Twenty-five years ago, in the pre-dawn of August 25, 1988, a fire started in downtown Lisbon's Carmo Street and quickly spread to Garrett Street and others, destroying a total of 18 buildings of the Chiado. Two people were killed, and 73 were injured (60 of them firemen). Between 200 and 300 people lost their homes. Several of the historical shops were lost. In terms of the extent of the city affected and number of destroyed buildings, the Chiado fire is considered the worst disaster to strike the city since the 1755 Lisbon Earthquake. A rebuilding project directed by Portuguese architect Siza Vieira has, to a great extent, returned the area to its former glory. The exterior look of the buildings were restored, while the interiors have been completely renovated. [more inside]
In 1875, the Portuguese cartoonist and caricaturist Rafael Bordalo Pinheiro invented an “everyman” to express the opinion of “Zé Povinho” – “ José of the People”, or “John Doe". His most famous “opinion” is the “manguito”, a universally-recognizable symbolic affront to the status quo, with the slogan “Toma!”, or “take that!” In the wake of the downgrade of Portugal’s sovereign debt to “junk” by Moody’s, the Portuguese were outraged. They reportedly jammed up the Moody's site. Zé Povinho responded with his usual aplomb. The figurines are made by hand and the anti-Moodys one went on sale this week. [Last link in Portuguese; some NSFW language and rude gestures in some of the links]
Portugal, in the throes of an IMF / EU bailout that Finland could block, sends a video letter to convince Finland to support the rescue effort. Finland responds. Bonus: crisis the focus of Portugal's Eurovision entry this year.
Portuguese writer and 1998's Nobel Prize for Literature recipient José Saramago has died, age 87. [News link in Portuguese] He died in Lanzarote, Spain, where he had lived since a bust-up in the early 1990s with Portugal's government over his controversial book, The Gospel According to Jesus Christ. Saramago wrote nearly 30 books, and was cited for the Nobel as a writer "who with parables sustained by imagination, compassion and irony continually enables us once again to apprehend an elusory reality." No holiday for death, after all.