Tuesday, August 15, 2017

So Your Character is From Portugal ... Featuring Marta @ The Book Mermaid, Catia @ The Girl Who Read Too Much, & Joana @ Bookneeders

It's time for this week's So Your Character is ... Post! This is a weekly segment where I interview lovely volunteers from around the world to give you a firsthand account of being a citizen of their respective country or having a disability. I'm hoping to encourage international diversity, break stereotypes, and give writers a crash course on how to write a character from these different places on our planet. If you haven't checked out last week's  So Your Character is from Italy ... be sure to hop on over there and give it a read!

I honestly didn't know much about Portugal before this post. I could find it on a map, I knew Christopher Columbus came from there, and I like making Portuguese stew but that's just about it. I'm so glad to have these ladies on the blog!

Disclaimer: The content below may be culturally shocking to some. Each of these posts are as uncensored as possible to preserve the authenticity of the cultures of each of the interviewees.

(None of the Images are Mine)

Hello there! I'm Marta and I'm from Portugal. :D I've always lived here, in Porto, for the last (and only) 18 years of my life. I'm currently a senior in high school, and I can't wait to finish the year and start college - hopefully, I'll go to another city, and I'm very curious about it and I just can't wait to discover its secrets! I love travelling, although I don't get to do it often, and so I appreciate every moment I have to get to know my country even more! And today I have the opportunity to share some bits about it with you - which I'm also very excited to do!

I hope you enjoy this post!

My name is Cátia and I’m a 27 year-old part time blogger. I grew up in a small village in Portugal near the sea but moved over 4 years ago to a city near Lisbon where I now live and work. I have a MSc in Biotechnology but I’m currently working in another field. When I’m not working I spend most of my time either reading, watching TV shows or as much Youtube videos as humanly possible.

My name is Joana and I’m an art student and a book blogger. I was born in Portugal, in Peniche - a beautiful town by the sea, but raised in Coimbra, where I lived, until one and a half year ago. I like to spend my time reading, blogging, drawing, seeing movies and taking photographs. I also loved to go outside and get some sun. And during the summer break, pass all the time on the beach with friends or family. I love sun, and that’s one of the things that makes me happy.
Blog / Goodreads / Instagram (personal & bookrelated) / Twitter

What do you feel is unique to your country? Landmarks? Celebrations?
Marta: One thing is certain - Portugal is quite old (around 1000 years old), and so we have many historical monuments. There are a lot of them that are worth mentioning, but the ones most people talk about are the Belém Tower, in Lisbon, the capital; and the Clérigos Tower, in Porto. I've seen both, but I've only entered the last one, and the view is pretty great! The tower is 76 meters high, so you can see a big part of the city. Pena Palace is very popular too and Guimarães Castle is also an important spot - it's where the first king of Portugal used to live, and it is located in the city where Portugal was born.

Clérigos Tower, Porto
We have multiple local celebrations across the country too, mostly dedicated to Saints. They're called Santos Populares (Popular Saints). In Porto, the biggest one is dedicated to S. João (Saint John), and we usually eat sardines and go around hitting people on their heads with plastic hammers. It's very funny!

And, of course, we're huge sports enthusiasts! Everytime Portugal wins something (or even when national clubs win), we make huge celebrations out of it, with a lot of lights and noise.

Catia: Portugal is mostly known for its beaches, nature and monuments. Being a country in Southwestern Europe Portugal it’s partially surrounded by the ocean and there are always a lot of tourists on most of our beaches, especially in the ones in Algarve that is located in the south of the country. Not only are we known for our beaches but also for our archipelagos, Azores and Madeira, which are some of the most beautiful islands in the world.

Praia da Nazaré
As I said, we also have a lot of famous landmarks and some of our most famous ones are:
Belém Tower
Jerónimos Monastery
São Jorge Castle
Pena Palace, which is located on the top of a hill in Sintra, one of the most beautiful villages in Portugal
Palace of Mafra, where one of the world’s oldest libraries is located
Sanctuary of Fátima

Torre de Belém
Palácio da Pena

One of our most important celebrations is the Carnation Revolution, or the 25th of April. This is known as the day when Portugal went from an authoritarian dictatorship to democracy and is called as ‘Dia da Liberdade? (Freedom Day).

Biblioteca de Mafra
Joana: I’m guessing that people normally know Portugal for the beautiful beaches. And that is a big part of Portugal. Our beaches are beautiful and it’s one of the things the most attracts tourists, so we are really proud of it. So I would say a thing that is lovely about my country is the weather.

As for Landmarks, everybody knows either the “Torre de Belém” or “Mosteiro dos Jerónimos” in Lisbon, that are the most important we have. But one that a lot of people may not know and I’m really proud of is the University of Coimbra! It’s one of the oldest in the world and one of the biggest in the country. And from the tower, you can see the river “Mondego”.

Tell me about your country's environment. What are some of your favorite places?
Marta: Portugal is mainly known as a touristic attraction. The nice weather and the beaches (in Algarve) call for a lot of people, but if you're looking for something more peaceful, maybe some days spent in Alentejo or Parque Nacional Peneda-Gerês would be better suited for you. I've never been to any of those places, unfortunately, but I've heard great things about them!

Parque Nacional Peneda-Guerês
Almost all of my favorite places are set in my city. Lello Bookstore, for example, where J.K. Rowling got inspiration from to write Harry Potter, is amazing! Those stairs are quite tricky, though - I have to be extremely cautious, especially on my way down!

Lello Bookstore
The Crystal Palace Gardens, Ribeira (near the river) and the City Park are nice places to hang out too.

Crystal Palace Gardens 

Some of my favorite places that are not in my city are the Lisbon Oceanarium (that place is huge and incredible), Serra da Estrela and the beaches in Nazaré, where the surfer Garrett McNamara broke the world record for the largest wave ever surfed.  

Catia: Portugal is one of the warmest countries in Europe. During the summer time we have normally a pretty warm weather and sunny days which means our beaches are always full of people who want to rest and have some fun. The winter in here it’s cold but not as cold as a lot of countries. Normally we don’t have snow that regularly, only on high places like Serra da Estrela, but there’s a lot of rain.

One of my favorite places in my country is Sintra, particularly the village and the historical center. I’m lucky to live really close to it so I can go there whenever I want but Sintra is beautiful. It’s one of those places that feels magical every time you go there. It’s a place full of green places, a forested area, and monuments and palaces that have mostly gothic elements. One of my favorite places in Sintra is ‘Quinta da Regaleira’, an estate located near the historic center and that consists of a romantic palace and chapel, and a park full of lakes, grottoes, wells, fountains, and more. It’s a gorgeous place that everyone should be able to visit at least once in a lifetime.

Quinta da Regaleira
Joana: Portugal has a lot of nature, and as I said previously beaches. And those are the things I most love! So anything with those two together, make my happy place. I also really like to walk around our botanical garden in Coimbra, that is an amazing place! But the best memory I have from childhood is going to “Portinho de Arrábida” and it still is one of my favorite places on earth.

Universidade de Coimbra 
Rio Mondego
o Martinho do Porto

Figueira da Foz (near Coimbra)
Tell me about your country's food. What are some of your favorite dishes?
Marta: Even though I love most of our food, I'm not a big fan of some things, especially because a lot of dishes are made of fish. But here's a list of a couple of popular dishes that come to my mind:

We have caldo verde ("a soup based on kale"), bacalhau à brás ("shreds of salted cod, onions and thinly chopped fried potatoes in a bound of scrambled eggs", with some olives on top), bolinhos de bacalhau (codfish pastries), francesinha (literally translating, it's "Little Frenchie", and it's a sandwich  "made with bread, wet-cured ham, linguiça, fresh sausage, steak or roast meat and covered with melted cheese and a hot thick tomato and beer sauce"), tripas à moda do porto (it's made from a lot of types of meat, tripes, sausage and white beans) and cozido à portuguesa (stew made of various vegetables, meats and sausages).

Catia: In Portugal we have a vast array of food that goes from meats to seafood, cheeses and ‘enchidos’. Also, olive oil and garlic are some of the staples to our food. You can bet that if you eat in Portugal most of the dishes you have will feature both these ingredients. One of our most well-known dishes are ‘Cozido à Portuguesa’ (Portuguese stew), which has meat (like pork, pork ears and various parts of beef), smoked sausages and vegetables (like potatoes, cabbage, carrots and turnips). We also have a lot of dishes featuring dried and salted cod, which is one of the most used ingredients in Portugal. Some of my favorites are the ‘’Pastéis de Bacalhau’ (codfidh cakes) and ‘Bacalhau à Brás’ (Cod à la Brás) which is a dish prepared with shreds of salted cod, onions, thinly chopped fried potatoes and scrambled eggs. In the end it’s also added some olives and freshly chopped parsley. 

Bacalhau à Brás
We are also known for a variety of desserts and sweets but our most known sweet is the ‘Pastéis de Nata’ or ‘Pastés de Belém’ an egg tart pastry. 

When we talk about Portuguese gastronomy we can’t forget to talk also about our wines, especially the ones produced in the north region, the Douro Valley, of Portugal known as ‘Vinho do Porto’.

Pastés de Belém
Joana: I have to say we have amazing food. Be it main courses or desserts, they are amazing! But if there’s something that is extremely popular and that I think everyone should try is “Pastel de Nata”, “Queijada” and “Pastel de Tentúgal”. We have been doing “Pasteis de Tentúgal” since sec.XIX and it’s a monastery pastry typical of Portugal.  I also really like food like: “Bacalhau à Brás”, “Feijoada”, “Carne de Porco à Alentejana” and “Sopa da Pedra”.
And even if we are talking about food, I have to mention that we have great wine, that is known all over the world! Like “Vinho do Porto”.

Pastel de Tentúgal (up), Queijadas (down)

Tell me about any different speech patterns in your country. Slang? Idioms? Words for things such as "biscuit" instead of "cookies"?

Marta: Our official language is Portuguese, but as an official regional language we have Mirandês (Mirandese), spoken by between 7 000 and 10 000 people in Miranda do Douro (set in the North East of Portugal) and some places nearby. It's a language that not enough people care about, and unfortunately, it has started to fade away - because of that, some projects were created and measures taken in order to preserve it.

Even though we all speak the same language, some of us use different words and expressions, and our accents are very different across the country and islands. Most of our differences are between Lisbon and Porto. As well as what happens with UK and US, we have some situations similar to the "biscuits" and "cookies" example.
Such as,
Porto - "pingo"; Lisbon - "garoto" (translation: an espresso with milk)
Porto - "sertã"; Lisbon - "frigideira" (translation: a frying pan)
Porto - "testo"; Lisbon - "tampa da panela" (translation: a pot lid)
Porto - "aloquete"; Lisbon - "cadeado" (translation: a padlock)
My favorite thing about my language is our expressions. I've lived in Porto all my life, as I already mentioned, and some of the things we say are …
"Acordar de cú para o ar", which literally translates to waking up with your butt in the air,  and means that you're grumpy; "Vai-me à loja", which translates to go to the store, and means leave me alone; and "Engolir sapos", which translates to swallow frogs, and means swallowing your pride.
There are plenty more, but I couldn't find an appropriate translation for those.

Catia: Portugal is not a big country but we still have different regions with different accents. For example, if you go from Lisbon, in the center of Portugal, to the north there’s always a different accent and it’s something that changes depending on the region where you’re at. Even if you go to Azores you’re going to hear a different accent than what you would have hear if you were in continental Portugal. We also have a lot of words that are different in different regions. 

I grew up in the center of Portugal, near one of most known Portuguese beaches, but now I live near the capital, Lisbon, and there are a few differences. For example, I grew up calling sneakers by ‘sapatilhas’ but if you go to Lisbon (and near Lisbon) sneakers are known as ‘ténis’ and ‘sapatilhas’ are something different. I also lived for three years with a friend during my college years. She’s from Braga, a city in the north of Portugal, and in those three years we noticed we had a lot of different words for different things.

Joana: The language talked is only Portuguese. But in Portugal, it’s very easy to know, from where a person is by the dialects. Some of the most different ones are from Porto and Alentejo. Also, people from the islands (Açores and Madeira) are very easily recognized by their speech. And with those dialects, the slang also changes. 

Also, Brazilian Portuguese is a lot different from the European Portuguese. Not that we don’t understand each other, but we use often different words and the dialect is incredibly different.

Describe briefly a regular day in your country.
Marta: During Summer, days are pretty long, and the sun only completely sets at around 9 pm. However, during Winter, it's already dark at 6 pm. It's very difficult to stay awake on those Winter days, because you feel even more tired than usual. Or perhaps that's just what happens to me - I love our typical nice Summer weather and the bright sun! It means I can stay out until later, and I get to hang out with my friends and do outdoor activities. In Winter, after school, there's not much I can do with my friends, expect maybe a movie night. 

Catia: A typical day in Portugal normally starts with having a nice breakfast that will probably consist of some kind of bread and coffee, but as an expresso (which we call ‘bica’). Then depending on the day we go to work or, if it’s summer, to the beach or walk somewhere. During the summer sunset is only after 9 pm so we have really long days while on winter the days are shorter but we still have a lot of daylight hours.

Joana: We wake up, take breakfast and we normally start school around 8.30 and end it around 17.00. Occasionally in university, we have school until 19.00 tho, which I feel that might be different from other countries. We eat lunch around 12.00/13.00 and dinner in between 19.00 - 21.00. In the winter, temperatures are not that low and in the summer they can be quite high. 

How does your country compare to others, especially the States since my audience is primarily American? Politically? Culturally?
Marta: Here in Portugal, you can practise pretty much any religion you would like, but most people are Catholic. Some of them practise, others not really - the ones who practise the most are elderly people.

I don’t understand much about politics, but you get free education up until you're 18 or still going through mandatory schooling. School books and any other mandatory items for school aren't completely free, though, and are quite expensive. University isn't free either, but it isn't expensive compared to other places such as the UK and the US, and a lot of people resort to scholarships or financial aids. Depending on the money you earn, they'll help you more or less.

Same thing happens with healthcare. Depending on your profit, you'll be treated for free or with little costs.

And if you lose your job, you'll get financial aid for some time, maybe some months. Again, it depends on the case.

As you can see, there is no rule, but a lot of exceptions.

Catia: One of the biggest differences between Portugal and the States is the healthcare. We all know how expensive the healthcare in the States can be but in here we have free healthcare for who is unemployed or has a low income and a minimum fee to everyone else since we have public healthcare. We’re also a country that has been mainly democrat since 1974. Unlike the USA, where the elections are between democrats and republicans, all of our political parties are democrat. Also, unlike the USA where there are really different opinions about the current president, we have a president that is liked by almost everyone. His main career before was as law professor but he became a big TV personality years ago that everyone loves to listen to.

Another big difference is the college tuitions. Most of our colleges have a cost that is much lower than the tuition costs in the USA. Also, our scholarships are rewarded to people with low incomes instead of people who play sports like it happens a lot in the States. We’re also a country that is mostly catholic even if a lot of us no longer practice it. But one of the big differences is that we’re a country that welcomes anyone regardless the color, religion, sexual orientation and more.

Joana: Portugal has a Mediterranean climate and its temperature is mainly mild. In the winter the minimum is -10º (only north), and in the summer it goes to 40ºC. Which makes Portugal a very fertile country
In Portugal, the fundamental law is the Constitution, dated 1976, all other laws must respect it. Although revisions are occasionally made. An interesting thing, that might be different is that in Portugal, there are four organs of sovereignty: the President of the Republic, the Assembly of the Republic, the Government and the Courts.

Portugal developed a specific culture while it was being influenced by various civilizations that crossed the Mediterranean and the European continent. Also, Portugal is mainly Catholic. 

Briefly describe 3 of your country's historical events that you feel are important.
Marta: There's the Christian Reconquest (around the 11th century), in which Christian Iberian kingdoms conquered Muslim kingdoms when they invaded the territory; the period of Discoveries (1415-1543), when Portugal explored the world and found out other countries and introduced our own culture to them; and the 25th of April Revolution, in 1974, when Portuguese people revolted and ended with Salazar's dictatorship.
Catia: In the Age of Discoveries, which went from 15th century to the 18th century and is known as the beginning of the globalization, Portugal was one of the world’s biggest empires which led to the discovery of India and Brazil by Vasco da Gama and Pedro Álvares Cabral, respectively.

Our democracy started in 1910, when the Republican Revolution ending the monarchy, and ended for the first time in 1933, when the ‘Estado Novo’ (New State) and the dictatorship started. Another one of the big events in Portugal, and I talked about this before, was the Carnation Revolution that occurred on April 25th of 1974 that took us to democracy.


  • The Portuguese Discoveries were a group of achievements that resulted in the Portuguese expansion and made an essential contribution to delineate the map of the world. With these discoveries, the Portuguese began the European Age of Discovery and was also responsible for important advances in nautical technology and science, cartography, and astronomy, developing the first ships capable of safely navigating the open ocean in the Atlantic.
  • The Revolution of 25th of April 1974, also referred to as the “Carnation Revolution”, was a period resulting from a social movement that occurred at that time, which overthrew the dictatorial regime of “Estado Novo”. It’s also known as "Freedom Day”.
  • In the Revolution of 5th of October 1910, also known as the Implantation of the Portuguese Republic was the result of a revolution organized by the Portuguese Republican Party, started on October 2 and victorious in the early hours of October 5, 1910, removed the constitutional monarchy and implemented a republican regime in Portugal.

What are some stereotypes about your country that irk you? What media portrays your country badly be it a movie, a book or a TV show?
Marta: I had to get help from Google for this one, and I got some incredibly funny (but slightly wrong) answers. So, according to Google, people out there think that Portugal is a part of Spain; we're basically known for our wine, music (Fado), sardines and beaches; we're sad people (because of Fado); and we're too proud of our History. The one I think that irks me the most is the sad part. Fado is, indeed, slow, and gives the impression of being sad, but more and more Fado singers are trying different styles of Fado:

I'm pretty sure that there must be a movie or book regarding Portugal that gives a bad impression of us, but I'm not aware of any of them.

Catia: First of all, Portugal is not part of Spain like a lot of people think. I know we’re a small country but Spain and Portugal are not the same thing and it drives me crazy when people think we belong to Spain. Also, the Iberian Peninsula is not only Spain, it is Spain and Portugal. 

There is not a lot of media portrayals of Portuguese people but I don’t like how we are portrayed in Love Actually that much. I love the movie and I love that they included a Portuguese character but I didn’t like that they showed us uneducated people, coarse and rude because most of us are not like that.

Joana: Three things come to my mind: 
People tend to say that Brazilians and European Portuguese are the same. 
If a person says she is Portuguese, the only answer she is probably going to get is: Ah! Ronaldo… Which is both great and sad, since it’s the only thing they know. 
And people often think we only drink Porto wine, eat sardines and hear Fado. 

Love Actually

What media portrays your country well, be it a movie, a book or a TV show?
Marta: A lot of books by Portuguese authors, especially the ones we have to study at school, are full of social and political critics. So they portray our country well, but not exactly for good reasons … Some examples could be Os Maias by Eça de Queirós and Os Lusíadas by Luís de Camões.
And I've recently read The Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan and Portugal makes a quick appearance. It isn't very deep, but still very funny. Unfortunately, I haven't visited the mentioned places, but I love how the author included those elements!
For movies, we have quite a couple of national movies, and one that I recently watched in History class was "April Captains", regarding our 25th of April Revolution.

Catia: As I said, we don’t normally see a lot of portuguese characters in media. One of the only few examples is Love Actually. I know that the novel and movie Silence features Portuguese characters but I haven’t watched it yet so I can’t say anything about it. It’s also set in the 17th century so a lot changed since then.

Joana: As a kid, I used to see and read Uma Aventura, that was a series of books that was adapted as a TV show, about fictional adventures all around Portugal and I felt it was both entertaining and easy to know about the Portuguese culture and history. We also have books like Os Maias (this one has a movie adaptation) and my personal favorite O Memorial do Convento, that in English is called Baltasar and Blimunda. There are also tons of Portuguese telenovelas that are really nice to see/ know the country better. 

What are your TOP 3 favorite characters native to your country in books, movies or TV shows?
Marta: One of my favorite books when I was younger (around 14 years old) was A Lua de Joana by Maria Teresa Maia Gonzalez. It didn't touch a happy topic, but it opened the eyes of a lot of young people, regarding drugs and how easily anyone can be attracted to them. For loving that book so much, I'm choosing Joana, the main character, to be a part of this TOP 3.

I don't know if this next one counts, because it's an adapted show, not an original, but when I was around 7 years old, my favorite tv show was Floribella, which is somewhat a Cinderella retelling.

And when I was a lot younger than that, probably around 3 years old, there was this music video that would play at night, when it was already bedtime for little children, and every time I saw those ducks I knew it was time to sleep haha.

Catia: I might have had a few problems with the portrayal of Portuguese people on Love Actually but I still loved Aurélia. 

I also love Carla from the book More than Distance by Elizabeth Briggs. She might be only half-Portuguese but she’s awesome. Also, she’s not Portuguese in the show but I cannot not talk about Kensi Blye from NCIS Los Angeles because the actress that plays her, Daniela Ruah, is Portuguese and I love that she got to Hollywood with such an amazing character.

Joana: I have two from books that I really like, Blimunda and Baltasar.

Thank you, Marta, Catia, and Joana, for this very informative post! I hope everyone enjoyed reading it. Come back next week for So Your Character is from Uruguay ...!

Are you interested in participating in this project? Check out the tips archive to see which countries have been filled and if you're from a different country, shoot me an email at howellvictoriagrace(a)gmail(dot)com. I'm especially looking for Spain, Denmark, Kenya, Brazil, Iraq, and Egypt.

Do you have any characters from Portugal? Did this inspire you to write an Portuguese character or set a book in Portugal? Are from this or been to this country and you have further input? Feel free to share! Do you have any questions for these ladies? Be sure to thank them!

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