think?
– It’s a good idea. It’s not even far, it’s right next to Bragança. I even think the President might like it. He likes these things a lot. And it was beautiful.
Afterwards, the lady jumped into our conversation:
– Oh Mr. Ribeiro e Castro, and when does your foundation cycle end?
– There are also the important dates of Ourique, in 1139, and of our independence in Zamora, in 1143. But the cycle closes with the international recognition of Portugal and our King, by Pope Alexander III, in a bull of 1179.
– 1179!? Oh Mr. Ribeiro e Castro, that’s a long way off, damn it! I haven’t been here for 900 years. Not even in 2043, perhaps, let alone 2079!…
– That’s right, but the fact that we weren’t there doesn’t mean that we don’t know that the cycle that starts in 28 ends in 79. Each one takes care of his time, but we know what the complete time is. Look, tell me something, ma’am: do you have grandchildren?
– I have two. One is 16 and the other 17.
– So, you won’t see your grandchildren turn 70, which is more or less the age where the two of us are. And because of that, don’t you know that, God willing, they’ll be 70 on your day, even though you’re not here to see it? More: wouldn’t you be able to write, now, a letter addressed to each of your grandchildren to be delivered on their 70th birthday, with the old grandmother’s tender words?
– Oh Mr. Ribeiro e Castro, don’t make me cry. But you’re giving me a good idea. I was really wanting to write to them, it wasn’t something for now. I like them so much.
– Go there on your 1st of December, I also have to go about my life. Maybe we’ll see each other in the bands later this afternoon.
3 This 900-year vision is a powerful idea that the Historical Society has given much thought to in recent months. Looking at the Statutes and mission letter, it is your main vocation.
I believe, in fact, that a period of 50 years is fast approaching, in which the inspiration of 900 years of Portugal blows. And the inspiration that blows from that period is a calm wind, a wind of confidence, which we must know how to take advantage of for the European and world affirmation of Portugal (very few are 900 years old) and for the positive, energetic, motivated support of capabilities of the Portuguese and the ferment of our collective ambition, in order to overcome the challenges that lie ahead. We go nowhere without ambition of purpose and without demands upon ourselves.
If we, for an important part of our 900 years, were the first in Europe in the world, how can we not be able to not say that we are the first in Europe, but that we are solidly in the front group and clearly above average?
Sailors often say: “a ship without a course never has a favorable wind”. We citizens have no competence as to the course. This is the competence of the President of the Republic, the Prime Minister, the Government, constitutionally more of the Prime Minister and the Government. But we can give favorable wind. We really want to give favorable wind.
We want the sails to fill up and push us towards the realization of our dreams, the realization of our purposes, to go even further than we thought was possible, giving, with nostalgia for the future, new meaning to the famous opening verses of Camões: “For seas never sailed before/Passed even beyond Taprobana.” When, with certainty, the wind blows, there is no Taprobana to stop us.
Give us the right direction, and we will provide the favorable wind.
4 We must not forget anything, hide anything. History serves to, knowing everything, learn; and, learning, guarding the good that we take with us, locking up the evil that we leave behind so as not to repeat it. We don’t have supremacist cults, we don’t have inferior cults. We are what we are and we like what we are. We like Portugal a lot. It was absolutely forced that about 1 million people, in the golden age of the Discoveries, realized what we did and were, today, the holder of the third global European language, the fifth world language, the most spoken language in the southern hemisphere.
We want to know everything about ourselves and the relationship with others who also belong to us. We want to know everything, from the friendship forged in Coimbra between D. Afonso Henriques and Yahia Ben Yaish, who helped him in various feats, such as the conquest of Santarém, which the king would designate the first rabbi of Portugal and which symbolizes the founding relationship with the Sephardic Jewish community in Portugal. We want to know everything about the Portuguese from the East, who have the rarest and most extraordinary stories of our wanderings across the Sea. We want to know everything about our African relations, with the peoples and people we love so much, and about the construction of Brazil, that formidable anchor of our language in the Americas. We want to know everything about the diaspora, from the ukulele from Hawaii to the CEOs of large companies, passing through figures of science and culture and anonymous citizens, who continue to be invited by their personal merit to the Portuguese sowing around the world that began with the first caravel that left the Tagus.
Seriously preparing the 900 years of Portugal, with the open and broad spirit that it defends, is the most favorable environment for our progress and accelerated development in all areas. There is a lot of talk about “context costs”, complex adversity. The 900 years are “context fertilizer”, a favorable accelerator. The seal of 900 years is a prestige seal, to which we must also associate the mark of responsibility and demand on ourselves, as I have already said.
The call is already there, just waiting for us to hear it and give it a useful meaning. I give a simple example. CTT often asks the Historical Society for suggestions of round ephemeris that could inspire their philatelic series for the following year. In this year, the Historical Society applied; and had the good news, a few weeks ago, to learn that almost all of his suggestions had been accepted. Next year, therefore, our stamps will mark the 5th centenary of Casa dos Bicos, the centenary of the IPO, the 150th anniversary of the great photographer Joshua Benoliel, the centenary of four great figures of our letters (Eduardo Lourenço, Eugénio de Andrade, Mário Cesariny and Natália Correia). But what CTT considered most important and which will dedicate the so-called “Inteiro Postal” are the 9th centenary of the charters of Porto and Viseu, both given in 1123, respectively, by Bishop D. Hugo and by D. Teresa (mother by Afonso Henriques). In other words, the lands that made us Portugal are already celebrating the 900th anniversary of their Portuguese charters. Therefore, the Historical Society defined the project “Foundation Charters, Municipalities of Portugal”, which intends to bring together all the councils that received Alfonsine charters and, before these, from the condal period and the regency of D. Teresa. These are the lands where we germinate and grow Portuguese. There is also Lisbon, with a charter from 1179. But the first of all is Guimarães, which received the charter from Count D. Henrique, the first charter of all, even before 1096; and we naturally consider that, regardless of the organization, this project must have Guimarães leadership, living up to the title “cradle city”.
In the cycle of 900 years, the facts where we concentrate the nonicentenary celebrations are marked in 2028, 2039, 2043 and, for those who were there, 2079. But, in between, we can mark other centenaries that have to do with our freedom, with our identity, with the formation of the territory and with the universal projection. I am referring, for example, to the doubling of Cape Bojador (1434), the 1st of December (1640), the 900th anniversary of the conquest of Lisbon (1147), the 750th anniversary of the definition of Portuguese as an official language (1297 /2047), the conquest of the Algarve (1249), the discovery of the last islands of the Azores, Flores and Corvo (1452). Be these or other choices, there is much to do here, apart from these events, under the common seal of 900 years, that fair wind I mentioned.
These are ideas that have to be served with competence, with means and with the congregation of all relevant institutions to cross Portuguese society by an inspiring current that is inexhaustible sap. I believe that History, in addition to being a science that must be followed in its entirety, not giving in to any charlatanism, is also, like science and knowledge, a treasure, a resource, hope. The 900 years are already there.
NOTE: This article is an adaptation of the speech that the author gave, in the commemorations of the 1st of December, as President of the Board of the Historical Society of the Independence of Portugal.