Portugal is a coastal nation in southwestern Europe, located at the western end of the Iberian Peninsula, bordering Spain (on its northern and eastern frontiers: a total of 1,214 km (754 mi)). Portuguese territory also includes a series of archipelagoes in the Atlantic Ocean (the Azores and Madeira), which are strategic islands along western sea approaches to the Strait of Gibraltar and the Mediterranean Sea. In total, the country occupies an area of 92,090 km2 of which 91,470 km2 is land and 620 km2 water.
Despite these definitions, Portugal's border with Spain remains an unresolved territorial dispute between the two countries. Portugal does not recognize the border between Caia and Cuncos River deltas, since the beginning of the 1801 occupation of Olivenza by Spain. This territory, though under de facto Spanish occupation, remains a de jure part of Portugal, consequently no border is henceforth recognized in this area.
The history of Portugal, a European and an Atlantic nation, dates back to the Early Middle Ages. In the 15th and 16th centuries, it ascended to the status of a world power during Europe's "Age of Discovery" as it built up a vast empire including possessions in South America, Africa, Asia and Australasia (Oceania). Over the following two centuries, Portugal kept most of its colonies but gradually lost much of its wealth and status as the Dutch, English and French took an increasing share of the spice and slave trades (the economic basis of its empire), by surrounding or conquering the widely scattered Portuguese trading posts and territories, leaving it with ever fewer resources to defend its overseas interests.
Signs of military decline began with two disastrous battles: the Battle of Alcácer Quibir in Morocco in 1578 and Spain's abortive attempt to conquer England in 1588 - Portugal was then in a dynastic union with Spain, and contributed ships to the Spanish invasion fleet. The country was further weakened by the destruction of much of its capital city in a 1755 earthquake, occupation during the Napoleonic Wars and the loss of its largest colony, Brazil, in 1822. From the middle of the 19th century to the late 1950s, nearly two-million Portuguese left Europe to live in Brazil and the United States (U.S.).
In 1910, there was a revolution that deposed the monarchy. Amid corruption, repression of the church, and the near bankruptcy of the state, a military coup in 1926 installed a dictatorship that remained until another coup in 1974. The new government instituted sweeping democratic reforms and granted independence to all of Portugal's African colonies in 1975.
Portugal is a founding member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA). It entered the European Community (now the European Union) in 1986.
The Third Republic (1974–)
The "Carnation Revolution" of 1974, an effectively bloodless left-wing military coup, installed the "Third Republic". Broad democratic reforms were implemented. In 1975, Portugal granted independence to its Overseas Provinces (Províncias Ultramarinas in Portuguese) in Africa (Mozambique, Angola, Guinea-Bissau, Cape Verde and São Tomé and Príncipe). Nearly 1 millionPortuguese or persons of Portuguese descent left these former colonies as refugees.
In that same year, Indonesia invaded and annexed the Portuguese province of Portuguese Timor (East Timor) in Asia before independence could be granted. The massive exodus of the Portuguese military and citizens from Portuguese Angola and Mozambique, would prompt an era of chaos and severe destruction in those territories after independence from Portugal in 1975. From May 1974 to the end of the 1970s, over a million Portuguese citizens from Portugal's African territories (mostly from Portuguese Angola and Mozambique) left those territories as destitute refugees – the retornados.
The newly independent countries were ravaged by brutal civil wars in the following decades – the Angolan Civil War (1975–2002) and Mozambican Civil War (1977–1992) - responsible for millions of deaths and refugees. The Asian dependency of Macau, after an agreement in 1986, was returned to Chinese sovereignty in 1999. Portugal applied international pressure to secure East Timor's independence from Indonesia, as East Timor was still legally a Portuguese dependency, and recognized as such by the United Nations. After a referendum in 1999, East Timor voted for independence, which Portugal recognized in 2002.
With the 1975–76 independence of its colonies (apart from Macau), the 560-year-old Portuguese Empire effectively ended. Simultaneously 15 years of war effort also came to an end; many Portuguese returned from the colonies (the retornados) and came to comprise a sizeable number of the population: approximately 580,000 of Portugal's 9,8 million citizens in 1981. This opened new paths for the country's future just as others closed. In 1986, Portugal entered the European Economic Community and left the European Free Trade Association which had been founded by Portugal and its partners in 1960. The country joined the euro in 1999. The Portuguese empire ended de facto in 1999 when Macau was returned to China, and de jure in 2002 when East Timor became independent.
Portuguese literature has developed since the 12th century from the lyrical works of João Soares de Paiva, Paio Soares de Taveirós and King D.Dinis. They wrote mostly from Galician-Portuguese and oral traditions known as "Cantigas de amor e amigo" and "Cantigas de escárnio e maldizer", which were sung by Troubadours the first ones and the last ones by jograis.
Following chroniclers such as Fernão Lopes after the 15th century, fiction has its roots in chronicles and histories with theatre, following Gil Vicente, the father of Portuguese theatre, whose works was critical of the society of his time.
Classical lyrical texts include Os Lusíadas, by Luís de Camões that is an epic book about the history of Portugal and have elements of Greek mythology if from the 16th century. It is the national epic of Portugal.
Romanticism and Realism period authors from 19th century including Antero de Quental, Almeida Garrett, Camilo Pessanha, Camilo Castelo Branco,Eça de Queiroz, Alexandre Herculano, Ramalho Ortigão, Júlio Dinis and others.
Portuguese modernism is found in the works of Fernando Pessoa, José Régio, Miguel Torga, Mário de Sá-Carneiro and others.
Following the Carnation Revolution in 1974, the Portuguese society, after several decades of repression, regained freedom of speech.
José Saramago received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1998.
Herberto Hélder is a young poet highly considered in Portugal from the recent wave of writers such us Valter Hugo Mãe, José Luís Peixoto, Gonçalo M. Tavares, Jorge Reis-Sá, Maria Antonieta Preto, José Ricardo Pedro and others.
Fado (translated as destiny or fate) is a music genre which can be traced from the 1820s, but possibly with much earlier origins. It is characterized by mournful tunes and lyrics, often about the sea or the life of the poor. The music is usually linked to the Portuguese word saudade, a unique word with no accurate translation in any other language. (Home-sickness has an approximate meaning. It is a kind of longing, and conveys a complex mixture of mainly nostalgia, but also sadness, pain, happiness and love). Some enthusiasts claim that Fado's origins are a mixture of African slave rhythms with the traditional music of Portuguese sailors and Arabic influence.
There are two main varieties of fado, namely those of the cities of Lisbon and Coimbra. The Lisbon style is the most popular, while Coimbra's is the more refined style. Modern fado is popular in Portugal, and has produced many renowned musicians. According to tradition, to applaud fado in Lisbon you clap your hands, in Coimbra you cough as if clearing your throat.
Mainstream fado performances during the 20th century included only a singer, a Portuguese guitar player and a classical guitar player but more recent settings range from singer and string quartet to full orchestra.
The ingredients of Fado are a shawl, a guitar, a voice and heartfelt emotion.
Themes include: destiny, deep-seated feelings, disappointments in love, the sense of sadness and longing for someone who has gone away, misfortune, the ups and downs of life, the sea, the life of sailors and fishermen, and last but not least "Saudade" (one of the main themes used in fado, that means a kind of longing).
Fado is probably the oldest urban folk music in the world and represents the heart of the Portuguese soul, and for that matter fado performance is not successful if an audience is not moved to tears.
Sport in Portugal
Sports in Portugal are important in Portuguese culture. Football is the most popular sport in Portugal. Other than football, many other professional or semi-professional well organized sport competitions take place every season in Portugal, including basketball, swimming, athletics, tennis,
gymnastics, futsal, rink hockey, team handball, volleyball, surfing, canoeing and rugby union championships among the hundreds of sports played in this country.