One of Lisbon’s main tourist attractions, the Padrão dos Descobrimentos – which exalts figures from the days of navigation and the start of Portuguese colonization – was vandalized last Sunday (8).
One side of the monument has been graffiti with misspelled English inscriptions which read: “Sailing blindly for money, mankind is drowning in a scarlet sea.”
The case was registered by the PSP (Public Security Police) on Sunday morning.
At the beginning of Monday afternoon (9), the inscriptions, about twenty meters long, had not yet been deleted. Most tourists, however, seemed to ignore the protest and normally follow the route of selfies and tours in the Belém area. According to Lusa news agency, there are still no known suspects.
In Portugal, the subject stirred social networks and revived the debate on the monument.
Despite being one of the country’s best-known postcards, the Padrão dos Descobrimentos is controversial, especially at a time when Portugal faces reflections on the legacy of its colonial past.
Installed facing the Tagus, the monument is a sort of stylized caravel that brings together 32 statues. According to the official site, the images represent “some of the protagonists of the overseas gesta and the culture of the time, navigators, cartographers, warriors, colonizers, evangelizers, chroniclers and artists, are represented with symbols that them individualize “.
Vasco da Gama, Pedro Álvares Cabral, Fernão de Magalhães and Luís de Camões are among those represented.
The Padrão dos Descobrimentos was built in 1940 initially as a temporary project. The work was an integral part of the so-called exhibition of the Portuguese world, considered by historians to be one of the landmarks of the nationalist propaganda of the dictator António Salazar.
In 1960, the monument was definitely rebuilt. In 1985 it was inaugurated as Centro Cultural das Descobertas.
With the growing debate over Portugal’s colonial past, the work has become more scrutinized. In February, Deputy Ascenso Simões, of the Socialist Party (currently in government), defended the destruction of Padrão dos Descobrimentos in an article published in the newspaper Público.
Other politicians and personalities, on the other hand, have come forward in defense of the monument and other depictions of the conquests of the so-called Portuguese Navigational Age.
Also at the start of the year, when Lisbon was debating the removal of the colonial-era coat of arms from the so-called Praça do Império, which stands opposite the Padrão dos Descobrimentos – even former presidents joined in. the discussion.
Aníbal Cavaco Silva (2006-2016) and António Ramalho Eanes (1976-1986) declared themselves publicly opposed to the removal of the coat of arms.
In June 2020, amid the worldwide wave of protests from the Black Lives Matter movement, a statue of Jesuit priest António Vieira (1608-1697) was also vandalized in Lisbon. The monument was bathed in red paint and had the word “decolonize” graffiti on its base.
António Vieira, one of the most influential Jesuits of the 17th century, lived in Brazil for several years working in the catechization of indigenous peoples. A current of historians attributes to it, along with the relative “defense” of African slavery, a certain condescension with the forced labor of Africans.