Notes from Lisboa

Lisboa is a city that dazzles you the moment your feet reach any of its cobblestone streets. The sounds and noises from the old parts of the capital of Portugal easily transport you to the times of the varinas (old women dressed in their work gown that sold pieces of fresh fish in the steep streets) and the ferreiros (ironmongers) who spent their entire mornings in the ruas. The second half of the 20th century was one of terror. Like in Spain, their neighboring country, a dictatorship was in charge: António de Oliveira Salazar. This part of their history got tattooed in people’s souls and still is today -while I tried to improve my Portuguese by talking with a friend’s grandma- it affects the relationship between people who supported the dictatorship and people who fought against it.

The colors of the city, its unfinished and disastrous style makes me fall in love. The last time I visited was with my parents, 5 years ago. Next year I will live here and I would not want it to be in any other place. The people of Lisbon have that intelligence that can be observed, but they do not boast of. They are intelligent, but not bigheaded about it, especially compared to Spain. We have to learn a bit from our silent compatriots, that always have been there observing. Not like us, always wanting to battle with the French at every little occasion we had. We are all very similar in our souls, but I guess Spanish people are more Latin and Portuguese is more European… If that makes sense… For example, they, as the rest of Europe, don’t need to translate every single film in their own language as spaniards do… Then we say our languages are shitty… They eat lunch at 12:30/13:00!!!!! That’s the time I wake up when I don’t have to go to uni!

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But many other things bring portugueses and españoles together. Our traditional music, the flamenco, one of the aspects more known in our culture, is loved by many because of its passion and hotness. It has a Portuguese twin, the fado, which is a more quiet style, but also with amazing melodies. The party soul… yeah… we all know that the greatest parties are in Spain, but Portugal is not too far away… Our history, always hand in hand, has been constructed together, like two sisters that had to separate when they became left their parents' house. Football, something vital for the mayority of the population from both countries… (Personally, I don’t really give a damn about it).

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Nevertheless, the past years Lisbon has become more and more famous. Sadly, many of the old people that lived in Bairro Alto or Alfama, the most beautiful and old neighborhoods, have to leave their houses because of pressure from construction companies. The silent city that I had experienced when I visited a few years back has disappeared because of the mass tourism that has arrived there. The centre of the city has transformed into a consumism stadium… Still with those colorful houses of course. Otherwise it would lose its charm. I’m not saying tourism is awful but I think everyone should try to behave as if they were in their own home towns while traveling. What would happen if they rent that super cute old apartment in the old city, what would happen if they don’t care about recycling, if they just buy things in the macro shops and not in local shops that had been there nearly two centuries? Everything humans do is a cycle: if mass tourism affects Lisboa, it would create many jobs for Portuguese people, but will also end with another type of older jobs; the rents would increase and not-so-rich Portuguese people will have to leave their homes; many trendy shops will stop replace the Portuguese traditions… “Progress” is something good, but in moderation.

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Ok, after this lesson. I couldn' encourage anyone enough to visit Lisboa and any other place in Portugal. It will surely be an incredible experience. But please PLEASE, be consequent with your actions.

Here I leave you something very special you should listen to, and surely be familiar to your ears: that fado music I told you about some lines above. This is a song dedicated to Lisboa, sang by one of the most amazing fadistas (fado singers) still alive.