Portugal through the Eyes of a Spanish Journalist:

Lots of Spanish men and women are discovering today, with apparent surprise, the existence of a neighbor next door going by the name of Portugal, one quite poorer than us, yet capable enough to organize such an important event as an European Soccer Championship, to build several sports stadiums, all of them magnificent, to win over the millionaire Spanish soccer national team and even to position one of its politicians, José Manuel Durão Barroso, as president of EU's Commission.
That country, whose soccer national team yesterday played with and won over the Netherlands (a feat on its own) keeps being a great unknown for Spain and the Spanish. Why? Because, the Spanish, with preposterous self-sufficiency, never even tried to understand Portugal and the Portuguese. And yet reality is that we, Spanish, have a lot to learn from our Atlantic neighbors.
To learn and to regret the absence in Spain of that intellectual, business and political elite who speaks foreign languages, very close to United Kingdom and French culture, very little hispanofile, yet very tolerant, very open, very cosmopolitan. In Portugal, it would be unthinkable to elect as President of Republic someone who is not proficient in both English and French.
Most Portuguese make a point of speaking Spanish when talking to the Spanish, a civic attitude so hard to find among their Spanish counterparts. The President of the Republic, Jorge Sampaio, lives in his own house as does the Prime-Minister. No one tries to get advantage or gets addicted at their office. Antonio Vitorino, presently an European commissioner, resigned from his cabinet as minister of defense - a socialist, for sure - after the discovery of a 40 euro difference (30 US dollars) in his term's finance.
Weeks ago, prime-minister Zapatero went to Lisbon in his first blitz-visit to our neighbor country and did not stay for dinner, despite being invited by Barroso. A symptom! Seen from this perspective, no wonder about the ever-present distrust shared by the Portuguese political class against Spain, a distrust kept alive by the press. They have their reasons. All the building of that Open Portugal - an old desire of those who seek an Open Spain, capable of moving away from its old ways - sits on a basis of a lively freedom of speech defended by all and apparent in all TV debates - political, economical - and texts published by daily and weekly press (of great importance in our neighbor country).
To compare that press freedom, that civic value so dear to Portugal's political elites, to speak loud and clear and criticize whatever and whoever they think deserving with the fear of speaking of our rich people, our businessmen, all faithfully devoted to the law of silence and with the secrecy and commitment with political and economical powers that characterizes today's Spanish press - let alone TV - makes you want to cry. How can the Spanish underestimate Portugal and the Portuguese? That is, doubtless, one of the great mysteries of Universal History.
We thank Mr. Antonio Rocha Graça for the translation from Spanish to English of the following article written by Mr. Jesus Cacho in Spanish and published by "El Confidential" on July 1st, 2004 in Spain.


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    November 8, 2012