The Carnation Revolution: the end of the longest dictatorship in Europe

By : September 5th, 2020 History 0 Comments

After the military coup of 1926, a dictatorship was established in the country. In 1932, Antônio de Oliveira Salazar became the finance minister and dictator and established a regime inspired by Italian fascism.

It was a country where everything was censored and forbidden: primary teachers and nurses could not get married; the bikini was chased on the beaches; the ladies at Mass could not carry their bare arms; to use a lighter they needed a license; newspapers, books, films, plays, songs and music had to go through censorship, were cut and banned.

There was no freedom of expression, press, assembly, demonstration, strike, union, political parties and the right of association was very limited and controlled. There was no right to health, social protection, education or housing and, therefore, a large number of Portuguese people lived without running water, electricity or sewage.

The political police (PIDE) monitored, controlled and recorded the lives of citizens. Intercepted mail, telephones, kept in touch with contacts, travel, participation in leisure, cultural, sports and especially social and political activities. Since the fascists came to power on May 28, 1926, those who opposed and fought for freedom and democracy have suffered the greatest repression.

The state apparatus was adapted as a repressive instrument of the fascist regime.

The clandestine emigration was the escape, in the sixties, for more than one million Portuguese people looking for jobs and living conditions that they did not have in Portugal. In 1968 the dictator suffered a stroke, which resulted in his replacement by his minister Marcelo Caetano, who continued his policy. However, the economic decline that the country suffered, together with the erosion of 13 years of colonial war, caused discontent among the population and the armed forces, which resulted in the appearance of a movement against the dictatorship.

It is in this conjuncture that the military of the Armed Forces Movement (MFA), which had been organising and conspiring since 1973, carried out on April 25, 1974, a military coup that overthrows the regime, which falls without offering significant resistance and almost without shots and victims.

But why did this revolution remain in history as a carnation revolution?

Celeste Caeiro was a waitress at Franjinhas restaurant.

That day was the anniversary of the opening of the Franjinhas restaurant with an innovative self-service service, the first in Lisbon. A party where flowers could not be missing. When she arrived at work, Celeste found the door closed and was told by her boss that she would not open it because a revolution was underway. But let the flowers not be wasted.

She took the carnations with her to Rossio, where the military tanks awaited further orders from Salgueiro Maia. A soldier asked Celeste for a cigarette, but Celeste was not a smoker and all she had to give him was one of the carnations she had brought from the restaurant. The soldier accepted the flower and placed it in the barrel of the shotgun, a sign of a revolution without weapons, and soon his companions followed in his footsteps, leading Celeste to distribute all the carnations in her arms.

An unusual gesture, an image that went around the world and installed itself in the imagination of dreamers. Hours later, several florists were striving to ensure that no one was left without flowers, contributing to immortalise them as a symbol of freedom.


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