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!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Historical Hussies: Regency Chocolate

Historical Hussies: Regency Chocolate: by historical romance author, Donna Hatch Today, people (at least in the US) use the terms hot chocolate and hot cocoa interchangeabl...

Kleidung um 1800: LeGoullons Mandel Brezeln

A nice period recipe for a almond biscuit. Also written in English!

Kleidung um 1800: LeGoullons Mandel Brezeln: Pünktlich zu der Zeit, da sich der Winter mit frostigem Atem ankündigt, beziehen nicht nur meine Aurikeln ihr Winterquartier, sondern Lukul...

Sunday, November 23, 2014


This is a re-do of a previous post on the subject, where I just wanted to share the existence of this type of singing. I will repeat what I have said and posted before and I will add soem more to it.

Previously: The type of singing you will see on the video posted below is a type of singing characteristic to the South region of Portugal - Alentejo. It is called "Cante" and it is one of the most beautifull traditions we have in this country. This time it is a candidate to UNESCO's intangible cultural heritage. It has anciant roots and it would be great to know if the French or Wellington's troops would have heard this. Enjoy

Cante is a typical (but not exclusive) tradition from Alentejo, the entire Portuguese region between South of the Tagus river and North of the Algarve.
It is characterized as a polyphonic chanting, which means, 1 main voice (Ponto), which is then is accompanied by another higher voice (Alto) and then other secondary voices (Segundas Vozes). All the singing is in rimes, sung slowly (called Modas Lentas) and has no use of musical instruments.
It sets the tempo for harsh manual labor found in that region (olive picking and harvesting) in a climate where temperatures reach 50ºC or more during the Summer days and can drop to freezing temperatures at night in Winter, in a geography characterized by plains and fields of wheat and other grain.
Cante has not only a strong nostalgic background linked to manual labor and religion, but also a “rebellious” one: it can speak about the hardships of the working class in a disguised manner. I guess it goes along with what Gaius Julius Caesar said about the “Portuguese”: «In the confines of Iberia live people who aren't ruled and cannot be ruled». (It also explains a lot on how we scared the French invaders away).
Some authors say it has Arab origins, others say that it comes from Gregorian chanting in South of Portugal during the 15th century, others even that it is 100% Portuguese. 

Lopes Graça, a know scholar of this theme, distinguishes 2 sides of Cante: 1 that it clearly has Medieval origins, but also a more modern one from the 18th century with their rhythmic symmetry sung in a major-minor harmony scale (not sure if I translated that correctly).
Padre António Marvão, another scholar and a priest, also agrees and adds that the typical medieval scale used in Gregorian chanting suffered an adaptation to the existing one most likely during the Renaissance.
There's another theory that introduces a Jewish origin. According to the writings of Alexandre Branco Weffort (Teacher at the National Conservatory , Master of Science of Religions), besides the ancient sacred chanting and an Arab way to adorn the singing, one can find the liturgical ceremonial tradition it it.
All that apart (Portugal descends from all that and more), Cante, being a traditional working class and manual labor oriented chanting, suffered a massive change with the introduction of machinery from the Industrial revolution, during the 20's and 30's. It moved from the fields to the taverns and, therefore, was forbidden for women (but only for a short time), because local “drinking holes” are a typical male environment. It was in this setting that the 1st organized groups appeared and later, during the 20th century Portuguese dictatorship's nationalistic propaganda, these traditions were brought to light again with more formal groups and the addition of national contests. It is here that women sung again. It goes without saying that during the dictatorship, rebellious lyrics were censured and by the end of it, new types of lyrics appeared: lyrics in form of protest against the regime.

During this period groups would be qualified not only for their perfect pitch, but also for singing old and traditional lyrics and for best costume. This is still how this type of music is presented to us these days: with a nostalgic and folkloric notion attached to it.

Like so many other things one wants to know about History and specially about Portugal, this one suffers from the same: one can study it's roots and one know into what it developed late 19th century, but one doesn't have any clue on how it was between those 2 moments in time. I wonder how Cante must have sounded like in the 18th or 19th centuries, or even earlier.

For further reading look for:
  • «O Canto e o Cante, a alma do povo» by Eduardo M. Raposo
  • «Documento síntese sobre Cante Alentejano e Ceifeiros de Cuba» by Filomena Cravalho Sousa, in Memóriamedia
  • «Vestígios da prática cerimonial judaica no Cante - o canto colectivo do Baixo Alentejo» by Alexandre Branco Weffort, in Revista Lusófona de Ciência das religiões – ano XI, 2012 / n. 16/17

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Martin of Braga

Martin of Braga (or Martinho de Dume) was a monk who later became a Saint by the Catholic church. Born in Hungary and settled as a Bishop in Gallaecia in the city of Bracara Augusta (today, Braga in Portugal) in the 6th century.

 Martin of Braga, miniature of the Codice Albekdensis, 972, on the left it says: «Martinus Episcopus Bracarensis»

What is so interesting about this man, you think...
Besides being a prolific writer and translating several old texts into Latin, he also presided over the 2nd Council of Braga, in 572, were amongst other religious issues, the names of the days of the week were discussed.
Names of the week, you say?
Names that still were the ones used by the pagan Romans: Lunae dies, Martis dies, Mercurii dies, Jovis dies, Veneris dies, Saturni dies and Solis dies.
According to this man's oppinion, these names remembered people of old heathen gods and should be changed into more proper Christian ones. His suggestion: Feria secunda, Feria tertia, Feria quarta, Feria quinta, Feria sexta, Sabbatum and Dominica Dies.

Here's the explanation:
  • Sunday (the day of the sun), being the 1st day of the week in the Christian Calendar, the one that should be dedicated to the Christian god, would now set the remaining week. In Latin Dominica means “the day of the Lord”.
  • Monday (the day of the moon), or now Feria Secunda, the 2nd resting day (Feria in Latin means “to rest”) of the Holy Week of the Christian Calendar, the week before Easter.
  • Tuesday = 3rd resting day
  • Wednesday = 4th resting day
  • Thursday = 5th resting day
  • Friday = 6th resting day
  • Saturday (the day of Saturn), Sabbatum, from Hebrew origin. Still a word used today in Academics for the lap year teachers take to study or rest (to take a Sabbatical).

The most interesting fact is that Portugal, Galicia (in Spain) and East-Timor are the only regions in the world where the names of the days of the week origin from Martin of Dume's decision.
And that is why in Portugal, since the 6th century we say: Domingo, 2ª feira, 3ª feira, 4ª feira, 5ª feira, 6ª feira and Sábado.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Cante Alentejano - 1

The type of singing you will see on the video posted below is a type of singing chracteristic to the Soth region of Portugal - Alentejo. It is called "Cante" and it is one of the most beautifull traditions we have in this country. This time it is a candidate to UNESCO's intangible cultural heritage. It has anciant roots and it would be great to know if The French or Wellington's troop would have geard this. Enjoy!