Despite the diplomatic discourse that Portugal and Brazil are sister countries, united by deep bonds of friendship, there is an estrangement between the two nations. While Brazil is ashamed of its Portuguese origins, the Portuguese despise the former colony.
These and other considerations are made by Carlos Fino, 73, one of the best known figures in Portuguese journalism. He has just released “Portugal-Brasil: Raízes do Estranhamento” (Ed. Lisbon International Press) as a result of his doctoral thesis, defended at the University of Minho.
In the work, the author argues that there is a lusophobia in Brazil, fueled by a negative view of Portugal present in the press, in textbooks and even in cultural productions, such as films and soap operas.
“Brazil is ashamed of the Portuguese heritage”, says the journalist, for whom prejudice against the Portuguese past is unconscious and even rejected by Brazilian intellectuals.
“This does not exist in relation to contemporary Portugal, which is much sought after by Brazilians. Many like the country, rich Brazilians go to Portugal to buy a house, but this does not erase anti-Lusitanism, which is deeply rooted to the point of being unconscious,” he says. Thin.
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After a long career as an international and war correspondent for RTP (public broadcaster in Portugal), with stints in Moscow and Brussels, Fino moved to Brazil in 2004 to work as press advisor for the Portuguese embassy in Brasília. Held the position until 2012.
The invitation came after the journalist was also recognized in Brazil for his coverage of the American invasion of Iraq in 2003. He was the first to report, before the major international broadcasters, the beginning of the bombing in Baghdad. The images won the world and were also shown in Brazil as a result of an agreement between RTP and TV Cultura.
The new book, according to the author, is an attempt to help overcome the estrangement between the two countries. “It is better to accept the difference so that we can overcome it”, he says.
In the book, you say that there is a strong estrangement between Portugal and Brazil. How did you start to realize this? My mission at the embassy was to project Portugal in Brazil, so I was particularly attuned to that sort of thing. An episode at a gas station, when an employee did not know that Portuguese was spoken in Portugal, was one of the first and most striking, but there were many others.
Or when, for example, in an exhibition on Brazilian Baroque, in Brasília, there was no reference to Portugal. In the entire exhibition, there was no word “Portugal” and there was no word “Portuguese”. This started to show me that the Brazilian bias is, let’s say, dilute Portuguese memory. When it cannot be erased, it is diluted. Instead of Portuguese, it is called Iberian. Or instead of Iberian, it is called European.
the anecdotes [piadas] that still persist, behind our backs or in front of us. There wasn’t a Portuguese person I had spoken to for this thesis who didn’t tell him that he felt embarrassed or humiliated in some way by the anecdotes. This persistence of the Portuguese as dirty, as a donkey.
As a Portuguese, I couldn’t help reacting to this as well. I think Portugal runs the risk of seeing its historical memory in Brazil erased.
In your assessment, why is there this risk of deletion? It is clear that Brazil has several other influences, from the prehistoric ones, passing through the indigenous people and then the black presence coming through slavery. Later, from the end of the 19th century, with Spaniards, Italians, Japanese, Germans, Syrians, Lebanese, Slavs and many others. Of course all this has to be there.
Now, what cannot be erased is that, despite all these differences, what marks Brazil is the Portuguese heritage. Brand indelibly. The Portuguese heritage is not present, in my opinion, in the Brazilian conscience. Because Brazil, to distinguish itself from Portugal, had to accentuate the differences. And, therefore, ended up erasing the importance of Portuguese memory.
It’s not an estrangement that comes out of nowhere. Come because Brazil is ashamed of the Portuguese heritage.
How does this shame of the Brazilian in relation to Portugal operate? This shame has no reason to exist, even historically, because Portuguese colonialism was neither worse nor better than other colonialisms.
It is also negative for Brazil. On the one hand, this presence is indelible, it is in the blood, it is in the language and it is in history, but, on the other hand, it is diminished, despised, rejected.
There is shame about the Portuguese heritage, which is seen as everything that was bad, as the origin of all evil. Rejecting this heritage, Brazil rejects everything that is bad, because there is always this bad side to everything. But it also loses all the good, and this good side is never truly assumed to be a genuine Brazilian heritage.
Is it over there [vergonha da herança portuguesa] it is not conscious, it is even rejected. In the Brazilian intelligentsia, the tendency is not to recognize this.
This thought is sustained today, when there is an increasing interest of Brazilians in Portugal?This does not exist in relation to contemporary Portugal. Contemporary Portugal is sought after by Brazilians. Many Brazilians work in Portugal, they like the country. The rich Brazilians go to Portugal to buy a house.
But this does not erase anti-lusitanism, which is deeply rooted to the point of being unconscious. That’s why he can travel incognito on board TAP aircraft.
The significant increase in the Brazilian community in Portugal may contribute to reduce the estrangement between the two countries? I think that alone is not enough. It can contribute to the rapprochement, but it can also accentuate prejudices or create other reactions.
I know diplomats who emphasize this aspect a lot, who say that the estrangement is already over, who ask why I am talking about this. They say that everything is fine, that trade has never been higher, that there has never been such a great exchange of people. This is very convenient for those who don’t want to do something.
Could the Brazilian discomfort in relation to the Portuguese heritage be a consequence of the very lack of discussion, in Portugal, about the legacy of its colonial past? No doubt. Portugal still has a lot to discuss about its colonial past. We are very marked by more than 40 years of Salazarism and the regime’s propaganda, based on the exaltation of Portuguese heroic deeds. This is in my generation, in previous generations and in generations to come.
This is only now starting to be challenged and questioned. We have a lot of new people questioning all this and seeing the other side of the situation. Portugal needs to take on, say, the cursed side of its heritage, not just the heroic and exalting side of the great adventure of the 16th century. This is absolutely necessary.
You often mention Portuguese jokes and derogatory references to Portuguese people. In your experience living in the country, did you find yourself in many situations like this? I think there is always a look behind the gaze. Therefore, it is inevitable that I, in the presence of Brazilians, know that they are looking at me with a different look beyond the one exposed. There’s no getting around it, and it’s better to talk about it than pretend it doesn’t exist.
I know that, deep down, as soon as I turn my back, or maybe even in front of me, there will be someone who will tell the Portuguese anecdote. Because the Brazilian may even lose his friend, but he doesn’t lose his grace.
Brazilians do not seem to want to recognize their poor father, they do not want to recognize where their moment of origin came from. I think it is harmful for both sides. We would have to be more truthful and face this reality eye to eye.
You point out that Brazil does not have a holiday to mark the arrival of the Portuguese. Do you think celebrating the date could help improve relations between the two countries? The United States Celebrates Columbus Day [feriado nacional em 12 de outubro, em celebração à chegada de Cristóvão Colombo ao continente americano]. But the Columbus Day celebration is a controversy in the US and in several countries that were colonized by the Spaniards.
There is an undercurrent that disputes everything, but the truth is that the US celebrates Columbus Day. Why is Brazil not celebrating Cabral’s day? It is the opening day of the process that would lead to its own constitution, which is not just Independence. Independence was much later.
I think so, a holiday could help to reinforce the idea that the Portuguese heritage is part of Brazilians, it could certainly help to bring us closer together. It could also contribute to creating an image in Portugal that Brazil respects us after all.
You assign part of the responsibility to Portugal. What can the country do to reverse this? The first thing is the knowledge of reality as it is, as it presents itself. And abandoning the blablabla of Luso-Brazilian friendship, which only exists on the four walls of joint events. Once you leave there, the reality is completely different. This only disturbs, it’s no use. We better accept the difference so we can overcome it.
Portugal would have to be aware that its presence would have to be much deeper than it is today, in general and in particular in Portuguese cultural and diplomatic agents.
I suggest some things in the book, like creating a great Luso-Brazilian journalism award. The Lusa agency has to return to Brazil, RTP has to be here in another way.
Right now, the relationship is very one-sided. It’s been like that since the 1950s, when I was a kid and I saw Donald Duck, and now it’s much more. Globo is dominant in soap operas, we know everything about Brazil, but Brazil knows little about Portugal.
Carlos Fino, 73
Born in Lisbon, he studied law before joining journalism in the 1970s. He was an international and war correspondent for RTP, with an emphasis on covering the American invasion of Iraq in 2003. He moved to Brazil in 2004, where he was an advisor press conference at the embassy of Portugal in Brasília until 2012.