Many people could name some famous Portuguese: perhaps the footballers Cristiano Ronaldo, Figo and Eusébio; the explorers Henry the Navigator, Vasco da Gama, Bartolomeu Dias and Magellan; and possibly the writer José Saramago. But famous Algarvians? One obvious candidate is former President of Portugal, Aníbal Cavaco Silva. There have been two other Algarvian Presidents of Portugal: José Mendes Cabeçedas Júnior in 1926 and Manuel Teixeira Gomes (1860-1941), who endured a Presidency of just over two years.
I have great admiration for Teixeira Gomes, a man of honour and a man of his word. Gomes attended the Seminário Diocesano in Coimbra, which he hated, and he went on to study medicine at the University in Coimbra, which he also hated. After years of enjoying a playboy lifestyle among young republicans in Lisbon, he became the family firm’s representative in north Europe, and returned to Portimão to run the family business in dried fruits only when his father died.
At the coming of the Republic in 1910, his friends remembered his republicanism and appointed him as Ambassador in London because, they said, “é rico e fala inglês”. Contemporary photographs show that he was fastidiously well-dressed.
At the urging of his “friends” in 1923, he stood successfully for the office of President of the Republic, and Britain showed its appreciation of his service by giving him a lift back to Lisbon aboard the cruiser HMS Carysfort. Lacking the support of those “friends”, he became increasingly frustrated and disillusioned with the madhouse of Portuguese politics and resigned the Presidency on December 11, 1925.
Leaving Portugal for ever at the age of 65, he spent five years touring the Mediterranean as he had done as a young man, before settling in a hotel in Bougie, Algeria. Reading and writing, he spared his family “the sad spectacle of his physical decline”. In Portugal he is remembered as the author of 12 books, the most famous of which is “Agosto Azul”.
José Joaquim de Sousa Reis (1797-1838) was born in Estômbar and he was orphaned at the age of six. He was not an obedient child and he earned the soubriquet of “Remexido” (turbulent), even from his wife. Through her he became a man of distinction in the community, and a commander in the Ordenanças. He was on the side of the Miguelistas in the Civil War and in 1833 Remexido’s force captured Alcantarilha, Estômbar, Porches, Mexilhoeira, Ferragudo, Portimão, Lagoa and São Bartolomeu, murdering many Liberals, especially in Albufeira. He eventually retreated into the mountains to fight an enterprising guerrilla war.
Although the Convention of Évora-Monte in May 1834 brought an end to the Civil War and granted a general amnesty, Remexido’s reputation was too bad to earn a pardon. The hatreds born in the Civil War ensured that on his capture four years later, he was summarily tried and executed by firing squad on August 2, 1838. Those towns of the Barlavento which had suffered at his hands were invited to send representatives to witness his death.
My second favourite Algarvian hero is Loulé-born Duarte Pacheco (1900-1943), who graduated from both Faro Technical College in 1917 and the Instituto Superior Técnico in Lisbon with the astonishing mark of 90%. He became a lecturer at IST, Professor of Mathematics and then Director of the Institute by the age of 27.
Appointed Minister for Education in the government of General Vicente de Freitas in 1928, he was sent to Coimbra to persuade Salazar to join the government as Minister of Finance, a decision that he later came to regret. Minister for Public Works from July 1932 to January 1936 and again from May 1938 to November 1943, his legacy to the built environment of Portugal is enormous.
He made improvements to streets, housing and water supplies in Lisbon; planned the Tagus Bridge (Ponte 25 de Abril); enacted the need for urban planning; planned and executed the National Exhibition in 1940; built the National Stadium and Portela Airport in Lisbon; and so much more.
He died in hospital in Setúbal on November 16, 1943 following a car accident as he hurried to a ministerial meeting. The monument erected to him in Loulé was inaugurated by Salazar on the 10th anniversary of his death; it appears to be unfinished and serves as an allegory of Pacheco’s bright and energetic life so tragically cut short. The inscription around the monument is “Uma vida velozmente vivida e inteiramente consagrada ao progresso pátrio” (A life lived at high speed and wholly dedicated to the progress of his country).
Sebastião Phillipes Martins Estácio da Veiga was born in Tavira and his main interest was in archaeology. After the great floods in 1876 had exposed ancient monuments, he was appointed to catalogue the archaeological remains in the Alentejo and the Algarve. His ‘Antiguidades Monumentaes do Algarve’ (in 4 volumes) is an immense work of scholarship and Estácio da Veiga is considered the father of the study of archaeology in Portugal.
My last famous Algarvian is Álvaro de Campos (1890 – ?). The Municipal Library in Tavira is named after him and many of his poems are displayed on streets throughout the town. Álvaro de Campos is of course a heteronym of Fernando Pessoa, who wrote a short biography of his creation. Pessoa himself spent a significant holiday in Tavira and in his poem “Estou cansado da intelligência”, Campos reflects on memories of Pessoa’s Tavira holidays.
By Lynne Booker
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Lynne Booker, along with her husband Peter, founded the Algarve History Association. [email protected]