This monument to the revolution of April 25th 1974 was inaugurated in 1997. Conceived by the portuguese sculptor João Cutileiro, who never made clear which meaning he gives to this sculpture, arguing that it for the viewers and not the artists to interpret a work of art.
It’s phallic format, as well as the fact that from the top of the monument a boast of water would flow allows me to consider two alternative interpretations:
Either the sculptor wanted to pay its tribute to the fact that during the months immediately following April 25th 1974 the greatest number of babies ever registred in Portugal were born, including myself;
Or the sculptor was simply making a mockery of all of us, citizens of Lisbon, by placing this tasteless ensemble of stones in one of the best places to enjoy the magnificent view of the city.
Although I should probably stick to the first interpretation, and even feel flattered that my generation would be thus honored, I tend to the second one, because, for the last 15 years (if not more) the commemorative celebrations of the revolution that brought democracy to Portugal and the independence to the country’s colonies have been nothing but a mockery.
During the fascist regime, the political police, PIDE-DGS, kept files of hundreds of thousands of citizens. In its headquarters, located in the centre of Lisbon, Rua António Maria Cardoso,n.20, thousands of persons were detained and brutally tortured.
On the day of the revolution, PIDE’s headquarters’ officials refused to surrender and shot at the crowd who has surrounded the building, killing four people and injuring 45. Thus, despite the myth that the carnation revolution was a bloodless revolution, blood was spilled, not the blood of the opressors, but the blood of innocent civilians.
After the revolution, PIDE’s archives were transfered to the national archives, and the building was closed and left abandoned for some years.
Now, as I write these lines, a luxury compound of apartments for rich people is being built in that same building. Instead of a museum, were our children and those who visit Lisbon could learn about the true nature of Portugal’s fascist regime, the destiny of this building is to become home sweet home to rich people. I have nothing against people being or becoming rich, but this is an humiliation to all democrats, to all Lisboners and to the people of a country in which the minimum wage is 400 Euros a month.
However, this issue did not provoke outright indignation within the portuguese society, only among half a dozen people who tried to mobilize resources to prevent this insult on our collective memory, but by then it was too late. This ‘closed condominium’ had already approved by the democratically elected City council (Câmara Municipal).
Some days ago, I passed at its door. I was traveling in the tram 28, showing a foreign friend the wonders of Lisbon. The common humble people who use that tram engaged in conversation with us, and an old man asked me to tell my friend what that building was. All the people in the tram agreed that this was a treason to the ideals of the revolution, and a deep humiliation to all modest people who live in this area.
But who cares? Nobody, except those powerless people who use the tram 28 to go home. They are too tired, too weak to do something about it, and among those who could have prevented this, it may happen that some will actually buy a house there. This is why I made a post evoking April 24th.
I just hope that the lucky owners of such apartments will have nightmares every night, and that they wake up feeling a strange pain in their back, that they will surely think is caused by their too soft goose feather pillow. But of course, the pain will easy go away, because there must be a spa in the building where they will have a massage that will relieve them.
This true story inspired an italian artist and architect, Giorgio Fratinni to write a bande dessiné called “Sonno elefante – I muri hano orecchie” whose drawing I reproduce here. I am sure he will not mind the fact that I didn’t ask his permission.
For those interested in knowing more about April 25th, here is the link to a very good documentation centre maintained by the University of Coimbra.