The Fragrance of Revolutions: From Carnation to Jasmine

On the morning of April 25, 1974, as I sat in one of my 5th grade classrooms in Caldas da Rainha, Portugal, my teacher’s nervous look out the window called my attention to a long chain of military vehicles driving down a nearby road. Our provincial town had a large military base, so I made nothing of it. But within a few hours my country and people’s forbidden secret would be revealed to hundreds of thousands of children like me: we had been living under something called “a fascist dictatorship” for nearly 50 years.

A bloodless military coup put an end to it that day, with what came to be known as the Carnation Revolution of April 25. The endless military parade around the city’s square–”Praca da Fruta”–that afternoon, the cheers and cries of the people, the carnations flying in the air and adorning gun barrels remain vivid memories—and I have relived them often since the unfolding of the Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia.

A 1970's image of the city square--Praca da Fruta (Fruit Plaza), where a large farmers' market takes place everyday--shared by a blogger who retells events of his adolescence in Caldas around that time.

The excitement of those early weeks, months—with political prisoners being freed, ex-patriots returning home, the songs of the revolution, political parties organizing for free elections, colonies being handed back to the African people—was followed by tumultuous, at times violent years. At the age of 12, I joined a demonstration of the social democratic party at Commerce Square–Praca do Comercio–in Lisbon to protest a relentless wave of government takeovers, and I had my first taste of tear gas–a precocious “coming-of-age,” “run-of-the-country” event!

The economic situation would worsen for years to come, but all through my teens, living in Lisbon, I would sit at cafés after school to discuss politics, ideology, philosophy–the past and future of the country. That personal awakening and investment alone was life-changing. The glory of the revolution was about having a voice. Throughout my adult life in the United States, I have often been labeled “opinionated” (mostly by men), and “challenging” (mostly by women). I smile, knowing where it all comes from: when you wake up one morning to realize your parents and grandparents lived the better part of their lives without a voice, how can you ever let go? For one, unlike too many of my American acquaintances, I could never pass on my right to vote.

In early 2011 when the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions were all the news, my passion for writing notwithstanding, the idea of blogging was the furthest from my mind. But the Arab uprisings and America’s sudden fascination with foreign affairs stirred old, favorite subjects of mine:  revolutions, the Middle East, and American’s seeming lack of interest in world news. [Read more here or see a modified version at The Huffington Post.]


3 thoughts on “The Fragrance of Revolutions: From Carnation to Jasmine

  1. Thanks so much for this reflection on what it was like to be young and living in a country that went through a takeover of the government (and then government takeovers). As someone raised in the U.S., at the same early age I witnessed the upheavals, assassinations, protests, “revolutionary” changes, and also the state repression, of the 60s and early 70s, but never a sudden and fundamental change in the government.

    Regarding Americans’ seeming lack of interest in world news, Americans don’t have all that much interest in our domestic news either. Not real news; not the type of news consumption that seeks out a variety of sources; that invests time and care in uncovering stories beyond the MSM 15-second news bites and then thinking critically about what is going on; not the type of news that puts things in historical context and that looks forward years down the road to analyze the impact of the choices we make.

    The “news” that grabs attention here, that most people care about to the exclusion of anything else (because this is all that is delivered to them and they obediently stay within the scope and framing imposed by those who control the media), is the news that plays off of fear. Fear of personal destitution. Fear of “others”. Fear of change.

    • inkazar,

      You always write the most thoughtful comments. Yes, not just international news–news in general. But that’s worth a whole, LONG blog post. After graduation, I will do a better job at following your great, multi-faceted work. (Love your “Awesome Women” series.) Also, I have a friend who lives in the Village and is a high school teacher. This week he took on a brand new course about critical thinking and technology. I’m going to direct him to your blog. He’s looking for ideas. Thanks again!

      • I would be honored, that is great motivation to get back to it, I sorta lost momentum for a few weeks! Re my comments, it is your posts that so nicely meld political perspective with personal reflection that inspires them 🙂 I guess we have a mutual fan club going.

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