Welcome to my blog. Please feel free to roam around and learn a bit more about Portuguese History. To find your interests, please, have a look at the right side of the page, where you can find all the posts arrenged into labels, such as "Society", "Politics", etc. Enjoy!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Historical Hussies: Regency Chocolate

Another great post about the Regency Period on the Historical Hussies blog!

Historical Hussies: Regency Chocolate:
I am a total chocolate fan. Well, perhaps I should say, I have a sweet tooth that demands something creamy and decadent. I'm not really ...

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

English Historical Fiction Authors: A LIttle Colorful Language--Soldiers

Not my post, but I share it with you, a list of slang used by English soldeirs during Regency times, from the following blog:

English Historical Fiction Authors: A LIttle Colorful Language--Soldiers: By Maria Grace
I am captivated by language and how it relates to a culture. With three teen aged sons living at home I get to hear a lot ...

Sunday, January 20, 2013

VIRA & CHULA - and other dances

Having always had an interest in the Portuguese folklore dances and always having in the back of my mind the question of what sort of music and dances would be played at the late 18th century to early 19th century in Portugal (and by this I mean the general Portuguese population and not the higher classes, since they would hear and dance whatever would be fashionable in France), I came across the following link and that I will partially translate; only the more interesting time period parts. I found it in a site about Portuguese folklore and perhaps you'll find more interesting things in it.
If you're having trouble in understanding which part of Portugal is being talked about, have a look at the right side of the blog's page; you'll find a map of this country and it's different regions.

BAILARICO (little ball)
The “bailarico” is a commoner's dance from the regions from the rivers Alcoa to Sado, specially in the regions of Torres Vedras, Caldas da Rainha, Malveira, Sintra and Mafra, being known as “the peasants dance”. But it is also known in Alentejo, Ribatejo and Algarve.
It is one of the most typical and characteristics dances of Portugal. It is simple, naif, with a good rhythm and movement. It's simplicity and it's busy rhythm are characteristics of the the Portuguese genuine simplicity.
It is danced with 2, 4 or 6 pairs of people.

Peasants dancing, drawing in James C. Murphy's book "Travels in Portugal", 1797.

CHULA (comes from an old Portuguese word form the Trás-os-Montes region, since then lost in time, meaning a type of dibble or hack)

“Chula” or “Xula” is an old Portuguese dance. Gil Vicente (Portuguese poet from the16th century) refers it in one of theatrical pieces. It is a dance that has a singer, that sings “ao desafio” (as a dare or bravado), but it's chorus is instrumental.
It is a typical Northern dance – from Minho to Beira Alta, although the Chula from the Alto Douro has special instruments and a special way of dancing.
It can be played with a “ramaldeira” guitar, just like the typical dances from Minho and Douro and with a “ronda minhota” (a small peasant's orchestra with a clarinet, fiddle, harmonica, “cavaquinho” (aka as ukelele), guitar, a type of a bigger guitar, a big drum and a triangle) or a “festada duriense” (which is the same as above minus the clarinet, but with “canas” (cracked canes)).

"Chula" of Baião, instrumental. In the background you can see different Portuguese musical instruments.

The fiddle used in a "chula".


From the musical point of view it is very similar to the “vira”, but danced in a different way; it is possible that today's “vira” is not more then the old form of “fandango” danced in a cross formation.
A dance that comes from Spain, the “fandango” in-rooted itself in Portugal, where it is danced in almost the entire country since long ago. The Professor Armando Leço, who studied the commoner songs and dances of Portugal, says that it is still something danced from Minho to the Algarve.
However, the regions that prefers this type of dance the most is the Ribatejo region, the outskirts of Minho and Beira Baixa and Beira Litoral.
The poet Bocage (see a previous post about him) refers to it, and the English writer Twiss, who visited our country in 1772, says that he saw «the “fandango” danced with great gallantry and expression». The poet Gil Vicente sometimes uses the expression “esfandangado”.
In Ribatejo it is danced by the sound of the harmonica or a Iberian bagpipe, while in Ferreira do Zêzere, Tomar, Mação en Borba by the sound of the guitar. In Trás-os-Montes it is danced in a circle.
It is so rooted into the Portuguese culture that it was taken to Brazil. In the Northeastern States it is danced too, but given a different name that show that it were the Portuguese who brought it there: “sailor’s ball”, “sailor's dance”, etc. In Paraná, Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul the word “fandango” means party or festivities.

"Fandango" danced in the Ribatejo fashion.

FARRAPEIRA (a woman that buys and sells rags)
It is one of the most typical and beautiful dances in Portugal. It's not known how old it is, but it's assumed to be very old according to it's typical dance formation.
It's a dance from the Northern interior. The melody is similar to a “caninha-verde” (another type of dance) and it demands a vigorous marker/timer. Although it is a typical dance of the Beiras, its is also danced in Ribatejo. It has a lot of rhythm, it's accompanied by a guitar and, in some regions, by a fife and an Iberian bagpipe.
One of the characteristics of the “farrapeira” is that it is one of the rare cases where the chorus is instrumental. It's assumed that it is a bourgeois dance, or with city origins, and that the common people have adopted, since it polka like rhythm reminds the quadrille, that are know to be ball room dances. It's nothing more then a rural quadrille.

The bagpipe traditionaly played in the Trás-os-Montes region.

REGADINHO (from the word “watered” or “regadío” - irrigation system)
The “regadinho” is a commoner's dance that became vulgarized in the last century and is still danced in the entire North of Portugal and also in the Beira Litoral. It's, therefore, a hybrid dance, with something truly Northern and something truly coastal.
It's a well rhythmic dance, more or less, like a march. This aspect makes us believe that it is a ball room dance or bourgeois dance, imported from Europe after the French Invasions. In the North they dance the “regadinho” without instrumental background, only with a different type of guitar, but in the Beira Litoral they dance it to the sound of a guitar.

SAIAS (skirts)
This is a dance commonly danced by people from the Alto Alentejo, but also found in other regions.
Some say that it comes from a Andalusian dance (Spain) more known as “saeta”, but they have nothing in common, since the “saias” are a profane dance used as entertainment and “saetas” are accompanied by liturgical singing and only danced in religious processions.
There are different types of “saias”:
a) old ones - danced as a mazurka waltze;
b) new ones - the today ones, danced as a rural waltze;
c) “aiadas” - when the timer yells “ai” in the chorus to determine the exact time to turn;
d) “little jumped ones” or “jumped”;
e) with “estribilho” - with chorus.

The “saias” can be danced or sung.
Already in the 17th century would “saias” be danced and which archaic ways can still be found in Escalos-de-Baixo.
It's in Alto Alentejo that they are danced with a tambourine or a adaúfe (a type of tamborin) and makes them a bit more characteristic.

Catarina Chitas, one of the last Portuguese women to play the "adaúfe").

VIRA (turn around)
The “vira” is one of the oldest Portuguese commoner's dances; of it has Gil Vicente already talked about in his play “Nau d'Amores” as a typical Minho dance.
In fact it has that tradition, although it also danced in other regions too. It is the most popular and popularized dance of this country.
There are innumerous varieties – as in songs and ways of dancing: “vira” in a circle, “vira” in a waltze, Galician “vira”, “vira” “fandango” style, “vira” from Póvoa do Varzim, etc.
The “vira” from Régua is the “chula”.

The "vira", danced by a folklore group.


I would like to learn how to dance early these 19th century Portuguese folklore dances so much! They are so more fun then ball room dances! (This is me sending out a wish into the universe, hoping it will come back one day!)

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Beckford and Monserrate

I have mentioned the author and extravagant traveler William Beckford before, but I couldn't go on without referring his short stay in Sintra Portugal, at the Monserrate palace.

Letters from Italy with Sketches of Spain and Portugal, published in 1835, and Recollections of an Excursion to the Monasteries of Alcobaça and Batalha where some of his best known writings, specially when it comes to have a period view on life in Portugal at the turn of the century.

If you wish to have a look at these 2 books, please have a look at the bottom of the English version of Wikipedia's page on William Beckford. There you will find 2 links on the e-book versions, down loadable for free.

Beckford arrived in Portugal in 1787 and, as a common practice, not only in those days but today as well, he visited the outskirts of Lisbon, specially the city of Sintra. Here, in a magical, mountainous, forestry surroundings, he fell in love with the place (have a look at some pictures from my post “A Napoleonic B-day”) and sub-rented the Monserrate palace in 1793. The owner was the Melo e Castro family (family of the famous Marquês de Pombal) that had rented the property out to Gerard DeVisme, an English merchant of Pau-brasil, who only owned the palace as a summer house.

The today’s' palace has nothing to do with the former one. The 1st palace, which was built by DeVisme after the former houses where destroyed by the 1755 earthquake, had a new-Gothic architecture, while the today's palace is a a splendorous Portuguese romantic example, which reminds me a bit of the Royal palace in Brighton, UK, although different periods. Even the chapel Nossa Senhora de Monserrate, which gave it's name to the property (1stly known as Quinta da Bela Vista before the 17th century), was rebuilds somewhere else.

Painting by Wells, published London, 1795. View of Sintra (in the far left) from the Monserrate palace. It says: «A view of Me. de Vismés country seat at Monserat with distant town of Cyntra & the quinta of  D. Joao de Castro at Penha Verde, the Duke of Cadaval's, Quinta at Colares.»

Palace of Monserrate, circa 1829. Don't know the author.

Palace of Monserrate today. Picture taken form the Sintra's Townhall's website.

During his stay in Monserrate, Beckford used some of his vast richness to make some improvements of the property, not only architectural wise but also at the construction of the 1st botanical garden that that property had.

Beckford stays in Sintra around 2 years, returning to England from 1795 to 1798 and coming back to Portugal after that. In a letter of 1795 he writes to Mme. Isabel Sill Bezerra, offering her to stay at Monserrate by saying: «My dear friend, I've been to much engaged with the royalty of Nature, with climbing rocks and cork trees, with tracing rills and runnels to their source and examining the recess of of these lovely environs».
To read more on the history of this palace, please have a look at the following link (in Portuguese only, unfortunately):

He leaves definitely in 1799. After this the palace and gardens suffer a decline (French Invasions) and only got to get “saved” in the 1850's.
During his 1st stay in Portugal he writes about Sintra having an illimited view from this pyramidal hill that can be enjoyed. Even other authors and personalities have said if they had been born in Sintra, that nothing would have tempted them to move away from that place (Robert Southey, in Letters written during the journey to Spain and a short residence in Portugal) and describing Sintra as the “Glorious Eden” (Lord Byron).