Lisbon, November 13
I took the overnight bus to Lisbon in order to be here for the November 14 general strike. Latest news from Spain before I left: 46 super judges from all over the country have spoken out against the evictions, and self-proclaimed themselves the spearhead of reform. Also, the mayor of Madrid went to La Princesa hospital in support of the struggle against the hospital’s closure.
Now here I am on the estuary of the Tago river. They say that Spain and Portugal live with their backs against each other, and I have a feeling it’s true. In general, they don’t speak each other’s languages. It’s not obligatory in school. The Portuguese speak better English than Spanish.
Maybe this could be explained with the strong bond that has united England and Portugal for all of modern history. The two countries maintain the longest still active alliance in the world, going as far back as the late 14th century. The thing they share is that they face the ocean more than they face the continent.
Another thing you notice is that Portugal is a lot darker skinned than Spain. The country has a long and intricate relationship with Africa. As empire builders, they were the first to go there and the last to leave, over 500 years later. As a result, black blood has merged into the lifeline of Portugal. In Spain on the other hand, most of the blacks you encounter are recent immigrants, mainly from Francophone Africa.
One of Portugal’s most notable former colonies is Angola. The country was ravaged by fifteen years of colonial war followed by over twenty years of civil war. For a decade now, the country is in peace, and it’s finally starting to exploit its huge mineral and oil resources.
This has led to the creation of a super rich elite, Arab style. If you are looking for the most expensive hotels, restaurants, night clubs and casino’s, don’t go to London, New York, Las Vegas or Dubai. Go to Luanda, the Angolese capital. You will live like a satrap. By contrast, the majority of the population in Angola is still among the poorest of the world, with low life expectancy, high infant mortality, etc.
Instead of investing in their own society, the Angolan super elite prefers to invest in the mother country. With Portugal being pushed to privatise, the petrol dollars from Africa are flowing back to Europe to buy up banks, utilities, etc. At the same time, Portuguese engineers are moving to Angola, attracted by the absence of a language barrier and the possibility of becoming super wealthy in a short time.
Understandably, there is also a significant Brazilian community here in Portugal. I don’t have any figures, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this emigratory flow is about to reverse. If it hasn’t already started, we might see many Brazilians returning home, and many Portuguese going with them in the coming years.
Yesterday, Merkel was here to assure herself that German directives were well implemented. A few hundred people protested against the visit, burning a Merkel puppet outside the presidential palace. Tomorrow there is the general strike, and from all the banners and manifesto’s I witness around town, everybody wants to be there.