Portugal, a country with a rich history of seafaring and discovery is proud to be an integral member state of the European Union (EU) since 1986. However, our European legacy goes much deeper. During the past 3,000 years, Portugal has witnessed a constant ebb and flow of civilizations. Phoenician, Greek, Celt, Carthaginian, and Roman cultures have all left their imprint. In the 15th & 16th century alone, Portugal’s intrepid maritime explorers led by Prince Henry, Vasco da Gama, Magellan, and so many more discovered a new world. Traveled throughout Asia, Africa and the Americas, interacting with many and diverse cultures and ultimately building one of the most exciting and cosmopolitan cities in the world.
Today, looking out from our Iberian terrace onto the Atlantic Ocean and the Americas beyond, we often reflect on our history and its lasting impact on the country’s culture and its soul. However, the present and future are too exciting for us to stay in a reflective mood for long, thus we move on and embrace our corner of Europe as the most exciting and sexy place to be in the world.
As Carlos Coelho recently stated being exciting and sexy means having gorgeous streets and side-streets, alleys, fountains, steps, springs and cobbles. Being exciting and sexy is stimulating the senses, it’s being close to people and things, it’s watching surfers ride the waves of our “California like” coastline full of medieval castles and renaissance palaces. Being sexy is going up the River Douro to Régua, it’s riding a Lusitano horse on our hills, slopes and valleys, it’s having a sensual song Fado, a virile language Portuguese, and a dreamer’s soul – that of a poet like Camões. Being exciting and sexy means being the owner of a mystery that has lasted over 800 years, it’s having the salt and pepper of Europe in your soul, in your lands, your sea, and your love.
Portugal is a truly diverse country, the phenomenal combination of a multiplicity of elements that, in an act of Atlantic & Mediterranean convergence, were united in their differences. A magnificent labyrinth of history and life, of health and joy, of calm and the cosmopolitan, of rocky verandas and ample flatlands, of light and faith, of salt and sun. A safe country, with no separatist movements or ethnic problems, peaceful and socially cohesive, in its most profound sense, in the language, the culture, the history, the geography and the society.
Portugal is the country with the greatest diversity per square kilometer or mile whichever measurement you are most comfortable with, its landscape, its cultural, architectural, gastronomic and museological variety. Nowhere else on the planet can you wake on the plain, pass through a forest to go for a swim at the beach, then immerse yourself in a medieval village or an avant-garde play, finishing the day with dinner in the most cosmopolitan cities in the world, Lisbon where they cry when they sing or soak up the most contemporary sounds in the early hours after watching a classical dressed horseman dance with a wild bull.
An improbable history, a culture the size of the world and an infinite capacity to dream. A romantic and idealistic people, for whom the heart is the measure of all things and that, knowing how to venture beyond their natural possibilities, built one of the most brilliant and exciting countries in the world. Portugal is an integral member of a family of democratic European countries, committed to working together for peace and prosperity.
We embrace our fellow 26 European countries and over 490 million EU Citizens, dealing with a wide range of issues of direct importance to our everyday life. Europe today is a continent full of different traditions and languages, but also with shared values such as democracy, freedom and social justice. The EU defends these values. It fosters cooperation among the peoples of Europe, promoting unity while preserving diversity and ensuring that decisions are taken as close as possible to the citizens. In the increasingly interdependent world of the 21st century, it is more necessary than ever for every European citizen to work together with people from other countries in a spirit of curiosity, openness and solidarity.
It is with that spirit in mind that both I and my fellow European Consuls in Chicago invite you to learn more about our beautiful home named Europe.
Nelson de Castro
Consul of Portugal