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Carnations Have a Future
by Alexandra Pereira
2009-04-25 09:20:59
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April is Young, it has a future”. Although we are waving goodbye to the month of April now, and already cheering the 2009 Summer ahead of us, the slogan still applies today almost as well as it applied when April had a wild 18 year-old spirit and I was just an astonished 12 year-old newly-arrived passenger to the teenage land (I don’t know why, I never forgot the posters with this particular slogan spread on the streets that year of 1992… perhaps because they represented the promise of a future and synthesized many hopes, or maybe because I could really understand it for the first time in my life… surely because they summed up so well the whole spirit of April). The fact is that April’s Revolution utterly represented a very young generation claiming back their right to dream, to love and to have a youth altogether.  

maia1Of course I heard all the stories, read the documents, know the people involved. But the best way I found so far to explain to foreigners what happened in Portugal on the 25th of April 1974, and above all on the night of the 24th of April and the weeks that followed the 25th of April, was through a film which documents the true facts (although it looks fictional at times, it shows real facts, people and stories, was based on very accurate testimonies of people alive and present back then, also on very accurate research) and a couple of songs I don’t even need to translate for my friends – often because they don’t want me to, they just want to listen and feel them. That always felt weird and disappointing me, but I suppose music often dispenses translations... The funny thing is that when I don’t translate the lyrics right away my friends feel free to fantasize about the songs and seem to enjoy those fantasies so much that if I do try to translate and explain the lyrics accurately afterwards, place them in the right context, be objective and pragmatic, tell them about the details and what they mean, I can’t avoid spoiling their self-built fiction about them and they often feel angry and bored with useless REAL historic facts! I can’t understand it! People seem to prefer their fantasies to the truth! So I gave up my translator zeal at some point. I just face such reaction as a truly odd phenomenon, and that’s all.

With all fairness, music played a central role immediately before the 1974 coup (particular songs served as passwords to go ahead with it, or indicated that a given strategic place – such as tv and radio stations, airports, ministries – had been occupied by the young military), after it happened, but also during the almost 50 years of painful and murderous gray dictatorship which preceded the coup, ruined Portugal and its people and many parts of Africa and its people as well, under Salazar’s horrendous regime. You can almost imagine, in 1974, Mr. Barroso, so different from who he is nowadays, leading a Maoist party in Lisbon’s University – he changes easily (from extremist left, no doubt far more left than the coup’s leaders – many of them didn’t have a party –, to right-wing conservative, from Bush supporter to Obama admirer… what a political flexibility!) and that’s something which certainly didn’t change in these 35 years… Now for a more dignified topic, the film by the director (and actress) Maria de Medeiros portraits the peaceful revolution beautifully and truthfully. If you can find it on the web or somewhere else, watch it. It’s a History lesson (a humane one). All the characters represent real people, who lived that moment. And things happened just like that, although at times they look surreal (like the photojournalist, taking photos which exist), comic (like the love scene inside the tank) or clumsy (like stopping the tanks at a red light “on their way to” a revolution…). That’s because things really were surreal, comic and clumsy back then.

maia2_400But they were very poetic too. One can’t quite imagine how it was for a group of young adults to take the destiny of a nation in their hands after playing some forbidden music tracks on the national radio stations. They used inventive code names – Lisbon’s airport was “New York”, the national Tv station was “Monaco”, the Portuguese Radio Club was called “Mexico”, the national Radio station was named “Tokyo”, among others – and the number of funny stories associated with the coup is uncountable. On the night of the 24th, for instance, imagine a cafe in the center of Lisbon, close from a famous high-school of the capital. The name of the cafe was “Winker”! The night was cold and windy (at least according to the southern European notions of “cold and windy”), although it was Spring already. Almost at midnight, a group of five customers came inside the cafe which was about to close, the chairs already clean and turned upside down on top of the tables. They asked for espressos. One of them asks a waiter if the cafe is about to close. “Of course – the man replies – tomorrow is a working day too!”. “Maybe it won’t be – answers the customer – And, look, in the future it is even going to be a holiday!”. The waiter looks surprised by those late customers with such an odd sense of humor. If he had noticed that their jackets were different, but they were all wearing similar pants, socks and shoes, he would have been even more surprised. The customers were young (the older one was 30 or so), looked excited and joyful. Together with some other boys, they had just been for three hours closed inside their cars in Lisbon’s central park, listening to the radio stations. They just heard a song titled “And After The Farewell”, which provoked their excitement. They are getting ready to occupy the Portuguese Radio Club (“Mexico”) nearby and transform it into the radio station emitting all their messages from now on. They just had to do it because they were the main victims of such regime. They didn’t want to go and fight a stupid war they did not agree with. They didn’t want to die overseas at age 20. They didn’t want to kill overseas at age 20. They didn’t think overseas were even a legitimate part of Portugal. They thought their dreams were worthy, and the world was better and more beautiful than that. They didn’t want their family and friends in exile, persecuted, in prison or in… the cemetery. They wanted their girlfriends to be able to vote and have equal rights. They wanted all their dreams back – at once. They wanted their children to have a future and never know how not having any freedom and living under terror felt like. They got what they wanted just because they were not afraid of dreaming about it.

The way how the red carnations became their main symbol is also seen in the film. The white tissue scene happened just like that, according to eye witnesses. All scenes happened for real 35 years ago. Sadly the Serene Pacifist Maia left us all (including his adopted children) the month of April 1992, a victim of cancer at age 48, the month when those posters were spread through all the streets and walls, when April was Young and Had a Future It Was Orphaned Too, and I was just an astonished child newly-arrived to the teenager land who lost a hero that year, when I had just understood what April meant. Maia struggled with cancer for 3 years (as many as my father would, 12 years later – he was 5 years younger than Maia, he was in the army in the same place, met those people). “April is Young, it has a future”. My father loved that slogan too. Thousands of men from that generation died (and keep dying every day) with cancer because of the toxic medical “treatments” they were forced to do, under the dictatorship, in order to be considered “ready and strong enough” to be sent to the foolish and murderous wars in Africa. At some point, years after the coup, Maia was “banished” to the Azores, the same place where Mr. Barroso felt free to host the most shameful summit ever, against his people’s will, some years ago – together with Mr. Bush, Mr. Aznar and Mr. Blair. Maia refused, year after year until he died, all important political, governmental and diplomatic positions offered to him, by any party. His country actually never paid the debt. The whole world lost an almost-anonymous hero, and an incredibly humane and humble man. Now I see why I remember that year’s posters slogan so well. My father smiled at us when he saw the annual celebration posters, he just loved the slogan and felt so proud.

“There are several modalities of State: the socialist states, the corporative states and the state this whole thing has reached! So in this solemn night, we will bring an end to the state of things we have all been living in.”   
 Maia’s speech, early hours of the 25th of April 1974

1) Maia, 1991 interview
2) Leading Pacifist Captain Maia, 1974

The Freedom Song: “Grândola Vila Morena” - Music track by Zeca Afonso, used as a radio password:




 “Capitães de Abril” (April Captains), with English subtitles

Director: Maria de Medeiros

Year: 2000

With: Stefanno Accorsi, Frédéric Pierrot, Maria de Medeiros and her father the maestro Vitorino d’Almeida, Joaquim de Almeida, Fele Martínez, Marcantonio del Carlo, Emmanuel Salinger, Peter Michael, Rita Durão, Ruy de Carvalho and Luís Miguel Cintra.

Screened at the Cannes Film Festival, Section Un Certain Regard, 2000

Best Film Award International Film Show of São Paulo, 2000

Audience Award, Arcachon Festival

Film Scenes:



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AP2009-04-25 19:10:11
On the 25th of April 1974 the army overthrew the dictatorship and gave power to the civil society. The event had been preceded by another coup attempt 5 weeks earlier and several attempts of democratic elections years before that (many political opponents were assassinated).
The dictatorships in Spain and Brazil would fall after that.

AP2009-04-26 03:36:44
...Back from a wonderful April dinner, and feeling moved with 23 year-old Catarina Salgueiro Maia - like father, like daughter :D ...Be sure: April has a future. * Happy *

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