Portuguese President of the Republic Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa admitted this week that the work of Algarve poet and educator João de Deus “changed” his life and taught him how to love his country even more.
He was speaking at a ceremony to mark the poet’s 190th anniversary in São Bartolomeu de Messines (Silves) on Monday.
The president did not mince his words while describing just how much influence the poet had on his life. He said he had been “waiting for this moment” his whole life.
“He taught me how to love Portugal even more at a time when I didn’t even know what Portugal was very well. He changed my life and the lives of millions of Portuguese,” he said.
The president explained that João de Deus was able to achieve the “rare” feat of being celebrated during his lifetime and not being forgotten.
The poet, who was born in Messines in 1830, was one of 14 children and studied Law at the University of Coimbra. His academic career was tumultuous and lasted 10 years.
After writing poetry for years, acting as editor of several newspapers and a short-lived political career, João de Deus married Guilhermina das Mercês Battaglia who gave him the stability he needed to cement his legacy of praised poetry.
But his biggest achievement came arguably when he wrote ‘A Cartilha Maternal’, which served as a guidebook to teach children to read. It is said to be one of Portugal’s most reissued publications.
Its teachings are still used by some today, proving just how much of an impact it has had since it was published in 1876.