What do you suppose will happen in Portugal in May of 2024?
By then, the celebrations and declarations prompted by the anniversary celebrations of the Carnation Revolution will fast be becoming memories, as Portugal and her people look forward to further adventures in democracy, and by then, expectantly at a newly-elected government.
Knowing the Portuguese people, as I will be bold enough to say I do, and sufficiently in this parliamentary context to make a prediction: I suspect the political prato do dia (dish of the day) will start with a sopa of cynicism, followed by a filling main course of resignation with a side of stoicism, and finishing with a sobremesa of ‘surprise me’.
Speaking of defining historical moments as we are, let’s cast our collective minds not only forward but back as well, to California in the 1960s – 1967 to be precise, when thousands of young Americans, many of whom had already gathered in San Francisco, descended on Golden Gate Park for what they called a ‘Human Be-In’. You may have even been one of them, if you are one of those US expats who’s recently chosen Portugal for its resemblance to the place which birthed this ‘Summer of Love’ that I speak of.
Now, I know it’s fast become a cliché, and source of annoyance to some, that this land in which we find ourselves is occasionally called the ‘California of Europe’ with its lengthy seaboard, crystal light and easy-going vibes. But the similarities may well be ‘energetic’ too, as those hippies may have said, as well as the more obvious geo-physical comparisons people make.
In 1967, the yearning for peace and love was set against a backdrop of political and socio-economic frustration, a seemingly unwinnable war, and a youthful questioning of received values upon which the nation’s very lifestyle was based. This, a picture not unlike that of pre-revolution Portugal less than 10 years later, and dare I say it: post-pandemic Portuguese society, over 50 years on?
Much of the rest of Europe, as well as the Western world, is also facing a grave sense of uncertainty in these times, along with a vacuum of hope, that could be a fertile soil for another flower-based event, whether it be red carnation-inspired or the next flower-powered movement for global transformation.
Both Portugal’s democratic uprising of ‘74 and the ‘67 Summer of Love, though immensely disruptive, epoch-defining and transformational, did not go far enough some might say, undermined as they may have been by the very agendas of self-interest and greed that they ironically set out to challenge. Plus ça change … a French cynic might say.
Both however, regardless of the harshest critiques, have left an indelible impression on those who were there to witness them, and others like me who take vicarious pleasure and inspiration at the very thought of those turbulent yet hugely hopeful historical events. “It’s the hope that kills you,” an English football fan might say!
In the wake of such events, and in celebration of them, we could rightly ask why optimism and idealism fail so reliably and rhythmically.
But I won’t.
Instead, I propose a new Portuguese Summer of Love, a Verão de Amor, that will pick up where next year’s Spring of Celebration leaves off, a window of opportunity as it were, that few will be considering.
Bear with me…
Portugal is already for so many of us, with more arriving, the ‘new rock and roll’. The lifestyle here, modelled so beautifully and generously by the natives, is infectious and compelling. We don’t just want to live in Portugal, we want to be Portuguese. And not just on paper but in spirit.
Portugal is incidentally also the unsung, and maddeningly modest, party capital of the continent if not the entire planet. While some exotic or muddy locations elsewhere are famous for their week-long carnivals and festivals, Portugal is partying across every village, town and city from the first days of Spring into Christmas and New Year, from late in the evening into the early hours of the next day. It rocks, literally.
Here, we have the historical precedent, a clearly attractive present moment in time (with all the awards Portugal keeps winning for its quality of life) and the future potential, to host a happening (as those hippies used to say) that could be the envy (and blue touch-paper) of a whole world looking for meaning and vision – beyond tired political ideology and its inevitably divisive, polarising outcomes.
So often I see that keyword of ‘community’ touted as what’s missing from modern society, something I feel Portugal still knows how to do, despite the best efforts of globalising technocratic corporate agendas. Am I right in thinking that Portugal reminds us how to be human, and even how to be happy, especially those of us from cultures that have put other, dehumanising, disharmonising values in the way of our happiness?
So, are you with me on the 26th of April next year, when, as we tidy up after our Revolution celebrations, we keep not only the bunting up, but our hopes up too?
The stage will still be set. History will be ringing in our ears and urging us to take our collective human endeavour to a new and more fulfilling level. Food and wine will be abundant in the public spaces and picnic areas where Portuguese families gather. Musicians and DJs will be ready with the soundtrack of a new era – upbeat, positive and joyous. What’s not to like, and who’s not to like it?
If this Verão de Amor goes well, others in the year 2074 will wish they had been us, the ones who looked into the global vacuum of hope, and abhorring it like nature does, filled it with Portuguese love of family, community and nation! In this age of artificial intelligence, Portugal could share with the world its ‘social intelligence’, and lure us away from our screens and cubicles, and back to the mercados, praças and cafes in daily celebration of humanity with all its foibles and flaws, yet united in a quest to be better, less burdened and more loving.
It really could happen, but it can’t happen without our love of Portugal, and our love of life itself, being more than a slogan, marketing campaign or political device. Love is a verb and maybe, just maybe, Portugal’s Summer of Love ‘24 will be an example and inspiration to the world – in action, in reality – just as its Carnation Revolution was, 50 years before.