I've always known where Portugal was. I just never knew what it was.
As a child, a baby-boomer growing up in America, I had a wooden jigsaw puzzle which was a map of the post-war world. Portugal was the long skinny European piece closest to the States. And it was purple.
Even when I first visited Europe in 1972 I really didn't know what Portugal was, other than an exporter of a wine called Mateus Rose. It got no better when I moved to the UK in the late 70s. It wasn't until I visited the Algarve in the 80s that I began to understand what Portugal was all about.
In my politically sheltered world I missed the struggle of the Portuguese people to throw off the shackles of the Salazar regime. The fact that they did so without massive civil unrest, and managed to cope with the social upheaval of the 'retornados' - exiles from the newly liberated African colonies - attests to the strength of character that is the Portuguese. That strength is exemplified on a daily basis as the natives are forced to deal with estrangeiros such as myself, and do so most obligingly.
I can not imagine life under a dictator, although the bureaucratic remnants that still linger give a bit of a hint. That the Portuguese people so successfully moved on from that legacy to become the welcoming hosts that they are today may be overlooked by many, as I did their struggle to become liberated.
The Portuguese today celebrate 35 years of freedom, freedom such as I have always taken for granted. I would just like to convey my respect for the people, their determination and their country.
Thank you for allowing me the freedom to share your country, your heritage, your lives. Although I can't explain it, I think I may just be beginning to understand your concept of 'saudade'.