This text is part of the online version of the Friday (29) edition of Daniela Pinheiro’s newsletter. At the full content (only for subscribers), the columnist talks about the death of the Brazilian in front of a bar in an upscale neighborhood of Lisbon, the position of Portuguese singer Pedro Abrunhosa during a show against the war in Ukraine and more. To subscribe and receive the weekly newsletter, Click here.
Samba, coxinha, draft beer from Lula and a profusion of selfies by converts
The newspaper A Voz do Operário is 140 years old. When it was founded, about 80% of Portugal’s population was illiterate (today, less than 5%). A group of tobacco industry workers — seeing themselves underrepresented in their grievances against employers in the press and with no prospect of schooling for their children — decided to set up a cooperative that would bring together school and media. The Society of Instruction and Beneficence A Voz do Operário was born, maintained with caraminguás donated by the members.
Three decades later, the school already had more than 4,000 students and the weekly had become the megaphone of the proletariat. Dictatorship, repression, silenced the Voice. After April 25, the project gained strength, supported by the new government, with expanded activities for cultural events, sports, social services. Today, the publication is monthly, the school still offers quality teaching and alternative methods (children have been singing Grândola, Vila Morena since kindergarten) and the headquarters — a neo-baroque building, with wide doors, pillars, stained glass windows and tiles throughout side — started to host exhibitions, concerts and also parties, many of a political nature, such as the one that took place on Sunday (24).
Organized by the Lisbon Workers’ Party Nucleus, the 1st Lula Party in Lisbon brought together around 100 people — most of them Brazilian immigrants — in the courtyard decorated with colorful streamers, photos of the candidate, Brazilian, MST, PT flags and balloons. . With a suggested entry fee of 4 euros, which included beer or caipirinha and a good-sized chicken drumstick, the meeting inaugurated a series of festivities planned by the party until the Brazilian elections.
I arrived around 5pm and was greeted with lots of smiles. Too much. A stranger greeted me from a distance, waving a closed fist. That’s when I realized that my orange shirt was being perceived as red. They offered me a sticker with the face of the honoree. I thanked and declined under the sideways gaze of the fist companion.
The class was varied. Young couples with babies, well-wishers who had just returned from the beach (there was still sand in the Havaianas), girls with long skirts and hair tied in disheveled buns, gray-haired men and women who looked like they were at home, activists dressed in red T-shirts. with the words “O Voto é Secreto” (which were on sale for 15 euros). And playlist of song Brazilian, of course.
A bar was improvised with a restricted menu. The beer taps, sold for 1 euro, had Lula’s face stamped in place of the drink’s brand. There was also brigadeiro (1 euro), vegan coxinha (1.5 euro) and Antarctica guarana (1 euro). Anyone who wanted could customize their own shirts using spray-painted patterns with Lula’s face or name. As in one of those company barbecues — when everyone has the boss in common (in this case, exceptionally, everyone likes the boss) and knows that getting to know each other is part of the ritual — small groups would get together to make conversation. Adults hugged each other and posed for photos and selfies making the L with their fingers. Every now and then, a color would pop up: “Olê, olê, olê, olá, Luláá, Luláá.” And, as one was in Portugal, it was sometimes replaced by “Lulacáá, Lulacáá”.
Sitting next to me at a communal table, a young Portuguese couple was staring at the chicken thigh. He said he was there because he was a member of the Youth Executive of the Portuguese Communist Party. She, he informed, was only accompanying him. There were very few Portuguese. Most were also young people linked to the PCP. A Brazilian with a beard approached, wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the silhouette of Lula, and began a monologue in a tone octaves above normal. Pointing to the salt, he turned to the girl, saying that in Lula’s time “everyone ate it in Brazil”, but that, now, people “starve or eat only the skin of the chicken”.
Then, in an intricate rhetoric, he tried to summarize the causes that led to the impeachment of former president Dilma Rousseff. She concluded the long reasoning by saying that it was “only because she was a woman!, woman!”. The little couple watched with interest, but remained silent. In the end, he predicted that Bolsonaro would be arrested, that his children would be swept out of public life. Out of nowhere, he got up, turned around and left. I could see him standing two tables in front of him and starting the chant again.
Coordinator of the local PT Nucleus, Pedro Luís Martins Prola, 33, is from Rio Grande do Sul and immigrated with his family to Portugal when he was a child. He shares political militancy with work in the field of law. According to him, the party had been planned for the previous month and would be a “Lulina Party”, but it didn’t work out. Political demonstrations by expatriates are often seen with reservations by critics of the cause at stake.
In 2015, I wrote a long article for Piauí magazine about the protests of the Brazilian community in Miami over Dilma’s departure from government. The main criticism of the opponents was that those marches were just nonsense, made by alienated people, whose noise was peripheral and even pathetic. But, above all, because it meant, in practice, preaching to converts. Nobody’s opinion was changed or an extra vote was won with initiatives of this type.
He wanted to know from Prola what the party was for. If it was something to raise money for the campaign, if for other actions aimed at the October election. He said that, unlike the “Fora, Bolsonaro”, which already gathered a small crowd in the streets of Lisbon in the past, the party was really “something more relaxed, for people to exchange impressions”. That the money collected only paid for the drink that had been purchased, but that it was important to give visibility to the local branch of the party, which struggled to meet the demands of the patricians installed in the country.
Of the 200,000 Brazilian immigrants registered in Portugal, 80,000 are registered with the Electoral Court, able to vote in October — almost double the number registered in 2018. In the last election, only 20% of those registered turned out to vote. “Abstention is very high. This is something we need to change because we know the effects well,” he said. Here, Bolsonaro won with more than 50% of the votes. In Lisbon alone it was almost 57%. However, one of the most relevant issues for the community, he said, is illegality. It is estimated that there are, in fact, around 400,000 Brazilians living in Portugal — twice as many as computed by official data.
According to Prola, there is a commitment from the PT campaign that issues related to the lives of immigrants will have priority in an eventual government. “The main issue concerns undocumented immigrants, who are heavily exploited here. The uberized population, who come as tourists, stay and have to accept anything to stay here,” he said. It is not known who at the party fit the profile.
A piece of paper was distributed among those present. In September, the Portuguese Communist Party celebrates its anniversary with the now traditional Festa do Avante, one of the biggest left-wing celebrations in Europe, which usually gathers more than 100,000 people over the weekend. The flyer stated that PT Lisboa would be present at the event with Bar do Lula, Lojinha do PT and the exhibition “Lula Presidente”. There would be a meeting the following week for the militancy to help prepare the event.
“Come on, guys, don’t miss out!”, said the woman dressed in red. The music volume increased. A tall girl nursing her baby, leaning against a pool table, frowned, seeming to be bothered by the noise. Chico Buarque’s new music began to play, which has already been stamped as the anthem of Lula’s election: “Again with your spine erect, how about it? ignorance, how about?”.
A little ripple from the smoker crew crossed the room. A woman shouted: “The caipirinha is here! Done now!”.
Instantly, a line formed again in front of the bar. For the next three hours, what happened was like a movie in looping: dances, conversations, laughter, selfies, beer, selfies. The heat was still hellish even as night fell.
Around 8pm, in the middle of a song by Alcione, a woman whose ends of her hair were blue, and a thin man with round glasses and a ribbon in his hair began to kiss without stopping dancing together. Beside them, a lively guest, who wore a long white dress, lots of necklaces and a turban on her head, swung around like there was no tomorrow. The sambão rolled freely when a lost voice, muffled by the loud sound, tried to lead a chorus, in vain: “Lulalá, Lulalá…”. Nobody heard.