About  |   Contact  |  Mongabay on Facebook  |  Mongabay on Twitter  |  Subscribe
Rainforests | Tropical fish | Environmental news | For kids | Madagascar | Photos

Portugal - SOCIETY

Portugal - The Society and Its Environment


AS A RESULT OF CHANGES wrought by the Revolution of 1974, Portugal in the 1990s would be almost unrecognizable to persons who knew the country twenty or thirty years ago. The Revolution of 1974 set loose social and political forces that the country had not seen before on such a large scale and which could not be entirely controlled. The revolution, in turn, occurred and had such a profound impact because of other, gradual social pressures that had been building for decades and even centuries. In the mid-1970s, these changes exploded to the surface. In the aftermath of the revolution, as Portuguese society continued to modernize and the country was admitted as a full member of the European Community (EC), social change continued, but not so frenetically and dramatically as during the revolutionary mid-1970s.

Before 1974 Portugal was a highly traditional society. It resembled what historian Barbara Tuchman called the "Proud Tower" of pre-World War I European society. Class and social divisions were tightly drawn and defined, society was organized on a rigidly hierarchical and authoritarian basis, and social relations were often stiff and formal. One was born into a certain station in life and was expected to stay there and to accept that fact; social mobility was limited. Class standing and class relations were clearly delineated by criteria of birth, dress, speech, and manner of behavior. Visitors often remarked that in Portugal one could still find a nineteenth-century society existing within a twentieth-century context.

Even within this rigid, very conservative, and traditionalist society, however, considerable change was beginning to occur, particularly during the 1960s as economic development accelerated. The trade unions had grown in size and assertiveness. The middle class was emerging as a numerically larger and sociologically more important element than therefore. A new business-industrial class had grown up alongside, and frequently overlapped with, the more traditional landed and noble class. In addition, Portugal experienced urbanization; at the same time, many Portuguese left the country in search of better opportunities abroad. Literacy was also rising, though slowly. As modernization and social change began to accelerate in the 1960s and early 1970s, discontent with the closed and authoritarian regime of António de Oliveira Salazar (1928-68) and his successor Marcello José das Neves Caetano (1968-74) also began to mount. These and other pressures culminated in the Revolution of 1974.

Following the revolution, which led to the establishment of democracy in Portugal, societal pressures continued. Pressures for education, land, jobs, better health care, housing, social equality, and solutions to Portugal's pressing social problems mounted. Portugal remained, even with the economic growth of the 1980s and early 1990s, a poor country compared to the West European standards. Moreover, rising expectations were threatening to overwhelm the democratic regime's capacities for resolving the problems. Portugal's full economic participation in the EC at the end of 1992, when it would no longer have the protection of high tariff barriers, added to social tensions and uncertainties. Thus, as Portugal began the 1990s, the promise of a new, stable, democratic era of development coexisted with a fear of what the future might bring.




By the early 1990s, Portugal's population was just over 10 million, a little more than triple the 3.1 million estimated to live in the country in 1801. The main causes for this slow growth were a high infant mortality rate for much of these two centuries and an emigration rate so extreme that in one decade, the 1960s, the country's population actually fell. These trends have reversed in recent decades. The country's infant mortality rate at the beginning of the 1990s--10 per 1,000 in 1992--remained somewhat higher than the European average but was one-fifth of that registered two decades earlier. Emigration also slowed markedly as prosperity appeared in Portugal in the second half of the 1980s. Moreover, a massive influx of refugees from former Portuguese colonies in Africa in the second half of the 1970s caused a population surge.

Population Size and Structure

Although population estimates are available for earlier years, the first official Portuguese census was taken in 1864. It showed a population of approximately 4.3 million. Thereafter, the population increased slowly at rates often well under 1 percent per year. Only during the 1930s and 1940s did the population increase at over 1 percent per year. During the 1960s, the population actually fell by over 300,000 and in 1970 amounted to more than 8.5 million. During the early 1970s, population continued to fall or was stagnant. This demographic trend was the result of widespread emigration. Many Portuguese left their country in these years to find employment abroad or to avoid military service in the wars Portugal was fighting in its colonies in Africa.

In 1974 the country's population showed its first sizeable increase and by 1981 reached nearly 9.8 million, 1.2 million more than it had been ten years earlier. The settling in Portugal of an estimated 500,000 to 800,000 refugees from the country's African colonies accounted for most of this increase. During the first half of the 1980s, the population grew at a rate of about 0.8 percent a year, then declined. As of the early 1990s, population growth was estimated at 0.4 percent a year. By the beginning of 1992, the population of Portugal, including the Azores and Madeira, was estimated at nearly 10.5 million. Population specialists projected that if existing trends continued, the country's population would peak at 10.8 million in 2010 and fall to 10.5 in 2025.

This population was not evenly distributed. As of the late 1980s, continental Portugal had an average population density of 109.6 persons per square kilometer, but some districts were much more crowded than others. The eastern districts bordering Spain, with the exception of Faro, had the lowest population density, ranging between 17.0 per square kilometer in Beja and 35.6 per square kilometer in Guarda. Coastal districts from the northern border down to and including Setúbal registered the highest concentrations of people. The districts of Lisbon and Porto, with 770.2 and 697.5 persons per square kilometer, respectively, were as densely populated as many urban regions of Northern Europe.

Some of these differences in population density resulted from topography. Mountainous regions typically contain fewer people than flat coastal regions. But some differences resulted from migration from one area to another within Portugal or from migration abroad. During the period 1911-89, five districts, all of them bordering Spain in the east, lost population: Guarda lost about one-fourth of its population, Beja and Castelo Branco lost about one-tenth, and Bragança and Portalegre each lost about onetwentieth . The only eastern district posting a gain in this period was Évora, which grew by about one-sixth. Two inland districts, Vila Real and Viseu, showed almost no growth; another inland district, Santarém, with significant industrial employment, grew by one-half. All coastal districts gained in population during this period. Coimbra and Faro grew by onefourth , Aveiro and Braga doubled their populations, the districts of Lisbon and Porto increased by two-and-one-half times, and Setúbal increased more than three times. The Azores showed almost no gain in population, but that of Madeira grew by two-thirds.

The main areas of population growth were urban centers and the district capitals. The urban-industrial centers along the coast--Lisbon, Porto, Setúbal--took in the largest numbers of new immigrants. However, only the cities of Lisbon and Porto had significant populations, approximately 830,000 and 350,000, respectively, at the end of the 1980s. They were followed by Amadora with 96,000 (part of greater Lisbon), Setúbal with 78,000, and Coimbra with 75,000. At the beginning of the 1990s, therefore, some two-thirds of all Portuguese still lived in what were classified as rural areas despite the significant growth of some urban areas.

The Lisbon area was the region of greatest population growth in absolute terms, in part it was the seat of much of the country's governmental apparatus, as well as its manufacturing and service sector jobs. Until the 1960s, the area's population increases were mainly inside the city of Lisbon, but since then the suburbs have grown most rapidly. The central city's population remained largely stagnant or even declined in some years, while that of the suburbs surged. High city rents, crowding, the decline of old neighborhoods, pollution, and the squeezing out of housing by commercial enterprises were among the causes of this new suburbanization of Lisbon's outlying districts.

Government population estimates showed that in the late 1980s women outnumbered men by a wide margin and that the number of old persons in Portugal was unusually high. The 1864 census and every census since has shown that women outnumber men. In 1988 this was the case in all but two of the districts of continental Portugal, Beja and Bragança. The greatest disproportions were found in northern and central areas where male emigration was most intense. However, during the 1980s, men formed the majority in twenty-two of the country's 305 municipalities. Eighteen of these statistically unusual municipalities were in southern Portugal.

Portugal has long had an aging population. The percentage of the population under age thirty has been decreasing since 1900. Moreover, the rate at which the country's population has aged accelerated as ever more young Portuguese males in their physical prime left the country. Between 1960 and 1990, the percentage of those under fifteen fell from 29.0 to 20.9, while that of those sixty-five and older rose from 8.1 to 13.1. The north had a disproportionate number of old and very young people, mainly those still too young to migrate. In some areas of Portugal where employment has been available, this preponderance was not the case. Lisbon and the growth areas of Santarém and Setúbal had a disproportionate share of those of working age, between twenty and sixty-five.

Updated population figures for Portugal.


Portugal - Emigration


Portugal has long been a nation whose people emigrated. Socially significant emigration first occurred in the fifteenth century and sixteenth century during the great explorations. Although the Portuguese established trading posts at many places in Africa and Asia, Brazil was the main colony of settlement. Later, numbers of Portuguese settled in the African colonies of Angola and Mozambique.

Emigration on a massive scale began in the second half of the nineteenth century and continued into the 1980s. Between 1886 and 1966, Portugal lost an estimated 2.6 million people to emigration, more than any West European country except <"http://worldfacts.us/Ireland.htm">Ireland. Emigration remained high until 1973 and the first oil shock that slowed the economies of West European nations and reduced employment opportunities for Portuguese workers. Since then, emigration has been moderate, ranging between 12,000 and 17,000 a year in the 1980s, a fraction of the emigration that occurred during the 1960s and early 1970s.

The main motive for emigration, at least in modern times, was economic. Portugal was long among the poorest countries in Europe. With the countryside able to support only a portion of farmers' offspring and few opportunities in the manufacturing sector, many Portuguese had to go abroad to find work. In northern Portugal, for example, many young men emigrated because the land was divided into "handkerchief-sized" plots. In some periods, Portuguese emigrated to avoid military service. Thus, emigration increased during World War I and during the 1960s and early 1970s, when Portugal waged a series of wars in an attempt to retain its African colonies.

For centuries it was mainly men who emigrated. Around the turn of the century, about 80 percent of emigrants were male. Even in the 1980s, male emigrants outnumbered female emigrants two to one. Portuguese males traditionally emigrated for several years while women and children remained behind. For several decades after World War II, however, women made up about 40 percent of emigrants.

The social effects resulting from this extensive and generally male emigration included an aging population, a disproportionate number of women, and a slower rate of population growth. Childbearing was postponed, and many women were obliged to remain single or to spend many years separated from their husbands. In some areas where emigration was particularly intense, especially in the north, villages resembled ghost towns and visitors noted that it seemed that only women were working in the fields.

Although emigration brought with it untold human suffering, it had positive effects, as well. The women who stayed behind became more independent as they managed the family farm and fended for themselves. Emigrants abroad absorbed the more open and pluralistic mores of more advanced countries; they also learned about independent labor unions and extensive social welfare programs. The money that emigrants sent back to Portugal from their job earnings abroad became crucial for the functioning of the Portuguese economy. Quite a number of the Portuguese who had done well abroad eventually returned and built houses that were considerably better than the ones they had left behind years earlier.

During the latter half of the nineteenth century and during much of the twentieth century, the greatest number of emigrants went to the Western Hemisphere. The Americas were seen as a New World offering hope, jobs, land, and a chance to start fresh. Between 1864 and 1974, the Americas received approximately 50 percent of all Portuguese emigration.

Brazil was the destination of choice. In addition to the climate, ties of history, culture, and language attracted the Portuguese to Brazil and enabled them to assimilate easily. Despite occasional tensions between them and the Brazilians, the Portuguese saw Brazil as a land of the future with abundant land and jobs. Hence, about 30 percent of Portugal's emigrants settled there between 1864 and 1973. A final surge of Portuguese emigrants was caused by the Revolution of 1974, when an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 Portuguese associated with the former regime fled or were exiled to Brazil. According to government estimates, more than 1 million Portuguese were living in Brazil in the 1980s.

Among the other Latin American countries, Venezuela has ranked second to Brazil in terms of Portuguese emigration, and Argentina third. Other Latin American countries have received only a few Portuguese immigrants, for the Portuguese, like other peoples, preferred to go to countries where their fellow countrypeople could help them get settled.

Emigration to North America was also intense. By the late 1980s, it was estimated that the number of Portuguese and persons of Portuguese descent living in this continent amounted to more than 1 million in the United States and 400,000 in Canada, most notably in Toronto and Montreal. Significant Portuguese migration to the United States began in the nineteenth century. Early in the twentieth century, substantial Portuguese communities were established in California, New Jersey, and Massachusetts. Since the 1950s, the most intense migration has been to the northeast, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and to cities in southeastern Massachusetts.

Portuguese emigration to the United States often involved whole families, rather than just the men. For this reason, emigrants to the United States settled permanently, unlike Portuguese emigrants to Northern Europe, who were mostly men who set out alone with the intention of returning home after a few years. Another characteristic of the Portuguese migration to the United States was that many were fishermen from the Azores who came to work in areas offshore of New England. Others migrated from Madeira and São Tomé.

Portugal was never as successful at stimulating emigration to its African territories as it wanted to be. For centuries the number of Europeans in these territories was small. Faced with competition from other European imperialist powers in the nineteenth century, Portugal sought to fill up its vast African spaces with people. The state allowed prisoners to work off their sentences by settling in Africa, it offered land grants and stipends to prospective settlers, it tried to encourage its soldiers assigned there to stay, and it tried to lure other Europeans to settle there to augment the thin Portuguese population. These efforts were not notably successful, however, and Portuguese emigration to Africa never amounted to more than 4 percent of the total.

With mounting opposition to its efforts to retain its African territories in the 1960s, Portugal's settlement efforts again reflected political, as well as economic, motives. The government tried to persuade the unemployed, especially those in the north, to settle in Africa rather than emigrate illegally to Europe, but in the long run it was unsuccessful in these efforts. Even the construction of major dams and other infrastructure projects in the territories failed to lure significant numbers of settlers. By the mid-1970s, the African colonies were lost, and Portugal was flooded with refugees from these areas instead of providing emigrants to them.

Upwards of 1 million Portuguese or persons of Portuguese descent were living in the country's African colonies in 1974 when these colonies gained independence. Most of these settlers left these former colonies rather than live under the rule of the Marxist-Leninist groups that came to power. Sizeable numbers went to South Africa and to Brazil, but an estimated 800,000 returned to Portugal, where they increased the already high unemployment rate and added to the social and political tensions of the late 1970s. Eventually, however, most of these returnees were assimilated into Portuguese society, and some of them achieved notable political or financial success.

During the first half of the twentieth century, most Portuguese emigrating from their country went to its colonies or to the Western Hemisphere. This changed dramatically in the 1950s when Western Europe began to experience an economic boom that lasted at least up to the first oil crisis of 1973. The boom created millions of jobs, and Portuguese migrants traveled north to fill them. Alongside Italians, Spaniards, Turks, North Africans, and others, Portuguese worked in restaurants, in construction, in factories, and in many other areas. Although much of the work was menial and poorly paid, such employment provided significant economic advancement for many Portuguese. By the late 1960s, an estimated 80 percent of Portuguese emigrants went to Europe. Many of these emigrants did so illegally, without the required documents, because the lure of Europe's prosperity was too strong to be resisted.

France was the most popular destination. By the early 1970s, it was estimated that 8 percent of Portugal's population lived there. The Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) had the next largest contingent. There were also sizeable Portuguese communities in Switzerland, Belgium, Britain, and the Netherlands. Chaotic economic and social conditions resulting from the Revolution of 1974 caused a slight surge of emigration in the later 1970s, but it never again reached the levels of the 1960s and early 1970s.

During the 1980s, the rate of emigration slowed as revolutionary turmoil subsided and the economy began to grow. Greater governmental efficiency and membership in the EC attracted much foreign investment and created jobs. Portuguese no longer had to go abroad to find economic opportunity.




The deep-reaching political, economic, and social changes that Portugal has experienced in the last few decades have left their mark on the family, women's place within society, and the role of kinship relations. Women were the most affected, for a modernizing economy offered them a greater range of choices than they had in previous times, and the radical reforms enacted after the Revolution of 1974 gave them much greater rights. Kinship relations, whether based on biology or social relationships, were perhaps the least affected, for they remained vitally important in how Portuguese lived and worked with one another.


The patriarchal and nuclear family traditionally served as the norm and the ideal in Portugal. Until the constitution of 1976 was promulgated, the father was seen as the head of the family, and his wife and children were obliged to recognize his authority. He, in turn, was obliged by law to support and protect his family. While the men worked outside the home, women were expected to care for the children and manage household affairs. Marriage was considered permanent; divorce was virtually unknown. During the period of Salazar's rule from 1928 to 1968, the family was even seen as the primary institution of politics; voting was organized under the regime, the Estado Novo (New State), on a family basis--only "heads of households" (usually men but sometimes women) could vote.

Although the nuclear and patriarchal family was the ideal, the cultural patterns varied considerably depending on class status and region. Upper- and middle-class families corresponded most closely to the ideal. Women remained at home tending the children and rarely ventured out unaccompanied, while husbands managed their businesses or followed their professions. Peasant and working-class families were marked by greater variation. In northern Portugal, for example, names and property were often passed on through the mother because of the absence abroad of male heads of households for long periods. The fact that women could inherit land in Portugal gave women in rural areas some independence, and many of them managed their own farms, took their produce to market, and did much heavy work elsewhere seen as suitable for men. The absence of men because of emigration meant that many women never married and also resulted in a higher rate of illegitimacy than in other Mediterranean countries.

The slow modernization of the Portuguese economy, the increasing employment of women outside the home, and the emigration of many women, as well as the spread of new ideas about the place of women and the nature of marriage, gradually changed the nature of the Portuguese family, despite the attempts of Salazar's Estado Novo to preserve the male-dominated nuclear family. The Revolution of 1974 responded to these long pent-up social pressures.

The reforms enacted after the revolution established in the civil code that men and women were equals in marriage, with the same rights to make family decisions. Divorce became much easier, and the number of divorces increased from 1,552 in 1975 to 5,874 in 1980 and 9,657 in 1989. The number of separations, formerly the main method of ending a marriage, fell from 670 in 1975 to 70 in 1980 but climbed to 195 in 1989. Illegitimacy was no longer to be mentioned in official documents because it was regarded as discriminatory; the frequency of births out of wedlock rose from 7.2 percent to 14.5 percent between 1975 and 1989. Abortion under certain conditions became legal in 1984. Maternal leave with full pay for ninety days was established for working mothers in 1976. A small family allowance program was also instituted that made payments at the birth of a child and all through his or her childhood. Family planning also became an integral part of Portugal's social welfare program; the number of children born per woman fell from 2.2 in 1980 to 1.7 in 1985 and 1.5 in 1988.

Relations within the family came to resemble more closely those of the rest of Western Europe. Children were less respectful to their parents, dating without chaperones was the rule, and outings in mixed gender groups or as couples were taken for granted--all things that would not have happened during much of the Salazar era.

Still, some characteristics of Portuguese family life remained constant. Marriage and kinship networks in Portugal were often based on social and political criteria as much as on love or natural attraction. To a degree that often surprised outsiders, even in the early 1990s many Portuguese marriages were arranged. For the peasant class, considerations of land were often most important in determining marriage candidates. Marriages might be arranged to consolidate property holdings or to tie two families together rather than result from the affection two people might feel for one another. Middle-class families often had status and prestige considerations in mind when they married. Among the upper classes, marriage might be for the purposes of joining two businesses, two landholdings, or two political clans.

The Extended Family

The extended family and kinship relations, including ritual kinship, were also important. The role of the godparent, for example, had an importance in Portugal that it lacked in the United States. Being a godparent implied certain lifetime obligations, such as helping a godchild in trouble, arranging admission to a school, finding employment, or furthering a professional or political career. The godchild, in turn, owed loyalty and service to the godparent. The system was one of patronage based on mutual obligation.

Political kinship networks could consist of several hundred persons. Such extended networks were especially prevalent among the elite. Members of the elite were bound not only by marriage and family, but by business partnerships, friendships, political ties, university or military academy bonds, and common loyalties. It was long the practice to have such family connections in the government so as to be able to extract favors and contracts. The elite and middle-class families also tried to have a "cousin," real or ritual, in all political parties so that their interests were protected no matter which party was in power. Sometimes the parties or interest groups were just "fronts" for these family groupings. These extended families also tried to have members in different sectors of the economy, both to enhance profits and to enable each sector to support and reinforce the others. Although these extended family networks were difficult for outsiders to penetrate, some observers regarded them as the country's most important political and economic institutions, of greater real consequence than political parties, interest organizations, or government institutions.

The poor and working class lacked the extended family networks of the middle class and the wealthy. Kin relations outside the nuclear family were weak. Little premium was placed on building economic alliances through an extended family network because there was little wealth to be shared or gained. Similarly, there was no reason to build strong political connections because the poor lacked political power. However, a poor person might succeed in persuading a local landowner or village notable to serve as godfather to his children. In that way, the individual became part of a larger network, expecting favors in return for loyalty and service. If that network became wealthy or achieved political prominence, then the poor person attached to it might also expect to benefit--perhaps by obtaining a low-level government job. But if it fell, the individual also fell. The entire Portuguese local and national system was based on these extended family and patronage ties, which were often as important as formal institutions.



Portugal - Women


Portuguese women gained full legal equality with men relatively recently. Until the reforms made possible by the Revolution of 1974, Portuguese women had notably fewer political, economic, or personal rights than the women of other European countries. In family matters, they were subordinate to their husbands, having to defer to male decisions about how the children should be reared and educated. It was only in 1969 that all married women obtained the right to obtain a passport or leave Portugal without their husbands' consent. The constitution of 1976 guaranteed Portuguese women full equality for the first time in Portuguese history. However, this equality was not attained through steady progress, but rather after reverses and defeats.

For centuries, Portuguese women were obliged by law and custom to be subservient to men. Women had few rights of either a legal or financial nature and were forced to rely on the benevolence of their male relatives. Late in the nineteenth century and early in the twentieth century, some educated persons saw the need for women's equality and emancipation. A small Portuguese suffragette movement formed, and some young women began to receive higher educations. Shortly after the proclamation of the First Republic in the fall of 1910, laws were enacted establishing legal equality in marriage, requiring civil marriages, freeing women of the obligation to remain with their husbands, and permitting divorce. However, women were still not allowed to manage property or to vote.

Salazar's Estado Novo meant the end to these advances. The constitution of 1933 proclaimed everyone equal before the law "except for women, the differences resulting from their nature and for the good of the family." Although the regime allowed women with a secondary education to vote (men needed only to read and write), it once again obliged women to remain with their husbands. The Concordat of 1940 between the Portuguese government and the Roman Catholic Church gave legal validity to marriages within the church and forbade divorce in such marriages. Later amendments to the civil code, even in the 1960s, cemented the husband's dominance in marriage.

The constitution of 1976 brought Portuguese women full legal equality. Anyone eighteen or over was granted the right to vote, and full equality in marriage was guaranteed. A state entity, the Commission on the Status of Women, was established and from 1977 on was attached to the prime minister's office. Its task was to improve the position of women in Portugal and to oversee the protection of their rights. This entity was renamed the Commission for Equality and Women's Rights (Comissão para a Igualdade e Direitos das Mulheres) in 1991.

The position of women improved as a result of these legal reforms. By the early 1990s, women were prominent in many professions. Thirty-seven percent of all physicians were women, as were many lawyers. Slightly more than half of those enrolled in higher education were women. Working-class women also made gains. A modernizing economy meant that many women could find employment in offices and factories and that they had a better standard of living than their mothers.

Despite these significant gains, however, Portuguese women still had not achieved full social and economic equality. They remained underrepresented in most upper-level positions, whether public or private. Women usually held less than 10 percent of the seats in the country's parliament. Women were also rarely cabinet members or judges. In the main trade unions, women's occupancy of leadership positions was proportionally only half their total union membership, and, on the whole, working-class women earned less than their male counterparts.




For centuries the most distinctive feature of Portugal's social structure was its remarkable stability. Portuguese society was long cast in an almost premodern, quasifeudal mold. It was based on strong considerations of rank, place, and class. The system consisted of a small elite at the top, a huge mass of peasants at the bottom, and almost no one in between. Because Portugal's industrialization arrived so late, the country did not experience until late in the nineteenth century some of the class changes associated with rapid economic development in other nations. When industrialization finally did come, Salazar's dictatorship held its sociopolitical effects in check almost to the very end. Then these pent-up changes exploded in the Revolution of 1974.

Historically, Portuguese society consisted of two classes. Social prestige, political power, and economic prosperity were based on the ownership of land. The land was concentrated in large estates owned by a small elite which had obtained lands and titles during the reconquest of the peninsula from the Moors. As the Portuguese armies drove the Moors farther and farther south, their leaders acquired rights to the use and eventually ownership of the lands they conquered. These titles were confirmed by the king in return for the landowners' loyalty and service. It was, in its origins, a classical feudal contract but derived in the Portuguese case from warfare and territorial conquest. The Roman Catholic Church also held vast lands. From the very birth of Portugal, then, landed, governmental, military, and religious authority were closely bound.

The rest of the population counted for very little in this social order. The small traditional middle class, consisting of soldiers, merchants, artisans, and low-level bureaucrats, lacked any solidarity as a class or numbers to give it political power. The remaining 90 percent of the population eked out meager existences as tenant farmers, serfs, and peasants. Little social mobility existed. Instead, one accepted one's station in life and did not rebel against it; to do so was not only forbidden but seen as an affront to God's immutable laws. Generation after generation, down through the centuries, this rigid, unyielding, hierarchical social structure persisted.

It was not unusual that from the twelfth century through the fourteenth century, Portugal's formative years as a nation, the country was organized in this two-class system and on a feudal basis; that was the norm in Europe. What was surprising was that this class system and all its rigidities lasted through the seventeenth century, when the system became even more consolidated, and beyond. During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, a "new rich" class emerged that was based on commerce and investment, but members of this class bought land, intermarried with the old elite, and thus perpetuated the two-class system.

Even in the twentieth century, despite the onset of modernization, this structure persisted. With economic stimulus, a new middle class began to emerge. But it largely imitated upper--class ways--disdaining manual labor, cultivating genteel virtues, and distancing itself from the lower classes--and was coopted into the elite's way of thinking and behaving. In addition, an industrial work force began to grow up alongside the traditional peasantry, but under Salazar its labor unions were kept under control, and the workers had no independent bargaining power. Just as the emerging middle class joined the elite, the emerging working class was kept down as a sort of urban "peasantry." In this way, the essentially conservative and two-class system of Portugal was perpetuated even into the era of industrialization.

Under Salazar the regime did little to ameliorate the social inequalities that had long existed in Portugal. Salazar recognized that his strength lay with the conservative, traditional elements, especially the strongly Catholic peasantry of the north, so he did little to increase literacy or improve the road system that would lead to increased mobility, urbanization, and the eventual undermining of his power. He also tried consciously to keep Portugal isolated from the modernizing and culture-changing currents of the rest of Europe. His corporative system brought some benefits to the workers, but it also kept them under the strict control of the regime. Moreover, during Salazar's rule, Portugal lagged even further behind other nations in terms of housing, education, and health care.

Several sociological studies carried out in the 1960s confirmed that Portugal's ossified, hierarchical social structure continued even into modern times. One study found four social categories: an upper class of industrialists, proprietors, and high government officials accounting for 3.8 percent of the population; a middle stratum of rural proprietors, military officers, teachers, and small-scale entrepreneurs constituting 6.9 percent; a lower-middle stratum of clerks, low-level civil servants, military enlisted men, and rural shopkeepers adding up to 27.2 percent; and a majority--62.1 percent--consisting of workers, both rural and urban. Another study located 1 to 2 percent of the population in the upper class, 15 to 20 percent in the middle class, and 75 percent in the lower class. Both studies, carried out independently, arrived at strikingly similar conclusions.

Yet, even with all this rigidity, class change was beginning to occur, as a result of the slow modernization of the economy. Some groups were losing their traditional status and social power and were being displaced by groups better able to function in the evolving economy. These changes can be shown through a closer examination of the various groups that made up the country's elite, middle, and lower classes.

<>The Elite
<>The Middle Class
<>The Lower Class


Portugal - The Elite


Before the Revolution of 1974, Portugal's elite could be divided into five groups; the nobility, the large landowners, the heads of large businesses, the members of learned professions, and high-ranking military officers. These elites were closely connected and intertwined in numerous complex ways.

The oldest group historically was the nobility. It generally traced its origins to the formative period of Portuguese history. The monarchy had frequently granted noble titles to the elite in return for loyalty and service. In modern times, this nobility continued frequently to use its titles of duke, count, or marquis. A title was a symbol of status and was often eagerly sought, although the younger, more liberal generation frequently scoffed at such titles. Some of the titled nobility went into the learned professions or high government service. In the modern age, a titled nobility seemed anachronistic, but in Portugal this elite lingered on.

A second group, often overlapping with the first, consisted of large landowners, or latifundiários. They were chiefly concentrated in the Alentejo, but other areas of Portugal, such as the Beira and Ribatejo, also contained large estates. Increasingly, this landholding element had become absentee landlords, settling in Lisbon and leaving their estates in the hands of managers. In Lisbon, the landed elites frequently diversified into business and industry but kept their estates, sometimes as profit-making enterprises, but most often as symbols of status. This elite was also in the process of being eclipsed when the Revolution of 1974 occurred.

More important than either of these first two groups were business people and industrialists. These elements had come to prominence in Portugal in the 1960s and early 1970s as Portuguese economic growth accelerated and the country industrialized. The business elite was often well educated and had emerged from the middle class. It filled the ranks of managers, administrators, and company presidents. Quite a number married, or their children married, into the nobility or the landed class. As Portugal continued to develop economically, the business groups gained in influence, particularly as the survival of the regime came to depend on a prosperous economy.

A fourth group among the elite consisted of the learned professions, including university professors. Medicine as a profession had traditionally enjoyed particular prestige in Portugal. Lawyers similarly enjoyed prestige; many of them went into government service or became managers of banks and major companies. University professors were also valued: Salazar and Caetano were both university dons, and their cabinets often included several professors. The high prestige stemmed in part from the fact that university education was so rare in Portugal and a professor far rarer still; it also stemmed from the need for technical expertise in the government. Because of the large number of university professors, Salazar's regime was often referred to as a catedratocracia, a term derived from the Portuguese word for university chair, cátedra.

The fifth elite was the military officer corps. These were men, often from middle- or lower middle-class ranks, who had made it to the top in a very important institution: the armed forces. Education and the military, in fact, were among the few means open to ambitious middle-class youth to rise in the social scale in highly class-conscious Portugal. The military officers did not always mingle well with the upper-class civilians, but the power and importance of the armed forces meant they had to be paid serious attention. In addition, many of the banks, large businesses, and elite family groups, as a way of protecting their interests, placed military officers on their payrolls.

These elites were closely interrelated. A landowner living in the city might go into business or banking; a wealthy business person or industrialist might buy land. They themselves or their children would acquire an education and enter the learned professions. Business elites formed groups in which they owned diverse holdings: typically, insurance, hotels, construction, banking, real estate, and newspapers. They hired university professors and military officers to help administer these holdings--or as an "insurance policy." Some members of the group held government positions--often carrying out private and public activities simultaneously. These groups were tightly inbred and often overlapping, with powerful political-economic-military connections.

The Revolution of 1974 largely destroyed this oligarchic system. Many of the old political elites associated with the regime were forced into exile, and others had their businesses confiscated. Almost all lost their positions and many of their holdings as a result of the revolution. Many members of the old elite eventually found their way back to Portugal and some began again to prosper in the late 1980s. But the strength of the elite was nowhere near so great as it was before 1974 and may have been ended permanently.


Portugal - The Middle Class


The middle class in Portugal had long been growing in size but grew more rapidly beginning in the early 1960s as economic growth quickened. Depending on the criteria used, Portugal's middle class at the beginning of the 1990s could account for 25 to 30 percent of the population.

The traditional principle of political science states that the growth of a middle class brings greater social stability and better chances for the flourishing of democracy. However, the correlation of middle-class stability and democracy does not necessarily hold in Portugal. The reason for this lack of correlation stems from the fact that "middle class" in Portugal has two definitions. One definition is based on social and cultural criteria and the other on economics. The definition using economic criteria is the easiest to state: everyone above a certain income level but below another income level is middle class. This criterion would include some less wealthy professionals, business people, soldiers, government workers, small farmers who own their own lands, clerks, and better-off industrial workers. This list includes a large variety of persons of diverse occupations with little connecting them in terms of education, family background, or political values.

According to the socio-cultural definition of middle class, persons belonging to the middle class do not engage in manual labor, disdain it, and tend to feel a sense of superiority to those below them in the social hierarchy. The social-cultural definition regards professionals, business and commercial elements, military officers, and government workers as middle class, but not the enlisted, farmers, or industrial workers, no matter what their earnings. This latter definition of middle class results in a smaller group, more homogeneous in outlook than that resulting from purely economic criteria.

If the older, more traditional variety of middle class with its essentially aristocratic values (disdain for manual labor, for example) proved to be the prevailing model even in the 1990s, Portugal would remain essentially a two-class society divided between those who work with their hands and those who do not. A two-class society increases chances for division, class conflict, and even civil war. By contrast, the emergence of a large and independent middle class defined by economic categories rather than socio-cultural traits favors the growth of social pluralism and political stability. As both definitions of the middle class were employed in Portugal, predicting the country's future was more difficult than elsewhere in Western Europe.

An indication that economic criteria had greater validity than in the past was that Portugal's middle class, traditionally deeply divided on a host of social and political issues, increasingly voted on a more consistent basis for the moderate, centrist Social Democrat Party (Partido Social Democrata--PSD). The PSD had come to be seen by its foes, as well as its supporters, as a "bourgeois" party. The Portuguese working class, in contrast, has voted increasingly for the Socialist Party (Partido Socialista--PS), although the Portuguese Communist Party (Partido Comunista Português--PCP) also won some of its votes.


Portugal - The Lower Class


Portuguese have long used the all-encompassing term o povo to describe the lower class. O povo means "the people," but the term has a class connotation, as well. Analysts of Portuguese society have postulated that o povo encompasses perhaps four main groups, including agricultural workers who either owned or did not own land and organized and unorganized labor in urban areas.

Ownership of land was the main criterion for subdividing the poor in rural areas. There was a strong regional difference in ownership. Portugal's north was noted for its small farms and self-employed small farmers. Farmers who owned land tended to be independent, rather conservative, and strongly Catholic in their beliefs. They tended to vote for the center and center-right political parties. Within this class of smallholders, some were better off than others. Some were obliged to work part-time on other farms. Many offspring of smallholders migrated to the cities or emigrated abroad. Their female relatives often remained behind to till the land.

The rural poor of the south in the Alentejo, like those of the north, were often referred to as "peasants," but that catchall term obscured important regional differences between these two groups. Relatively few of the o povo in the Alentejo owned their own land. Instead, they worked on the region's large estates, some full-time, others perhaps only two days a week. Their politics were often radical, and, in contrast to the smallholders of the north, they tended to vote for socialist and communist parties. The Alentejo was the area most strongly affected by the Revolution of 1974, and many of the large estates were nationalized and designated for agrarian reform or were taken over in a land seizure by their workers.

Urban areas also had two major groups of the working class, mainly defined in terms of whether or not they were politically organized. The unorganized lumpen proletariat, usually recent arrivals from the countryside, were often unemployed or underemployed. Members of the urban working class who belonged to labor unions were considerably better off and could be regarded as the "elite" of Portugal's lower classes.

The lumpen proletariat lived in urban slums, the most extensive of which were in Lisbon. Migrants from the countryside, they were often illiterate and not members of a labor union. Many could find no regular work but were employed in menial jobs on a part-time basis. The slums they lived in were often partly hidden from view behind walls or fences and even in the early 1990s frequently lacked electricity, water, and sewerage systems. The housing in these slums was often fabricated from any available materials, including fiber glass, cardboard, and tin; hence, these areas were called in Portuguese bairros de lata-- neighborhoods of tin. In addition to physical hardships, slum dwellers had to contend with violence and crime. Portugal's increasing prosperity since the second half of the 1980s had not yet been sufficient to efface these districts, which looked as if they were part of the Third World.

Portugal's organized working class had a better standard of living than did the unskilled and unorganized poor. Their salaries were relatively high, and they were strongly entrenched in Portugal's key industries. Portugal had a long history of urban trade unions. Under Salazar's corporative system they were strictly controlled, but after the Revolution of 1974 they became major actors in the political system and had managed to secure decent wages for their membership.




Portugal's population was remarkably homogeneous and had been so for all of its history. This lack of ethnic variety helped it become the first unified nation-state in Western Europe. For centuries Portugal had virtually no ethnic, tribal, racial, religious, or cultural minorities. Almost all Portuguese spoke the national language, almost all were Roman Catholic, and almost all identified with Portuguese culture and the nation of Portugal. Whereas neighboring Spain had been deeply divided along ethnic, linguistic, and regional lines all through its history, Portugal, which historically represented but one of the Iberian Peninsula's many regional entities, was united. In Portugal, ethnic unity and homogeneity were the rule, rather than the exception.

Although Portugal lacked socially significant ethnic differences, some regional differences existed. The north was generally more conservative and Catholic than the south and was said to be less "tainted" by Moorish or Islamic influences. Regional dances, dress, festivals, and customs had once been very distinctive, but modern communications and transportation had opened up and connected formerly closed regions and produced a greater homogeneity. The Portuguese language still exhibited regional differences, and linguists could often pinpoint a person's geographic origin from his speech, but these differences were not extreme enough to impede understanding among Portuguese.

Protestants lived in Portugal as of the early 1990s, but they were largely confined to the communities of foreigners residing in the country. The small but growing Muslim population from North Africa, mainly guest workers attracted by Portugal's new prosperity, were concentrated in the Algarve and in Lisbon. The number of Jews in Portugal was very small (from 500 to 1,000) and, like Protestants, mainly limited to foreign residents.

Portugal had a sizeable Gypsy population, perhaps as many as 100,000, most of whom lived in the Algarve. Despite government efforts to integrate them into the larger society, Gypsies remained a group apart, seminomadic, earning their living by begging, fortune-telling, handicrafts, and trading.

Portugal's foreign community numbered about 90,000 in 1987. It consisted mainly of Africans (about 40 percent), Spaniards, British, Americans, French, and Germans, most of whom lived in Porto, Lisbon, the area around Cascais, the Algarve, and the Azores and Madeira. These communities were not large and generally did not become involved in Portuguese life.

Portugal's long colonial history, more than half a millennium, has left some traces of ethnic diversity. Former colonists were found mainly in Lisbon, particularly after the colonies were granted independence in the mid-1970s. Groups of Angolans, Mozambicans, São Tomans, Timorese, Goans, and Macaoans have settled in the capital city, and, along with Brazilian immigrants, amounted to perhaps 100,000 persons.

The Goans came from the Indian subcontinent and were usually educated, Roman Catholic, and Portuguese speaking. They were better assimilated than most other groups. The Macaoans were generally of Chinese descent, and many had opened businesses. Another group from Asia, the Timorese, were not as well educated as the other eastern groups. A population of less than 100,000 black immigrants from Portugal's African colonies often lived together in small ghettos in Lisbon and did not generally assimilate. Many of these minorities used Portugal as a stoppingoff point en route to more prosperous countries in Western Europe, but as the Portuguese economy began to improve in the second half of the 1980s, more chose to stay permanently. These ethnic minorities from the former colonies were not fully assimilated and often faced to a varying degree racial and cultural prejudice. However, the small size of these diverse ethnic groups prevented this apartness from being a serious social problem.

The only group from the former colonies that was fully assimilated, despite some cultural and adjustment problems, comprised those coming from the former colonies in Africa who were of Portuguese descent. They had much the same racial and cultural background as the Portuguese themselves. Some of them, like some of the Brazilians, did very well in their cultural homeland and even became wealthy.


Portugal - RELIGION


Portugal was profoundly Roman Catholic. According to common saying, "to be Portuguese is to be Catholic," and approximately 97 percent of the population considered itself Roman Catholic--the highest percentage in Western Europe. Only about one-third of the population attended mass and took the sacraments regularly, but nearly all Portuguese wished to be baptized and married in the church and to receive its last rites.

Portugal was Roman Catholic not only in a religious sense, but also socially and culturally. Although church and state were formally separated during the First Republic (1910-26), a separation reiterated in the constitution of 1976, the two still formed a seamless web in many areas of life. Catholic precepts historically undergirded the society, as well as the polity. The traditional notions of authority, hierarchy, and accepting one's station in life all stemmed from Roman Catholic teachings. Many Portuguese holidays and festivals had religious origins, and the country's moral and legal codes derived from Roman Catholic precepts. The educational and health care systems were long the church's preserve, and whenever a building, bridge, or highway was opened, it received the blessing of the clergy. Hence, although church and state were formally separated, absolute separation was not possible in practice.


Portugal was first Christianized while part of the Roman Empire. Christianity was solidified when the Visigoths, a Germanic tribe already Christianized, came into the Iberian Peninsula in the fifth century. Christianity was nearly extinguished in southern Portugal during Moorish rule, but in the north it provided the cultural and religious cement that helped hold Portugal together as a distinctive entity. By the same token, Christianity was the rallying cry of those who rose up against the Moors and sought to drive them out. Hence, Christianity and the Roman Catholic Church predated the establishment of the Portuguese nation, a point that shaped relations between the two.

Under Afonso Henriques (r. 1139-85), the first king of Portugal and the founder of the Portuguese state, church and state were unified into a lasting and mutually beneficial partnership. To secure papal recognition of his country, Afonso declared Portugal a vassal state of the pope. The king found the church to be a useful ally as he drove the Moors toward the south and out of Portuguese territory. For its support of his policies, Afonso richly rewarded the church by granting it vast lands and privileges in the territories conquered from the Moors. The church became the country's largest landowner, and its power came to be equal to that of the nobility, the military orders, and even, for a time, the crown. But Afonso also asserted his supremacy over the church, a supremacy that--with various ups and downs--was maintained.

Although relations between the Portuguese state and the Roman Catholic Church were generally amiable and stable, their relative power fluctuated. In the thirteenth century and fourteenth century, the church enjoyed both riches and power stemming from its role in the reconquest and its close identification with early Portuguese nationalism. For a time the church's position vis-à-vis the state diminished until the growth of the Portuguese overseas empire made its missionaries important agents of colonization.

In 1497, reflecting events that had occurred five years earlier in Spain, Portugal expelled the Jews and the remaining Moors--or forced them to convert. In 1536 the pope gave King João III (r.1521-57) permission to establish the Inquisition in Portugal to enforce the purity of the faith. Earlier the country had been rather tolerant, but now orthodoxy and intolerance reigned. The Jesuit order was placed in charge of all education.

In the eighteenth century, antichurch sentiment became strong. The Marquês de Pombal (r.1750-77) expelled the Jesuits in 1759, broke relations with Rome, and brought education under the state's control. Pombal was eventually removed from his office, and many of his reforms were undone, but anticlericalism remained a force in Portuguese society. In 1821 the Inquisition was abolished, religious orders were banned, and the church lost much of its property. Relations between church and state improved in the second half of the nineteenth century, but a new wave of anticlericalism emerged with the establishment of the First Republic in 1910. Not only were church properties seized and education secularized, but the republic went so far as to ban the ringing of church bells, the wearing of clerical garb on the streets, and the holding of many popular, religious festivals. These radical steps antagonized many deeply religious Portuguese, cost the republic popular support, and paved the way for its overthrow and the establishment of a conservative right-wing regime.

<>The Salazar Regime
<>Changes After the Revolution of 1974
<>Religious Practices
<>Non-Catholic Religious Groups


Portugal - The Salazar Regime


Under the dictatorship of António de Oliveira Salazar (r. 1928-68), the church experienced a revival. Salazar was himself deeply religious and infused with Roman Catholic precepts. Before studying law he had been a seminarian; his roommate at the University of Coimbra, Manuel Gonçalves Cerejeira, later became cardinal patriarch of Lisbon. In addition, Salazar's corporative principles and his constitution and labor statute of 1933 were infused with Roman Catholic precepts from the papal encyclicals Rerum Novarum (1891) and Quadragesimo Anno (1931).

Salazar's state was established on the principles of traditional Roman Catholicism, with an emphasis on order, discipline, and authority. Class relations were supposed to be based on harmony rather than the Marxist concept of conflict. The family, the parish, and Christianity were said to be the foundations of the state. Salazar went considerably beyond these principles, however, and established a full-fledged dictatorship. His corporative state continued about equal blends of Roman Catholic principles and Mussolini-like fascism.

In 1940 a concordat governing church-state relations was signed between Portugal and the Vatican. The church was to be "separate" from the state but to enjoy a special position. The Concordat of 1940 reversed many of the anticlerical policies undertaken during the republic, and the Roman Catholic Church was given exclusive control over religious instruction in the public schools. Only Catholic clergy could serve as chaplains in the armed forces. Divorce, which had been legalized by the republic, was again made illegal for those married in a church service. The church was given formal "juridical personality," enabling it to incorporate and hold property.

Under Salazar, church and state in Portugal maintained a comfortable and mutually reinforcing relationship. While assisting the church in many ways, however, Salazar insisted that it stay out of politics--unless it praised his regime. Dissent and criticism were forbidden; those clergy who stepped out of line--an occasional parish priest and once the bishop of Porto--were silenced or forced to leave the country.


Portugal - Changes After the Revolution of 1974


In the Portuguese constitution of 1976, church and state were again formally separated. The church continues to have a special place in Portugal, but for the most part it has been disestablished. Other religions are now free to organize and practice their beliefs.

In addition to constitutional changes, Portugal became a more secular society. Traditional Roman Catholicism flourished while Portugal was overwhelmingly poor, rural, and illiterate, but as the country became more urban, literate, and secular, the practice of religion declined. The number of men becoming priests fell, as did charitable offerings and attendance at mass. By the early 1990s, most Portuguese still considered themselves Roman Catholic in a vaguely cultural and religious sense, but only about one-third of them attended mass regularly. Indifference to religion was most likely among men and young people. Regular churchgoers were most often women and young children.

The church no longer had its former social influence. During the nineteenth century and on into the Salazar regime, the church was one of the most powerful institutions in the country--along with the army and the economic elite. In fact, military, economic, governmental, and religious influences in Portugal were closely intertwined and interrelated, often literally so. Traditionally, the first son of elite families inherited land, the second went into the army, and the third became a bishop. By the early 1990s, however, the Roman Catholic Church no longer enjoyed this preeminence but had fallen to seventh or eighth place in power among Portuguese interest groups.

By the 1980s, the church seldom tried to influence how Portuguese voted, knowing such attempts would probably backfire. During the height of the revolutionary turmoil in the mid-1970s, the church urged its communicants to vote for centrist and conservative candidates and to repudiate communists, especially in northern Portugal, but after that the church refrained from such an overt political role. The church was not able to prevent the enactment of the constitution of 1976, which separated church and state, nor could it block legislation liberalizing divorce and abortion, issues it regarded as moral and within the realm of its responsibility.


Portugal - Religious Practices


The practice of religion in Portugal showed striking regional differences. Even in the early 1990s, 60 to 70 percent of the population in the traditionally Roman Catholic north regularly attended religious services, compared with 10 to 15 percent in the historically anticlerical south. In the greater Lisbon area, about 30 percent were regular churchgoers.

The traditional importance of Roman Catholicism in the lives of the Portuguese was evident in the physical organization of almost every village in Portugal. The village churches were usually in prominent locations, either on the main square or on a hilltop overlooking the villages. Many of the churches and chapels were built in the sixteenth century at the height of Portugal's colonial expansion and might and were often decorated with wood and gold leaf from the conquests. In recent decades, however, they were often in disrepair, for there were not enough priests to tend them. Many were used only rarely to honor the patron saints of the villages.

Much of the country's religious life had traditionally taken place outside the formal structure and official domain of the Roman Catholic Church. This was especially true in rural areas where the celebration of saints' days and religious festivals were popular. The most famous of Portuguese religious events was the supposed apparition of the Virgin Mary to three children in 1917 in the village of Fátima in the province of Santarém. Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims have visited the shrine at Fátima in the belief that the pilgrimage could bring about healing.

Rural Portuguese often sought to establish a close and personal relationship with their saints. Believing God to be a remote and inaccessible figure, they petitioned patron saints to act as intermediaries. This system of patronage resembled that operating in the secular realm. To win their saint's goodwill, believers presented the saint with gifts, showed that they gave alms to the poor, and demonstrated upright behavior, hoping that the saint might intercede on their behalf with God.

Women tended to practice their religion more than men did, as evidenced by church attendance. In addition, the Virgin Mary, who was the most popular of the spiritual mediators, was often revered more than Jesus and served as the patron of religious processions. The image of the Virgin, as well as that of Christ, were commonly displayed, even in labor union offices or on signs in demonstrations.

The Roman Catholic Church sometimes criticized religious folk practices for dividing people from their God. The church could not monitor all folk customs, however, and such practices continued even in the 1990s. Moreover, the church recognized that many Portuguese felt at least as much loyalty to their saints and customary religious practices as they did to the more formal church. For these reasons, it was not unusual that the church tolerated and sometimes even encouraged these practices as a way of maintaining popular adherence to Roman Catholicism.

Other aspects of Portuguese folk religion were not approved by the official church, including witchcraft, magic, and sorcery. Formal religion, folk beliefs, and superstition were frequently jumbled together, and in the popular mind all were part of being Roman Catholic. Particularly in the isolated villages of northern Portugal, belief in witches, witchcraft, and evil spirits was widespread. Some persons believed in the concept of the "evil eye" and feared those who supposedly possessed it. Again, women were the main practitioners. Almost every village had its "seers," practitioners of magic, and "healers." Evil spirits and even werewolves were thought to inhabit the mountains and byways, and it was believed that people must be protected from them. Children and young women were thought to be particularly vulnerable to the "evil eye."

As people became better educated and moved to the city, they lost some of these folk beliefs. But in the city and among educated persons alike, superstition could still be found, even in the early 1990s. Sorcerers, palm readers, and readers of cards had shops, particularly in poorer neighborhoods, but not exclusively so. In short, a strong undercurrent of superstition still remained in Portugal. The formal church disapproved of superstitious practices but was powerless to do much about them.

In contrast to that of Spain, Portuguese Catholicism was softer and less intense. The widespread use of folk practices and the humanization of religion made for a loving though remote god, in contrast to the harshness of the Spanish vision. In Portugal, unlike Spain, God and his saints were imagined as forgiving and serene. In Spain the expressions depicted on the faces of saints and martyrs were painful and anguished; in Portugal they were complacent, calm, and pleasant.


Portugal - Non-Catholic Religious Groups


For most of Portugal's history, few non-Catholics lived in the country; those who did could not practice their religion freely. Until the constitution of 1976 was enacted, laws restricted the activities of non-Catholics. By the early 1990s, only some 50,000 to 60,000 Protestants lived in Portugal, about 1 percent of the total population. They had been kept out of the country for three centuries by the Inquisition. However, the British who began settling in Portugal in the nineteenth century brought their religions with them. Most belonged to the Church of England, but others were Methodists, Congregationalists, Baptists, and Presbyterians. Protestantism remained largely confined to the foreign communities. The 1950s and 1960s saw the arrival of Pentecostals, Mormons, and Jehovah's Witnesses, all of whom increased in numbers more rapidly than the earlier arrivals did. All groups, however, were hampered by prohibitions and restrictions against the free exercise of their religions, especially missionary activities.

These restrictions were lifted after the Revolution of 1974. The constitution of 1976 guarantees all religions the right to practice their faith. Protestant groups came to be recognized as legal entities with the right to assemble. Portuguese who were both Protestant and conscientious objectors had the right to apply for alternative military service. The Roman Catholic Church, however, still sought to place barriers in the way of Protestant missionary activities.

The Jewish community in Portugal numbered between 500 and 1,000 as of the early 1990s. The community was concentrated in Lisbon, and many of its members were foreigners. The persecution of Portuguese Jewry had been so intense that until recent decades Portugal had no synagogue or even regular Jewish religious services. The few Jewish Portuguese were hence isolated from the main currents of Judaism. Their community began to revive when larger numbers of foreign Jews (embassy personnel, business people, and technicians) began coming to Portugal in the 1960s and 1970s. In northern Portugal, there were a few villages of Marranos, descendants of Jews who converted to Christianity to avoid persecution and whose religion was a mixture of Judaism and Christianity. Portugal's Muslim community consisted of a small number of immigrants from Portugal's former colonies in Southern Africa, and larger numbers of recent immigrant workers from Northern Africa, mainly Morocco.


Portugal - EDUCATION


Even before Portugal emerged as an independent country in the twelfth century, it had monastic, cathedral, and parish schools. The education provided by these schools was based on the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, rote memorization, and a deductive system of reasoning. The educational system expanded through the founding of primary and secondary schools in larger settlements and the establishment in 1290 of the University of Coimbra, one of the oldest universities in the world. The system was infused with the principles of authority, hierarchy, and discipline. Although local authorities, both municipal and ecclesiastical, had some say about the management of local schools, officials in Lisbon, most of them clerics, determined the curriculum and selected textbooks and instructors. Education was thus firmly under the control of the church and civil authorities. The introduction of the Inquisition in the 1530s served to further "purify" teaching; in 1555 the Jesuits were given much control over education.

A reaction against church- and Jesuit-dominated education set in during the eighteenth century. Reformers such as Luís António Verney sought to infuse Portuguese education with the ideals of the Enlightenment. The reforms were carried out by the Marquês de Pombal, prime minister from 1750 to 1777, who expelled the Jesuits in 1759, created the basis for public and secular primary and secondary schools, introduced vocational training, created hundreds of new teaching posts, added departments of mathematics and natural sciences to the University of Coimbra, and introduced new taxes to pay for these reforms.

During the nineteenth century, educational reform was slow and halting. Reforms initiated in 1822, 1835, and 1844 were left uncompleted and largely unimplemented. However, at the beginning of the century, the first schools for girls were opened in Lisbon. Other new schools included the Agricultural Institute, polytechnical schools in Lisbon and Porto, new medical schools in the same two cities, and a new department of liberal arts in Lisbon. The educational system remained highly elitist, however, with illiteracy rates of over 80 percent and higher education reserved for a small percentage of the population. When the First Republic was established in 1910, efforts were made to overcome these problems. New universities were created in Lisbon and Porto, new teacher training colleges were opened, and a separate Ministry of Public Instruction was established. The republican government sought to reduce illiteracy, reintroduce (as with Pombal) a more secular content to education, and to bring more scientific and empirical methods into the curriculum. But these reforms largely stopped when the republic was overthrown in 1926 and the military and Salazar came to power.

Salazar authorized the creation of a new technical university in Lisbon in 1930. But for the next three decades, educational innovation lagged, illiteracy remained high, vocational training was almost nonexistent, and Portugal reverted to a situation of quasifeudalism with the most backward economy and education in Western Europe. Only in the mid-1960s did the country make public education available for all children between the ages of six and twelve. The government enacted laws to equalize educational opportunities, but implementation lagged behind. However, more elementary and preparatory schools were opened, and universities were established in Lisbon and other regional centers.

The Revolution of 1974 and the overthrow of the Salazar regime disrupted the education system. Students challenged teachers, and all groups challenged administrators. For a time after the revolution, faculty and curriculum were highly politicized as socialist, communist, and other groups vied for control of the schools and the school system. During the 1980s, however, as Portuguese politics quieted and returned to the center, the education system also became less frenetic, greater emphasis was placed on learning, and efforts were made to raise the level of the country's schools closer to that of the rest of Europe.

The Portuguese educational system is governed by the constitution of 1976. The constitution guarantees the right to create private schools. It proposes to eliminate illiteracy, to provide special education to those children who need it, and to preserve the autonomy of the universities. It guarantees the rights of teachers and students to take part in the democratic administration of the schools. In addition to the constitution, Portuguese education was governed by decree-laws promulgated by the executive branch, some of which dated from the eighteenth century.

As of the early 1990s, preschool education in Portugal was limited. Most preschools were private, but government regulation and involvement in preschool education was increasing. Primary education consisted of four years in the primary cycle and two years in the preparatory, or second, cycle. Most primary schools were public. For many Portuguese living in rural areas, the primary cycle was the only schooling they received. The preparatory cycle (fifth and sixth grades) was intended mainly for children going on to secondary education. Provision was also made for attendance by older students who might already be working.

Secondary education was roughly equivalent to junior and senior high schools in the United States. It consisted of three years of a unified course curriculum, followed by a two-year complementary course (tenth and eleventh grades). A twelfth-grade course prepared students to take the university and technical college entrance examinations.

Portuguese primary school enrollments were close to 100 percent in the early 1990s, and immense strides had been made in eliminating illiteracy, especially among the young and an estimated literacy rate of 85 percent was achieved among those over age fifteen in 1990. After primary school, however, school enrollments dropped off sharply. Only 30 percent of children attended secondary schools, and only 20 percent were enrolled in the twelfth grade.

A new vocational education program was introduced in 1983. By the late 1980s, it was training 10,000 to 12,000 young people a year, about 6 to 7 percent of an age group. The program was conceived as a three-year course that would permit students to enter the work force with a set of skills after the eleventh grade.

Higher education included four older universities (Lisbon, Coimbra, Porto, and the Technical University of Lisbon), as well as six newer universities (Nova University in Lisbon and others in Minho, Aveiro, Évora, in the Algarve, and in the Azores). The university sector also included the private Catholic University and the Free University, both in Lisbon. In addition, there were special postsecondary institutes, schools, and academies such as the Institute of Applied Psychology, the social welfare institutes of Lisbon and Porto, the engineering institutes of Lisbon, Porto, and Coimbra, an agricultural college at Coimbra, technical colleges in Santarém and in the Algarve, and a school of education at Viseu.

Admission to the university was a highly competitive process, although it could be waived if a student obtained a high score in the final examinations from secondary school. Only about 10 percent of college-age students attended one of the country's universities or postsecondary institutes, compared with 50 percent in the United States. Thus, higher education was by no means universal but rather was oriented toward a small elite. This elite, in turn, tended to dominate government, big business, and the professions.

The average length of study at the university level was five years and led to the awarding of a licentiate, although some schools had two-year programs and others offered a bachelor's degree. Doctorates were awarded in some departments after further advanced studies, an oral examination, and the defense of a thesis.

The faculties had four ranks as of the early 1990s: full professors, associate professors, lecturers, and assistants. Full professors could be appointed directly, or their appointments might come through competitive examinations. Full professors received life appointments; persons of other ranks were under contract. University staffs, including faculty, were part of the civil service and received pay and pensions like other civil servants.

The Portuguese educational system was highly centralized. Despite some efforts at decentralization in the constitution of 1976, the Ministry of Education and Culture in Lisbon set education policy for the entire nation. Local or regional districts had little independent authority to tax, with the result that funds, curriculum, policy, and other matters were set at the national level.

As of the early 1990s, Portugal still had an illiteracy rate that ranged between 14 and 20 percent according to various studies and estimates, although many of those who could not read were older people. Another serious problem was low school enrollment after the primary cycle, especially in rural areas, where many children began work at an early age. As of 1987, 87.4 percent of Portuguese completed less than the upper level of secondary school, a rate that had improved only slightly in recent decades, and was much inferior to the EC average of 54 percent. Facilities and equipment at all levels were often outdated and in short supply. Although the number of school teachers had increased greatly in recent years, teachers were poorly paid, and their overall morale was poor. Many specialists held that the curriculum at the secondary level needed to be revised to make it more revelant in preparing young people for their working lives. In addition to more modern facilities, the universities needed to increase their enrollments and support research more strongly.




On most indices of social modernization, Portugal ranked at or near the bottom for all of Western Europe. Even in the early 1990s, despite some significant economic growth in the second half of the 1980s, Portugal remained relatively poor by West European standards. Although its range of public welfare programs was extensive, it lacked the funds to fully implement them and to pay substantial benefits.

Charity and alms-giving were traditionally thought to be the responsibility of the church. It provided welfare to the poor and took care of the sick, widows, and orphans. In addition, landowners and employers fulfilled their obligations of Christian charity by aiding the less fortunate through gifts, assistance, patronage, and benefits. The charitable institution established by Queen Leonor in the late fifteen century, Santa Casa de Misericórdia, had, even in the early 1990s, offices all through Portugal. Its charitable operations were financed by the national lottery. This system of charity provided by the church and the elite probably worked tolerably well through the 1920s, as long as Portugal remained a rural and Roman Catholic society. But urbanization, secularism, and large-scale impersonal organizations rendered the old system inadequate.

Salazar's corporative system attempted to fill the void but did so poorly. Only in the 1960s, far later than in other countries, were the first steps taken toward a modern state-run welfare system. As could be expected, the services this system provided were incomplete, irregular, and woefully underfunded. Urban centers received some benefits, but almost none went to the countryside. During the revolutionary 1970s, numerous health and social welfare programs were established, but only in the 1980s did Portugal have the stability and the resources to begin their implementation.

Social Welfare Programs

Portugal had a fairly elaborate social welfare system, including programs that provided benefits for the elderly and the seriously ill or disabled. However, the benefits paid by these programs were still quite low in the early 1990s, and an estimated 3 million Portuguese lived below the EC poverty line.

The programs' benefits were financed by employee and employer contributions (roughly 10 and 25 percent, respectively). Most of the programs were the responsibility of the Ministry of Employment and Social Security and were administered by regional social security centers. The Ministry of Health was involved in programs concerned with medical care.

As of the early 1990s, men and women could retire at sixtyfive and sixty-two years of age, respectively, and be eligible for old-age pensions. Miners were eligible at fifty and merchant sailors at fifty-five years of age. Benefits ranged from 30 to 80 percent of recent average wages. Permanent disability and survivor benefits were also paid. Unemployment benefits could be paid from ten to thirty months and amounted to 65 percent of earnings, with a maximum of three times the national minimum wage of about US$300 a month in the early 1990s.

As of 1991, maternity benefits amounted to 100 percent of the mother's pay for a period of three months, one month before and two months after the birth. Sickness benefits amounted to 65 percent of wages for up to 1,095 days; after this period, the benefit was converted to a permanent disability benefit. Accidents at work were covered by private insurance carried by employers; payments could amount to two-thirds of basic earnings. Small family allowances were paid to help rear children until they reached the age of fifteen or the age of twenty-five if they were students.

Health Care

Health conditions in Portugal were long among the poorest in Western Europe. Recent decades saw substantial improvements, however, although Portugal still lagged behind most of the continent in some categories of health care. Portuguese life expectancy at birth rose from sixty-two years for men and sixtyseven for women in 1960 to seventy-one and seventy-eight, respectively, in 1992. The country's infant mortality rate in 1970 was 58 deaths per 1,000--one of the highest in Europe and close to Third World levels--but by 1992 it had dropped to 10 per 1,000. However, the chief causes of death among the young were infectious and parasitic diseases and diseases of the respiratory system, a Third World pattern found in rural areas, as well as in city slums. Malnutrition and related diseases were also widespread. The chief cause of deaths among adults was thrombosis, followed by cancer. About 400 Portuguese died each year from tuberculosis.

The number of doctors, dentists, and nurses increased greatly between 1960 and the early 1990s. At 26,400 in 1987, the number of physicians actively practicing medicine in Portugal represented a fourfold increase over the total in 1960. The number of dentists expanded even more dramatically, from 120 in 1960 to 5,700 in 1986. As of 1987, the number of medical personnel per occupied hospital bed was 1.7, compared with 0.24 in 1960. By 1990 there were 2.9 doctors per 1,000 Portuguese, a ratio higher than that found in most West European countries. However, most medical personnel were concentrated in urban centers, to the detriment of those needing health care in rural areas. In the latter areas, folk health practitioners were not uncommon, even in the early 1990s. Their medical practices were often fused with magical, religious, and superstitious elements.

Portuguese were able to take advantage of a national health system that, since the second half of the 1970s, paid 100 percent of most medical and pharmaceutical expenses. The system, managed by the Ministry of Health, offered care at large urban hospitals, several dozen regional hospitals, and numerous health centers. The health centers specialized in providing primary care. Care provided by the national system ranged from the most sophisticated to basic preventive medicine.

The national health system's overriding problems were the long waits, frequently months in duration, for medical care, that resulted from shortages of financial resources, lack of personnel, and inadequate facilities. Medical facilities in Portugal ranged from those of centuries past to the ultramodern. Partly as a result of these inadequacies, there was a substantial private medical sector that offered better care. Many doctors and other medical personnel worked in both the public and private system, often because of the low salaries paid by the national system.


Much Portuguese housing was substandard, both in rural and in urban areas. Many rural villages were not electrified even by the early 1990s, and villagers often had to carry water from a common source. The influx of rural migrants to urban centers in recent decades intensified demand on an already inadequate housing supply. Although 60 percent of Portuguese rented their houses (80 percent in Lisbon and Porto), rigid rent control laws in effect between 1948 and 1985 had discouraged the construction of apartments, as did a sluggish bureaucracy. As a result, in the late 1980s an estimated 700,000 illegally constructed dwellings existed in Portugal, 200,000 of which were located in the Lisbon area. Some were built on public or unused private lands. The resulting urban shantytowns (bairros da lata) often lacked electricity, running water, or sewage systems.

In Lisbon's suburbs, gigantic apartment houses were built for the more affluent new city-dwellers, but the supply of decent, affordable housing lagged far behind the demand, estimated at 800,000 dwellings for the entire country. A succession of Portuguese governments recognized this severe housing problem and sought to do something about it. For example, the National Housing Institute planned to build 70,000 dwellings a year during the 1990s, and various programs to help people become homeowners had been put into practice.


CITATION: Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress. The Country Studies Series. Published 1988-1999.

Please note: This text comes from the Country Studies Program, formerly the Army Area Handbook Program. The Country Studies Series presents a description and analysis of the historical setting and the social, economic, political, and national security systems and institutions of countries throughout the world.

TRY USING CTRL-F on your keyboard to find the appropriate section of text


what's new | rainforests home | for kids | help | madagascar | search | about | languages | contact

Copyright 2013 Mongabay.com