The bitter taste of “Expansion”

According to the World Bank of statistics and the United Nation, Portuguese is the fifth recognized most spoken language in the world[2]. While this sounds like a




massive achievement for such a small country, there is an enormous ethical and moral heaviness on the reasons behind it. After all, expansion used to be a direct synonym to slavery, human trafficking

[1] Image1 (Portuguese flag and Sub-saharan natives) edited by the author,  Free bank of Images.

[2] Corrêa d’Almeida, André, and Bahar Otcu-Grillman. 2013. “The Portuguese Language In The United Nations – Framing Policy Design”. International Journal Of The Sociology Of Language 2013 (224): 1-8. doi:10.1515/ijsl-2013-0053.

and discrimination[3]. Despite the Portuguese former fascist Antonio de Oliveira Salazar who affirmed that Portugal is a “country of gentle manners”, history was certainly not been gentle to all the slaves that contributed for the rise of a stereotyped, racist culture[4].

The True Story

After conquering the present territory known as Portugal, the Portuguese had the “Economical and social need to expand” mainly to prove their power to the Kingdom of Castela (actual Spain). Starting in the 13/14th centuries with the city of Ceuta, North of Africa, as the main source of “goods” such as Gold, Wheat and Labor (Slaves) and finishing with the discovery of Brazil in the 15th century, Portugal developed a crucial impact on the transatlantic slavery trades. Just


[3] Wise, Carl, and David Wheat. 2009. “Launching The Portuguese Slave Trade In Africa · African Laborers For A New Empire: Iberia, Slavery, And The Atlantic World · Lowcountry Digital History Initiative”. Ldhi.Library.Cofc.Edu.


between the 16th and 19th century, according to the Slave Voyages Statistic, Portugal enslaved and tortured 5.848.266 million Western and Easter African natives across the Atlantic Ocean, placing Portugal as the leader on the Slave trade market for nearly 4 centuries[5]. Portugal until about 40 years ago was still fighting for their colonies, and during the second world war, the colonies were many times used as an extent of the size of Portugal through the slogan “Portugal isn’t a small country”, many times used to prove its power and “importance” as a European country, revealing in fact that colonialism and all of its prejudices (“Slavery”, Oppression, discrimination etc…) were accept and sometimes almost romanticised until the end of the century.




[4] Braga, Rui. 2020. “Portugal, Colonialism And Racial Justice – From Denial To Reparation”. Opendemocracy.

[5] “Estimates”. 2020. Slavevoyages.Org.



How does this influence nowadays racist culture?

According to Professor Rob brooks from the University of Sydney, Race is behind many of the different ways that the human being used to categorize and separate individuals into different groups. “The very human tendency to identify with an “us” defines the broader “them” (Brooks, 2012)[6] and that “hate” works as a mirror effect of an inherent love towards our group. “antipathy toward members of other groups gains much of its traction through fear” (Brooks, 2012)[7]. But can we blame the Portuguese on this? According to the Academic Rui Braga, colonialism walks “hand in hand” with the idea of hierarchy




[6] Brooks, Rob. 2012. “The Origins Of Racism”. The Conversation.

[7] Brooks, Rob. 2012. “The Origins Of Racism”. The Conversation.

[8] Braga, Rui. 2020. “Portugal, Colonialism And Racial Justice – From Denial To Reparation”.




and “white supremacy”, in 1444 when the Portuguese first sailed to sub-Saharan Africa, Price Henry of Portugal described the tribes as “inhuman” referring that they lived like animals and seem to have no sense of rationality or understanding over the “basics thing in life” such as religion, a concept that may have influenced other societies[8].

It is impossible to determine whether there was a person, or country responsible for the “beginning” of racism however we can determine that Portugal by starting the Transatlantic Slavery[9] contributed for the evolution and development of the racist culture enrooted on our societies today.






[9] Vala, J., Lopes, D. and Lima, M. (2008), Black Immigrants in Portugal: Luso–Tropicalism and Prejudice. Journal of Social Issues, 64: 287-302. doi:10.1111/j.1540-4560.2008.00562.x








0Over the past few months of the year 2020, the world has been facing some of the biggest world demonstrations against the racist and elitist culture in developed countries. Starting with in the United States and once again quickly spreading all over the world, the movement Black Lives Matter[10], has taken control of our societies that seem now more than ever ready to fight for racial equality and against police brutality. Also, in Portugal, the movement was heard and followed, raising the international criticism over the Portuguese pioneer activity of expansion and subsequent transatlantic slavery trade. As a son of a Brazilian mother and an Israeli father, I’m quite familiar with some of the less positive aspects of a conservative and demographically old country, I have many times found myself searching for the origins of prejudice in our societies. When the opportunity to talk about this topic in a more casual context such as the one of a Blog, it was clear that to analyse this delicate topic I had to execute a deeper analysis on the history of the country and contextualize it to the evolution of the common European though. After the first researches, I found myself surprised with some of the statistics related with Portuguese “Discoveries period” and its influence in the global slave market. The literature used for this piece were mainly case studies and scientifical explanations behind the origins of the concept of race developed by academics in neuroscience and social sciences. Overall, I found this activity extremely fruitful for my academic writing and the development of my own “Writing voice”. This stage of an Undergraduate module, where students are asked to develop a final piece of work its important to have modules that contribute to free writing and the exploration of authors “writing style”[11]. The balance between historical facts, personal comment and critical thinking became clear along with the research, however, as a Portuguese citizen it became sometimes difficult to insinuate


[10] 2020. Black Lives Matter.

[11] “Seven Reasons Why Blogging Can Make You A Better Academic Writer”. 2020. Times Higher Education (THE).

blame over the country and with this, I believe that the final judgment may fall into a slightly partial opinion rather than a factual one.

Finally, I believe that the execution of this piece has contributed positively to my development both as Human and Portuguese citizen. I’ve learned that for many years Portugal as many countries have romanticized the entire slavery and colonial period of history turning it into a social taboo and submerged society and the educational system under a veil of ignorance. Quoting the honorable Albert Einstein “Learn from yesterday, live for today and hope for tomorrow”, and perhaps this must be our next step as a society, to learn from our past, live the present differently and hope for a better future where the race would stop to determine personality and capacity of a person.