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Changing the History of Portugal? Yea! – Jorge Fonseca de Almeida

The past is immutable. There is no way to go back and change what we regret, what did not work as we intended, to live our moments of glory again as Bruce Springsteen sang them so well. The arrow of time has only one direction, that of the past towards the future. Inexorably.

History, however, is changeable. It is a social science that is always incomplete and always partial. It is not done once and for all. New elements emerge, new documents are discovered, new techniques allow objects to be dated better, languages ​​that are deemed impenetrable are deciphered, other interpretations emerge, new angles and perspectives illuminate facts that seemed to point in a given direction. History is always changing.

History is also different when seen through different eyes. The 25th of April is a popular revolution in the eyes of a worker and an anti-patriot coup d’état when analyzed by a convinced colonialist. The 1st of December seen by a Portuguese liberated Portugal, but by a Castilian it dismembered the Spanish Crown. Is Viriato a Portuguese or Spanish ancestor? Both claim it. What were the events of Marinha Grande in 1934?

History tells us, most of the time, the perspective of the winners, of the oppressors. But the vanquished and oppressed also have their history. Defeats also mark, so we remember Alcácer Quibir and the battle of Alcântara. These battles had and have a different meaning for Spaniards and Moroccans. Who knows the great black anti-racist movement of the First Republic that was organized in Lisbon since 1911? The main works of the History of Portugal do not mention it, however, it existed, it was vibrant and had several successes. Read Pereira and Varela.

And then you have to know who we identified with. Who do we want to perpetuate? Spartakus in struggle to free himself from slavery or Crassius the Roman general who represented the Roman Republic that enslaved people? Zumbi or the Portuguese slaves in Brazil? Who do we want to remember as the hero Machado dos Santos, firm in the Rotunda, or his monarchical opponents? Who do we want to erect a statue of Miguel de Vasconcelos or the 40 conspirators? This is an important discussion that defines us as people, as moral beings, as a people.

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Naturally, the vision of history that we repeat today and that we inherited from the Estado Novo regime does not serve an open, tolerant and diverse society. It is a History that has as heroes individuals like Marcelino da Mata and that classifies Amílcar Cabral as a terrorist. That glorifies Salazar and vilified Humberto Delgado. A History made from the point of view of a regime that we repudiate.

Yes, history has to change. Always based on the facts that are known, and more and more are discovered, but plural from the perspective with which they are viewed and analyzed and not univocal, reproducing the vision of the Estado Novo.

It is necessary to recognize that much of what our History has been taught to us was an illusion, contradicted by the facts, a partial view, which left out many other interpretations of the same facts, and propaganda propagandistic for political purposes that are very clear today. A History strange to modern eyes, full of mythical heroes, with superhuman characteristics, and not explained by the movement and evolution of technologies and social groups.

Recognizing this reality can be painful. It can be difficult for the weakest in spirit and conviction. But it is a first step so that we can face history in what it truly is: a social science that is always evolving and changing. It is that if we want to abandon the realm of advertising and embrace science, we have to accept that history changes and that this is not unpatriotic, but simply an unavoidable fact of life.

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