Fickle about Food

We’re fortunate to have a slew of supermarkets – Aldi, Auchan, Continente, Lidl, MiniPreço, Pingo Doce – conveniently located, within driving distance.

Except (possibly) for Auchan, we unfortunately lack the hipermercados … like El Corte Inglés, Carrefour, and E. LeClerc.

Why should that matter?

Because I’m fickle to the point of fetish about my foods. And not one of our area supermarkets – not even Auchan – carries the variety, brands, and even foods that I crave. Which means that going to the grocery is a day of shopping and playing supermarket sweepstakes.

Granted, I can get most of what I’m looking for at Auchan. Especially my wine. Heck, I’ve even purchased some clothes there! You must be careful about their prices, though. (The same J&J baby powder Auchan sells for €2.49 costs only €1.75 at my neighborhood grocery.) And the super-sized box doesn’t sell the zumo de toronja rosa (grapefruit juice) that I mix with my morning zumo de laranja (orange juice) and daily dose of pills.

I don’t particularly care for Auchan’s orange juice. Even the squeeze-it-yourself machine that, depending on the oranges, puts out too sweet or sour juice.

The OJ honor goes to Lidl, whose cold bottled orange juice (with just a little pulp) is by far my favorite. At Lidl – or Aldi – I can get orange juice I’ll drink, although we prefer the cuts of meat butchered by Lidl. Aldi’s delicious mini quiches in the bakery department aren’t sold anywhere else. But, like Lidl, their stock always changes, and you never can be certain that what you bought there last week will be there next. Aldi’s prices are higher on that good stuff on special that week … of which there’s much more of it at Lidl. Lidl also carries a rather decent cole slaw (ensaladilla americana) and – sometimes – even the better potato salad (ensaladilla de patatas) brands, of which they sell two. We’ve tried them both. One is slathered with gobs of mayonnaise or crème fraiche (we don’t care for that one), while the other isn’t covered with so much sloppy fat and contains small pickles, carrots, and other appropriate veggies.

A creature of habit, I know what I like … so, our weekly shopping trek usually takes us from Auchan > Lidl > Continente.  

Why Continente? Because, to us, the bakery items sold there are better. (At least they taste better to us.) Plus, Continente is the only store in Castelo Branco that sells real, honest-to-goodness grapefruit juice … produced or packaged by Andros. Elsewhere, you can find juices of other flavors – orange, apple, multi-fruit – with the Andros label, but not grapefruit. Sometimes, if we’re lucky, we’ll also be able to find Continente’s own brand of Bailey’s Irish Cream, a lip-smacking bargain at just €5.99 per bottle.

Alas, the only place where we can buy anything that comes close to Nathan’s, Hebrew National, Oscar-Meyer, Ball Park, or even Costco hot dogs is in Spain—at Mercadona. That’s why we purchased a “vacation” home (casa de ferias) on the Portuguese border with Spain at Badajoz. A side dish benefit is the number of restaurants in Spain that serve real, mouth-watering, hamburgers. There’s a chain of The Good Burger(s), along with Foster’s Hollywood … kind of a cross between Fuddruckers and Planet Hollywood.

After the car’s boot has stuffed itself on our groceries, it’s time to treat ourselves to lunch out. There are more than enough places around here with different cuisines that we like, although it usually boils down to either pizza or a family-style restaurant serving only a dozen or so Portuguese dishes … and we like at least half of them!

We bemoan the lack of good hamburger joints, frankfurter stands, even breakfast bistros like International House of Pancakes, Denny’s, Bob Evans, Waffle House, and Cracker Barrel. But we’re more than satisfied with the out-of-this-world pastries and breads here in Portugal that make for mighty fine breakfast fixings.

The problem with the restaurants around where we live – a district that occupies one-third of Portugal’s land space! – is that there just are too many or not enough. Feast or famine. If I had the money, I’d open a Tex-Mex, Thai, Japanese (more than sushi), or beefy steak house restaurant that serves London broil, prime ribs, and filet mignon. The thought of a real delicatessen makes my mouth water. Or even a takeout (“take away”) bagel emporium.

With all the Chinese shops on every corner, you’d think there’d be room for several Chinese restaurants here. One, at best, is mediocre. The other advertises “All you can eat” … which is not the same thing as a Chinese buffet! You order one dish at a time and, by the time your server comes to take away your third plate, you’re looked at disdainfully should you dare to order more. In Estremoz, near our second home (in Elvas), are some excellent restaurants where I enjoy eating even Portuguese food. Yummo: porco preto! Yet, tucked out of the way, on the outskirts of town, is a building that looks like it’s a lamp showroom. Instead, it houses the best Chinese buffet I have enjoyed in Portugal—down to General Tso’s chicken and hot-and-spicy whatevers.

Here, there´s rotating Indian food here that takes turns as the favorite. First, it was 7 Especiarias. It closed. Swagat, a combination of Indian and Nepalese—still is our favorite. Along came a family-owned and operated take away place which listed its menu for the following day on Facebook. People marvelled at the taste and heapings of the food carried away, as well as the gentility of the owners. Now, it appears that Taste of India is the flavor de jour, outshining Namaste (Vegeterian).

 

In terms of pizza parlors, we have more than enough … thank you. But what about Italian restaurants that serve more than pizza, spaghetti, and lasagna loaded with bechemel? Bring me some meatballs, at least!

Yeah, I know; I’ve heard it before: Some of you have no problem finding foods or places to eat. That’s what makes Lisbon, Porto, and Coimbra different in cuisine and culinary delights than Castelo Branco.

Here, we have our pastelerías. OMG! Portuguese sweets are second to none.

Bruce Joffe is publisher and creative director of Portugal Living Magazine, the “thoughtful magazine for people with Portugal on their minds.” You can read the current issue online and subscribe — FREE! — at https://portugallivingmagazine.com/our-current-issue. Prefer the feel of fingers flicking paper pages? High-quality, low-cost copies of Portugal Living Magazine are available through all Amazon sites.

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Beginning of birth pains …

Normally, I don’t like to talk about politics. Or politics and religion. Or politics, religion, and the “end times.”

Because I don’t consider myself to be a prophet. Nor a learned rabbi. Nor even a madman.

But, as John Pavlovitz would put it, there’s stuff that needs to be said.

The verse in the Bible about “For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again” (Matthew 24:21) has been sticking to my ribs.

How can it not be, with all the devastation and deceit we’re seeing daily—which some call the “new normal.” All of a sudden, it seems, plagues … the ability to use computers and artificial intelligence to control our lives … the anger of Mother Nature, increasingly hurling floods, draughts, seemingly endless heat waves, landslides, and unquenchable fires … and the barometer of international currency exchanges are conspiring with geopolitics to bring us war, famine, homelessness, helplessness, poverty, disease, prejudice, and hatred.

For me, these are signs of the times. The end times. Which, along with these dreadful gasps of a world spinning and sinning ingloriously away from salvation, ushers in an anti-Christ—the polar opposite and ultimate enemy of the Messiah in every way.

Let me stop here for a moment.

We are a people who have become numb and blind witnesses to what is occurring right before our very eyes. “Oh, people have always thought they were living in the end times,” theologians and people in the pews will nay-say. “We’ve lived through conditions like these before … and we will again,” they say.

But, have we? Really?

Never before have so many apocalyptic arcs aligned simultaneously.

Take the anti-Christ, for example.

I know who he is—and so do you. Not just deductively by the logic of our minds … but in our heart of hearts that truly senses such things and separates spirits from souls.

Even before they were spoken of in the Hebrew Testament’s Daniel all the way through the Greek Testament’s Book of Revelation, scholars agree that the Bible – whether or not you believe it – indicates a tumultuous series of events that will happen upon the anti-Christ’s arrival:

According to Christian tradition, he will reign terribly in the period prior to the Last Judgment.

The Christian conception of Antichrist was derived from Jewish traditions, particularly The Book of Daniel in the Hebrew Bible. Written about 167 BCE, it foretold the coming of a final persecutor who would “speak great words against the most High and wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws” (7:25).

The Antichrist will grow up in obscurity and begin his open “ministry” at age 30, gaining followers by giving signs and performing wonders.

Antichrist’s triumphant reign will last for three and a half years. Like Christ, Antichrist will come to Jerusalem, but, as the Messiah’s antithesis, he will be enthusiastically hailed and revered by the Jews. During his reign he will “rebuild the Temple and sit on the throne of Solomon” in a sacrilegious and hideous perversion of priesthood and just kingship. He will convert the rulers of the earth to his cause and persecute Christians.

Here’s how the Antichrist will unveil his true self as he rises to power:

He will exalt himself.

He will heed his inner voice above others.

He will be hostile toward the true God.

He will exalt human logic above faith.

He will prosper for a season and be loved.

He will think of himself as greater than God.

He will become increasingly lawless.

He will honor military power above faith.

He will love wealth.

He will hoard precious things.

He will become a man of war.

He will wage war on all people of faith.

He will force Israel to ratify a treaty.

He will divide Israel and Jerusalem.

Who do we know that acts that way? Who has been that abusive, acrimonious, adulterous? Who has said he could “commit murder on Fifth Avenue” and get away with it? Who has manipulated nations and leaders? Who has done everything possible to enrich himself from the spoils of others? Who has presided over a “deal” uniting Israel with Arab nations, while separating Jerusalem from the rest of Israel by moving his embassy? Who has withdrawn his nation from peace accords and climate agreements? Who has instigated riots, revolts, and – ultimately – murder? Who has taken and hidden top secret documents for his own objectives? Who has swindled his subjects out of money and means? Who speaks mumbo-jumbo from both sides of his mouth? Who has desecrated God in a publicity stunt, holding a Bible upside down in front of the National Cathedral? Who has leisurely spent more time on the golf course than in the course of his duties? Who has sworn on the Bible and taken an oath to uphold his duties and the laws of his land … but, then, deliberately ridiculed, mocked, and ruled to desecrate them? Who has been powerful enough to develop a cult of worshipful fans and followers that follow him faithfully, the truth be damned? Who has usurped the balance of powers such that he can continue to get away with murder, casting evil over all that believe in him?

You know who I’m talking about.

Will we let this devil without disguise get away with dividing good, well-meaning people who’ve lost control to contain him? Will we wait for a whole bunch of debatable apologetics — a rapture, four horsemen from the east, a Savior appearing in the sky?

Watch for the mark of the beast, my friends.

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Why I Dislike Supermarket Shopping in Portugal

Today is our food shopping day.

It’s one of my least favorite activities in Portugal.

Not because of the quality or the prices.

But, because:

We have to go to three supermarkets to get everything we want. (Castelo Branco has neither an Aldi, Carrefour, or Corte Inglés.) The bulk of our shopping is done at Auchan, which carries most — but not everything — we need. Next, it’s off to Lidl for their freshly bottled orange juice, freshly baked cheese sticks, and best cuts of meat. Finally, homeward bound, one of us runs into Continente for freshly bottled grapefruit juice–it’s the only store locally that carries it.

Shopping in the supermarkets is like an obstacle course. The aisles are narrow to begin with. People abandon their carts in the aisles, while they go off elsewhere looking for whatever. In other aisles, are clutches of two, three, and four people just standing there gossiping and blocking the aisles. If not customers, it’s employees who ignore the fact that their trolleys for stocking shelves leaves little room for passersby to do their shopping. Meanwhile, the stockers are oblivious, chatting with co-workers.

Am I the only one who’s bothered by people — customers — picking up fruits, vegetables, breads, and other foodstuffs … squeezing them, sniffing them, then putting them back?

Too many items are without prices. I picked up a super double pack of Dolce Gusto coffee capsules (they’re recyclable now!) because the price listed on the header said €14.99 for 64. With smaller size boxes of 16 capsules costing €5.50 or more, €14.99 is a pretty, darned good price! Except that it rings up, instead, as €17.93. In what I think is my very best Portuguese, I tell the cashier, “Mas a placa indica que o preço é €14.99.” Rather than make a fuss, I say that I don’t want it, thank you, and tell the cashier that after I’m checked out, I’ll deal with a supervisor. The people queued up behind me to pay are getting fidgety. “But you can’t come back into the store with the cart after you’ve paid,” explains the cashier, who is now getting frustrated herself. “Não se preocupe”, I assure her, “eu não vou.”

There’s never enough cashier lanes open to serve all the customers. How many times have I wiggled my way to a line, only to see the green “Aberto” light turn red “Fechado” just as I’m ready to unload. And even if everything else has gone well, I still have to deal with those cantankerous credit/debit card machines. Sometimes, they work perfectly. Other times, whether I swipe, insert, or magically wave my card, the “reader” just won’t cooperate. The cashier asks my permission, “Com licença,” to try it herself. It’s still won’t work. So, she calls over a manager, explains the situation, and hands my card and the wad of receipt papers to her. “Amazing!” I say to myself, as she hands me another receipt to sign. Reminding myself never to use that cashier lane again, I wonder how many forests have been cut down to merit all that paper.

I wait for my shopping companion in front of the store. He’s the cook in our family and always takes much longer than me to make sure that he’s got everything detailed minutely on his telephone app. Asking him to watch my cart (please), I march back inside, heading to the end cap of the coffee and tea aisle where I had found my great bargain on Dolce Gusto Sical. Aha! Just as I thought: the only sign indicating the price is hanging from the top of the top shelf, clearing showing the cost as €14.99. I politely interrupt two employees discussing whatever, and ask one to accompany me to confirm the price. The scans my Sical and €17.93 digitally appears on the screen. Then she scans other varieties on different shelves, which come up as €14.99. She tells me that “these” boxes of coffee are €14.99, but those — including my Sical — are €17.93. “But how is anyone supposed to know that?” I respond anxiously and with a bit of consternation. She shrugs her shoulder and smiles at me. Remembering all the items I had wanted to purchase until I asked and found out the prices (no, they weren’t marked), I contemplate going to the management section and making a stink. But I’m too annoyed at the moment and know that I would trip all over my limited Portuguese if I did–especially if asked a question. Knowing other opportunities would arise where I could vent my frustration, I turn and walk towards the exit. Nodding to nobody, I realized how the patience of the Portuguese was beginning to take hold of me.

Unloading the cart outside in the parking lot, I curse silently and wish I had a camera with me. Cars are parked diagonally in vertical spaces–one is even taking up three spots by parking horizontally. And several others are sticking out because they haven’t been pulled all the way in to the spots. I take all this in as cars careen around the lot at near highway speeds.

Do you recognize the man in this picture? I bet I could learn a lot about supermarket shopping and patience from him!

May be an image of 3 people, food and indoor

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Living on a Portuguese Income

Yesterday — amid all the talking faces and social media gabbing about rising inflation, prices going up, the potential for recession, homeless shelters and food pantries being used more often by more people, the adjustments and do-withouts even the employed are forced to make, higher costs and the problems we’ll all soon be facing — I stopped to listen to my inner voice, that soul or conscience that asks me to consider not how we would be affected by all these dire predictions … but what impact they would actually have on others.

Specifically, the Portuguese.

You and I are privileged. We’ve retired on a comfortable enough income, public and/or private pensions, to not be that affected by economic downturns and political pressures. Sure, maybe we’ll put off that cruise and faraway vacation, or postpone the purchase of a new car. For many or most of us, we’re living on money earned remotely or Social Security payments from a lifetime of working abroad.

Come what may, our standard(s) of living won’t change that much.

But what about our Portuguese friends and neighbors?

The widow next door to us is somewhere between 90 and 100. She has only three teeth left, so understanding her speech is difficult beyond comprehending the language we’re learning. A couple of times, we’ve knocked on her door to bring her some homemade food–meals or desserts. She’s very stubborn, refusing our offerings by saying her “children” bring her food each week. Her door slightly ajar, I’ve followed my nose and peeked in. It’s obvious that mold and mildew live there with her. She has neither air conditioning in the summer nor heating in the winter–at least not according to our standards. Regardless of the temperature outside, her house is cold and barren. No kitchen cabinets, just a shelf or two. Old, worn-out furniture. mismatched and misplaced … wherever. Her husband died more than 20 years ago and she’s been living on a state pension (“social security”) of €250 per month. Even though her daughters bring her food, at least once a week she trundles to and from the mini-market several blocks away with her walker. We can shrug off that extra €15 euros we’re spending now on what’s in our grocery carts from our weekly excursions to Auchan, Continente, Aldi, Pingo Doce, or Intermarché. But she can’t. What does she do? She does without, putting on extra layers and several threadbare blankets over the sagging mattress of her cot-like bed set in the middle of her kitchen, opposite the rusty front door. She may be poor, but her pride is intact and her survival instincts are strong.

We live in the suburbs of a major city, a comfortable if not upscale vila of mixed housing–most are row houses of all shapes and sizes, although there’s plenty of upscale properties with huge houses and landscaped gardens behind magnificent gates (not fences) around the town. We moved here from a smaller village (aldea) of about 500 people, down from 1,200 or more during its glory days. Today, one corner market, two cafés, and a beautician who visits twice each week comprise its commercial corps. Except for three tremendous but decaying manor homes, still grand and stately, all of the other dwellings are attached. No, that’s not quite right: around the village’s outskirts are a number of quintas inhabited by daily commuters who work for the government (elsewhere) and dirt-poor people.

Friends of ours live on one of those quintas, shared with a zoo-full of beloved pets: dogs, cats, chickens, guinea pigs, and geese that bark and bite. He’s a construction manager (whatever that means) who’s held a number of positions over the years. I have no idea how much he makes, but I do know that she’s worked for the government more than 20 years and still earns little more than the average minimum wage. How are they getting by with the increased costs of … everything, including their wages?

It’s obvious there’s an increasing use of plastic — credit cards — with people borrowing now and paying later for many of their needs. I suppose those erstwhile professionals proficient in digital, artificial intelligence, and cloud-based solutions are Portugal’s middle-class. Others, who’ve inherited property from their families play the pyramid game by holding on and selling high.

Another Portuguese friend owns a business that sells electrodomésticos: refrigerators and ranges, washers and dryers, but mainly aircon and solar solutions to everyday customers and large installations. He’s got a great location right on the corner of one of the city’s primary streets, a loyal and growing clientele, and a handful of technicians working for him. Yet, in addition to not being able to escape “the busiess” 24/7, he’s got a huge nut to crack between rent, salaries, inventory, utilities, taxes, and an accountant responsible for assessing and reporting the complexities of his financial considerations.

How do these people earning less than my meager monthly Social Security payments afford to drive new cars, with minimum sticker prices of €25,000. Some of the same vehicles and models cost 150% or more here over their prices in other countries.

One thing the Portuguese have, especially those living in the campo, that we don’t are quintas that have been in their families for ages, where they work the land daily and reap its produce, sharing baskets full with others.

The Portuguese also patronize places different than we do because they know where to get the best buys. If only we’d ask them, they’d be likely to help … but it means that we must take our homework more seriously, practicing Portuguese.

Would you believe that we know “foreigners” (expats, immigrants, or whatever) who have lived here for ten to twenty years and still can’t understand the language? Why should they? They live in expat ghettos surrounded by others much like them, where Portuguese isn’t spoken except by those serving or selling to them.

Now that Portugal is firmly on the map as one of the best places to be if you’re looking to retire with a good quality of life at prices more affordable and politics more amenable than the places we’ve come from, (almost) everyone wants to live in Lisbon, Porto, Algarve, or the Silver Coast.

But it’s a small country with not enough properties to go around–especially in those areas.

So, locals are being forced out of their homes, unable to afford even their maintenance. Now, there’s a bidding war for the best located properties, no matter their condition, as many will be torn down and rebuilt. Is that what we refer to as “regentrification?” Such a fancy word for a shabby deal. Maybe replacing faulty with functional would be better …

Taxes are high here, starting with “sales” tax, which is 23%. The government takes a big bite of your pay, too, with some people paying as much as 50% of their income in payroll taxes. Then, there’s Social Security, which is next-to-impossible to figure out without the services of a knowledgeable and competent accountant.

Residents in Portugal for tax purposes — us! — are taxed on our worldwide income at progressive rates varying from 14.5% (€0-€7,112) to 48% (> €80,882) for 2021. That doesn’t include Social Security, for which we’re also responsible when working. In 2021, an additional “solidarity rate,” which varies between 2.5% and 5%, applies to taxpayers with a taxable income exceeding EUR 80,000. LOL!

Social security contributions are 23.75% of gross pay from employers and a further 11% from employees. Portugal does, however, have agreements with some other countries regarding social security ‘totalization,’ including with the United States. In the case of the US, employees of American companies sent to work in Portugal for less than five years only have to pay US social security. Those working “remotely,” however are deemed independent contractors and must pay both their income taxes and social security contributions.

That’s a lot of taxes! But the money is spent to provide free health care and education, and lower prescription drug costs (among other essential expenses) to residents.

The minimum wage in Portugal is regularly adjusted, and currently is €8400 per year. The monthly level varies because many employees in Portugal receive 14 paychecks each year (the 12 months of the year, a holiday payment in June, and a Christmas payment in December), in which case the minimum is €600 (approx. £540, $710) per payment. For employees paid 12 times a year, the minimum is €700 (approx. £630; $830) per payment. There is no mandatory custom for wage growth or bonuses. 

Portugal has the sixth lowest average gross yearly salary among Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) states. That comes to about 28,410 dollars per year (24,557 euros). A far cry from the United States, which leads with 69,392 dollars per year (59,981 euros), or neighboring Spain, with its 39,922 dollars per year (34,508 euros).

Nonetheless, if you’re committed to living frugally, you can live for less in Portugal. Many locals and retirees get by on less than 750 Euros a month. A couple can live in one of Portugal’s smaller or interior cities for about $1,700 a month.

Of course, there are some who make much more than the “average,” as shown here:

The top 10 careers with the highest salaries in Portugal:

RankingJobGross Annual Salary in Portugal
1General Manager in the Health Sector120,000 – 150,000 euros
2Commercial Director100,000-150,000 euros
3Chief Information Officer (CIO)110,000-140,000 euros
4Shared Service Centre Director95,000 – 120,000 euros
5E-commerce Manager50,000 – 75,000 euros
6Cyber security Specialist45,000 – 60,000 euros
7Big Data Specialist35,000 – 50,000 euros
8Software Engineer+ 45,000 euros
9Digital Marketer35,000 – 45,000 euros
10Machine Learning Specialist+40,000 euros
Chart: Manpower

But let’s get real. Not many make that kind of money in Portugal.

Average wages in Lisbon are considerably higher than the official minimum salary. The average salary in Lisbon is around 1050 euros, the highest in Portugal.

The Construction Union of Portugal (SCP) has stated that “there is no shortage of manpower” in the construction sector, but rather a lack good salaries. “There is no shortage of manpower; people are not choosing to work in the sector because they can earn three or four times as much abroad,” said the organization’s president, Albano Ribeiro.

According to Ribeiro, in the last six years, 300,000 workers have left the sector, and 90,000 are currently needed to carry out public and private works in Portugal.

The Portuguese leaving Portugal for better opportunities are being “replaced” by people like us. We’re necessary to the country’s economic welfare and, by and large, are welcomed.

That’s one of the reasons we didn’t move to Spain — where we’ve had a vacation bolt for 15 years — instead of Portugal. All Schengen countries agree to use the same visa application for would-be immigrants and residents. But there are major differences in their interpretation.

For instance, the European Union and Schengen may agree that all visa applicants be self-sufficient, able to support themselves and their dependents.

In Spain, income requirements for a Non Lucrative Visa for people from the USA and UK are $30,453/€25,816 annually, plus $7,613/€6,454 for each additional family member. These minimum income requirements covert to roughly $2,550 per month for a single person or $3,150 for a couple. (An additional €537.84 per month is required for each and every dependent family member.) Most of the Spanish people we know outside the big cities don’t make anywhere near those amounts. In addition, Spain residency applicants cannot have loans or mortgages outstanding in the United States. We didn’t feel welcomed by Spain.

For residency in Portugal, however, you must show income or pensions amounting to 12 months at the minimum wage: €8,460 for the first adult; €4,320 for a second or more adults; €2,538 per child. Couples must document income of €12,780. A couple with two children require €17,856. You must provide 6-months of bank statements. There are no restrictions on whether you work — in Portugal or remotely — if you have or can find a job. Portugal, despite its bureaucracy, made us feel very welcomed by these numbers alone.

Quite a big difference between the two countries, huh?

Sometimes, less is more!

Partying with the Portuguese

Imagine it’s the 4th of July, Mardi Gras, or New Year’s Eve … only bigger. Because the festivities continue day after day–typically for four days or so.

There’s food and drink, people dancing in the streets. Musicians and merriment. DJ disco. Friends and family who now live elsewhere returning to their homeland and birthplaces to celebrate with drink, games of chance, special lottery tickets and prizes. Often, even a Mass (or two). Albeit in the village’s streets, backyards, taverns, cafés, and church yards, it’s loud, begins late (10:00 PM), and continues through the hours most people otherwise are sleeping soundly..

What are they celebrating?

Perhaps they’re paying homage to a particular saint. Remembering a day from their particular history. Or momentarily singing the praises of Portuguese life.

It’s that time of the year when we see — and hear — a different side of our Portuguese neighbors … as saudade takes a break in the back seat, giving way to saúde.

No matter how small the village — our little Lousa (not Lousã) has fewer than 500 residents — these summer festivals are big events. So big, that the population surges four-fold with people staying with relatives, at their family’s original dwellings despite their delipidated condition, at lodging facilities, even commuting between nearby villages not hosting their shindigs at the moment. It’s nearly impossible to find a parking spot, as vehicles of all vintages, shapes, and sizes double (and triple) park … or are simply left wherever.

Broken beer bottles, plastic cups, and cigarette butts awaken the mornings after to the garish light of another day too hot to deal with overflowing trash bins, as streets become sticky–drunk by grit, gristle, grease, and grime fried by the day’s scorching sun.

Yet these annual festivities are good for the soul and give evidence of a spirit eager to be freed. While it may seem as though we’ve wandered into the midst of a circus or carnival, other days and times are set aside for such events.

Pause …

Of course, people need time and space to recuperate and regain their wits about them; so late mornings and afternoons are set aside for life’s more mundane tasks. Including sleep. Half-hearted attempts are made to clean up the public areas littered beyond the local bins’ capacity. But much of the time is traditionally spent with family.

In some Portuguese towns and villages — including ours! — the highlight of the doings is saved for near the end: running of the bull(s), an event that involves people running in front of a bull (or small group of bulls) that have been set loose on sectioned-off streets.

Ours is that sectioned off street in Vila Boim, our home in the Alentejo, as the usually dormant bull ring is located at the end of our road.

I guess, like most everyone else on our street, we will need to move our cars.

And stay inside, watching the wild frenzy through our windows.

Portugal has a vibrant bullfighting tradition, but killing a bull is deemed tantamount to murder by some and was outlawed in 1928. The vast majority of Portugal’s population doesn’t watch, go to, or support bull fights. But bull runs are something else entirely. Especially in Sabugal and Terceira in the Azores Islands. I’m told that in Portugal, after the running, the bulls aren’t killed but get a few weeks off because of their bravery. Maybe that’s pure … errrr … bullsh*t, said to appease this American’s loathing of animal abuse.

“It’s not a show! It’s life, it’s partying, it’s adrenaline, it’s conviviality, they are roots that hold us tight to the land that saw us born and to which we return,” insists President Victor Proenca of the Municipality of Sabugal. “The gallantry of the riders, the courage of those who face the ‘proof bull,’ the public’s expectations with each new bull that comes out, the scoundrel who calls to the calf, the nostalgia of the party that ends in the unwinding… this is Capeia, land of passions, strong emotions and feelings that are repeated year after year.”

Bull runs are also the highlight of summer street festivals held in villages throughout Terceira, where the island is big on its bulls since they literally defended the Portuguese island from a Spanish invasion during the 16th century. When King Philip sent the Pedro Valdes to Terceira for a diplomatic takeover, its crew was met by 600 angry bulls and subsequently wiped out.

Here’s how writer Robin Esrock describes the bull running experience:

“For a moment, the huge Bull stops to weigh its options. There are people everywhere, taunting him, laughing, showing no respect whatsoever. There are rock walls, and wooden barricades, and more people on those walls and barricades, exuding a cacophony of celebration. Around the Bull’s neck is a thick rope, held many yards back to several men dressed in white. They’re supposed to condition his movement, but the Bull knows, and they know, it’s more of a nuisance than anything else. A nuisance like the young men who dare to step forward, threaten him with movement from jackets or blankets or hypnotically twirling red umbrellas. The impetuousness! To dare challenge such a beast, so strong and muscled that cows shudder their udders at the sight of him. A young man crosses the imaginary line and the Bull springs forward, horns primed, an unstoppable tank of nature. But the man sidesteps, deftly turning in a circle. Although the Bull is big and fast, it does not have power steering. They play this dangerous game, closely bonded, man and beast, until the man skips away safely to the applause of the crowd. The Bull pauses. He has choices. Should he charge into the crowd to send everyone scattering? Should he trample the man holding a notebook, with his baseball T-shirt and distinctly un-Portuguese appearance? Should he make an unexpected leap over a low wall where many others stand in mistaken safety? Should he turn back down the street toward the pen from which he came? The Bull turns its thick neck toward me, and I am frozen stiff. Reflected in the black orbs of its eyes, I see him weighing his options.”

Back in Vila Boim, as the annual festival wends its way to the end, one final event is scheduled. It’s the closing church service.

I contemplate the irony of bulls running down my street followed by a holy Mass–a communion commemorating the martyred body and blood of their Savior, Christ Jesus.

The next national holiday is the Assumption of Mary, marking the the Virgin Mary’s (supposed) bodily ascent to heaven at the end of her life. Assumption celebrations are accompanied by festivals, colorful street processions, fireworks, and pageantry. “Feasts” aren’t actually required, yet there is a longstanding tradition of blessing the summer harvest.

In 2022, Mary’s assumption is famously celebrated on 15 August.

Bruce Joffe is the publisher and creative director of Portugal Living Magazine, the magazine for people everywhere with Portugal on their minds. Read our current issue and subscribe — FREE of charge — to future ones at: https://portugallivingmagazine.com/our-current-issue

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Bully for Bureaucracy

We all have our stories to pass to posterity about how we’ve suffered because of bureaucrats and the systemic bureaucracy of Portugal (and Spain).

We’re still dangling through ours with the Autoridade Tributária e Aduaneira—aka The Tax Man (IRS), an arm of Finanças (Portugal’s financial system).

For us, nothing really had changed much when filing last year’s income declaration this year. Except for one important item: We’d sold our house and bought another.

Our new Portuguese tax accountant sort of assured us that there shouldn’t be a problem, as we handed over about 100 pages of official forms documenting what we’d paid and what we’d spent on the property.

Sort of assured us?

Let’s put it this way: She didn’t have definitive answers for what was and wasn’t deductible from our house repairs and improvements. “Not to worry,” she began while rifling through and assorting our documents. “A friend of the firm will help us decide which box to check.” Which box to check? “Not to worry. I will see him today or tomorrow,” she nodded. “But, not to worry. It doesn’t really matter, since you purchased another house — a new primary residence — between the two years before your sale and two years after it.”

Honestly, we weren’t very assured when we left her office on 18 April—she simply didn’t inspire confidence. “When will our taxes be ready?” I asked, as she escorted us to the door. “Two weeks, I imagine … but, no matter, because the taxes cannot be accepted by Finanças before June. Not to worry.”

When we met with her again to pick up our taxes, they still weren’t ready. She had yet to speak with the friend of the firm (who we later learned worked for Finanças), so she still didn’t know which box to check on the form.

I should have suspected that something was amiss, as she hadn’t replied to my initial four emails and two telephone calls to schedule an appointment. I had copied her manager on all our correspondence, and assumed he knew that I was getting impatient. Not just to schedule an appointment … but for the courtesy of a response. Am I the only one who believes that waiting two weeks to respond is unprofessional (at best) and negligent (at worst)—no matter what country we’re talking about? Portugal is no exception. At long last, we were scheduled to meet with her on Wednesday of the following week.

In the meantime—sometime between 18 April and 22 June—we had done some research with Google to learn what could be deducted from the sales price of the house to avoid any heavily-taxed capital gains. Commission paid to the property agency? Yes. The four inverter aircon units we had purchased including installation? No. The new kitchen cabinets upstairs and down? Yes. The pellet stove we purchased with installation? No. The electrical work we had contracted for to upgrade the wiring throughout the house to prevent overheating (and circuit breakers flipping)? Yes. The new refrigerators, ranges, sinks, toilets, and commodes? No. The four windows (with screens) and two doors that replaced single-pane glass ones surrounded by rusty metal frames? Yes. The big bar we bought for our gathering room which required two men and two days to assemble? No.

Bottom line: If it could be moved out of the house and taken elsewhere, it wasn’t deductible. If it was fixed to the house, it usually was. Goodbye nearly €8,000 worth of what we thought were irrefutable deductions.

Now you know why when looking at homes to buy (or rent) in Portugal, website photos may show a furnished and equipped property. But once you sign on the line, all that’s left there when you move in are a few bare light bulbs hanging from electrical cords.

Although the accountant was “pretty sure” which box to check on our return, she still wasn’t certain. The “friend of the firm at Finanças” hadn’t yet consulted with her. But “no problem,” our accountant promised. “If there is a mistake, Finanças will advise us.”

On 4 July (not a holiday in Portugal), our taxes were filed.

Then came a period of electronic fun and games with Finanças:

  • On 7 July at 07:56 AM, I was informed that my tax declaration had been received and considered “certa” (correct);
  • On 7 July at 07:48 PM, I was further informed that my tax declaration had been selected for analysis (“because of the expenses involved in the sale of the house,” presumed our accountant);
  • On 8 July at 15:58 PM, I was notified that “The expenses sent are not legible, but they do not seem to add up to the total mentioned in the declaration.” New, legible copies had to be delivered to Finanças;
  • On 11 July at 02:14PM, our relationship entered a new phrase as the email salutations now read “Caro/a contribuinte” (dear taxpayer), followed by my full name and fiscal number. The email message was a word-for-word repetition of the one received on 08/07 at 15:58 PM;
  • On 11 July at 07:21 AM, I received another email informing me that my declaration had been received and that it was correct;
  • On 12 July at 08:15 AM, however, I was told that, regarding the notification sent on 11/07/22, I should be aware that, once the discrepancy found in the declaration had been corrected, “the process that gave rise to it has ended”;
  • On 15 July at 07:21 AM, I was informed that the declaration received the day before was considered correct;
  • On 15 July at 08:13, nonetheless, I was again told that “the discrepancy found in the declaration” had yet to be corrected;
  • On 15 July at 12:39 AM, I was notified that, “following the procedure for the settlement of the IRS statements, for the year 2021, your income statement was selected for analysis, so you will soon be sent, via CTT, a notification informing you of the situation(s) to be verified by the Tax and Customs Authority services, as well as the procedures to be adopted with a view to resolving the same. It is further informed that the referred situation is, since this date, already perfectly identified in your personal area of the Portal das Finanças website.” Whatever in the world that meant!

I tried contacting our accountant … but you know how that goes.

To further complicate matters, since I am married and filing jointly, my lawfully wedded spouse also received a personalized copy of each message. Although my own tax status in Portugal for 2021 may be resolved through the Finanças looking glass portal, his isn’t.

See, while I am retired and my Social Security payments and pension income aren’t taxed in Portugal because we have Non-Habitual Residency (NHR) status which exempts me from being taxed here on that income – and there’s a treaty in place between Portugal and the USA precluding double taxation – he continues to work remotely as an independent contractor for his former employer in the USA. Which means that he must pay both Social Security and income tax to Portugal.

Naturally, nothing is simple here.

He earns the same amount every month and sends his pay stubs promptly to another accountant, who files the Portuguese paperwork and tells him how much to submit to the proper authority in a timely manner.

Which he did/does.

Although each month’s earnings may be the same in US dollars, the amount in Portugal differs according to the (then current) exchange rates for euros. So, of course, the annual earnings shown on his 1099-MISC differ from the amount he’s already paid taxes on based upon euros and shown in his fiscal records.

It’s what Portugal’s IRS and Finanças consider a “discrepancy.”

Guess what that means in terms of us?

Bruce Joffe is publisher and creative director of Portugal Living Magazine. You are invited to read our current and past issues on this page of its website. For those who prefer the feel of paper pages, paperback editions of the magazine are available at all Amazon sites.

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Judicial Review

Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. From its Galveston, Texas, origin in 1865, the observance of June 19th as the African American Emancipation Day has spread across the United States and beyond.

Juneteenth commemorates African American freedom and emphasizes education and achievement. It is a day, a week, and in some areas, a month marked with celebrations, guest speakers, picnics and family gatherings. It is a time for reflection and rejoicing, a time for assessment, self-improvement, and for planning the future. Its growing popularity signifies a level of maturity and dignity in America long overdue. In cities across the country, people of all races, nationalities and religions are joining hands to truthfully acknowledge a period in our history that shaped and continues to influence our society.

Yet it must also be a time of self-reflection and social responsibility.

Remember the story in the Book of Exodus? Time and again, despite disasters and disease, Pharaoh refused to “let my people go!” The Israelites were seeking more than liberty and freedom; they were clamoring for freedom from bondage.

In the wake of the nationwide protests against police brutality in 2020, the push for federal recognition of Juneteenth gained new momentum, and Congress quickly pushed through legislation in. On June 17, 2021, President Biden signed the bill into law, making Juneteenth the 11th holiday recognized by the federal government.

While celebrations in 2020 and 2021 were largely subdued by fear of contagion of the coronavirus pandemic, this year Juneteenth was observed by nationwide celebrations.

Could we do any less to honor the lives of George Floyd, Rodney King, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Freddie Gray, Sandra Bland, Philandro Castle, and others? All African Americans offed by white police officers. Let’s not forget others, like Trayvon Martin, murdered by self-appointed racist vigilantes. Each was a human whose life was taken prematurely and unjustly by powerful foes and opportunists.

But, behind the scenes, a group of powerful people plotted to keep black and brown skinned people — mainly the poor and the marginalized in conservative, duplicitous states — the freedom from bondage they had suffered and worked so hard to achieve.

While Americans of color celebrated Juneteenth, the US Supreme Court handed down a bevy of decisions that will affect Americans across the country. But mostly black and brown Americans who, historically, have been the subjects of hatred, prejudice, social injustice, and inequality because certain people need to feel superior and deny the rights promised to all U.S. citizens by the country’s Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

That’s never been the case for the poor and the marginalized, no matter how indigent they may be, as declared by the “justices” of the Supreme Court.

Recent rulings from the nation’s highest court range from topics such as gun rights to Miranda rights. The most notable ruling overturned Roe v. Wade and upended constitutional protections on abortion. In a 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court, struck down the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that federally protected a woman’s right to have an abortion. The court’s ruling leaves abortion rights to be determined at the state level. Several GOP-led states moved immediately to enact statewide bans.

Guess which states and their demographics?

“Pro-life politics in the United States used to be mostly posturing and positioning, the taking of extreme rhetorical positions at no real-world cost,” writes David Frum in The Atlantic. “Republicans in red states could enact bills that burdened women who sought abortions, knowing that many voters shrugged off these statutes and counted on the courts to protect women’s rights. Now the highest court has abdicated its protective role, and those voters will have to either submit to their legislature’s burdens or replace the legislators.”

Comparing the history, sociology, and politics of Roe v. Wade to Prohibition in this country, Frum reflects that, “many of the men and women poised to cast Republican ballots in 2022 and 2024 to protest inflation and COVID-19 school closures may be surprised to discover that anti-abortion laws they had assumed were intended only to prohibit others also apply to them. They may be surprised to discover that they could unwittingly put out of business in vitro–fertilization clinics, because in vitro fertilization can involve intentionally destroying fertilized embryos. They may be surprised to discover that a miscarriage can lead to a police investigation. They may be surprised that their employer could face retaliation from lawmakers if it covers the costs of traveling out of state for an abortion. The concept of fetal personhood could, if made axiomatic, impose all kinds of government-enforced limits and restrictions on pregnant women.”

Frum’s conclusions, however, apply to rich, white, mainly Republican women.

I’m talking about the discrimination, harm, and deaths that surely will be borne by others. Because, at the same time people were commemorating Juneteenth, the US Supreme Court was adding insult to injury for them …

By hook or by crook, on TV and in the movies, almost all Americans have heard of the Miranda Rule. The Supreme Court now ruled that suspects may not sue officers who fail to inform them of their right to remain silent or to have a lawyer present. That means the failure to administer the warning will not expose a law enforcement officer to potential damages in a civil lawsuit. It will not affect, however, the exclusion of such evidence at a criminal trial.

Given the preponderance of media coverage focused on Roe v. Wade, you needed to Google this and other rulings made by SCOTUS before adjourning.

The Supreme Court also struck down a New York gun law enacted more than a century ago that placed restrictions on carrying a concealed handgun outside the home. Believe it or not, the Second Amendment refers to state militias–no longer active because we now have the National Guard, US Army, Navy, Marines, Airforce, and Coast Guard. The New York law in question was written when every male citizen was subject to being called into a militia and required to provide his own firearms, which otherwise must be kept inside his home. Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in his 6-3 majority opinion that the Constitution protects the right to carry a gun outside the home. His opinion changes the framework that lower courts will use going forward as they analyze other gun restrictions, such as weapons bans in California or the gun safety bill President Joe Biden signed into law after approval by both political parties and both houses of Congress.

Republican leaders of the North Carolina legislature could step in to defend the state’s voter ID law, even though the state’s attorney general, a Democrat, is already doing so, decreed the Supreme Court. The opinion will make it easier for other state officials to intervene (in some instances) in lawsuits when the state government is divided.

The Supreme Court also said that Maine cannot exclude religious schools from a tuition assistance program that allows parents to use vouchers to send their children either to public or private schools. The 6-3 ruling is the latest move by the conservative court to expand religious rights and bring more religion into public life, a trend bolstered by the addition to the bench of three of former President Donald Trump‘s nominees.

Remember: Current U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland was denied even a hearing by Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans when nominated to the bench by Barack Obama. Yet two U.S. presidents who lost the popular vote in recent elections — Donald Trump and George W. Bush — were responsible for loading the Court with four of its nine justices.

With their lifetime “super majority” on the bench , we now welcome to their club the Supreme Court of the United States and its (inj)ustice system.

Except for the utterly transparent and crystal clear plotting of former president Donald Trump exposed in minute detail by the Select Committee, the new normal has abdicated reality in favor of lies and deception spread by the executive and legislative branches of government.

It’s time to include the Supreme Court in their political posturing and pressure campaigns.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is probably rolling over in her grave.

Bruce Joffe is publisher and creative director of Portugal Living Magazine. You are invited to read our current and past issues on this page of its website. For those who prefer the feel of paper pages, paperback editions of the magazine are available at all Amazon sites.

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Postscripts to Paradise:

Rise of the Radical Right in Iberia

Even before the international pandemic which set people against governments and governments against people, 2019 proved to be a pivotal year of critical political incidents and innuendo.

“On the American continent, it seemed easy to understand (Jair) Bolsonaro and (Donald) Trump’s electoral success,” postulated Luís Gouveia Junior in a 5 March 2021 editorial published by DemocraciaAbierta, a global platform that publishes Spanish, Portuguese, and English voices which influence debates on democracy, justice, citizen participation and human rights.

“Brazil and the USA both faced undeniable problems, and the two candidates provided simple, if racist and undemocratic answers. Bolsonaro was a strongman who proposed to crack down on the violence and crime that plagues Rio de Janeiro. Trump was a voice for the part of his country that blamed immigrants for taking their jobs.”

Yet, how does that explain André Ventura in Portugal?

“On the face of it, says Gouveia, “the social context would suggest that there’s little potential for a far-Right surge. Roma people, who are targeted by André Ventura’s rhetoric, represent less than 0.5% of the country’s population.”

The question, then, is how does Ventura manage to make his pitch under such adverse conditions?

“One possible explanation–that the far Right presents itself as the only anti-system voice and appeals to voters who are disillusioned with the system–brings the examples of Brazil, the USA, and Portugal together,” Gouveia proposes. “The anti-system argument is not new, with authors such as Boaventura de Sousa Santos having discussed it at length within the Portuguese context. What is interesting, however, is that the anti-system discourse alone seems to be enough for the far-Right to gain political ground.”

# # # # #

Over the summer of 2019, Mamadou Ba, the head of an anti-racist organization in Lisbon, received a letter. “Our goal is to kill every foreigner and anti-fascist–and you are among our targets,” it read. A few weeks later, it was followed by a message telling him to leave Portugal or let his family face the consequences. That message was accompanied by a bullet casing.

Mamadou Ba, an anti-racism activist, received emails threatening his family [Courtesy of Mamadou Ba]

Ba’s experience is “one of a growing number of racist incidents perpetrated across Portugal that have led the European Network Against Racism (ENAR) to call for an urgent institutional response,” reported UK’s The Guardian newspaper, which lists additional anecdotes and evidence of racism and growth of the far right in Portugal:

After forgetting her child’s bus pass, a black woman and her daughter were assaulted because they didn’t have a bus ticket. Angolan-Portuguese Claudia Simoes was kicked by a policeman and placed in a chokehold outside a bus station in front of her daughter. Later, two Brazilian women were attacked by the police outside a Cape-Verdean club, and in the same month, Porto football player Moussa Marega, born in Mali, abandoned a game after fans shouted racial slurs.

Portuguese far-right Chega party leader André Ventura holds a banner reading “Portugal is not racist” during a Lisbon demonstration.
Photograph: Patrícia de Melo Moreira/AFP/Getty
 

A worse attack took place when black actor Bruno Candé was murdered after a man shot him four times in what ENAR described as “an explicitly racially motivated crime.”

In early 2019, police officers in Lisbon, called to intervene on an issue between two residents in the Bairro da Jamaica neighborhood, were captured on video beating and pushing several residents. The following day, young Black Portuguese held a demonstration against police brutality. Police forces intervened and responded by firing rubber bullets. This then sparked accusations of institutional racism within police forces.

“In recent months, there has been a very concerning rise in far-right racist attacks in Portugal, confirming that the hate messages are fueling more aggressive tactics that target human rights defenders from racial minorities,” the organization (ENAR) said.

Endorsed by 16 members of the European Parliament and 72 civil social organizations in a letter condemning recent cases of police brutality and racist attacks, the European Network Against Racism also sought action from authorities.

Ba, who heads the NGO SOS Racismo, agreed: “There has been an obvious escalation in violence – a clear result of the growth of far-right terrorism in Portugal over the past few years.”

In 2019, the Portuguese Commission for Equality and Against Discrimination received 436 complaints regarding cases of racism, an increase of 26% over 2018.

Despite the growing number of discrimination complaints, hardly any resulted in a conviction. Between 2014 and 2018, the number of convictions for “crimes of discrimination and incitement to hate and violence … is less than three,” according to police statistics provided to the Guardian.

Government data, however, claim that crime in Portugal has decreased steadily by 20% over the past 12 years.

On 17 December 2021, however, rights groups and politicians in Portugal condemned images that allegedly showed police officers abusing and torturing migrant workers and said those responsible must be punished.

Protesters hold a banner reading ‘Down with Racist Violence, Justice for Claudia Simoes,’ referring to a woman assaulted by police during a demonstration against racism and fascism in Lisbon in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement on June 6, 2020. Source: AFP via Getty Images

The incidents took place in 2019 in the municipality of Odemira, known for its fruit and vegetable greenhouses that rely mainly on migrant labor from Southeast Asia to operate.

The prosecutor’s office said seven police officers in Odemira had been accused of 33 crimes against migrants. The GNR said in a statement that it was aware of the incidents and “promptly reported them” to the public prosecutor office.

Two of the seven officers had already been suspended, it said. Three of the officers were repeat offenders.

The GNR (National Republican Guard) officers are charged with a total of 33 crimes against immigrants, mostly from Bangladesh, Nepal, and Pakistan.

To make matters worse, video evidence, filmed by the accused and broadcast by CNN Portugal and local broadcaster TVI, suggests a group of military police officers engaged in the random harassment of migrants.

“Behavior of this nature is absolutely unacceptable,” said Prime Minister Antonio Costa.

In March 2021, Dunja Mijatovic, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, called on Portuguese authorities to address the increasing level of racism more resolutely in the country, as well as to take additional steps to prevent and combat violence against women and domestic violence.

The Commissioner remains concerned about the rise of racially motivated hate crimes and hate speech—especially targeting Roma, people of African descent, and those perceived as foreigners. She recommends implementing a comprehensive action plan against racism and discrimination, urging the authorities to condemn all instances of hate speech and insist that politicians firmly and publicly refrain from using or tolerating racist rhetoric.

Evidently, the Commissioner’s voice carried some weight. Portugal said it will review its anti-racism laws, including those concerning fines and sanctions, the government announced in its National Plan to Combat Racism and Discrimination 2021-2025.

The government committed to “assess the possible revision of the legislation on combating discrimination and hate speech … in the scope of administrative offenses.” The government also announced its goal of “strengthening the system of sanctions for misdemeanors, viewing the framework of fines and sanctioned conducts.”

Article 240 of the criminal code will also be revised in light of the international instruments that bind Portugal “to accommodate all the prohibited discriminations,” Sofia Branco reported in an article released by Lusa, Portugal’s national news service.

Nonetheless, a former TV commentator whose penchant for provocation won her fame and notoriety in Portugal by describing calls for racial justice “traitorous,” and referring to Black Portuguese people by an old-fashioned word that translates to something like “Negro.” Susana García ran for mayor of Amadora, a city adjacent to Lisbon with one of the largest Black populations in Portugal.

Says Nicholas Casey in a 26 September (2021) New York Times piece, “Ms. Garcia’s high profile and her combative persona mean she has tapped into a question far larger than who should be mayor: Namely, how a former colonial power like Portugal should deal with today’s debates about racial justice.”

Ultimately, Garcia lost the mayoral race–handily–to socialist Carla Tavares.

Yet a former prime minister, judges, top bankers, business chiefs and football club presidents have all been ensnared in corruption scandals. But with their cases still mired in a sluggish legal system, “perceived flaws in the fight against graft have become a pressing political issue,” the Financial Times recently reported.

And with this being one of the primary fields where populists prey, given the fact that government has not dealt effectively with the problem, it is expected (at press time) that the extreme right will gain from it in the upcoming legislative election on January 30th. Portugal’s legal system’s handling of white-collar crime has come to fuel greater discontent.

With every new case of corruption in Portugal becoming another “nail in the coffin of democracy,” at least those nails get driven at a turtle’s pace … just like the legal justice systems themselves.

Meanwhile, the white nationalist movement is spreading.

On 8 December 2021, The Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent, established in 2002 by the then Commission on Human Rights, noted with concern “the prevalence of systemic racism and racially-motivated violence and ill-treatment, racial profiling, abuse of authority, frequent police brutality towards people of African descent.”

Members of the Working Group visited Lisbon, Setubal, and Porto to gain first-hand knowledge of racism, racial discrimination, Afrophobia, xenophobia, and related intolerance affecting people of African descent in Portugal.

Their statement concluded: “Portuguese identity continues to be defined by its colonial past, as well as enslavement and the trade and trafficking of Africans, and racial equality efforts have not confronted the importance of a broad-based renegotiation of Portuguese identity.”

Racism. Hatred. White supremacy. Police brutality. Extremism. Prejudice. Discrimination. All are symptomatic of the so-called “alt-right” gaining strength in Spain and Portugal.

# # # # #

We left the USA for Portugal and Spain in March 2017 because of the alt-right’s growth. Disgusted by the politics, the police brutality, the discriminatory treatment of Black people, the anti-Semitic swastikas, the finger-pointing and curses hissed at LGBTs, the misogynistic attitudes towards women, the marginalization of minorities, the brutal caging and deportation of immigrants, and the overall worship of capitalism, we sold our home … packed our bags … said good-by … and emigrated from the United States to Portugal and Spain.

For 15 years, we had owned a vacation bolt in a small Spanish town (Olvera) in Andalucía, where we spent a number of weeks every year getting a foothold as expats in a foreign country. We decided to make our permanent residence in Portugal, however, so we could keep one foot in Spain and the other in Portugal.

Our status changed from expats to immigrants.

It’s been about four years now since we began dividing the days of our lives between Portugal and Spain. Throughout that time, we never have had cause to suspect or doubt the progressive attitudes in Iberia. For us, ultra-conservative-instigated hate crimes were a thing of the past.

Until recently.

Religious discrimination and hate crimes are on the rise in Spain, pushed by rhetoric from far-right political movements. The country’s interior ministry sounded the alarm in its most recent report, which revealed a 120 percent increase in incidents connected to crimes of religious intolerance in 2017, with 103 cases registered compared to 47 the previous year. Elsewhere in Iberia, police from Portugal’s National Anti-Terrorism Unit arrested 20 ultra-nationalists in an operation that involved searches across the country as part of an investigation into attempted murder and other hate crimes.

“Portuguese police officers told to remove racist tattoos within six months amid concerns over rising far-right,” asserted a headline in The Independent, a UK newspaper. The ban refers to “racist, extremist or violence-promoting symbols, words or drawings” and also covers earrings, bracelets and rings, Portugal’s police force said in a statement.

Police gave no estimate for how many officers might be affected by the ban, which coincides, according to the Independent, with increasing racist violence in the country.

After moments of disbelief, I couldn’t help but wonder why the government had targeted the racist tattoos of these Portuguese police rather than the racism under their skins.

Amid fears over the country’s far-right movement, protesters demonstrated in June 2020 against racism and fascism in Portugal.

Portuguese far-right Chega party leader André Ventura holds a banner reading “Portugal is not racist” during a Lisbon demonstration.
Photograph: Patrícia de Melo Moreira/AFP/Getty

In a 2018 report, the Council of Europe, a European human rights organization, referred to numerous grave accusations of racist violence against Portuguese police, while complaints to the country’s anti-discrimination commission rose by a quarter in 2019.

“The move comes after Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, Portugal’s president, declared that there would be ‘zero tolerance’ of racism in the country, as authorities launched an investigation over a number of email threats allegedly sent by a far-right group,” according to a news report. “The threats targeted several people, including two black lawmakers who were told to leave the country and threatened with murder.”

In early September, the Cameroonian philosopher Achille Mbembe and American intellectual Cornel West joined dozens of activists and academics around the world in signing an open letter calling for solidarity with the Black movement in Portugal, demanding accountability and concrete change to transform the “reality of structural racism and its manifestation in police brutality, racist violence and racial harassment in Portugal,” wrote Beatriz Ramaldo da Silva in a September 2020 article for Aljazeera.

Turns out that Portugal has become a target of alt-right ideology.

Boaventura de Sousa Santos, professor of sociology and director emeritus of the Centre for Social Studies at the University of Coimbra, frames the rise of Portugal’s far right within the context of wider global movement:

“There has always been a far-right base as is the case in Spain, Italy, Greece–the far-right was in power for 50 years in Portugal–and this basis never disappeared.”

Far-right internationalism is turning Portugal into a strategic target. “Clear illustrations of such signs include the recent attempt, by some intellectuals, to play the card of racial hatred in order to test existing divisions both on the right and the left and thereby influence the political agenda, the international meeting of far-right parties in Lisbon in August, and the strike called by the newly created National Union of Dangerous Goods Drivers, to take place at the same time as the Lisbon meeting,” claimed openDemocracy, a self-described “independent global media organization.”

# # # # #

Is Portugal so important as to deserve such strategic attention?

Yes.

Portugal is vitally important because, from the point of view of the international far-Right, it is the weak link through which radical renegades can carry out their attack on the European Union. 

People like to imagine Spain as a liberal paradise with sun, sea, and sangría, but its racism continues to be an open secret, according to the Olive Press. With approximately one million Black people living in Spain, that represents about 2% of the population–much lower than the 13-14% of African Americans in the USA. While chances of seeing acts of racism are less and fewer in Spain, entrenched racism is still very real.

In a June 2020 article, the English language Spanish newspaper noted that:

• Every Christmas, locals around the country use black face as they dress up as King Balthazar for the Three Kings Parade, a tradition that goes back to 1885;

Black FaceImage: La Sexta

• In 2017, a Black British stage actor was refused entry to a Málaga nightclub. A worker at the club later told the Olive Press that it had a “no Blacks” policy;

• “Convinced he was a terrorist,” a Spanish Guardia Civil officer killed an innocent Moroccan man in 2019, veering him off the road and shooting him eleven times as he fled on foot. Sentence for his crime was reduced;

• A Honduras woman selling sweets on the beaches of the Costa del Sol was allegedly strangled and dragged along the floor by police, who told her that she “was not human”;

• Increasingly worrisome is the flagrant racism that continues to be shown by young people in Spain, particularly in the world of football (soccer), where racial slurs are printed on the back of jerseys worn by members of immigrant teams.

Football Image: The Olive Press

It’s impossible for white people to know how gut-wrenching such discrimination feels, but it means that we must rally around and support the likes of Black Lives Matter and similar movements fighting for justice in the USA and, equally important, around the world.

“So, while we may not be in the US, don’t disregard the fight (against racism) as an American problem,” the Olive Press urged. “Tragically, both in Spain and around the world, the fight to end racism will not be over anytime soon.”

# # # # #

Same-sex marriages have been allowed in Portugal since 2010 and offer equal rights to the couple regarding property, taxes, and inheritance … since 2016, married couples of the same sex can adopt and foster children. (Spain legalized same-sex marriage in 2005, along with its adoption rights.)

People often ask us about homophobia: do we feel it or are we aware of it in either Spain or Portugal. Not really, I’d respond. Except for an elderly (90+) woman talking to her equally old, widowed neighbor in Portugal using the term “maricón” simply because she didn’t know any better.

Others, however, have had different experiences.

Attacks by the far-right Vox party on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights are testing years of political consensus on the issue in Spain, which, in 2005, became the third country in the world to allow same-sex marriage. Vox pledged to curtail gay pride parades, heaped ridicule on diversity lessons it wants to scrap in schools and even has drawn parallels between homosexuality and bestiality.

Since the 2005 approval of the same-sex marriage bill by the parties of Spain’s left, center-left, and center-right, even the mainly conservative People’s Party (PP), which vehemently opposed it, has changed tack, helping to defend and approve various bills in defense of LGBT rights. Some of its politicians have come out as gay and married their partners.

Yet, in October 2020, homophobic “slogans” were painted on rainbow benches in Spain’s Costa del Sol.

Be Gone, Gays!”Image: The Olive Press

Bigots in Pilar de la Honrada, a city-town-district of Alicante, smeared ugly graffiti on rainbow-colored benches installed by Pilar’s council to celebrate June’s World Pride Day as an acknowledgement of local LGBTQ residents. Two of the benches were emblazoned with the words “Gays, Get Out.”

“We will … fight this type of violent behavior with the goal of continuing to build a society that is more tolerant of diversity,” said a statement issued by Pilar’s council, as the benches were restored to their original rainbow state.

ILGA-Europe, an LGBTQ advocacy group, released its annual Rainbow Europe Country Ranking, funded by the European Union, which ranks 49 European countries from most to least LGBTQ-friendly. The ranking is based on how the laws and policies of each country affect the lives of LGBTQ people and uses a number of indicators, including nondiscrimination policies, hate speech laws, and asylum rights to create its list.

Of Europe’s ten most LGBTQ-friendly countries, according to ILGA-Europe’s 2021 ranking, Portugal and Spain rank fourth and eighth, respectively.

Lisbon Gay Pride, officially known as Arraial Lisboa Pride, is the largest LGBTQ event in Portugal (followed by Porto’s). It’s an important event that aims to shine a light on the various issues of injustice that still affect the LGBTQ community. A much loved and celebrated event, it attracts huge crowds each year–with over 70,000 visitors attending in 2018.

Lisbon Gay Pride Image: ILGA

That said, in a 22 November 2021 article in the daily Journal de Noticias entitled “LGBT Community More Discriminated in the Workplace,” Zulay Costa reported, “Those who deviate from the conventional norms in terms of gender identity and sexual orientation have added difficulties in accessing the labor market and are even more subject to job insecurity.”

The findings are contained in the Council of Europe’s study on diversity in the workplace.

“Candidates who are openly gay are 1.5 times less likely to be asked for an interview, and lesbians are offered a salary 6% lower than heterosexual women. There are cases of insults, harassment, threats, attacks, jokes, and prejudice,” according to the study.

Data from the Fundamental Rights Agency reveal that in 2019, in Portugal, 20% felt discriminated against at work, with the European average being 21%. And Costa’s article goes on to say, “L’Autre Cercie (a French organization working for the inclusion of LGBTQ+ people in the work world) points out that 25% of LGBTQ+ people have suffered at least one attack in their workplace. The situation of transgender people is the most worrying: 43% report having suffered discrimination in their professional life in the last two years, 13% more than lesbian, gay, or bisexual people.”

# # # # #

Attempting to atone for a 500-year-old sin, both Spain and Portugal are offering citizenship to Sephardic Jews whose families were expelled in the 15th century. Historians debate the exact number of Jews expelled; some estimate 40,000, others say 100,000 or more.

Yet Portugal’s government found itself reconsidering the plan to change its “law of return” for Jewish people. The ruling party of Portugal stepped back from an attempt to severely limit applications for citizenship from descendants of Sephardic Jews, a threatened move that Jewish leaders and organizations had charged was anti-Semitic. Members of the Socialist Party submitted a draft amendment to change the 2015 law that grants citizenship to people who can prove they are descended from Jews whose families fled the Iberian Peninsula following the Inquisition, a 15th-century campaign of anti-Semitic persecution in Portugal and Spain.

Under the proposed change, beginning in 2022, only people who had lived in Portugal for two years would be eligible for citizenship. This change would have sharply restricted the number of people who could apply. Currently, there are no requirements for applicants to live in Portugal or learn the language. Experts brought by the Socialist Party testified that within 100 years, a few thousand returning Jews could swell to 250,000 people and pose a demographic threat to Portugal’s identity.

“I felt like I was in a room in the inquisition in Lisbon and they were asking me to prove my Judaism,” said Leon Amiras, a lawyer in Israel who works closely with the Porto Jewish community on applications for citizenship. Although he was not present at the hearing, his personal family story was mentioned. “Suddenly these two members of parliament are testing me and trying to figure out if I’m ‘Jewish enough,’ [to deserve citizenship],” he recalled, as reported by the Times of Israel.

In 2020, Portuguese cartoon artist Vasco Gargalo was criticized for creating an antisemitic political cartoon published in the weekly news magazine Sábado. Media reports were disseminated showing Gargalo’s cartoon, which depicted former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wearing an armband like that of the Nazis, but with a Star of David rather than a swastika on it.

Meanwhile, Spain’s foreign minister condemned a carnival parade featuring gun-toting Nazis and lines of dancing Jewish victims a day after Israel’s ambassador expressed outrage over the spectacle. The display, which also featured a parade float designed like a gas chamber, was the second such incident in the same week, after a Belgian town earned a stiff rebuke from the European Commission.

Photo Credit: YouTube screenshot via JTA

It feels different now, say immigration lawyers and others who work in the cottage industry of Jews permanently crossing borders. Much of the drive to leave has to do with the prospect of Donald Trump winning reelection in 2024, following a chaotic “Big Lie” post-election period in which he and others continue to dispute the results of the 2020 vote. American Jews, lawyers and advocates say, are chilled by a climate of rising extremism and anti-Semitism, stoked, or condoned by the former president.

The history of bigots linking disease and depressing news with Jews, immigrants, people of color, or other minorities is a long and ugly one. The Holocaust teaches us that in times of instability and fear, people who didn’t previously express or tolerate racist views may find them less offensive … or even appealing.

In one of his most famous sermons, “Loving Your Enemies,” Dr. Martin Luther King preached: “Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

Hatred and evil, unfortunately, are part of the human condition. Once we shine a light on them, however, they tend to scurry like rats. Thankfully, the incidents mentioned in this article are few and far between. Whether in Portugal or Spain—they’re exceptions, rather than the rule.

Let’s do everything possible to keep it that way!

The BBB

Photo: Tripadvisor

Have you ever entertained the thought of retiring to some romantic place and opening a bed and breakfast there?

We have.

Nothing fancy, mind you; just a comfortable, offbeat place where weary workers or disheartened folks – single or couples – can relax and find some charm (or curiosities) and respite, off the beaten track.

For us, that means Portugal and southern Spain.

In these days of AirBnB, almost anyone can open a bed and breakfast. Anywhere. Even if you only have one “guest” bedroom to spare … or a sofa-sleeper in your living room!

Not long ago, we spent several days at a bed and breakfast outside a substantial suburb at the fringes of a major Iberian provincial capital. The chaps who own the place obviously love it and lavish cook-and-clean duties diligently on it daily. They’ve invested a lot of time, funds, and creativity in establishing an attractive b&b.

But it can be the little things – sometimes overlooked by people thinking they can create an idyllic bed and breakfast – that make all the difference between a memorable experience and one that won’t be repeated anytime soon.

As many people are hoping to move away from the USA or the UK or anywhere else and open a B&B in Spain or Portugal, here are a few observations and considerations for building the better bed and breakfast (The BBB):

Warmth—Beyond the comeliness and hospitality of a bed and breakfast is the mere matter of its comfort factor. As in temperature. Nobody enjoys staying in a bone-chilling room when it’s raining and nasty cold outside. If heating is provided by a single source (i.e., the warm setting of an air conditioner), consider back-ups. Even a portable electric heater can turn an unpleasant environment into a more comfortable one. Conversely, an air conditioner is an essential cost of doing business when inviting people to stay during warmer times.

Beds—Some people prefer to sleep au naturel. So, sleeping in a bed covered only by a nice duvet cover over a heavy blanket or comforter may be okay; but top (and bottom) sheets are better. After all, do you really want guests to wonder whose skin had caressed the comforter before they did? And, of course, provide comfortable mattresses.

Breakfast—Juice, fruits, cereals and yogurt, eggs, tortillas, toast, an assortment of charcuterie, and coffee (or tea) are delicious. Tasty and fulfilling. The first day (and maybe the second). But lacking distinction in this all-too-important meal, day after day, can become tiresome and ritualistic. There’s truth to the adage that, “variety is the spice of life.”

Lighting and Electrical—By all means, have enough. Some is good … more is better … too much is just enough! Many of us like to read in bed. A light – even a clip-one to the headboard – is essential. Who wants to get up to turn off the overhead light(s) just when we’re ready to close our eyes and fall asleep, because there aren’t any lamps on the nightstands on the side of the bed? Then, too, some of us travel with quite a few contrivances: computers, laptops, devices, irons, whatever. Outlets providing 110/220-AC/DC are essential!

Slipping and Sliding—Having suffered a broken a leg (and currently saddled with five pins around my ankle and a titanium rod in my shin), I have no desire whatsoever to repeat the experience. So, please – please! – consider your flooring … especially in the bathrooms. Shiny surfaces (aka “glazed” tiles) may look wonderful, but they can become sheets of ice when wet feet come in contact with them. Especially when trying to reach for that towel at the other end of the bathroom! How much safer and simpler are those tacky plastic mats for inside the bathtub, a rug and a utilitarian hook close to the shower for hanging the towel! Similarly, you may have gorgeous marble staircases … or ceramic or tile. Remember that they can be slippery. We’ve heard more than one sad story about a top-of-the-line b&b where a guest accidentally slipped down the steps.

Hot H20—Honestly, is anything worse than running out of hot water when you’re in the middle of taking a shower or about to begin shaving? Fortunately, today’s technology can provide hot water, continuously, courtesy of relatively inexpensive, on-demand water heaters. If you’re thinking of turning your place into a b&b, please be sure your guests don’t get a cold shoulder without continuous running hot water.

Computers—They may be called “laptops,” but sitting in bed with a computer on your lap is awkward at best and doesn’t work (at worst). Better bed and breakfasts provide a desk (and chair) where one can work online conveniently and comfortably.

• Je ne sais quoi–When push comes to shove, it’s the congeniality, the ambience, the undefinable yet unmistakable personality of your place that guests will remember and why they’ll come back again and/or recommend your hideaway to others. Those teeth-gritting exercises in being pleasant to people arriving four or five hours before check-in time … the tasty treat or homemade snack … the continued cleanliness of your rooms and gathering spaces distinguish you from the downtown hotels and near-to-the-airport facilities.

Each of these little comforts and conveniences add up to a BBB: a Better Bed & Breakfast!

Bruce Joffe is publisher and creative director of Portugal Living Magazine. You are invited to read our current and past issues on this page of its website. For those who prefer the feel of paper pages, paperback editions of the magazine are available at all Amazon sites.

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Our Strange Duet

Spain and Portugal Pas de Deux

Spanish churros

Portuguese Pasteis de Natas

We just returned from a two-week vacation at the property we’ve owned in southern Spain (Olvera) for nearly 15 years. Since leaving the USA in 2018, our primary residence has been in Portugal, divided between two properties –one in the central area (Castelo Branco) and the other near the Badajoz border of Portugal and Spain (Elvas). We’ve been legal/fiscal residents of Portugal for nearly five years–since the inauguration of Donald Trump. The pied a terre in Spain continues to be our vacation home.

When we were tourists traveling once or twice a year from the USA to Spain, we considered our “vacation bolt” the be-all-and-end-all of places we wanted to be. Now, because of our exposure to Portugal, we’re having second thoughts.

People often ask, “Why do you have property in both Spain and Portugal?” “Which country do you like better?” “What are some of the differences between the two?” “Which one is more or less expensive, all things considered?” “Why Portugal, not Spain?” (and vice-versa).

You can type any of those questions into Google and come up with a host of objective, credible answers. But I doubt that you’ll find much about the subtle differences between living in Spain and/or Portugal online. After all this time, we’ve only recently been able to pinpoint some of the subtle differences that impact and affect us.

Based on our observations and experiences in two comparable, interior towns — Olvera in the Spanish province of Cádiz and Alcains in the Castelo Branco district of Portugal — here are some of our impressions about one country and the other …

Spain caters to our spirit, Portugal to the soul. The first conjures up the Spanish word salido (outgoing, extroverted, uninhibited), while the latter is better described by its sorrowful saudade (longing, yearning, loss).

Think about how Spanish flamenco and Portuguese fado make you feel. Therein lie the differences — emotional, at least — between the two Iberian countries.

Too metaphorical and transcendental a description? Consider these for more specifics:

• Portugal may have bad drivers, but Spain has poor roads–not just in their physical condition, but in their safety zones. Highways and major roadways in both countries feature signage indicating that a single car distance between you and another signals danger, and that greater safety is achieved by maintaining two. But Portugal is very careful about the areas where you’re permitted to pass other vehicles … especially from the lane of oncoming traffic. Not so in Spain. It’s sheer terror trying to pass another vehicle in those short lengths of roadway before a curve or an incline blocks your vision of what’s coming at you ahead.

• While both countries are Roman Catholic, in name if not in practice, nearly all stores — including supermarkets and shopping malls — are closed Sundays in Spain, while remaining open in Portugal.

• Maybe you’re too young to remember John’s Bargain stores (which morphed into Big Lots), where closeouts and budget prices lured penny-pinching shoppers. Now we have Walmart and “warehouse” operations like Costco. Due to its major investments in Portugal, China is favored with many tax-exempt businesses. Every city and town in Portugal sports hole-in-the-wall and mega Chinese shops which are beginning to take root in Spain, as well. But in southern Spain, Andalucía especially, it’s the Moorish markets that lead in the whatever-you-need, something-for-everyone business. And while it’s an eye-opener to see just how many products we import from China, the truth is that few bargains are to be found in either the Chinese or Moorish markets.

• Along with supermarkets, shops, and weekly markets, both countries also allow vehicles to deliver bread, fish, and assorted sundries to homes. Although each typically follows the same routes, stops, and times, you can hear them coming by a series of short “toot-toots” in Portugal, whereas wheeled merchants in Spain can deafen you with their loud, long, insistent horns blaring. Honking is more habitual in Spain than in Portugal, where stopping to unload groceries, neglecting to move the instant a traffic light turns green, letting someone out, or having a word with a pedestrian is more allowable and less the cause of impatience and maddening disruptions requiring immediate retorts by holding down on the horn.

• The languages of both countries have quirky differences. In Spain, it’s the lisp and in Portugal it’s kind of like a shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh or, sometimes, a gargling sound. Ultimately, Spanish is easier to understand than Portuguese, whose pronunciation is much more difficult. Nonetheless, Spanish grammar and verb conjugation require far more expertise (and experience) than Portuguese.

• Perhaps it’s where we go and travel, but to our ears, English is spoken more frequently by the Portuguese than the Spanish. Maybe that’s because it’s not considered a “foreign” language (i.e., Spanish, French, Italian, Latin, etc.) in Portugal, but rather an integral part of every student’s curriculum from elementary school upwards.

• Taxes tend to be lower in Spain (where the ubiquitous IVA or sales tax is 21% v. Portugal’s 23%), except when it comes to buying property: Spain just reduced (for a limited time?) its transfer tax from 8% to 7% of the sales price plus an additional 1% in stamp fees. In Portugal, however, if your principal residence costs less than €100,000, you’ll pay just 0.8% in transfer taxes plus 1% in stamp fees. Do the arithmetic: On a €50,000 home purchase, you’ll pay €4,000 in Spanish transfer taxes and stamp fees compared to Portugal, where you’ll be assessed €900. That’s quite a difference there! Nonetheless, in addition to IVA, Portugal imposes a road tax initially and in perpetuity on any vehicle that you buy.

• Spain is five times larger than Portugal with lots more coastline, yet Portugal has historic majesties and jaw-dropping topography, as well as its charm.

• The density of buildings – a bunch of two, three, and four-level houses set atop and/or encircling one or more others – gives a sense of claustrophobia, of living in a maze, in towns like ours in Spain. Are the streets really narrower there, or is it just how we’re made to feel? Portugal’s streets in towns like Alcains aren’t much wider (apparently), but there just doesn’t appear to be as many buildings or cars crammed into the space. Whether it’s a measure of driving skill or the impossibly steep streets for parking, almost every car — old and new — has dents, scratches, bangs, and fender-benders which the folks in Olvera affectionately refer to as “Olvera kisses.” Somehow, for whatever the reason, Portuguese cars are found to be in far better condition.

• People in both countries participate in the “café” culture, sipping and gossiping daily. Yet they’ll probably be drinking coffee in Portugal, whereas wine is the preferred choice in Spain. Both beverages cost about the same.

• By and large, Spain has its tapas, extremely low-cost, smaller portion dishes with fixings (bread, olives, pretzels, potato chips, cheese, etc.) to share with others or enjoy by yourself. Two people, each partaking two separate tapas plus two wines or beers, will pay around €15 for a satisfying meal. Add an appetizer (entrada) or dessert, and you’re looking at a 20€ tab. Water and soft drinks are more expensive than beer or wines in Spain and Portugal. Both countries offer their Platos/Pratos de(l)/do día. Maybe it’s the butchering, but we much prefer the taste and the chew of Spanish meats and sauces.

• In terms of bread and desserts, Portugal wins, hands down. Spanish breads and rolls are dry and tasteless, while they’re a many splendored thing in Portugal. Yes, Spain does have its churros (which many believe the Portuguese have improved upon), but Portugal’s pasteis de natas are a classic creamy custard tart that’s incomparable in its own right.

• Garbage collection and recycling is handled very differently in Olvera and Alcains. In our Spanish town, every sort of refuse – glass wine bottles, plastic water bottles, metal cans of tuna and shaving cream, along with the usual kitchen and bath waste – are often put into the same plastic bag and hung outside one’s house, where it’s picked up by the bin men (not women) every single day (including Sundays and holidays). Few recycling “centers” are conveniently located to where many of us live. In Portugal, recycling is encouraged with billboard signage and online memes … and good deals are available on sets of home-based recycling bins. Trash isn’t picked up at your property, but at clusters of red, yellow, and green recycling bins next to plain-old-garbage receptacles within walking distance, where we deposit them.

I began this narrative with a musical headline–from Phantom of the Opera. I close here with another musical allusion, this one from Mary Wells:

“Well, I’ve got two lovers and I ain’t ashamed … two lovers and I love them both the same.”

Bruce Joffe is publisher and creative director of Portugal Living Magazine. You are invited to read our current and past issues on this page of its website. For those who prefer the feel of paper pages, paperback editions of the magazine are available at all Amazon sites.

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