Reading in an article that 10 Guinness World Records were achieved in New York City in 2021 impresses us.
But what if we told you that in Almada, in the little Cacilhas, there are three Records?
And they are all concentrated in the hands of the same person: Eduardo Diniz Henriques.
But let’s go in order and begin to get to know Eduardo and his story more closely.
Born in Coimbra, he arrived in Lisbon as a child; and today he tells us a story worthy of a book.
He leaves for military service with the air force and thus arrives in Mozambique. Contact with Africa marks him forever.
He begins to talk about those lands, its people, the years of work that are linked to those lands and what comes out is an evident love for Africa and a nostalgia for those lands that still accompanies him. His regret, he says, is not having stayed there.
It is in Mozambique that Eduardo decides to embark and begin his life at sea. Initially as a “Load Controller” and later as a “Navigation Pilot”. In the meantime, he studies sailing and becomes a pilot (the one who helps the captain in port waters in docking or departure maneuvers). He will devote about fifteen years of his life to work on ships.
When he talks to us about those years, he does it with enthusiasm. Basically he comes from a land of navigators. And Eduardo does not forget it. And he carries this historical and cultural heritage with pride.
He alternates his story with Portuguese history, remembers the places where the Lusitanian people docked many centuries ago and when he himself was able to visit them.
Somehow having lived by sea, having crossed those places, allowed him to understand the difficulties that his ancestors had experienced before him.
And he begins to tell us about when for work, on a ship, the Induna (which, he explains, in the Zulu language means “the one who commands”) made trips lasting three days between Durban and Cape Town. He explains that during those trips he had understood the difficulties that the navigators before him had encountered in the passage of the Cape of Good Hope. The currents that meet and collide between the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian Ocean create terrible storms.
And he, just like in an adventure book, went through those storms, working at that time as a second pilot.
He tells us about that experience with many small details, drawing a path through an imaginary line on the table. And his gaze lights up when he talks about how he survived the storm and the vision of a huge rock rising from the sea. “I understood what the Portuguese sailors felt and why they thought that great monsters inhabited those waters” – he tells us.
And it is from these experiences linked to the sea and its many adventures that the passion for the nautical world comes, and two activities that, he tells us, are interconnected: the collection of nautical art objects and the creation of huge paintings decorated with coins of all the world.
The first passion was born out of a pride: in the years 76/77 he worked on a refrigeration ship in Holland and found, in a Dutch port, various nautical objects and parts of Portuguese ships. And then he told himself that it wasn’t fair for him, a Portuguese, to watch while other countries bought and exhibited parts of his country’s history.
And after that he had begun to buy pieces of ancient ships, some even very rare, and to collect them. His dream would be to be able to buy a villa in Malaga that he has visited and which is full of nautical objects. A real treasure. Today he resells some, it has become his job. But the few customers are foreigners.
And foreigners are also those who are usually interested in his great passion, the one that has earned him three world records: the creation of paintings with coins from all over the world.
The creation of these paintings, often of enormous dimensions, involves a whole rather complicated procedure. Once he had the idea of the subject, linked to the theme of Portuguese maritime expansion, he realizes the drawing on a sheet in order to create the measures to scale. Then he chooses the coins, because they must be suitable for the measures to be achieved, and counts how many coins will be needed to make the picture.
At that point he moves on to drawing and painting and, finally, to the patient application of coins, to which a piece of double-sided tape is applied. And in the end, he tops it all off with a clear coat.
Obviously everything is prepared with care, even the color to be used as the basis of the design, which must highlight the color of the coins, and the coins themselves, which are sometimes new (lighter and brighter), sometimes older but polished and other ancient and unpolished, to create different variations and intensities of colors.
The preparation of a painting, depending on the size, can take around six months.
Incredible, for examples, it is the painting Brasil with 17,630 coins, half Brazilian and half Portuguese
But how did this idea come about? Why this theme and why coins?
Eduardo tells us that he had been dedicating himself for some time to the collection of coins and therefore had many. Some bought, others exchanged at fairs of antiques for other items.
He had thought of doing something with it and then he had linked the idea of coins to the idea of luck, and what greater luck than that of the great Portuguese maritime history?
Eduardo does not hide the fact that behind this idea there is also a lot of bitterness. Today when we talk about Portugal, we often talk about a small poor country. It seems that it is almost difficult to remember the glorious era of this country. And Eduardo says he is very disappointed with the attitude of the Portuguese people themselves who often seem resigned to this idea of their own country and who do nothing to show to the world a different reality.
Eduardo is very fierce and defends his freedom of expression and is keen to emphasize that April 25 (1974, the end of the dictatorship Ed.) from a certain point of view was the 25 “of the misfortune” because many things have changed, the country has forgotten its glory and its past.
And it is precisely that glory that Eduardo wants to rediscover through his works.
The first painting he had no more: during an exhibition at the Lusophone university it was purchased by the rector. It represented the Adamastor monster, that of Luis Vaz de Camões’ Lusiades, all made with Portuguese coins.
But there are three other paintings that have earned him the titles of Guinness World Records, in order:
– The painting Bandeira (Flag) made with 19,045 coins
In the center, the map of Portugal. Below the words LUSITANIA, PORTUGAL, PATRIA, FAITH IN GOD. On the bottom the Portuguese flag.
– The painting Portuguese Empire, with 37,121 coins and five meters in length made with coins from all former Portuguese colonies
– The painting Europe, 8 meters 40 and 183 cm high, 67,567 coins of different values and metals.
Now such large paintings he does not make any more, because they require a large financial investment. Then he creates smaller paintings, with the insertion of some coins.
There remains the project of a last work that he was unable to create and of which he shows us the drawings: a 20 meter long painting in which Brazil and the Castle of São Jorge were to be represented and for which 150,000 coins would be needed.
Eduardo’s dream would have been to be able to exhibit these works, including his paintings, but also nativity scenes, nautical objects and clocks made with coins, in a museum space.
Eduardo is combative and has really tried everything: he wrote to the newspapers, to the President of the European Bank and the Portuguese one, to all the institutions linked to culture, but until now his dream was not realized.
Some foreigners visit him from time to time, a Canadian journalist has even dedicated an article to him. But his works continue to be piled up in his atelier.
Today, at the age of 76, he tells us that he does not already expect to realize this dream, but he says it with evident regret and sadness.
He also proudly shows a letter from José Hermano Saraiva, to whom he had sent a small book, in which the historical popularizer promises to keep this book in his library, and another letter from Pope John Paul II who thanks him for the book he had donated. Even Pope Francis wrote to him, he tells us.
We leave with one last question: his dream.
And Eduardo gives us perhaps the only answer that a man with a thousand adventures like him could give us: “To win the lottery to be able to build a museum in which to leave my works to all those who want to see them and then buy a small boat and go around the world”.
Will he succeed? We can only imagine what other adventures he will then have to tell us.
If you want to visit Eduardo’s atelier in Cacilhas, it is in Rua Elias Garcia, 34
If you are in Lisbon in the month of June, during the festivities of Saint Anthony, you will probably come across a throne. Not that of a king, but that of the Saint. An ancient tradition that is hardly maintained, at least in its most traditional form.
The throne is a kind of staircase where on the top there is the statue of St. Anthony and on the stairs other saints, or married couples (St. Anthony is a casamenteiro saint, you have to pray to him when you are looking for a husband / wife) . And the throne of Saint Anthony is built for the feast of the Saint and then destroyed at the end of June with the conclusion of the feast.
But in Alfama there are thrones that are not taken apart, which remain on display all year round, and they are those of João.
In the small garden of his house, where he has lived since 1998, various decorations are combined, all different, which are the expression of a world to be discovered and of moments that are part of João’s life and his story, which he agrees to tell us.
The first question, unavoidable, is where does this strong passion for building thrones come from. Definitely from the desire to put into practice an innate talent for DIY, but above all from the love for traditions and for the feast of Saint Anthony.
His passion, he tells us, begins as a child, when with 7/8 years he kept company with his aunt who built a throne for the Saint near her shop.
And João had the right to be with her, proud next to the throne, elegantly dressed to honor the Saint and the party. And he could also go around asking for “a coin for Saint Anthony”.
This tradition began in the 18th century when, after the terrible earthquake of 1755, money was collected to rebuild the church of the Saint. In modern times, João tells us, these coins were used to buy candies, cookies or other sweets.
And it is to his childhood that his first memory of the throne is linked. And this passion has never stopped since then. He started building them for the festival, then for his children (who sometimes pretended they had built it) and then he continued for passion.
Although he did not do anything for work that had to do with art and craftsmanship, João seems to have done nothing else in his life.
He takes about thirty minutes to assemble a throne, he explains to us, but what matters and requires work is the preparation of the structure, of the elements that compose it.
His thrones have become so famous that a few days ago he was invited to a Sunday broadcast on the Sic channel. And of course he is very proud of it. He was able to show live how he creates these small pieces of art. And the Lisbon Cultural Agenda dedicated a page of his article on thrones to him. “A little celebrity” – we tell him.
João is proud to present his works to us: there is the most classic throne with the Saint, the most decorated one, there is the spectacular one dedicated to Amalia, last year, on the centenary of her birth. A throne in which the work of Vhils “Calçada” which represents the face of Amalia made on the Portuguese calcada (and which you can admire in Largo de Sao Tomé ed.) become the basis of a throne where the typical Portuguese cobblestone pavement is the master; there is a lamppost, and on top a Portuguese guitar, that of Fado. And of course Saint Anthony on the top.
With the pandemic, the popular festivals were suspended and then João felt even stronger the desire to carry on this tradition anyway.
“Everything is born with an idea and then I start creating,” João tells us. This passion for art has inherited his daughter, one of his five children. Two have left Portugal, one for England and the other for Spain.
His children are also linked to traditions, they also participated in popular marches (which are held every year on June 12th on the Avenida da Liberdade Ed.) but for different neighborhoods.
I’m surprised. “How, not for Alfama?”.
And João explains to us that sometimes Alfama does not pamper his “children” as she should. That the times when this neighborhood was a big family, without envy or jealousy, seems to be a distant memory. The memory of a cheerful neighborhood, animated by children who are fewer and fewer today. And so also a tradition such as the throne, which is created especially for the youngest of the family, begins to get lost. Or it becomes a commercial object, explains João, in shop windows, to promote the products on sale.
But the throne is another thing and it is what João tries to promote and preserve. And many people in the neighborhood have asked him to keep these works and his small garden now looks almost like a museum, where his thrones are on display all year round.
But the thrones are not the only work that João makes.
“The world of art and entertainment fascinates me” he confesses. And he shows us a vase in the window, made with a fake leg complete with a garter (sewn by him of course).
He tells us how he wanted to create something with this piece of mannequin and then he had thought of the Moulin Rouge and the Can Can dancers and had decided to transform that leg into something original, unusual, his personal homage to the world of entertainment.
But there is still something that attracts our attention in his small garden: a statue, perhaps Saint Anthony, perhaps not. Certainly a Franciscan, with his head covered.
But what strikes us most is the story.
João tells us that this statue he found near the waste, broken sideways, ruined, and he wanted to recover it, but he couldn’t. He then found it in the nearby viewpoint and therefore thought that the statue now had a new location.
Days later the statue was there again, abandoned in the garbage. Then João had not hesitated, he had recovered, repaired, repainted it and given it the place of honor in his small garden.
And then he confesses that in reality that statue had reminded him of a person, a hermit monk, dressed in white, who had represented a father for him, who had been a guide for him (one of his sons bears his name) and who died in the same year as Amalia (1999), leaving a great void in his life.
And when that statue appeared, it was like a sign to him that he couldn’t ignore; he had to take her home.
Before leaving us, João tells us that his art also extends to Nativities, which he does not exhibit because he does not want anyone to damage them as has happened with some thrones.
And then he promises that he will show them to us someday.
In the meantime, we have to “settle” for his small open-air museum which proudly preserves one of the oldest popular traditions in Lisbon.
When you go down the streets of Alfama, through the long staircase that starts from Largo das Portas do Sol, the one in which the remains of the old wall take you back to distant times, Dora, a classic Portuguese mother, welcomes you in the portico of a house.
A loving mother who doesn’t forget to kiss or caress her children.
And Lisbon guides cannot fail to get to know her, because when you pass through Alfama, her kind look and cheerful greeting are inevitable.
And that’s how I met her, because as I passed by that street, her smile and her kindness always impressed me. And when she didn’t see me pass by for a few days, she asked everyone who knew me about my news. And since then, she adopted me, since then I’m “her daughter” and when I need a hug from Mom, Dora’s never fails.
Dora sells ginjinha on the street, the traditional cherry liqueur, enriched with sugar, cinnamon and brandy, which, according to tradition, was already sold in the 19th century as a remedy for sore throats.
In Lisbon it’s a tradition, a little glass of ginjinha can’t be missed. And whoever comes to Lisbon as a tourist can’t fail to try the ginjinha and usually do so in one of the city’s bars.
But Dora sells the ginjinha on the street, like in the old days. The municipality of Lisbon allows it, in the old area of Alfama, in exchange for a monthly fee.
And before this pandemic, during the popular festivals in June, Dora also prepared the traditional rice pudding with her special recipe (Delicious!)
Dora is a woman from Alfama, it’s her neighborhood and she’s proud of it. It was here that she was born, in her grandparents’ house, a few streets from where she now lives. This is where she has always lived, on the same street where she was born, in a house nearby.
It was in Alfama that Dora met João. A love that was born when she was 13 and he was 18, crowned by marriage three years later. A great love embellished by three children. A love that cannot be forgotten. And the emotion starts to be felt, because João, her João, passed away few months ago. A void, the one he left in Dora’s life, that cannot be filled.
But she doesn’t want to make us sad and she doesn’t want to be sad, so she changes the subject.
She talks about her family, the children she loves, her grandson Dinis, born three years ago. And then Dora’s eyes shine again, the proud grandmother can’t resist showing us the last pictures of “the love of her life”.
So I ask her why this choice, why sell ginjinha on the street.
And Dora says that she has always worked, especially in restaurants, but a fractured leg in 1995 forced her to wear prostheses for four years and then to a pain that no longer allowed her to continue with her previous work.
And then she starts to get lost in the history of the past, she tells us about the first days after the wedding, the house they lived in, the in-laws’ house, always in Alfama of course, and that they had to leave years ago, following the laws that in Portugal, had allowed many evictions. So Dora and her family lost their home, the one where they were building their future, and moved to the one where Dora lives today.
“It was my great-grandmother’s house”, she tells us, then it was her mother’s and finally hers.
And many times Dora is there, at the window on the first floor, and all you have to do is call her down and ask a glass of ginjinha.
Dora’s story continues to go back in time and the portrait that emerges is that of a tireless and adventurous woman. Pregnant with her second child, and well into her pregnancy, she traveled between Spain and Portugal to work. And one day, in her eighth month of pregnancy, her second child was almost born during a trip.
Tireless, even with the baby’s belly, because she had to work, for the family.
The work never scared her.
And three years ago, a new idea, a new challenge. One day her son came home and said: “Mother, I know a lady who makes ginjinha at home. Why don’t you sell it? ”
Dora had decided to accept her son’s proposal, “she needed to work”, she says. But she was embarrassed.
And the first day she ended up with no customers. She wanted to give up. It was the perfect reason to do this, the excuse she needed for her son. But she didn’t. She decided to try again.
And today she continues, not only to earn something, but especially “because she doesn’t want to be alone at home”
She has no fixed hours; if she is not there, she tells us, just call her.
She positions herself there, under the door of her house, around 11am and then again some in the afternoon. It depends on the time, it depends on people’s passage.
But for Dora, this work hides a value far more important than money: people. The passage of people through the streets of Alfama, exchanging a smile with her, wishing her a good day, makes her feel good, doesn’t give her time to feel alone.
And Dora needs to surround herself with people, she who is so happy, sociable, smiling. It doesn’t take much. Sometimes her affectionate cry “Daughter!” it reaches me from far away on the street in Alfama, all you have to do is send her a kiss from afar or shout “how are you?” to see the smile in her eyes.
The pandemic was a heavy blow for Dora, and not only because the tourists disappeared and with them much of her work, but because fewer and fewer people passed through the streets of Alfama for many months. And those comings and goings that so fill Dora’s heart with joy no longer exist.
And then she anxiously waits for this period to end, for people to laugh again in the streets and hug each other without fear, come back to keep company, chatting and drinking a ginjinha.
That’s what Dora is. Chilly and covered in more coats in winter, with a classic dress in summer, but always her, and always there, under the door of her house, with her bottle of homemade ginjinha.
One euro for Dora’s ginjinha – says the sign hanging next to the banquet – one euro for the glass of liqueur, but above all for a smile, for her affection and for her incredible humanity.
How many times, strolling through the small streets of Lisbon, you meet a look, a smile, from someone you meet every day, but who deep down you don’t know.
And maybe you’ve asked yourself many times what history these people, who are unknowingly part of your daily life, keep.
That’s why our project #Um dia de cada vez was born: we’re going to talk about Lisbon, but without focusing on the city. We will do it by talking about the people.
Are you ready to find out who is hiding behind the people that you meet around the corner, sitting in a cafe or looking out the window?
We are Alex and Rossana, two Italians adopted by Portugal and in love with this country, which we have chosen as our new land. And from today, what we will try to tell you through stories and images, will be the people we have met and we’re meeting, people that day by day, Um dia de cada vez, became part of our lives.
Um dia de cada vez, is a typical Portuguese expression that means “Day by day” and also hides an idea of hope, of patience.
And this is the meaning of our project: open the doors of these people, look out the window with them, sit with them in a cafe… and tell their story. The story of the people who, day by day, are part of our life. Ordinary people, artists, musicians, vendors…
Um dia de cada vez, we will get to know them and, when we meet their gaze, we will know the story that they hide behind their eyes.
Start this journey with us, come and meet the people of Lisbon, through Rossana’s words and Alex’s images.
And on this journey we will not be alone: if you also have someone who, Um dia de cada vez, has become part of your daily life and you want to know more about him, let us know.
We will immediately start discovering his story.
WHO WE ARE
Alex Paganelli is an Advertising Creative and self-taught photographer.
He studied Sociology and Communication at the University of Urbino and began his career working as a graphic designer in Rome, the city where he was born.
In 2008 he moved to Lisbon for love and soon fell in love with the light and streets of the Portuguese capital.
He currently works as a Creative in an advertising agency and develops personal photography projects.
His work has appeared in national and international online publications, including Expresso (Portugal), Viajes National Geographic (Spain), Marie Claire (Spain), Forbes (Czech Republic), Harper’s Bazaar Arabia (Dubai), CNN Greece and Remix Magazine (New Zealand).
Rossana Crisci, 100% Neapolitan, is an archaeologist and studied History of Art and Museology at the École du Louvre in Paris. Author of two books, after many years spent in Vienna, where she worked as a guide in the Hofburg-imperial apartments, she arrived in Lisbon and it was love at first sight. Every hidden corner of this city, the labyrinthine streets of the city center, the sound of Fado in the hidden alleys, the smell of sardines grilled in the summer, all this captivated her heart. And she did not go away.
Today, her job is to make others fall in love with this country, guiding them through the most representative streets and in the most hidden corners of the city and doing what she loves most: telling stories.