Culture Name



Identification. The name "Portugal" derives from a Roman or pre-Roman settlement called Portus Cale (the modern city of Porto) near the mouth of the Douro River. The Romans referred to this region as the province of Lusitania, and the prefix Luso (meaning "Portuguese") is still used in some contexts. In the ninth century, during the reconquest (714–1140 C.E. ), Christian forces dominated the area between the Minho River, which forms the border of modern Portugal in the north, and the Douro River, and the region became known as Territorium Portucalense . In 1095, the king of Castile and Leon granted Portucale (northern Portugal) to a Burgundian count. Despite the diversity of invading populations and distinct regional economies and ways of living, Portugal is a homogeneous nation with a single national cultural identity and no ethnolinguistic groups.

Location and Geography. Continental Portugal at 35,516 square miles (91,986 square kilometers) occupies approximately a sixth of the Iberian peninsula. Since the majority of the population was rural until the 1960s, geography has been an important factor in cultural adaptations and worldview. The northwest (the province of Minho) is lush, green, densely populated, and the major source of emigrants. The northeast (the province of Trás-os-Montes) is more mountainous and is divided into a northern region ( terra fria ) with long cold winters and a warmer region ( terra quente ) to the south. The central part (including the provinces of Beira Alta, Beira Baixa, and Beira Litoral) varies from high and desolate mountain plateaus (the Serra da Estrela) to low coastal areas. The provinces of Ribatejo and Estemadura are low-lying regions near Lisbon and the Tagus River. Much industry is concentrated in this area. Southern Portugal, drier and more Mediterranean in climate, includes the provinces of the Alentejo and the Algarve. The Alentejo, an undulating plain with cork trees and wheat fields, was traditionally an important cash-crop area. The Algarve is semitropical with almond, fig, and citrus trees. It is also a region of tourism and fishing.

Portuguese inhabit the Azores and Madeira in the Atlantic. As a result of colonial expansion and massive emigration in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, there are Portuguese-speaking people in Asia, Africa, South America, the United States, Canada, Australia, and northwestern Europe. The capital is Lisbon, located on a number of hills on the northern shore of the Tagus River estuary. The original name for Lisbon, an important Roman city, was Olisipo . Lisbon, which became the capital in 1298, is also the political, cultural, economic, educational, and social center.

Demography. In 1999, the population of continental and island Portugal was estimated at 9.9 million. The population increased until the 1960s, when it declined by more than 200,000 as a result of emigration to northern Europe. In the 1970s, the population rose by more than a quarter million as retornados returned from Africa after decolonization. Portugal has been receiving immigrants, primarily from former overseas territories such as the Cape Verde Islands. This immigrant population, which has settled primarily in the greater Lisbon area, is estimated to be approximately 200,000.

Linguistic Affiliation. Portuguese is a Romance language with Latin roots, although some words are Arabic in origin. Emerging as a language distinct from Latin and Castilian in the ninth century, Portuguese was made the official language under King Dinis (1279–1325). Dialects are found only in regions near the border with Spain and are disappearing. French was widely used by the aristocracy in the nineteenth century. Spoken in Brazil, Angola,

Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, the Cape Verde Islands, São Tomé, Príncipe, and Macão, Portuguese is the world's fifth largest language in terms of number of speakers.

Symbolism. Many cultural symbols of national identity focus on the Age of Discovery and an imagined community that extends beyond the political frontiers of the nation. The national flag, adopted on 19 June 1911 during the First Portuguese Republic (1910–1926), includes an ancient astronomical device (the armillary sphere) used for maritime navigation and represents Portugal's role in global exploration. " A Portuguesa ," the national anthem, officially adopted in 1911, has as its central symbol a female figure modeled after "La Marseillaise" (the Woman of Marseilles), the French symbol of republicanism. It expresses the nationalism that emerged in late nineteenth-century Anglo-Portuguese conflicts over African territory.

Nostalgia for the past and for the homeland is represented in the sentiments of Sebastianismo and saudade and in the lyrics of the fado . Sebastianismo is a messianic belief in the return of King Sebastian, who died in Morocco in 1578 or 1579. Sebastian was expected to drive out the Spaniards (who ruled from 1580 to 1640) and restore the nation to glory. Until recently, 1 December was a national holiday commemorating the overthrow of the Spaniards in 1640. Sebastianism is present in a worldview that expresses a hope that what one wants will happen and a feeling that it will never happen. Saudade refers to a melancholic and hopeful nostalgia for a homeland that is far away. The fado, derived from the Latin word for "fate," is a popular urban song form that generally expresses sadness, longing, and regret. The fado is thought to date back to the late eighteenth or early nineteenth century and to combine Moorish, African, and indigenous elements.

History and Ethnic Relations

Emergence of the Nation. Portugal has been inhabited since Paleolithic times. Various peoples settled in the region, though the modern Portuguese trace their descent to the Lusitanians, who spread over the peninsula in the third millennium B.C.E. Lusitanians made contact with Celtic peoples who moved into the region after 900 B.C.E. Roman armies invaded the peninsula in 212 B.C.E. and established towns at the present-day sites of Braga, Porto, Beja, and Lisbon. Successive invasions of Germanic tribes in the fifth and sixth centuries C.E. and Moors in the eighth century C.E. added new elements to the population, particularly in the south. Portugal emerged as an independent kingdom in 1140 with its capital in the northern city of Guimarães. Early statehood, the expulsion of the Moors, and the expulsion or conversion of the Jews laid the foundation for a unified national culture.

In the fifteenth century, the Portuguese inaugurated the Age of Discovery and for three centuries built and expanded a seaborne empire. This imperial enterprise gave the nation a reputation for racial tolerance that is still invoked as the foundation of Portugal's comfort with cross-cultural diversity despite homogeneity at home. The loss of Brazil in 1822 and a series of economic and political crises led to a decline in the world position of the nation in the nineteenth century. The monarchy was eliminated in 1910 with the establishment of the First Portuguese Republic, which was replaced by the authoritarian dictatorship of António Salazar in 1926. Salazar formed his New State ( Estado Novo ) in 1932 on a corporatist political model and emphasized God, family, and work as the central values of the national culture. He limited access to higher education and, in emphasizing the Catholic faith, promoted humility, routine, and respect for authority as guiding principles of social life. He also celebrated the rural way of life by sponsoring a national competition in 1938 for the most Portuguese village.

The Salazarist regime survived until 1974, when it was overthrown by military men frustrated by the hopelessness of the colonial wars in Africa. The African colonial system was dismantled after 1974. In the late 1980s, Portugal became a member of the European Community, and in 1994, Lisbon served as the European cultural capital.

National Identity. The population of Portugal, the first unified national-state in Western Europe, has been extremely homogeneous for most of its history. A single religion and a single language have contributed to this ethnic and national unity. Portugal was the last western European nation to give up its colonies and overseas territories, turning over the administration of Macau to China as recently as 1999. Its colonial history has been fundamental to national identity, as has its geographic position at the margin of Europe looking out to the Atlantic.

Ethnic Relations. Portugal has retained linguistic and other cultural ties with former colonies, including Brazil. In 1996 the Community of Portuguese-speaking Countries was created. A recently-arrived population of immigrants, most from former colonies in Africa and Asia, has introduced some ethnic diversity, particularly in the Lisbon metropolitan area. These populations are residentially segregated in neighborhoods with poor housing and a general absence of public amenities. They are subjected to a form of subtle racism within a society that views itself as anti-racist.

Portugal's gypsy population, estimated at about 100,000, offers another element of ethnic diversity. The gypsies live apart, and primarily in the south. They can often be found at rural markets selling clothing and handicrafts. Portugal also has small Protestant and Jewish communities, largely composed of foreigners.

Urbanism, Architecture, and the Use of Space

In 1930, 80 percent of the population lived in rural villages, and thirty years later, 77 percent of the population was still rural. Since 1960, urbanization has been fueled by extensive internal migration from the countryside to the cities, but only 35.8 of the population was defined as urban in 1996. The two large cities of Lisbon and Porto are both on the coast.

The hallmark of Portuguese architecture are azulejos , glazed ceramic tiles that cover the facades and interiors of churches, government buildings, and private homes. Azulejos were introduced by the Moors. Both geometric and representational patterns are used, the latter often depicting historical events or religious scenes. The azulejos style was taken to colonial Brazil and to India, and has been adopted by returned emigrants who have built new houses across the landscape of northern and central Portugal as social statements of their success abroad. Akin to azulejos are the mosaics used on the sidewalks of major walking avenues in Lisbon and Porto as well as in provincial towns. These avenues, lined with cafés and teahouses, are important public spaces where people stroll and converse. Stucco in various pastels is used on buildings, including the main government buildings in Lisbon. The other distinctive style of architecture is known as Manueline, after King Manuel I. It is a form of ornamentation that mixes elements of Christianity with ropes, shells, and other aquatic imagery, reflecting the nation's seafaring past.

Vernacular buildings in rural areas use local materials. In the north, traditional peasant houses, often with two stories and a red tubular clay tile roof, were built with thick granite walls. Animals were kept on the ground floor, which also was used for storage. Many of these houses had verandas. All had a big hearth in the kitchen with an overhanging chimney used to smoke hams and sausage as well as to cook and heat. The kitchen is the center of private family space; these houses often also contain a parlor ( sala ) for receiving guests. In the south one-story, whitewashed, flat-roofed houses with blue trim around the windows and doorways are common. This form of architecture evokes the Moorish past. These houses, which are built to keep out the summer heat, have huge chimneys and hearths. Since the 1970s, new housing and large apartment complexes have been built to accommodate the growing urban population.

Food and Economy

Food in Daily Life. The cuisine varies by region. The north is known for caldo verde , a kale and potato soup generally flavored with a slice of chouriço (spicy sausage). Also important are grilled sardines. The traditional bread, especially in the northwest, is broa , a grainy corn bread with a thick crust. In Minho, the traditional wine is vinho verde , a young wine made from grapes that grow on arbors that often serve as property markers. In the northeastern region of Trás-os-Montes, fresh and cured pork, is used in a number of dishes. A stew of mixed meats and vegetables called cozida a` portuguesa originated in this region and has become a national dish. In central Portugal, cheeses are more common because of pasturing in the Serra da Estrela and fish (including octupus, squid, and eel) is abundant. In the south, the most popular soup is a form of gazpacho with bread and smoked pork. A pork and clam stew cooked in a cataplana (a tightly sealed steamer) is the regional dish of the Alentejo. Olive oil ( azeite ) is used throughout the country.

Bacalhau (salt cod) has been a national dish since the fifteenth century, when the Portuguese began fishing off the coast of Newfoundland. Pastéis de bacalhau (codfish croquettes) are a popular appetizer. An important seasoning is cumin; equally important is piri-piri , a hot red chili often used to season barbecued chicken. Cinnamon is a common flavoring for desserts, such as the traditional rice pudding ( arroz doce ).

Port, a fortified wine produced in the region of the upper Douro River, is a major export. In rural households on ceremonial occasions, port is offered to celebrated guests, including the parish priest.

The noon meal ( o almoço ) is served at about twelve thirty, and dinner ( o jantar )at 8 P.M. Breakfast ( o pequeno almoço ) is Continental style. In rural regions, it was traditional for men to stop at the local café before heading to the fields to have their pinga (a shot of stiff brandy) to matar o bicho (kill the beast).

Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. One of the most important ceremonies in rural households is the annual killing and preserving of the pig. This event occurs in late December or January and usually takes two days, since it involves making sausage, smoking ham ( presunto, ), and salting several other parts of the pigs, including the belly ( toucinho ). The noon meal on the first day is called sarrabulho and consists of rice, innards, and the blood of the pig.

Azulejos, blue glazed tiles, are made into pictorial panels throughout Portugal. Ceramics and architecture are the country's greatest art forms.
Azulejos, blue glazed tiles, are made into pictorial panels throughout Portugal. Ceramics and architecture are the country's greatest art forms.

The traditional family meal on Christmas Eve is bacalhau with molho verde (a green sauce made with virgin olive oil), cabbage ( couve ), and boiled potatoes. On Twelfth Night, a bolo rei (kings' bread) is served, often with a lucky coin in it. On the occasion of the village festa , some families roast a goat ( cabrito ).

Coffehouses are places to meet friends, talk business, and study. Various styles of coffee are served, each with a special label.

Basic Economy. According to 1998 estimates agriculture constitutes 4 percent of the gross domestic product, industry 36 percent, and services 60 percent. Twelve percent of the population works in agriculture (compared with 40 percent in 1960), 32 percent in industry (32 percent in 1960), and 56 percent in services, commerce, and government (28 percent in 1960). Tourism is an important component of the service sector. Few families are wholly subsistence farmers, having relied traditionally on cash from the sale of surplus produce or from emigration of family members. Remittances from workers abroad are important to the economy, as are European Union transfers. Competition in the context of the European Union is changing the face of subsistence agriculture. Oil and gas are imported, and hydroelectric power is underdeveloped.

Land Tenure and Property. Patterns of land tenure vary by region. In the Algarve, landholdings are small and are cultivated by owners, tenants, or sharecroppers. The Alentejo has traditionally been a region of low population density, latifundia that originated in the Roman estate system, and landless day laborers. Before 1974, approximately five hundred absentee landlords owned the bulk of the land. After 1974, the agrarian reform movement altered the system of land tenure in this region, although some of the early "revolutionary" expropriations have been restored to their original owners. The north has a much higher population density, land fragmentation, minifúndia that originated with the system brought by the Germanic invaders of the fifth and sixth centuries, and subsistence farming. These peasants ( lavradores ) own, rent, and/or sharecrop several fields scattered throughout a village as well as neighboring villages. Although not as numerous as in the south, there is a population of landless day laborers ( jornaleiros ) in northern Portugal, many of whom are women. Jornaleiros provide supplemental labor to the peasant household. In the much less densely populated northeastern region, a form of communal property ownership and communal farming survived into the twentieth century.

Commercial Activities. Commercial activities vary regionally. The peasants in the north cultivate corn (rye in the northeast), potatoes, wine grapes, and vegetables to sell at regional markets. Many also raise milk cattle, and the milk is sold to local cooperatives. Along the coastline, populations engage in fishing. Fish canning is an important export industry. The local economies in the north have been supplemented by centuries of emigration, and as a result, men have developed artisanal skills as masons and carpenters. Around Braga, Porto, and Guimarães there is a population of worker-peasants employed in the textile industry. The people of the Algarve engage in agriculture, fishing, and tourism. Cash-crop agriculture (wheat, olives, cork) predominates in the Alentejo. In central continental Portugal, a variety of irrigated grains (wheat, corn, and rice) are cultivated on medium-sized family farms for commercial sale. The Azores are largely agricultural, with some islands depending primarily on dairy and meat production and others on a combination of cattle raising, whaling, fishing, and small-scale agriculture (sugar beets, tea, tobacco, and vegetables). Madeira relies on agriculture (wine, bananas, sugarcane), fishing, and whaling in addition to small-scale cottage industry and tourism. The embroidery industry is a major employer of female workers.

Major Industries. Furniture, food processing, wineries, and pulp and paper are among the major industrial activities in the north. Heavier industry (steel working, shipbuilding, iron production, transport equipment, electrical machinery) and the bulk of the industrial working class are concentrated in the Lisbon-Setubal region in the south. In recent years, the construction industry has become important, and tourism is growing. Other important manufacturing industries are leather products, textiles, porcelain, and glassware.

Trade. Portugal's major exports are textiles, clothing and footwear, cork and paper products, machinery, transport equipment, and chemicals, and agricultural products. More than 80 percent of this trade is with other member states of the European Community. The most important trading partners are Germany and Spain.

Social Stratification

Classes and Castes. At the end of World War II, Portugal had a small upper class, a small middle class, a small urban working class, and a mass of rural peasants. The upper class included leaders of industry, financiers, top military personnel, the Catholic episcopate, the large landholders of the Alentejo, some professionals, and some government officials. The middle class included smaller rural landowners, secondary-level military officers, small business operators and shopkeepers, civil servants, and schoolteachers. The lower class ( o povo ) consisted of the urban and rural working poor. There was little social mobility, and a distinction was made between those who worked with their hands and those who did not. Social status was ascribed and sustained by class endogamy. Before 1974, the State was based on corporative bodies representing different interest groups (the military, the Church, landholders, workers' syndicates, etc.). In theory, the Corporate State channeled class interests but in practice these were often circumvented by personal contacts.

The rural south with its massive population of landless day laborers was more hierarchical than the rural north, explaining the strength of the Communist Party and class consciousness in the south after the 1974 "revolution." Social stratification in the villages of the north was more fluid. Exposure to the very wealthy elites was also more limited. The 1976 constitution defined Portugal as a republic engaged in the formation of a classless society. While the Marxist tones of the constitution have largely been eradicated, Portugal is less socially rigid than in the past and education, which is more widely accessible as the country moves toward a service-oriented economy, is an avenue to social mobility. The middle class has grown and the peasant population has declined, but the distance separating the social, economic, and political elites from the bulk of the population remains.

Political Life

Government. Portugal has moved from an authoritarian regime, to a provisional military government, to a parliamentary democracy. The president, representing the executive branch, is elected by universal suffrage for a five-year term and appoints the prime minister. In 1982, a constitutional revision put the military under civilian control, with the president as the commander in chief. A unicameral Assembly of the Republic, with two hundred thirty members elected by universal suffrage for four-year terms, constitutes the legislative branch. Center-right leadership predominated between 1985 and 1995 and the Socialist Party assumed leadership in 1995. Portugal has had regional voting patterns

A commercial building in the Amoreiras district of Lisbon. Services and industry account for 96 percent of the GDP.
A commercial building in the Amoreiras district of Lisbon. Services and industry account for 96 percent of the GDP.
since the nineteenth century, with urban voting trends opposed to rural trends and the north voting more conservatively than the south.

At the local level, villages are run by a parish council ( junta da frequesia ) whose members are elected by village households. Throughout the Salazar period, the juntas had little real power and few economic resources, though the members had local prominence. They depended on the câmara , the administrative body in the county seat, and the câmara is still an important unit of political organization and administration. After 1974, political parties and agricultural cooperatives assumed importance, though participation varies by region.

Regionalization has become increasingly important, in part mandated by constitutional provisions for administrative decentralization.

Leadership and Political Officials. Although there was only one legal political party under Salazar (the União Nacional), today there are a wide variety of political parties with varying political viewpoints that stretch from the far right to the far left. The four major parties are the Portuguese Communist Party (PCP), The Portuguese Socialist Party (PS), the Social Democratic Party (PSD), and the Popular Party (PP; formerly the Center Democratic Party or CDS).

Before 1974 local people were not engaged with the political process but since then public debate and voting have both increased dramatically. In some rural communities, particularly in the south, a system of patronage prevailed, but this also changed after the 1974 revolution. Cultural elites have been replaced by officeholders and politicos, ambitious men who are part of the village bourgeoisie. Today office and positions of leadership are an achieved rather than an ascribed status, based on personal achievement rather than on whom one knows or the family of one's birth.

Social Problems and Control. There is a national Supreme Court and several administrative, military, and fiscal courts. Under the Estado Novo, the PIDE (political police) was a powerful mechanism for repression. Known to have scores of informants, the PIDE had the authority to arrest and detain without charge or trial and served not only as an internal investigative arm but also as an institution of border and customs control. The PIDE was abolished in 1974, but there is a police force ( Polícia de Segurança Pública ) in the main cities and towns. In rural areas, order is maintained by the Guarda Nacional Republicana (GNR). Violent crime is rare. Drugs and theft have become a problem, primarily in large metropolitan areas. In small communities, shame is still a powerful mechanism of social control,

Vineyards above the upper Douro River. This region produces port, a major export.
Vineyards above the upper Douro River. This region produces port, a major export.
and throughout the country, parents use shame to discipline children.

Military Activity. The three military branches are the Army, Navy, and the Air Force. In 1997 military expenditures were 2.6 percent of the GDP. The military age is 20. The Portuguese military was heavily involved in the Colonial Wars in Africa and by 1974, 80 percent of Portugal's military forces were committed to that region. Military service was extended to as long as four years during the 1960s, a phenomenon that resulted in a sharp increase in clandestine emigration to France during that decade. The military, under the title of the Armed Forces Movement (Movimento das Forças Armadas/MFA), instigated the bloodless coup of 25 April 1974 that overthrew the Estado Novo dictatorship. Portugal was a founding member of NATO. The United States maintains use of the Lajes Air Base on the island of Terceira in the Azores.

Social Welfare and Change Programs

Prior to the twentieth century, the Roman Catholic Church and other charitable institutions such as the Santa Casa de Misericórdia were the primary mechanisms of social welfare in Portugal. During the Salazar regime, a system of Casas do Povo were established in local places, primarily to regulate the Corporate State, but also to take care of individual needs. Their impact was limited. State-operated systems of welfare did not emerge until the 1960s and they have improved with the growth of parliamentary democracy and greater economic stability and prosperity. Even so, in the early 1990s welfare benefits, financed through employee and employer contributions, were low by comparison with other European nations. Welfare programs include benefits for the ill and disabled, old-age pensions, maternity leaves, and small family allowances. After 1975 Portugal introduced a national health care system that paid all medical and pharmaceutical expenses.

Nongovernmental Organizations and Other Associations

The Church is the major nongovernmental association that organizes social relationships. At the local level, people belong to a range of confraternities ( confrarias ) that are under the auspices of their parish church. In the past confraternities were important mutual aid societies, sources of loans and the organizations responsible for proper burials. At the local level there has also been an important increase in folkloric dance groups ( ranchos ) that involve adolescents and young adults in the reinvention of traditions. These ranchos are under the auspices of the national Federation for Portuguese Folklore. Portuguese people participate in a variety of other urban and national associations, many of them professionally based. Recently new associations for particular social groups, for example the gay and lesbian community and various immigrant communities, have also been formed.

Gender Roles and Statuses

Division of Labor by Gender. Labor force statistics frequently underestimate the participation of women, particularly in the rural economy of the north. Some anthropologists view these activities as the basis of the significant economic and political power of peasant women. Middle- and upper-class women were at one time restricted to the domestic sphere, but this has changed as women have received advanced education and professional training, and full legal equality. Factors such as an interventionist state, low wages, flexibility in the allocation of labor resources of family members, a rigid social structure, and incipient economic and technological development explain the low rate of labor market segregation by gender.

Since the 1960s, women have outpaced men in higher education, although class factors are ultimately more important in shaping these trends. Portugal has had one woman serve as president. Local attitudes are more conservative, and women have been slower to win political positions in municipal elections.

Women still perform the major domestic chores, although men are involved in child care. Among the elites, women rely on inexpensive domestic help. Important religious positions are still primarily in the hands of men.

The Relative Status of Women and Men. Under the Salazar regime, women were subordinate to men and had few personal, political or economic rights. After 1974, the status and roles of women changed. The 1976 constitution outlawed discrimination by sex, and divorce and abortion became legal under certain circumstances. Women were given control over their economic lives and gained the right to carry their own passports and vote.

Marriage, Family, and Kinship

Marriage. The marriage rate rose in the twentieth century. People generally marry later in the north than in the south, though the differences are disappearing. In the south, consensual unions have been common, and the north has had high rates of permanent spinsterhood. Although it has declined since 1930, illegitimacy was high in rural northern Portugal and remains high. Marriage has generally been class endogamous, and there is a tendency for villages to be endogamous.

Domestic Unit. Households in the north tend to be complex, many of them composed of a three-generation stem family. Some villagers in the northeast follow a custom of natalocal residence for many years after marriage. In the south, households are simpler, generally composed of a nuclear family. Obligations between friends are sometimes felt to be more important than those between kin. Headship of the household is held jointly by a married couple, who in the rural north are referred to as o patrão and a patroa . Among urban middle-class groups and in the south, the concept of a dominant male head of household is more prevalent.

Inheritance. The Civil Code of 1867 called for partible inheritance, but parents can dispose freely of a third share ( terço ) of their property, and women have the right to receive and bestow property. Among the peasants of the north, where inheritance is generally postmortem, parents use the promise of the terço as a form of old age security by marrying a child into the household. At their death, that child becomes the owner of the house ( casa ); the rest of the property is divided equally among all heirs. Partilhas can cause friction between siblings since land is variable in quality. Some peasants hold land under long-term lease agreements that traditionally was passed on in one piece to one heir. The 1867 Civil Code eliminated the system of entailed estates ( vínculos ) that made it possible for wealthier classes to pass on property to a single heir, usually by male primogeniture. Wealthier landowners have been able to keep property intact by having one heir buy out the siblings.

Kin Groups. Kinship is reckoned bilaterally, but the structure of domestic groups and the kinship links that are emphasized vary by region and social class. In northern Portugal, nicknames ( apelidos ) are extremely important as terms of reference that connote moral equivalence in otherwise socially stratified rural communities. In the northwest, nicknames identify localized kin groups linked through females. In this region, there is a preference for uxorilocality and uxorivicinality, both of which can be linked to male emigration. Spiritual kinship ties are established at baptism and marriage. Kin frequently are chosen to serve as godparents ( padrinhos ). In the absence of government-based institutions

Portraits of the deceased ornament their grave markers in an Azorean cemetery.
Portraits of the deceased ornament their grave markers in an Azorean cemetery.
of childcare, eldercare, etc. the support networks based on kinship are extremely important in both rural and urban areas.


Child Rearing and Education. Socialization is an important aspect of education. A child who is " bem educado " has good manners and is respectful toward adults. The Portuguese are indulgent toward their children, who are welcome everywhere. Life cycle ceremonies for children are in accordance with Catholic ritual. Baptisms are important events for the extended family. First communion can be an occasion for a family celebration.


Although Portugal has become more informal in its rules of etiquette, polite terms of address are still used. People with education are still addressed with phrases such as Senhor Doutor (Mr. Dr.) and an upper class and/or educated women still garners the title Dona, often coupled with a first name as in "Dona Maria." Like Spanish, Portuguese makes a distinction between the more formal and courteous "o senhor/a senhora" and the more informal and intimate tu . Strangers generally greet each other with a handshake. In more informal environments men who know one another will embrace and women greet one another with a kiss on both cheeks. Urban Portuguese of the middle and upper classes dress quite formally and there is a powerful sense of propriety about appropriate public dress.


Religious Beliefs. The majority of the citizens are Catholic, nominally if not in practice. Portugal has experienced waves of political anticlericalism throughout its history. Under Salazar, Portugal experienced a religious revival and the position of the local priest in the villages was greatly enhanced. Only after 1974 was this position challenged, and in recent years there has been a decline in the number of clergy. Religiosity is generally weaker in Lisbon and the south and stronger in the center, the north, and the islands. People develop personal relationships with particular saints. Magical practices, sorcery ( feitiço ), witchcraft ( bruxaria ) associated with notions of illness and healing, and notions of envy ( inveja ) that invoke the evil eye are still part of the belief system of many people.

Rituals and Holy Places. Local village life is marked by celebrations honoring the saints and the Virgin Mary. Romarias (pilgrimages) to regional

A group of people wait for a bus in Angro Do Heroismo. Urban Portuguese have a powerful sense of propriety about appropriate public dress.
A group of people wait for a bus in Angro Do Heroismo. Urban Portuguese have a powerful sense of propriety about appropriate public dress.
shrines are a central feature of religious practice, especially in the north. Villagers also celebrate an annual festa (generally to honor the patron saint) that includes a procession and combines sacred and secular elements.

The famous religious shrine Fátima is in the province of Ribatejos northeast of Lisbon, where the Virgin of the Rosary appeared to three small shepherd children in 1917. In 1932, devotion to Our Lady of Fátima was approved by the Catholic Church and a large basilica was built. Fátima is now a place of international pilgrimage. Pilgrims often walk there from the remotest corners of northern Portugal for the May and October observances. Among the other important pilgrimage sites are Bom Jesus do Monte in Braga and Nossa Senhora dos Remedios in Lamego.

Death and Afterlife. Death is a fundamental part of village life. Church bells toll to send the message that a neighbor ( vizinho ) has passed away. In some areas, the gates and doors of the dead person's house are opened to allow anyone to enter and relatives begin to wail around a body prepared for viewing. Burial is in local cemeteries, and family graves are well tended. Each village has several burial societies (confrarias). All Saints Day is an occasion for reverence for those who have departed. Mourning is signified by the wearing of black; a widow generally will wear black for the rest of her life, while other kin remain in mourning for varying lengths of time. Portugal has various cults of death. Such beliefs are not confined to rural areas; in the cities there is a network of spirit mediums who claim to contact the dead.

Medicine and Health Care

The death rate and infant mortality have declined, and life expectancy has increased. Since 1974, medical education has been improved and there are more medical personnel and hospitals. Health care is better in the cities than in the countryside, although women in rural areas no longer give birth at home. Good health often is associated with what is natural, and changes in diet are frequently cited as the cause of disease. The leading causes of death are malignant neoplasms, diseases of the circulatory and respiratory systems, and death from injuries and poisons. Portugal has a low suicide rate but high motor accident fatalities. Folk medical practices are still prevalent in some parts. Curers use a combination of prayer, religious paraphernalia, and traditional and modern medicines.

Secular Celebrations

25 April has been an official holiday since 1974, commemorating the overthrow of the Estado Novo by the Armed Forces Movement. On 1 May, the Portuguese celebrate Labor Day. Portugal Day (10 June) commemorates the death of Luis de Camões, the national epic poet. 15 August, celebrating the Assumption of the Virgin, is observed. 5 October is Republic Day, commemorating the collapse of the monarchy in 1910. Since 1974 it has assumed more significance as a national holiday, while 28 May, a commemorative day complete with military parades that in the Salazar regime honored the 1926 military coup, is no longer a day of national celebration.

The Arts and Humanities

Literature. The most famous work of national literature is Os Lusíadas , an epic poem about the voyage of Vasco da Gama by Luís de Camões (1525?–1579?). Of importance during the seventeenth century, when Portugal regained autonomy, were the Lettres Portugaises ( Portuguese Letters ) written by Sister Mariana Alcoforada. In the early 1970s, Alcoforada's work stimulated the Novas Cartas Portuguesas ( New Portuguese Letters ), a statement of feminism written by the so-called three Marias. The greatest period for literature was the nineteenth century, when Júlio Dinis, Camilo Castelo Branco, and José Maria Eça de Queirós used a social realist and sometimes satirical style to write about class relations, family, inheritance, and religion. Realism was revived during the twentieth century with the short stories of rural life by Manuel Torga, the novels of Aquilino Ribeiro, and epic tales such as Ferreira de Castro's Emigrantes . Perhaps the greatest Portuguese modernist is Fernando Pessoa. Modernism attacked the values of the middle classes of the liberal period. Contemporary realists include Lobo Antunes and José Saramago, who won the Nobel Prize in 1998.

Graphic Arts. The greatest art forms are architecture and ceramics. Painting has not been particularly important. Folk arts are well developed, and craftspeople are found throughout the country. Rugs made in Arraiolas are well-known internationally. Women in the north and the island of Madeira produce embroidered goods that are sold to tourists. Pottery varies in style according to geographic region. Artistic expression is also evident in the items produced for decorating the floats carried in religious processions and in the filigree jewelry made in the Porto region, which also is worn at festivals.

Performance Arts. The fado is one of the most important performing traditions. Ranchos folklóricos (folkloric dance groups) are being revived, supported by the tourist industry. Dancers dress in traditional regional costumes and perform dances that have historical and regional origins. Bull-fighting is also an important performance art.

The State of the Physical and Social Sciences

Since 1974, the social sciences have emerged strongly, with programs in most universities. Of importance are the Institute of Social Sciences of the University of Lisbon and the Instituto Superior de Ciências Sociais in Lisbon. Portugal publishes two major journals of social science.


Barreto, António, ed. A Situação Social em Portugal, 1960-1995 , 1996.

Brettell, Caroline. Men Who Migrate, Women Who Wait: Population and History in a Portuguese Parish , 1986.

Brito, Joaquím Pais de. "O Estado Novo e a Aldeia mais Portuguesa do Portugal." In O Fascismo em Portugal , 1982.

Cabral, João de Pina. Sons of Adam, Daughters of Eve: The Peasant Worldview of the Alto Minh , 1986.

Cole, Sally. Women of the Praia , 1991.

Cutileiro, Jose. A Portuguese Rural Society , 1971.

Downs, Charles. Revolution at the Grassroots: Community Organizations in the Portuguese Revolution , 1989.

Feldman-Bianco, Bela. "Multiple Layers of Time and Space: The Construction of Class, Ethnicity, and Nationalism among Portuguese Immigrants." In Nina Glick Schiller, Linda Basch, and Cristina Blanc Szanton, eds., Towards a Transnational Perspective on Migration , 1992.

Ferreira, Virginia. "Women's Employment in the European Semiperipheral Countries: Analysis of the Portuguese Case." Women's Studies International Forum 17: 141–155, 1994.

Gallagher, Thomas. Portugal: A Twentieth Century Interpretation, 1983.

Herr, Richard, ed. The New Portugal: Democracy in Europe , 1992.

Lourenço, Nelson. Família Rural e Indústria , 1991.

Maxwell, Kenneth. The Making of Portuguese Democracy , 1995.

Opello, Walter. Portugal: From Monarchy to Pluralist Democracy , 1991.

Pinto, António Costa, ed. Modern Portugal , 1998.

Reed, Robert. "From Utopian Hopes to Practical Politics: A National Revolution in a Rural Village." Comparative Studies in Society and History 37: 670–691, 1995.

Robinson, Richard. Contemporary Portugal , 1979.

Wheeler, Douglas L. Historical Dictionary of Portugal , 1993.



Also read article about Portugal from Wikipedia

User Contributions:

Tameka Wilson
you should get some information on the people and how they get along in the community.
I really liked the information in this article! It really helped me with my geography assignment. I had to find 20 facts about the cultural aspects and traditional things on this country. Thanks for helping me understand the country more and helping me get an A on this assignment!!!

Brianna L.
Centaurus High School
could use more stuff on child rearing. thx tho. the artical could also use more things on birth traditions.
marlon jay t. gadiaza
I'm a political science student at present and currently conducting a research about the political culture of these two countries Portugal and Spain so with your help im asking your website to please if ever add the said article with regards to the two countries mentioned above.Thank you and i'm looking forward to your favorable response.Thank you and please do not hesitate to e-mail me regarding this matter.Thank you.
good very good im doing reaserch and it healped alot
i think that this was a very helpful site. when i have a world cultures assignment this is the first site that i go to. and usually its the only one that i need. it has helped me with the kurds, palestinians, turks, arabs, and two more that i really cant remember right now. and now its even helping me with portugal. i reccomend this site if u really wanna get a good grade. this is the best!
-Tasha Klingensmith
Killingly High School
Very goood information!! but it could include the clothing... i really need it for my s.s project..
I'm doing a report on Portugal and half of my information came from here. I'm only a sixth grader but i thought your sight was extremely helpful! Thank You!
Hey John,

read this, especially the demographic section, which clearly says, that the gypsy population of Portugal is 100.000, and we're not talking about the 'others' yet.
8-10 percent of population of Hungary means the same quantity, but we're working on it mate!!!
thank God i found this entry! and bunch of thanks for all the information. it helps me a lot to complete my assignment. :)

Hi There,

I am a Proto-Turkish researchist and i would like to inform you that the name of Portugal-ia comes from completely different root: In Proto-Turkish, Port means harbour.UG means water. AL/EL means people and IA means Land. So basically it means "The Land of People of Water. 13000 years ago Proto-Turks went to today's Portugal and settled down there bringing their own language and alphabet
Regards, Korkut Ozarcan
Hi, I really liked your site :) I was just wondering if you know where I could find something about sexual rituels in Portuguese ?? I am doing a project on sexuality in other cultures. Thank you.
Thanks for the information,one of the things it could have is their native clothes and why they wear it. Other than that it was very thorough. thanks again!!
They don't wear much tradional clothing nowadays but in rural are and traditional festivities they do sometimes. It's more a matter of national pride and cultural identity, it also varies a bit from region to region but is overall similar. And indeed it would be good to add.

As for the proto-turk theory...I am sorry but that's just a coincidence. The most proto-turkish people that Portugal got was the Alans, and they were absorbed into the local population abandoning their language in favor of Vulgar Latin of the region, intermarrying and converting to Arian Chritianity, the modern day name came from the Latin as in above and the language came from a dialect of galician plus latin and other influences.
Thanks for the info on Portugal. It really helped with my geography project. Although, you could add some info on how people dress and some stuff about historical traditions. But still, good work.
Thanks so much this has helped me on my geography assignment a bunch!
It was awesome...But I need more info on their agriculture, can't seem to find it anywhere!! Please help!!
Hello everyboby!
Thanks to a lovely articled about my sweet country .I will throuth on the air one sugestion for all of the writters and readers ,take some books on ours free time go to the libery and have some more informations about all the colonies from Portugal awoesome.You guys will see how much mixed cultured the protuguese guys been making all this years.One for all ,all for one.
well you need more information on the role of the women
well you need more information on the role of the women
excellent. A very comprehensive look at we lusitanians. Should of mentioned that we are fanatic about work.
good job on this. really helpful none the less. where did you get all of this info?
Hi, My name is Hunter. I am a student from bondurant, Iowa in the Bondurant middle school. I am currently doing a project for my geography class on the country of Portugal! I was hoping you might be able to give me some information about this country.

I was curious to know more about what it is like there and about more human interactions. I have been having trouble finding information about human interactions: occupations, Architecture, games, clothing adaptions to habitat, government, and religons. If there is anything else that you feel I should know about your country please feel free to tell as much as possible. Thank you for your help with my project! (:


Hunter Stafford
Thank you for this useful, clearly written and above all not too boring and too long, information on Portugal.
However I was hoping to find some more info on hunting traditions. Maybe you could write something about this?
portugal is the best. Dosent everyone love portugal? who dosent like portugal its the best.
when did the Portuguese get married in like the 1700s?
i don't find the typical clothes can you guide me?
Carly Clemmons
really cool this helped me alot on a school project
Just wanted to say thanks too; to whoever is responsible for this site. I'm doing a project on the country for my cultural diversity class, and it has been a big help.

One Love, from Jamaica
Just wanted to say thanks too; to whoever is responsible for this site. I'm doing a project on the country for my cultural diversity class, and it has been a big help.

One Love, from Jamaica
I think portugal people are pretty cool :)and i think they have alot of diffrent traditions how they live from other peoples countrys i would like to go to portugal but not live there
Rod Stuart
Trying to find pics of Portuguese mariners costumes - particularly of the pilot of the "PINTA" with the large floppy hat. Circa 1400 - 1600. Any ideas?
Thanks. Rod.
Portugal never had a woman president. Portugal had a woman who was Prime Minister, not president. And that was due to the fact that the prime minister died or something like that, and she was vice prime-minister...
Portugal's National Main Dish is the Bacalhau or "Salted Codfish."And their religion is mainly Christianity Catholism.
I find this article very interesting. I was born in Lisboa in 1960 and raised in America. I haven't returned to my country since but I carry the virtues of Portugal with me even now. Looking forward to learning more about my birth place and eventually return some day
mary rose
I want to ask here if what is the common ideal woman of the portuguese man people specially if they have some people do conversation to other country like a relationship?i need to know some option about that..that you and God bless!!
Robert Anthony
Thanks for the information in this article. Really helped with my culture assignment : )
vijay tipnis
my great grandfather was portuguese subject when he was resident of panaji of portuguese GOA. he was civil servant of portuguese regime.he died in the year 1943. he was fond of portuguese culture & music. i am also interested in portuguese culture. i want portuguese pen/email friends. you can contact me on my email:- vijay_tipnis@rediffmail.com .thanks.
I am of Portuguese heritage and found this article to be extremely interesting and informative. Thank you.
jennifer holt
James Guill wrot a wonderful "History of thr Azores"..unfortunately after his passing the book is noe out of print. Copies msy be found on Amazon or E-Bay but are now pricey.
peyman Gholikhani
thanks alot,It was helpful, specially vilage of Fatima
Jerom you can try one thing that we called filigrana is a very traditional jewellery in portugal but is not origined from here, it came from the roman ocupation but the shape of a heart that is the more commum is traditional only in portugal
Portuguese is part of my nationality but I do not speak it I think that this was a beautiful way to express our culture to help others learn about the culture
HI , im doing assingment regarding the portuguese culture during funeral .. can anyone tell me in detailed about the conducting funeral .. attire .. food served .. bells ?? please :)
this gives so much information it really helped me with my project
Aiden Neal
how is the clothing adapt to the climate. if u can email me the answer it would be greatly appreciated
Portugal is the Biggest Racist country that i have ever lived in. I feared for my life there and i consider myself lucky that my family got out alive! I have never lived in such poverty (Sopas dos Pobres everyday) 40% unemployment rate and 60% of the population earn less than $932 USD per month, and that's considered Middle Class here! Within the European Union it is the worst of the worst place to live.

The bottom line is the bulk of the People in our poor country exist in a brainless comma that is fed by Ignorance, anti-Spanish hate, and severe Racism of pretty much everybody that isn't Portuguese! And, Portugal started the Global Slave Trade in 1441 so it is definitely NOT a safe place for Blacks!!

Get educated on the Truths about Racist Portugal now.

Be SAFE friends. Hugs.
Antonio Teixeira
Hi Pedro
Can you please specify Portugal as being a racist country , as far as I know racism start within ourselves.
And you eating sopa dos pobres was your option or possible your familie unfortunately not having conditions to give you more than that , Portugal is one of the safest country's in the world to live it is beatifull also ,and is not a retarded like you who comes here and start this hate race , have you left the country yet ? If so ill be very happy as you don't even deserve be associated with my country.
Good riddance
Just wondering do they have any big festivals or celebrations? (For a school project)
Irma West
I am interested in the occult practices in Portugal in the ancient times - what was know to be practiced an by whom? doing an essay on occult practices in Europe.

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