World Portuguese Language Day: new discoveries



Four centuries after the Portuguese discoveries, we rediscover Portuguese. On Unesco’s initiative, it has been established that the World Portuguese Language Day will take place every year on May  5th. More than 260 thousand people use Portuguese daily as their mother tongue, in addition to many others who, after discovering it, fell in love with it. The Portuguese language has always had its own identity, is recognized at every social level, and is constantly evolving, but this initiative provides it with additional value in terms of notability as a global language and a vehicle of international communication. 

In this inaugural celebration, the president of the Portuguese Republic, Marcello Rebelo de Souza, highlighted the strength of the language spoken in five continents; praised the brilliance of authors such as Camões, Saramago, Mia Couto, Jorge Amado, Hélder Proença, Rubem Fonseca, and all those who, by using it, continuously enrich it. The president has defined the Portuguese language as “a language of the future, alive, different in unity, that changes over time and space, although remains the same in essence”.

The Director-General of Unesco, Audrey Azoulay, has expressed her thoughts stating that Portuguese is a creative language, of music, literature, and cinema, and at the same time, it is a language of science, innovation, pedagogy, and solidarity. “A language of seas and oceans”, she has defined it. Yes, it is a language of seas and oceans thanks to the Portuguese exploration in the 15th century that dawned the Age of Discoveries, allowing the Portuguese to leave important traits in many different cultures.

portuguese=landing-in-brazil-1500The landing of Pedro Alvares Cabral in Brazil in 1500 – Museo Paulista, Public domain Mark 1.0, Wikimedia Commons.

Navigating around Africa and sailing across the Atlantic Ocean, the Portuguese arrived in Brazil in 1500. This route contributed to the spreading of the Portuguese language in five continents (excluding Antarctica) making it become the official language in nine countries in the world: Portugal, Brazil, Angola, São Tomé and Principe, Mozambique, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, East Timor, and Macau. We find traces of the Portuguese language also in India, France, Spain, Venezuela, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Japan, among others, making it the 6th most spoken mother tongue around the world. Now, it reiterates its importance as a working language in international organizations such as the European Union, the Organization of American States, and the Mercosur.

“The Portuguese language is built daily by people from all continents, in a never-ending enrichment of its multiculturalism”, said the secretary-general of the United Nations, António Guterres, emphasizing that the date is a “fair recognition of the Portuguese language’s global relevance”. In Portugal, to celebrate the first World Portuguese Language Day and the 30th anniversary of the International Association for Portuguese Language Communication, the CTT (Post office and Telegraphs) have issued a set of stamps with a print run of 100 thousand copies.

In Brazil, the celebration occurs along with the Capital’s 60th anniversary with the release of the book “Sonhar Brasília”, a collection of texts written by authors from the countries belonging to CPLP–Community of the Portuguese-speaking countries, created in 1996. The work, composed of unpublished and illustrated texts, is the first common publication among the Portuguese-speaking countries which highlights the cultural and linguistic diversity of each of them. Meanwhile, the celebrations have been adversely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and the launch of the print edition has been postponed to the second half of 2020. Although the celebrations were hampered by the Covid-19 pandemic and the launch of the print edition was initially postponed, a free digital version is available at Unesco’s digital library.

national-labrary-rio-de- janeiroThe National Library of Rio de Janeiro, is one of many legacies left by the Portuguese in Brazil. Halleypo, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported


The Luz Station houses the Museum of the Portuguese Language –Cralize Dominio pubblico

Dom Pedro II image - Public Domain

Pedro II (in English Peter II) ruled Brazil between 1831 and 1889 when the monarchy was abolished. He was the second and last Emperor of Brazil and died in 1891 in exile in France. When preparing the body, Gaston d’Orléans (Gaston of Orleans) the Count of Eu, married with the emperor’s daughter princess Isabel, found among  Pedro’s personal objects a package containing soil from Brazil and next to it a message: “It is soil from my country, I wish for it to be placed inside my coffin in case I die away from my homeland.” Following his will, the package was placed next to him in the coffin. His remains returned to Brazil in 1921. The emperor’s body is kept in the Cathedral of São Pedro de Alcântara in Petrópolis, a city founded by him in the State of Rio de Janeiro. Pedro II is recognized as “the perpetual defender of Brazil”. In his final words, he expressed a wish: “May God grant me these last wishes—peace and prosperity for Brazil” (below the crown worn by Dom Pedro in his coronation as Emperor of Brazil in 1841)


What now, José?

What now, José? If the Portuguese language is becoming more and more important due to economic relations, in my view it’s the literature that shows its higher value. I recognize the greatness of Portuguese-speaking authors, from Camões, Saramago. Mia Couto and many others, but here I will stand for my own side. “No tempo do eu menino”, as said by the poet Manuel Bandeira when referring to when he was just a boy, my father opened widely to me the doors to the world of books. As soon as I was born (you see, he was a bit exaggerated), he started to buy me small storybooks, and I still remember my treasure: hundreds of little books. So very early on, he gave me his greatest legacy, the taste of reading.

First, I slipped into the magical world of those little books and without realizing many years later I had dived into the “Reino das Águas Claras” (in free translation “Kingdom of the Clear Waters”), of the Brazilian writer and translator Monteiro Lobato, known for his works and characters. Fantasy has accompanied me over the years and even when I grew up it didn’t take any effort to “follow” Emília, Monteiro Lobato’s naughty doll, who left the pages of his books gaining television space. From book to book, I’ve built my way: I shared with Cecília Meireles (poet and writer) the heavy and everlasting doubt “whether to wear a glove or a ring” and I got lost in reflection; I flew with the “Asas de Papel” (Paper Wings), created by Marcelo Xavier and together we arrived “at the king’s party”. We have “crossed time as if we were passing through a door”.

These authors are the tip of the iceberg of Brazilian literature. Diving in those “Clear Waters” of the “Sítio do Pica-pau Amarelo” (in free translation “Yellow Woodpecker Farm) is also a dip in the works that came later: Machado de Assis, José de Alencar, Graciliano Ramos, Guimarães Rosa, Jorge Amado, João Cabral de Melo Neto, Joaquim Manuel de Macedo and Rubem Braga, among many others. Even stumbling on that “stone in the middle of the road”, left by Carlos Drummond de Andrade was decisive to me because I was able to experience that stumbling sometimes can lead us forward more quickly, and that’s how I found Ruth Rocha, Ana Maria Machado, Luís Fernando Verissimo, Ariano Suassuna, Carlos Eduardo Novaes and Millôr Fernandes. And, how not to love the “Velha Contrabandista” (the Old lady smuggler) by Stanislaw Ponte Preta, “Abobrinha” (the Pumpkin) by Drummond, or Fernando Sabino’s “Singular Eloquence” (“Eloquência Singular”?

But I won’t be the one to say what the Portuguese language represents. I call in question Clarice Lispector, Ukrainian writer, journalist, and translator, naturalized Brazilian, who passed away in 1977. In an interview, she confessed: “This is a declaration of love. I love the Portuguese language. It’s not easy. It’s not malleable. […] The Portuguese language is a real challenge for anyone who writes. Especially for those who write taking the first layer of superficiality from things and people. Sometimes it reacts to a more complicated thought. Sometimes it gets scared by the unpredictable in a sentence. I like to handle it – as I liked to handle a horse and lead it by the reins, sometimes slowly, sometimes at a gallop.” For sure, I couldn’t have ended May without validating this statement.

The bronze statue sitting on a bench on Copacabana beach, the neighborhood where the poet lived for many years and where he liked to sit in the late afternoons to listen to the noise of the sea and watch the sunset. Drummond left us in 1987 and the statue was unveiled in 2002. Photo by Carlos Varela- Flickr.

Carlos Drummond de Andrade, depicted on a Brazilian 50 cruzados novo banknote, 1990. Image from Wikimedia Commons.Image by Ecliptics, Wikimedia Commons, Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International.

Carlos Drummond de Andrade

What now, José?
The party’s over,
the light went off,
the people are gone,
the night’s gone colder,
what now, José?
what now,  you?
you, who are nameless,
who mocks others,
you, who makes verses,
who loves, protests?
What now, José?

You have no love,
have nothing to say,
have no tenderness, 
can’t drink anymore,
can’t smoke anymore,
let alone spit,
the night’s gone colder,
dawn hasn’t come,
the tram hasn’t come,
laughter hasn’t come,
nor utopia come
and it’s all over
and it’s all fled
and it’s all got moldy,
what now, José?

What now, José?
your kind word,
your glimpse of fever,
your greed and fasting,
your library,
your vein of gold,
your suit of glass,
your incoherence,
your hate — what now?

With the keys in your hand
you want to open the door,
there is no door;
you want to drown in the sea,
but the sea dried up,
you want to go home,
but home isn’t there.
José, what now?

If you’d scream,
if you’d groan,
if you’d play,
the Viennese waltz,
if you’d sleep,
if you’d get tired,
if you’d die…
But you don’t die,
you are tough, José!

Alone in the dark
like a beast in a lair,
with no pagan gods,
with no bare wall
to lean against,
with no black horse
that flees at a gallop,
you march on, José!
José, where to?



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A (very personal) analysis of ‘Bolero de Ravel em Nova Roma’

Bolero de Ravel em Nova Roma, a novel written by the Brazilian journalist and writer Geraldo Muanis, landed in my hands as a gift from the author, a friend with whom I had the happy opportunity of working together in my days as a journalist in Juiz de Fora, our hometown. Life soon led us on different paths. By luck or merit, our friendship had the power to not only overcome distance but also stand the test of time.

Many years went by until we would meet again for a coffee, a few months ago during a brief visit I made back home. We caught up, reassuring that our hug could still be tight and once again we said goodbye to one another, assuring that “friendship is a love that never dies”, as wisely spoken by the poet Mário Quintana. I waved goodbye to my friend and from that encounter, I kept the image of someone who neither time nor pain or achievements had the power to change. In addition, a little big treasure: two of his most recent novels.

Firstly, I thought that, given our friendship, there was no way for me to make an unbiased review of his books, as it should have been. But as soon as I finished half of ‘Bolero de Ravel em Nova Roma‘, my decision was already taken. YEAH, to hell the critics in charge, but at least I will make a (very personal) analysis of this narrative for my blog. Thus, this post was born, from an old friendship, a sweet re-encounter, a love that does not die, a book where Muanis borrows fiction to show reality or perhaps only to highlight the overlap of both.

The novel was released on December, 2017 - Cover designed by Jorge Arbach.

Any resemblance to reality is pure coincidence

Bolero de Ravel em Nova Roma (Ravel’s bolero in New Rome, in free translation) is a dynamic work that blurs the boundary between fiction and reality. It took me on a trip down memory lane, bringing flashbacks from the behind-the-scenes of journalism, besides it made me feel nostalgic about a time of fellowship in the newspaper and press offices that will never come back again. It also recalled in my mind facts buried by time as well as telling me about other ones unimaginable to me, in which it’s possible to recognize some characters and places, so fictional yet so real. Shuffling through the past only to find the present.

I’m not saying that this book is directed to a specific audience. Absolutely not! Everyone will find that it worth reading. It’s a well-written story that exposes the deep visions within the author and of his surroundings. Muanis shows himself critical, creative, and sensible, and also got me to laugh out loud with the “story” about Mickey (to know it, buy the book!). From his experience, he knows that life is made by moments, and living is seizing the magical ones that are gifted to us, while the world turns to the pace of the media and political interests which, to perpetuate power, support a vicious cycle similar to a hamster wheel.

A perverse version of Ravel’s symphony as he defines it and adds: “I hope the French composer Maurice Ravel does not turn in his grave due to this perverted version, in the form of evil, within a dissonant structure that never changes. The pace alternate like a political seesaw, for twenty, thirty, forty years, with always the same chanting, always the same lies and promises. And nothing changes.” According to Muanis, the sublime Bolero by Ravel with its recurring notes at the end takes us to ecstasy which regrettably does not happen in Nova Roma.

“In Nova Roma, the symphony acquires an unsettling and innocuous sameness, under the satanic and repetitive pace of embezzlement and corruption. Always with the same circus, but each day with less bread. And the future never comes,” he complains. It should be immediately pointed out that any reference to existing people or facts is certainly a product of your imagination.



Geraldo Muanis was born on July 18th, 1959, in Juiz de Fora, a city of about 500 thousand inhabitants located in South-East Brazil. He graduated from the Federal University of Juiz de Fora and has worked in various local press offices and newspapers such as Tribuna de Minas, Tribuna da Tarde, Panorama and JFHoje. He has already published several books, among them the novel ‘Sinfonia solitária em Dor-Maior’, ‘Se você souber, os olhos não mentem’, ‘Os últimos dias de Nova Roma’,’Teu corpo é uma estátua que gira no centro de minha mente’ and ‘Histórias REAIS que Nossas Babás não Contavam’, available on Amazon.


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