CULTURE: GENERAL INFORMATION
The capital Lisbon, after the dramatic earthquake (mentioned by Voltaire in White) who destroyed it in 1755, was able to revive its fortunes, confirming itself as the beating heart of Portuguese life. Main university site together with that of Porto and that of the oldest institution (1290) of Coimbra, the capital has further strengthened its central role thanks to the renewal process that has affected it in the last years of the twentieth century, with the interventions carried out for the 1998 Universal Exposition, organized on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of Vasco de Gama ‘s trip to the Indies. Lisbon also hosts the Museo Nacional de Azulejo and the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, where one of the most prestigious Portuguese cultural institutions is located: the foundation commissioned by the homonymous patron of Armenian origin. The cultural richness of Portugal, somehow protected by its scarce involvement in European socio-political events, is testified by the presence on the national territory of numerous sites declared World Heritage by UNESCO. First of all, among these, we remember the Belém tower in Lisbon (Manueline style) and, not far from the capital, the castle, park and gardens of Sintra. Numerous, outside the capital, are also the historic centers protected by UNESCO: that of Evora (ancient residence of the sovereigns of Portugal), that of Guimarães (perfectly preserved since its construction, which took place in the Middle Ages) and that of Porto, located at the mouth of the Douro River. Among the Portuguese cultural assets recognized as World Heritage there are also various works of religious architecture: the Dominican monastery in Batalha (late Gothic style), the convent of the knights of the order of Christ in Tomar (district of Santarém) and the Cistercian monastery of Santa Maria d’Alçobaca and that of the girolamini in Lisbon. Finally, in the Azores archipelago, the central area of the colonial port of Angra de Heroismo stands out for its historical and cultural value.
In the context of traditions, according to dentistrymyth, the Portuguese people experience the conflict of customs linked to a greatness that has now vanished and which has left the saudade as a legacy, that Atlantic melancholy that has its roots in the memories of the great conquests. A people linked to the sea, understood as a symbol of conjunction with a wider and richer world, loves and fears it with the same sense of mystical and quiet expectation with which it turns to religion. Religious holidays are linked to Catholicism and celebrate the Virgin Mary in particular. The dances of the Portuguese are different from region to region: typical of Minho are the vira and the green caninha. Arab influences are often present in these events. Among all it is enough to mention the “dance of the Moors” of the Algarve and the “dance of King David” of Braga. The dances intended for men only are rare, among which we can remember that of the paulitos, or sticks, with which the dancers follow the rhythm. The dance is always accompanied by songs, generally melancholic, such as the ternos of the Alentejo shepherds, the morna of the Cape Verde islands, the aravias of the Azores. Very popular and famous all over the world is fado, a popular song with a sad and nostalgic tone. In Portugal bullfighting takes place without bloodshed. The bull’s horns are emboladas, that is, rendered harmless by a leather sheath and two wooden bowls (emboladas). In the embolada bullfight the bull is symbolically killed with a wooden sword. This custom was introduced in the eighteenth century, when the Duke of Arcos was fatally struck by a bull and the sovereign’s pain was such that he promulgated an ordinance prohibiting the shedding of blood in the arena, because Portugal was not rich enough to give a man to a bull. Portugal of fishermen, farmers, shepherds can boast consolidated traditions in the field of craftsmanship. “When you don’t know what to do – says a proverb – they make spoons”. And thanks to the spoons, the taste of carving has developed in the many objects and woods that furnish and decorate the house. Arabic taste is once again present in ceramics and jewelery,. The art of embroidery is also very widespread, often based on exotic designs handed down from ancient times: the handicrafts made in Guimarães and the lace and lace of Peniche and Vila do Conde are famous in particular. § In Portuguese gastronomy the main protagonist is certainly fish, with a predominance of sardines and cod; the latter is cooked in a thousand ways, almost always with a side dish of hard-boiled eggs, swede sprouts and potatoes and is considered the national dish. Particularly tasty is the cod (bacalao), cod dried and preserved in salt. In the tascas, typical cheap taverns, the main dish is fried fish, accompanied by fresh products purchased in the many local markets, but there is no lack of meat dishes and rustic soups. Skilled pastry chefs, the Portuguese have learned their recipes from the ancient convents and the names of the most common delicacies remind us of it: angel’s breast, nun’s belly, etc. The most popular drink is wine; the most famous are the Port and the Madeira, known all over the world, while the Clarete (of an intense pink color) is appreciated above all by the local population.