In the first blog post about migration to Portugal, we attempted to trace the recent trends in migration with tourism as a route facilitating the same. The aim was to highlight the ways in which the idea of an idyllic, relaxed, cheap, yet budding economy has resulted in people being attracted to the geography. However, this has not been the only cause, and migration is not new to Portugal. Since the 1400s, Portugal was a coloniser country and remained so until the end of the 1900s. It was only in 1974 that decolonisation as a process was initiated by the country following the overthrow of the near-50-year-long dictatorship through what came to be called the Carnation Revolution. Portuguese Colonisation saw the movement of people and things between colonies and to the coloniser.
Fuelled by wealth from the Catholic Church and the nobility, Portuguese ships set sail from the ports of the country and its neighbouring Spain, starting first with the African continent. The main agendas were therefore conversion (to Catholicism) and trade. Thus, there was a systematic flow of people in the direction of the colonies for purposes of ruling and extracting resources. However, another aspect was important to trade, that of the ‘trade’ of labour, i.e. humans, particularly from the African continent, called the Slave Trade. Lisbon saw the first ‘consignment’ of slaves arrive from the so-called ‘discoveries’ in the African continent in 1441. The slave trade was nothing more than an assertion of power to help construct nations on the basis of racist white supremacy, and Portugal has recorded the highest number of people trafficked through this.
Over the years, and under the belief that Portugal did not have ‘colonies’ but rather extensions of the Portuguese world, there has been significant movements of people, largely from Europe to the colonies but also vice versa. The objective of Portuguese colonialism was to build a Portuguese culture across geography, done by replacing local culture and language. However, this subsequently presented the opportunity for Portuguese speaking countries to maintain some ties amongst themselves.
Colonialism remains a contested part of Portuguese history. In Lisbon, recent proposals to build a museum of colonialism was a point of debate amongst scholars in the country, some of which wrote an open letter condemning such a move for its potential to glorify colonialism. Lisbon itself already venerates its colonial past through the rather blatantly titled Monument of Discoveries, and its maritime advances through the Maritime Museum in the capital and elsewhere throughout the country, not limited to the southern coast, Algarve. Earlier in 2018, a memorial monument for those who suffered under slavery too was contested with some suggesting that Portuguese colonialism was relatively timid. Pitted against Spanish colonialism which employed massacre as its modus operandi, Portugal used (cultural) assimilation to gain control of their colony. It does appear that Portugal is attempting to clear their name for the deeds by extending support to migrants arriving through what has recently been called the ‘Refugee Crisis’ in Europe. The long-term effects of this attempt to build up a recovering economy is yet to be seen.
The debate on migration in Portugal is therefore not new. There are multi-faceted ways in which Portugal portrays itself as a destination for migrants. It is against this backdrop that we must consider the movements of people, and understand who occupies which aspect of life in Portugal. The nationalities proposed for this study offer a unique diversity of typically richer economies. The rhetoric of migration is often focused on a South-North flow, with a notion of the poor from the South moving for economic or social reasons to the ‘rich’ North. Little attention is paid to movement of elites to the North, for example, and the complexities regarding who travels from where, and for what purpose.