Commemorations, Portuguese historic

   As in so many other activities of Portugal and its people, in historic commemorative work, the past always seems present. For more than a century, Portugal has planned and sponsored a variety of historic commemorations related to the glorious Age of Discoveries era of historic Portugal. The Columban centenary commemorations, involving Spain and Italy in particular, have gained greater world attention, Portugal, nevertheless, has a history of her own commemorations.
   Whatever the political ideology of the governmental system involved, Portugal's historic commemorations have been continuous and well-planned, and have sought to stir national pride as well as regime loyalty. Portugal's official efforts in public commemoration date at least back to 1880, when the Portuguese celebrated the 300th anniversary of the death of the national epic poet, Luís de Camões. Others followed that sought to arouse national remembrance and encourage notions of national revival, by focusing either on biographical or national discovery dates. The next major commemoration was in 1894, when Portugal commemorated the 500th anniversary of the birth in 1394 of Prince Henry of Aviz (Prince Henry the Navigator) and, in 1897-99, the 400th anniversary of Vasco da Gama's discovery of the sea route to India.
   The 20th century has seen the most elaborate and publicized historic commemorations for Portugal. Besides its extensive propaganda program beginning in the 1930s, the Estado Novo put considerable effort into extensive historic commemorations, with the purpose of encouraging national pride and international respect, as well as regime loyalty. At least three national commemorations are worthy of note here, although scores of other events were held on a smaller scale. From June to December 1940, Portugal held the grand Double Centenary celebrations, which celebrated Portugal's emergence as an independent monarchy and state in 1140 (800 years) and the restoration of independence from Spain in 1640 (300 years). More than five months of activities included expensive publications of books and tourist materials, exhibits, academic conferences, and an outstanding Lisbon "world's fair" known as the "Exposition of the Portuguese World," staged at Belém, in front of the Monastery of Jerónimos, and involving the unveiling for the first time of the new Monument of the Discoveries.
   Two other commemorations of the Estado Novo deserve mention: the 1947 celebration of the 800th anniversary of the Portuguese taking of Lisbon (1147) from Moorish forces and the 1960 commemoration activities marking the 500th anniversary of the death of the central figure of the Portuguese Discoveries, Prince Henry the Navigator. The latter set of events took place during a time of political sensitivity, when the government's African policy was under strong international pressures.
   Since the Revolution of 25 April 1974, democratic Portugal has put substantial resources into commemorating various persons and events of the Age of Discoveries. In 1980, Portugal's scholars celebrated the 400th anniversary of the death of the national poet Camões in many books, articles, exhibits, and conferences. But this would all be overshadowed by the celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Portuguese Discoveries, which would run from 1988 to 2000. This elaborate effort involved the establishment of a government agency, the National Committee for the Commemoration of the Portuguese Discoveries, headed by one of Portugal's most eminent scholars on the subject, Dr. Vasco Graça Moura. Commemoration began in 1988 with the celebration and reenactment of the 1488 voyage of navigator Bartolomeu Dias from Lisbon to beyond the Cape of Good Hope, in South Africa. The 12-year cycle, the longest Discoveries commemorations of any century and of any Western country, put the 1992 Columban Quincentenary events somewhat in the shade.
   Between May and October 1998, Portugal held Expo '98 in Lisbon, a world's fair that was keyed to the celebration of the 500th anniversary of Vasco da Gama's discovery of an all-water route to India in 1498. This cycle ended in 2000, marking the 500th anniversary of the year that Portugal's Pedro Álvares Cabral discovered Brazil.

Historical dictionary of Portugal 3rd ed.. . 2014.

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  • EXPO '98 —    Portugal s world s fair, held from May to October 1998, set in Lisbon. Designed to commemorate and celebrate the 500th anniversary of Vasco da Gama s 1498 discovery of an all water route to India, this was an ambitious undertaking for a small… …   Historical dictionary of Portugal

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