Why is Portuguese National Day so important to the Macanese?
Dia de Portugal, de Camões e das Comunidades Portuguesas, officially Day of Portugal, Camões, and the Portuguese Communities, is the National Day of Portugal is celebrated annually on the 10th of June. It is a proud day celebrated by Portuguese people throughout the world and commemorates the death on 10 June 1580 of Luís de Camões, poet and national literary icon.
Camões wrote Os Lusíadas (usually translated as The Lusiads), Portugal’s national epic poem celebrating Portuguese history and great achievements of the 15th and 16th century. The poem published in 1572 focuses mainly on the 15th-century Portuguese explorations, starting with Vasco da Gama’s journey to India, that brought fame and fortune to the country. The poem, considered one of the finest and most important works in Portuguese literature, became a symbol for the great feats of the Portuguese Empire.
It is believed to have been partially written in Macau where he lived in a cave – not surprising as Macau had only been established as a Portuguese entrepot 5 years earlier in 1557. His home remains, preserved today as the Camões Garden and Grotto where a bust of the famous poet memorialises his time living there from 1562 to 1565.
Image of Camões writing Os Lusíadas in his Macau Grotto / cave.
Camões was an adventurer who lost one eye fighting in Ceuta (on the Moroccan Coast that is now part of Spain). He wrote the poem while traveling the world, and he survived many adventures including a shipwreck in Cochinchina (present-day Vietnam) near the mouth of the Mekong River on his return to Goa from Macau. According to popular folklore, Camões saved his epic poem by swimming with one arm, while keeping the other arm holding the manuscript above water.
Since his date of birth is unknown, his date of death on 10 June 1580, is celebrated as Portugal’s National Day as Camões became a symbol for Portugal nationalism. This is because his death coincided with the Portuguese succession crisis of 1580 that eventually resulted in Philip II of Spain claiming the Portuguese throne Portugal was then ruled by three generations of Spanish kings during the Iberian Union (1580–1640). On 1 December 1640, the country regained its independence once again by expelling the Spanish during the Portuguese Restoration War and making John of Bragança, King John IV of Portugal.
For the Macanese these events of the Portuguese succession have great meaning. The Leal Senado Building (Portuguese for Loyal Senate) was the seat of Portuguese Macau‘s government.
Leal Senado. Macau, Não Há Outra Mais Leal,( No one is as loyal)
The title was a reward for Macau’s loyalty to Portugal, refusing to recognise Spain’s sovereignty during the “Philippine Dynasty” and its 60 year occupation Portugal. The title Leal Senado was bestowed on Macau’s government in 1810 by Portugal’s Prince RegentJoão, who later became King John VI of Portugal. A plaque ordered by the king commemorating this can still be seen inside the entrance hall.