If you’re in Portugal enjoying your vacation, be aware that April 25th is a special day for the Portuguese. It marks the date in which Portugal transitioned from a dictatorship to a democracy, back in 1974.
April 25th started as any normal spring day in Portugal, except for some revolt military forces that had planned a revolution and started its execution right after mid-night struck the clock. Several members of the Portuguese armed forces were involved in this plot, from all ranks, except for the armed forces faithful to the regime, of course.
Soldiers occupied national radio stations and television studios through the night and coded messages were transmitted through specific music played on the radio. This happened before the internet. Remember those days? We neither.
The idea was that most of the revolutionary forces could occupy the major checkpoints before the regime’s armed forces noticed that anything was going on. They were successful. And in the end, no one got armed. Not a single person!
One of the most important and tense moments of the revolution happened in Terreiro do Paço (Baixa, Lisbon). The revolutionary forces were occupying that area because it focused the majority of government offices and ministries. Here they were met by pro-regime armed forces, and their tanks, with no intention to negotiate anything. The commander of the pro-regime forces ordered its soldiers to shoot the revolutionaries on sight, but all of them refused the order and surrendered.
Chiado was the only area that saw shots being fired in the revolution and they weren’t directed at anyone in the streets, but solely to the building where Marcello Caetano, the Portuguese dictator that took over after Salazar’s death, was besieged. After the shots were fired he eventually accepted the regime’s defeat and to negotiate his surrender.
So, if you’re going to be in Portugal on April 25th don’t be surprised to find military parades, a lot of Portuguese celebrating their freedom and handing out red carnations on the streets. The red carnation became a symbol of this revolution when, mid siege, a woman named Celeste Caeiro, that worked in a restaurant in Lisbon, started to distribute red carnations to the crowd that gathered near the soldiers. The people then offered those red carnations to the soldiers that started putting them inside the barrel of their machineguns.
Walking through Lisbon’s neighbourhoods, like Baixa and Chiado, sometimes you don’t even realize that you’re passing by so much history.
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