On the 25 April Lisbon is usually buzzing with celebrations and filled with red carnations as Freedom Day is commemorated and hundreds of people join in the parade through the city streets. This year we are being asked to celebrate at home with music, humour and photography, via variety of online cultural events. Like the rest of Europe we are staying at home to prevent the spread of covid-19, so today, we will be turning to social media to mark this special day in Portuguese history.
This is an updated and amended version of 25 April 2018 and 2019 pages. Early on the morning of 25th of April 1974, 48 years of Military Dictatorship ended in Portugal. Today, Freedom Day, is a public holiday, a day Portuguese people celebrate and remember what is known as The Carnation Revolution. The military coup was started by two secret signals, songs broadcast on the radio. The first was the Portuguese entry of Eurovision Song Contest, E Depois do Adeus, to alert rebel captains and soldiers of the army to begin the coup. The second was Grândola, Vila Morena, by Zeca Afonso, a political musician-singer who at the time was banned from Portuguese radio, this song was the signal to take over strategic points of power in the country and to announce the revolution had started and that nothing would stop it.
The revolutionaries did not use violence, and no shots were fired, unusual for a coup. As the soldiers entered the city and residents took to the streets to celebrate the end of the dictatorship, flower sellers handed out red carnations, the flowers in bloom at the time, carnations were put in the muzzles of rifles and on the soldiers uniforms, which is where ‘Carnation Revolution’ comes from. The only deaths that occurred on this day in 1974 was when the Political Police opened fire on people on the streets and killed four people. A plaque commemorates their deaths.
A former political prison of the dictatorship is now a museum, the Museu do Aljube. A leaflet about the museum states,
The Museum fulfils the city of Lisbon’s and the country’s duty of gratitude to, and the memory of, the victims of prison and torture, who, sacrificing their own lives, fought for freedom and democracy. The Museum aims to be a site of memory and a way to promote the values of democracy and freedom.
The building’s name, Aljube, is from Arabic meaning ‘well without water’ or ‘prison’. It was originally a church prison, (it is next to Lisbon Cathedral), then a prison for women. The Military Dictatorship used the prison from 1928, it then became one of private prisons of the political police.
Between 1928 and 1965, thousands of men were taken to this prison, either because they had just been arrested, or were coming from torture and interrogation. The fourteen pens, or drawers, in Aljube prison where the men were held for indefinite periods of time, measured 1 x 2 meters, with no natural light and unsanitary conditions.
A composition photo of the face of Amável Vitorino, made up of photos of political prisoners. Vitorino was a shoemaker who was arrested in December 1940 for ‘unpleasant comments on the current political situation of the country and its leaders’, released in February 1941, and arrested again, ‘for questioning’ in April 1952, released in August 1952.
Being imprisoned did not stop the resistance to the dictatorial regime and the ‘prison press’ existed in a number of prisons. The newspapers in the photo are examples from 1934 to 1945. All prisoners had three photos taken when they were arrested.
As part of the Freedom Day celebrations, the Câmara Municipal, (the City Hall), is open. City Hall is home to Lisbon’s City Council, the Mayor and councillors offices, and the public sessions hall are here. The present form of the building was constructed between 1864 and 1880, it was on the balcony that the Republic was announced in October 1910. The stairs and balcony have red carnation displays and every visitor is given a red carnation as they leave the building.
In 2019 to mark the 45th anniversary of the Carnation Revolution, as part of the many and varied commemorative activities across the city, Praça do Comércio staged a 360º, immersive video-mapping show, dedicated to the “Memories of April”. As the name suggests, the show took the audience on a journey into the past, revealing the days in the run-up to the revolution, remembering the day when everything happened and the balmy days which followed. The show covered episodes such as the coup d’état, the dictatorship and the colonial war, followed by the military coup, Zeca Afonso’s song “Grândola”, the story of the carnations and the year of 1975 when Freedom emerged triumphant.