On colective memories

by Filipa

This Monday, April 25th is the day when Portugal celebrates the military coup that deposed the dictatorship that had ruled the country since 1928. In 1974 a group of soldiers ended the repression in what got known  as the  “carnations revolution” because of the flowers the soldiers put on their weapons.

On Friday I was walking around  one of the oldest and more touristy areas of Lisbon (Sé) and I noticed the announcement of an exhibition held in what used to be a prison for political prisoners. I got in and was chocked at the testimonies it presented. I felt so ignorant for my lack of knowledge. Why didn´t I know how bad it had been? Why was it that I thought that yes,there was no freedom of speech, there had been censorship and some people had run away from the country, but that it was all very light and nothing compared to stories I had heard  from other countries?

Is it because my parents were too young and my grandparents too simple to get involved in political movements? Why haven´t they talked to me about it? And why haven´t I discussed this with my friends, or learned it in school?  Or is it because we Portuguese, as a people, tend to let bygones be bygones and pretend to  erase bad things from our past? Either way, it´s unacceptable to let something so serious be left behind in the back of our collective memory.

I´ve recently returned from Argentina where I´ve discussed the fight still going on for justice for the responsibles for the disappearance, death and torture of hundreds of people. I know that it happened in a more recent past there, and the brutality and terror installed was higher, but I talked about it with people even younger than me and saw news and demonstrations about it almost every day for the all year I was there. And since when is less terror an excuse for not reminding what was still terror and torture. Why is it that there are movements to keep the memory alive, and they seem to be struggling? Despite of what it might say of me, I´m hoping this ignorance is more of a flaw of mine then of my people.

This week also premiered a documentary with testimonies of people who were tortured and arrested. It´s called “48” and has received several prizes in international festivals. I´ll be seeing it on Monday as my personal homage to these people and in a growing attempt to find out more.