Portugal big and small

Here’s some pretty striking 60s-era propaganda I recently came across in the archives:

(Arquivo IPAD, No. 14408)

Translation: “Mozambique is only Mozambique because it’s Portugal.” Confused?

Most of Africa and Asia had broken free of colonial rule, and the French and British and Belgian empires had shrunk to bite-size morsels. But Portugal, the poorest country in Western Europe, was hellbent on proving that its empire was an exception. According to Lisbon propagandists, Mozambique, Angola, Portuguese Guinea, Cape Verde, São Tomé and Príncipe, Goa, Damão, Diu, Macau, and Timor weren’t Portuguese colonies in random corners of the globe. These were so-called overseas provinces of what was a single, multi-continental, multi-racial, colorblind Portuguese nation. Thus, the rainbow coalition holding taut the Portuguese flag.

And without Portugal to grant a civilizing order to things, Mozambique would break up in inter-ethnic strife, as the slogan and the red and green bands suggest. There is a shade of truth to this. Even Frelimo, Mozambique’s nationalist liberation movement, emphasized that fashioning a cohesive Mozambican nation wasn’t going to be easy. The borders that defined a political unit called Mozambique made no logical sense to anyone except the Brits and Germans and Portuguese who in the nineteenth century drew them up.

In this earlier bit of propaganda, from 1934, the pieces of Portugal’s empire were superimposed on the map of Europe under the heading “Portugal is not a small country.”

(Biblioteca Nacional Portuguesa)

Not long after, “Aqui é Portugal” (Here is Portugal) was spelled out in paving stones in the sidewalks of Luanda and Bissau and Lourenço Marques and (I assume) Dili. The big version of Portugal was more than 20 times the size of the Portugal everyone thought of as Portugal.

Check out this postcard, of Luanda, the capital of Angola, from what I assume is the 1960s:

And here’s the reverse:

“We exist because we overcome.” The gray spots indicate Portuguese possessions at a time when Portugal was dedicating something like half the state budget to fighting three wars in Africa. What’s curious is that Goa, Damão, and Diu–represented by the gray dot on the Indian coast–were seized by India in 1961. Yet I’m pretty sure the postcard dates from later in the decade. Portugal refused to acknowledge Indian rule over these territories until 1974, after the dictatorship in Lisbon was overthrown.

This entry was posted in Angola, Mozambique, Portugal and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Portugal big and small

  1. David Morton says:

    Heriberto Cairo wrote about the use of maps as propaganda in Salazar’s Portugal here.

  2. DINIS MARQUES says:

    Very nice, David.

  3. Interesting post and thanks for a wonderful read. I didn’t know about this particular “conquistador” attitude Portugal assumed so late into the twentieth century and especially not long before independence in 1975.

    I gather independence must have then been a very sudden and messy affair much worse than it was purported to be ( I don’t hear too many people complaining about it at my end).

    Adarsh P.

  4. jpt says:

    fiz uma nota no nosso blog sobre este texto, e o conjunto, além do autor

  5. Pingback: Hotel Universo | ma-schamba

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