Monday, June 13, 2005

Luis Vaz de Camoes

National identity should be a laid-back thing...

The Greatest of us all... Posted by Hello

(The Nuncio has just finished Mass. Our National Day being the reason for the event, the secular patriotic indulgence of singing hymns that tell of a special relationship between the Virgin Mary and the Portuguese should be understood and forgiven. The co-patriots are now arriving in a steady flow and look eager on the rissoled goodies that are on offer in the big airport-like restaurant area. We now move to a different stage, on the opposite corner, and are supposed to say a few words to the hungry and thirsty masses, thus preventing them to start feast immediately. I sense the futility of a romantic-patriotic speech under the circumstances and opt for strictly no-nonsense welcome everybody short words. But my Children were in the room and I felt the acrid taste of frustration at not being able to flog them, in a good way, into understanding the beautiful meaning of the day.)
So many countries honour in their respective National days some political figure ( say, a Sovereign) or an historical collective event, like a revolutionary success or a bloodbath with significant political impact, that one should be proud that we do things differently, this once. That the National Day was set in the day a Poet died (in the annus horribilis of 1580), is an amazing thing in itself. Let us forget the origin of that tradition (from the Republican agenda following the fall of the Monarchy in 1910 to the Nationalistic program of the Far Right in the 40's ) and concentrate on the fundamentals. We all accept that a Poet, Luis Vaz de Camoes, is the focal point of our National Day. Neither a war, nor a Independence struggle or a boring constitutional event, but something to do with an exceptional man who wrote unbelievable beautiful lines. It's like if the Englishmen had decided to adopt the birth or death of Shakespeare as their National day, or if the Russians had opted for a "Tolstoy Day".
I believe it's a proud achievement, a mark of civilized behaviour (like abolishing the Death Penalty). I always remember that every 10th of June. I hope my Children, who won awards at the karaoke competition at the party and seemed reasonably pleased with the time spent there, will end up sharing my pride. Somewhere in between nationalistic barking and post-colonial apologizing each of us has to find the healthy patriotic shores and sandbeaches. To lay down and smile.
Viva Portugal!

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