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Where were you on the 25th of April?

by Torres Wed Apr 25th, 2007 at 02:41:10 AM EST

This is a catch phrase coined first by a veteran Portuguese journalist famous for his self-serving interviews. It was caught by another famous Portuguese, this time a comedian, and entered the public jargon, used every time one wanted to jokingly question how engaged was the other at the time.

Well, I was 7 back then, and I remember clearly getting out around 9am and walking to school only to get there and finding it closed. I went back home, somewhat happy for not having school that day.

Elsewhere in Lisbon, a military coup led by a group of captains had started to overthrow the dictatorship that had ruled Portugal for the last 48 years.

We like more diaries about holidays and history of European countries, especially if they are so uplifting as the Carnation Revolution. Promoted & slightly edited by DoDo

The coup had been brewing for a year or so. The decision to go ahead was taken in a meeting on the 24th of March following the destitution of Generals Spinola and Costa Gomes from the positions of Commander and Vice-commander in Chief of the Armed Forces. Behind this was the publishing of Spínola's book "Portugal and the future", which defended a political solution for the conflicts in the Portuguese colonies of Guinea-Bissau, Angola, Mozambique and Timor.

On the night of the 24th of April, at 22h 55m a radio station broadcasted the winner of the national song contest (and representative for Portugal in the Eurovision song contest). This was the go-ahead sign.

Shortly after midnight a few groups took control of the radio stations. A confirmation music was broadcasted, Grândola Vila Morena, a banned song written and performed by Zeca Afonso, in the style of folk chorus from the Alentejo.

At 4h 26m the first broadcast from the rebellious troops announces their intentions, asking the people to stay at home, asking the polices to not confront the military movement, and asking medical professionals to go to their hospitals, in case bloodshed occurred. The intention to avoid such a scenario is stated vehemently.

As morning breaks, the revolutionaries take their positions in Lisbon, and are able to persuade all the forces that were sent to confront them to switch to their side.
In one crucial episode the captain commanding the Forces that took over the political center of Lisbon, the Terreiro do Paço, where most ministries are placed, confronts an armoured column lead by a brigadier. Salgueiro Maia, the captain, holds a white handkerchief in his hand, wanting to parlour, but the brigadier won't meet him halfway and instead gives a firing order. He is not obeyed by any of his men, and runs away.

In the meantime, as people realize the turning point of history, they take to the streets in full support of the revolution.

What is left of the regime is sieged in the Carmo Headquarters of the GNR (Guarda Nacional Republicana, a police force), and in the headquarters of the political police the PIDE-DGS.

PM [and de-facto dictator] Marcelo Caetano phones Spinola to surrender to him and to deliver his power to someone, as he is concerned that power "falls to the streets". General Spinola takes responsibility and at the same time guarantees the safety of all those under siege.
All this passes without bloodshed.
The same didn't happen on the PIDE DGS headquarters. Five people die from shots fired from the inside of the building. The only casualties of that day.

I remember little more, besides sketchy memories of watching things unfold on TV. What I do remember was the sheer joy during the days that followed. I'm not sure when, but I know there was a point when I realized this: I was not going to go to war when I grew up.

A diary about the 25th of April probably deserves more political context. How Salazar had an isolationist view of the nation. How he held back progress and industrialization in fear of an organized working class. How dissention was met with repression. And a tribute would be owed to all those that dared confront the regime.
And then the aftermath, with the attempts of control and power from several political forces, the watchful eye of the world powers, one concerned other hopeful of having a European Cuba. The hasty decolonization process (some argue the only possible) with it's consequences for the new emerging countries that would still take many years to find peace. The demographic impact of having 500 000 refugees returning to the country fleeing the colonies, most leaving everything behind. And also the turmoil of the Revolutionary Process and all the events that eventually lead to the first Constitutional government in 1976.

But I'm afraid I don't have the stamina and the knowledge to give you more than these rough impressions of a day I think I am very privileged to have lived, even if that young. At least, I know where I was on the 25th of April.

Salgueiro Maia, the captain, holds a white handkerchief in his hand, wanting to parlour, but the brigadier won't meet him halfway and instead gives a firing order. He is not obeyed by any of his men, and runs away.

Wow, that must have been a scene!...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Apr 24th, 2007 at 05:23:59 PM EST
Yep, according to cpt Maia he ran away shouting "you are under arrest" left and right and shooting his pistol into the air.
by Torres on Tue Apr 24th, 2007 at 05:29:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Do you know what became of him? And the top guys of the regime?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Apr 24th, 2007 at 05:38:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Most eminent figures of the regime, being them political or economical (bankers and some industrialists) fled to Brazil. Marcelo Caetano lived there in exile until he died.

Salgueiro Maia went back to military life, has he had no political ambitions besides freeing the people. He died of cancer in 1992. He stands as the symbol of courage and generosity of those that made the revolution.

The main strategist and leader of the operation was Otelo Saraiva de Carvalho, who was a much more divisive figure with his extreme left wing ideas.
Later he was associated with the only left wing terrorist group to have blood on their hands (right wing groups had their share after the revolution, too) and eventually served some prison time.

by Torres on Tue Apr 24th, 2007 at 06:16:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
BTW, I edited the youtube links into embeds. It's very simple, there is a macro on ET for it, you just have to type:

((youtube xxxxxxxx))

...where xxxxxxxx stands for the end of the youtube link (e.g. for example the bolded part in http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ti8AsJZdbDU)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Apr 24th, 2007 at 05:44:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ah, thank you. I tried using the embebbing links but it failed.
by Torres on Tue Apr 24th, 2007 at 05:53:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Short after midnight a few groups took control of the radio stations.

I think it's so interesting that the first thing anybody trying to take over a country does is almost always to take over the state TV and radio stations.

I wonder if the evolution of international satellite networks has changed that pattern any.  That's probably a topic for somebody's dissertation... in what field, I dunno.

Great diary, thanks so much for posting this.  And happy holiday!

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Tue Apr 24th, 2007 at 05:56:16 PM EST
The advent of Precision guided missiles that can go wrong and hit tv and radio stations is maybe a factor too.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Tue Apr 24th, 2007 at 06:56:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"go wrong"
by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Wed Apr 25th, 2007 at 03:40:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
damn I was looking at that and was thinking I'd left something out and couldn't quite see what it was.

Quotation marks! I'd provided it without cynicism.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.

by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Wed Apr 25th, 2007 at 07:03:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Evidence from Thailand suggests not. I guess it depends on the level of satellite dish penetration. In Thailand at least, whilst a certain section of society has lots of satellite TV, if you want to parade your ego as the new "arch-Generalissimo" in front of as many people as possible, then state TV/radio is still the place to do it.

Of course the other wrinkle is about whether you've seized control or are merely trying to promote the "inevitability" of the idea that you will be in control soon too...

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Wed Apr 25th, 2007 at 04:34:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Read Coup d'État: A Practical Handbook by Edward Luttwak and all will become clear.  ;-)

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Wed Apr 25th, 2007 at 08:23:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Unfortunately your revolution completely passed me by, That day I was completely focussed on Jelly Ice-cream and cake, it being my sisters fifth birthday.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Tue Apr 24th, 2007 at 06:41:14 PM EST
I had that 2 days later. My older sister 10th birthday.
by Torres on Tue Apr 24th, 2007 at 07:08:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I remember very well. It had a great echo in France, where a lot of Portuguese opponents were refugees, like Mario Soares. We were following the unfolding of what would be called the Carnation Revolution hour by hour with great emotion...

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
by Melanchthon on Tue Apr 24th, 2007 at 06:44:15 PM EST
Me too. I was in Paris. There was a feeling of excitement, sympathy, solidarity - things were on the move.

Thanks for the diary, Torres!

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Apr 25th, 2007 at 01:45:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Great diary, Torres.

On the 25th...that'll be tomorrow, or, (looking at clock), it's your today!  Enjoy your celebrations.

(Musical picture.  [You have to wait a few moments for the music to start.]  I don't know what the site says, but O Tomate, Dia Internacional de Danca, O Tango, As Pontes Cobertas...if that sounds okay give the pic a click.)

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Tue Apr 24th, 2007 at 06:56:38 PM EST
This may be interesting: posters and stickers from the period.


by Torres on Tue Apr 24th, 2007 at 07:56:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]

"Beware of the man who does not talk, and the dog that does not bark." Cheyenne
by maracatu on Tue Apr 24th, 2007 at 10:41:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That song, and those pictures of soldiers and civilians with carnations, bring tears to my eyes every damn time. It was a heady moment in time. And I'm a sucker for this stuff :-)

If you can't convince them, confuse them. (Harry S. Truman)
by brainwave on Wed Apr 25th, 2007 at 09:27:20 AM EST
Yes, it is a very moving sight. Funny how some people here in Portugal call themselves democrats but refuse to celebrate that day in any form.
I know where they come from of course. The revolutionary process that followed and the struggles until a proper functioning democracy was in place were not without their share of misconducts, injustices and various degrees of violence.
But on that day, that single day, the only feeling that took over the country was one of indescribable jubilation, relief and hope in the new found freedom. And that certainly calls for a celebration.
by Torres on Wed Apr 25th, 2007 at 11:14:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Excellent diary, Torres...and your stuff always is...thanks! And happy holiday!

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Wed Apr 25th, 2007 at 10:51:54 AM EST
Thank you for the kind words, happy Freedom day to you, too.
by Torres on Wed Apr 25th, 2007 at 11:02:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh yes, I remember those days..
Portugal's colonial wars .....NATO involvement....As young activists we did a lot protesting all this especially since here in Belgium we had an arms-traffic harbour(Zeebrugge), Vietnam-war was not finished yet...

And then came the revolution in Portugal, first time I felt our energy  was not spend vainly.

Oh, and I still can sing Grândola Vila Morena...

The struggle of man against tyranny is the struggle of memory against forgetting.(Kundera)
by Elco B (elcob at scarlet dot be) on Wed Apr 25th, 2007 at 11:44:49 AM EST
of ProgressiveHistorians, a community site dedicated to the intersection of history and politics, I would be honored if you would cross-post this excellent diary there.

The Crolian Progressive: as great an adventure as ever I heard of...
by Nonpartisan on Thu Apr 26th, 2007 at 11:29:50 AM EST

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