The People We’ve Been Hanging Around…

“That’s the president of the Republic,” Carla says about the man on TV. “He is dead already but well, someone forgot to tell him.” Carla, like Catarina, is a member of “Bloco” and a teacher. Unlike most left-wing Portuguese, Catarina recruited her mother. Normally it’s the other way around. I have spent a lot of time pondering the phenomenon of one generation who revolted against fascism, alongside a younger generation organizing the fight against austerity. Carla was a bit too young to face down the regime but her youth was in the early days of the Republic and the spirit of 74′ has had loud echoes.

As we sit in the living room of her flat and try to sort through the events of the day, Carla tells me that she likes our blog so far because “it’s true.” This is a serious responsibility.

We haven’t been able to take the “Worst Tour” yet. We did however get to meet back up with Pedro, who seems to know just about everything. Today he wore a shirt that said “Fuck Google, just ask me.” This is good advice. He gave us something of a social history tour as we walked through Porto and he seems to know everything. We learned about how the revolution nationalized all the properties of the Church and how the blue tiles on the walls mark the old liberal houses from the period of civil war in the 1830’s.

We saw a lot today and we talk about even more but right now I’m thinking about how much we’re learning about our friends here.

In the United States, we have this celebrated concept of “Southern Hospitality” but it’s got nothing on Southern Europeans. Over dinner, another of Catarina’s friends, Diana, offered to show us around Lisbon if we manage to find ourselves there. It’s not lost on me that most of the people we’re spending our time with are of the left and are Catarina’s friends. It’s also a well known fact that Southern Europeans are incredibly hospitable.

In the press they say that the peoples of Southern Europe are lazy (and drunk) as a matter of habit. This is the flip-side of this incredibly hospitable culture. They sit around and have dinner for hours, then grab drinks afterward in order to tell another story or accomodate another friend. This is supposedly why their economies are lagging. Even if that did make sense, what does it say about the economic system that is so at odds with having a pleasant time?

– Jason

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