This year marks the 48th anniversary of a pivotal day in the history of Portugal: Carnation Revolution or Freedom Day. Today we dedicate our blog post to this important milestone to educate the history and tremendous significance behind this day and why it’s so special for Portuguese people.
On April 25th of 1974, left-leaning military officers led a nonviolent military coup that ended the longest dictatorship in 20th century Europe, almost 50 years of an authoritarian regime, Salazar’s Estado Novo. It resulted in a newfounded transition to Democracy that ended the Portuguese Colonial War, international isolation, repression of the working class, allowing once again freedom of speech, political freedom as well as many other civil liberties once repressed.
The coup had two secret signals announcing the beginning of the Revolution:
One was Portugal’s entry in the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest “E Depois do Adeus” by Paulo Carvalho that once aired on the radio alerted the captains and soldiers to start the coup.
The other one was “Grândola, Vila
Morena” by Zeca Afonso, a political musician who was banned from the radio at the time, who gave the Armed Forces Movement signal to take over strategic points of power in the rest of the country.
As soldiers took the streets of Lisbon in opposition to Salazar’s Government, civilians soon joined them in support. The military coup was undertaken by the Armed Forces Movement led by General Antonio Spinola alongside other prominent civilian and military leaders.
In a matter of hours, General Spinola was handed the surrender of the ruling Prime Minister Marcelo Caetano who was overthrown and forced into exile in Brazil.
Spinola took charge of a Provisional Government which promised to restore civil liberties and hold democratic general elections. Hundreds of political prisoners were released.
The Carnation Revolution got its name from a restaurant worker, Celeste Caeiro, who started offering carnations to the soldiers when the population took the streets to celebrate the end of the dictatorship, with other demonstrators following suit and carnations placed in the muzzles of guns and on the soldiers' uniforms.
The revolution changed the Portuguese political system from authoritarian rule to a modern democracy. Before the revolution, more than half of Portugal’s government budget was spent with the military engaged in wars in three of Portugal’s colonies in Africa. Under the new established democratic rule a swift decolonization program was implemented granting independence to Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Cape Verde Islands, Sao Tome and Principe and Angola.
In 1976, a Parliamentary Republic was finally established and Portugal has been ever since governed by a Constitutional Democracy. In the Constitution, freedom of Religion was also granted and non-Catholic groups are recognised as legal entities with the right to assemble.
Between April 1974 and December 1975, about 900,000 hectares of agricultural land were seized as part of a land reform, as about 32% of the appropriations were ruled illegal. In 1976, the Government enacted the Land Reform Review Law that pledged to restore illegally-occupied land to its owners. In 1986, Portugal joined the European Union.
APRIL 25TH, TODAY
Many monuments, streets, parks, etc that had been named after political figures from the Estado Novo regime, were renamed shortly after the Revolution. The most prominent one was the famous 25 de Abril Bridge in Lisbon which was originally named the “Salazar Bridge”.
Today, this date is a national holiday with many spontaneous celebrations being held all over the country. The Portuguese Government and important political figures still alive today come together to remember this day in state-sponsored commemorations.
There are also lots of cultural events happening in remembrance of this beautiful day in Portuguese history and to those political figures that played a vital part in the Revolution and are no longer alive today.
During these commemorations you will hear the song “Grândola, Vila Morena” and most definitely will see beautiful carnations everywhere.
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