HISTORY, CULTURE AND VITALITY

With almost 900 years of history, Portugal is one of the oldest countries in the world. It was the first nation in Europe to create a global empire. Portugal was a monarchy until 1910, but is now a democratic republic. It is located in a highly important geo-strategic position and is the most westerly country in mainland Europe. It has 848 km of coastline, just one neighbouring country (Spain) and two archipelagos with regional self-government.

Around two million Portuguese currently live all over the world. The Portuguese diaspora is a case study, given the Portuguese people’s capacity for integration into their host communities, while still maintaining strong links with their own country and culture. They have left a legacy of Portuguese heritage and culture in every country over the centuries. Portuguese people are also known for their cheerful, hospitable way of welcoming foreigners to Portugal, as immigrants or tourists.

Portuguese is the ninth most spoken language worldwide, with 265 million speakers in all continents. UNESCO announced World Portuguese Language Day in 2020, stating that Portuguese was the language of the first globalisation of the modern era and remains a living instrument with a major social and economic impact.

Portuguese literature and that of the Portuguese-speaking countries hold a significant place in the world’s literary production. In around 1550, when the empire was being built, Luís de Camões wrote “Os Lusíadas” [The Lusiads], an epic poem that exalts the Portuguese people, in one of the best-ever uses of the language. José Saramago, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1999, and Fernando Pessoa created two of the most influential works of fiction in the world. Eça de Queirós, António Lobo Antunes, José Saramago, Fernando Pessoa, all Portuguese, Paulo Coelho and Jorge Amado, both Brazilian, and Mia Couto and Artur Pepetela (from Mozambique and Angola, respectively) are the most published and translated Portuguese-language authors.

Portugal has a genuine, rich culture, arising from the Portuguese people’s unique capacity for exchanges with other cultures over the centuries. Different icons of Portuguese culture are known worldwide. Fado and Cante Alentejano, two types of singing, are both classified by UNESCO as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. UNESCO has recognised Sintra as the first World Heritage Cultural Landscape and, all together, Portugal has 17 sites classified as being of universal value, including forests, monuments, landscapes, historical city centres and intangible culture. Internationally, there are World Heritage sites of Portuguese influence in every continent, with 26 classifications to date. The art of tile-making is one of the most visible national cultural icons and has been practised over more than 500 years. Pieces of painted themed and historical ceramics are used as architectural and decorative features in churches, palaces, homes and public spaces.

Portugal currently has around 10 million inhabitants, with a working population of nearly five million. The performance of the national economy within the European Union has been very positive in recent years, with consistent rises in GDP and unprecedented falls in the unemployment rate. The economy is heavily weighted towards the service sector, similarly to the rest of the EU. Portugal is an attractive country for direct investment. In 2018 it was the 13th best country in the world for infrastructure (Global Competitiveness Report, World Economic Forum), the 25th best for doing business in 2017 (World Bank “Ease of Doing Business” Report) and the best in Southern Europe. Portugal has investment intentions above the European average, with investors pointing to factors such as social stability, labour costs, high local workforce skills, telecommunications infrastructure, potential for productivity increase and transport and logistics infrastructure (“Attractiveness Survey Portugal 2017”, Ernst & Young).

The growing attractiveness of Portugal is even higher when crucial life factors such as peace, security and quality of life are considered. In 2019, Portugal was the third safest and most peaceful country in the world in the Institute for Economics & Peace Global Peace Index, a rise of two positions against the previous year, behind only New Zealand and Iceland. This analysis compared 163 countries and the other Southern European countries were significantly below Portugal in these rankings. This index reflects a number of variables in areas such as governance, health, climate, internal and external conflicts, trust and the political system, among others. In 2019, Portugal was also the 18th best country to live in worldwide, out of 149, according to the annual Deloitte “Social Progress Index” survey. This index measures social progress indicators such as access to health, education, housing, information, nutrition, inclusion, human rights, security, etc.

Written in Q1 2020. Sources: AICEP www.portugalglobal.pt; Deloitte. www.deloitte.com; Ferro, M. J. (2016). A tradução de literatura escrita em português: Retrato da periferia. Lisboa: Academia das Ciências de Lisboa. Institute for Economics & Peace. www.economicsandpeace.org; Social Progress www.socialprogress.org; UNESCO www.unesco.org.