General Artur Ivens Ferraz

The Importance of Portugal Day, June 10

Only a week after the Implantation of the Republic on October 5, 1910, the Provisional Government cancelled 14 religious holidays and instituted five secular bank holidays in order to create a more secular society.

These were January 1 (Universal Brotherhood), January 31 (Precursors and Martyrs of the Republic), October 5 (Heroes of the Republic), December 1 (Autonomy of the Portuguese Fatherland) and December 25 (Dedication to the Family). The only non-religious national holiday carried over from the time of the monarchy was December 1, albeit with a different name.

June 10 elsewhere
On June 10, 1610, Thomas West, twelfth Baron De La Warr, arrived in Jamestown to find the settlers in such dire need that they were ready to return to England. He encouraged them to remain and he was appointed the first Governor of Virginia. He is clearly the inspiration of the name of the American state of Delaware.

In 1921, Prince Philip was born in Corfu on June 10 and, with luck, this year he will be 99 years old.

And President of the USA, JF Kennedy, delivered his speech “A Strategy for Peace” at the American University on June 10, 1963. This speech is considered to be his finest and, in it, he declared that America would never start another war. This speech led directly to his assassination on November 22 that year at Dallas in Texas.

Back in Portugal
The new Republic allowed each municipality to select an annual local day’s holiday, and the custom of municipalities choosing an annual bank holiday exists even today.

In 1911, the municipality of Lisbon selected June 10, the date of the death of Camões in 1580. The magazine Ilustração Portuguesa then ironically referred to Camões as the “new saint for Lisbon”.

Luís Vaz de Camões was born in either 1524 or 1525 and died in Lisbon on June 10, 1580, the year in which Portugal lost its independence to Spain. His main work was Os Lusíadas, an epic poem which traces Portuguese history, and especially the Age of the Discoveries and the foundation of the Portuguese Empire in India. Camões himself served in India and, when he was shipwrecked off Vietnam, he reportedly saved the precious manuscript of Os Lusíadas by holding it above water as he swam ashore. The poem was first published in 1572.

Camões’ verse has been compared with that of Homer, Virgil, Dante and Shakespeare, and Camões holds a position in Portuguese literature similar to that which Shakespeare holds for the English.

In 1929, during the military dictatorship, the President of the Council of Ministers, General Ivens Ferraz, borrowed the idea and nominated June 10 as a national bank holiday to commemorate both Camões Day and Portugal Day.

Dr Salazar later hijacked this day as the Portuguese Day of the Race (Dia da Raça) to celebrate Portuguese national characteristics, and it became Camões Day, Portugal Day and the Day of the Race. He chose this day because of the link between Camões and Portuguese overseas territories, and the sense of a great nation, its global spread and a common race and language.

This national and annual celebration began in 1944 with the inaugural ceremony in the new Jamor National Stadium near Oeiras, and was continued each year usually in the Praça do Comércio in Lisbon, as well as at other locations throughout Portugal.

During the long years of the African wars, the régime used Dia da Raça for military parades and for the awarding of medals, and the commemoration of fallen heroes. Incidentally, it was only in 1948 that the government stated that Sunday was to be a national day of rest, although people were permitted to work if they had a previous authorisation.

After the Carnation Revolution of 1974, the military nature of the celebrations changed, and June 10 assumed two names, Camões Day and Portuguese Communities Day.

Those responsible for the military coup in 1974 were even quicker than their predecessors of the First Republic at instituting a bank holiday. Two days after the Carnation Revolution, the Junta de Salvação Nacional declared May 1, the Day of the Worker, a bank holiday, and on April 18, 1975 the day of the Carnation Revolution, April 25, also became a bank holiday. Strangely, it was called Portugal Day until 1978, when it became Dia da Liberdade, as it is now.

And so it was that, in 1978, June 10 re-assumed its former name of Portugal Day, together with Camões Day and Portuguese Communities Day.

Nowadays, the President of the Republic also presides over the nomination of various individuals for their contributions to Portugal. He chooses a different lead city each year and, on occasions, he nominates a city outside Portugal, and in 2016, he attended celebrations in Paris.

The day is a worldwide celebration for all Portuguese people. This year, President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa has been forced to cancel the public celebrations because of the pandemic. He was due to visit Madeira and the Portuguese community in South Africa.

Some Portuguese continue to find the association of Dr Salazar with June 10 distasteful, and would like to see another date chosen to celebrate Portugal Day. Some candidates are: June 7 (signing of the Treaty of Tordesillas, 1494); August 14 (Battle of Aljubarrota, 1385); October 5 (signing of the Treaty of Zamora, 1143); December 1 (Restoration of Independence, 1640).

But I think that, in general, the people of Portugal are now so used to June 10 as a national holiday that they would be upset if it were changed.

By Lynne Booker
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Lynne Booker, along with her husband Peter, founded the Algarve History Association. [email protected]

General Artur Ivens Ferraz
President JF Kennedy on June 11, 1963

Prince Philip
Thomas twelfth Baron De La Warr