It all started with Ten Famous Serbs, when out of the blue I asked our guide for his top ten. Now wherever I go I ask a local for his or her top ten. In Luanda Carla helped me with Ten Famous Angolans. In Lisbon I had fun with the people at the Concierge Desk at the Marriott. They all joined in to give me this list of Ten Famous Portuguese.
#1 Famous Portuguese
No question: number one is Cristiano Ronaldo, footballer extraordinaire, but one who did not come home with the 2018 World Cup.
Let’s see, do I have this right? He just got traded from Real Madrid to Italy’s Juventus for €100m at the age of 33.
Famous Portuguese Explorers
Despite Ronaldo’s current fame, I chose Vasco da Gama (d. 1524) for the title image. Seems fair. He was the first European to sail to India. He also happened to die there, namely in Kochi (which is likely Gochin on the map).
Da Gama’s route explains pretty much of present-day Lusophonia.
Then there’s Infante Dom Henrique o Navegador (1394-1460), aka Prince Henry The Navigator, who oversaw the expansion of the Portuguese Empire in what is called The Age of Discovery.
He did no explorations on his own but he did fund others.
I could fill out the rest of the ten with rulers and explorers, so I’ll turn to another category.
Famous Portuguese Nobel Prize Winners
António Egas Moniz (1874-1955), a neurologist, won the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1949 for his pioneering work in psychosurgery, what he called ‘leucotomy’ and what later became know as lobotomy.
Here’s a kicker: in 1939 Moniz was shot by a schizophrenic patient and was thereafter confined to a wheelchair.
José Saramago (1922-2010) received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1998. He is known for being critical of institutions such as the Catholic Church and the International Monetary Fund.
Saramago did not become famous until he was sixty with the publication of his fourth novel which was translated as Baltasar and Blimunda for which he gained international recognition. Speaking of Top Ten lists, Balthasar made mine for Ten Famous Ethiopians.
Famous Portuguese: Fado
Fado is a category in itself, and the singer Amália Rodrigues (1920-1999) is at the top of the list.
The singing style can be traced back to Lisbon in the early 19th century and likely has an etymology going back to Latin fatum ‘fate.’ The topic can be anything but is usually saudade ‘longing’ with the sense of nostalgia and irreparable loss, probably of a love. It is accompanied by guitars and mandolins.
Listen to Rodrigues sing “Cum que voz” with words from the classical poet Luis de Camões (see below)
Famous Portuguese Poets
The classical poet Luis de Camões (1542-1580) figures here wearing his poet’s laurels.
His best known work is Os Lusíadas ‘The Lusiads,’ an epic poem first published in 1572.
The modern poet Fernando Pessoa (1888-1935) was a critic, philosopher, translator, writer, and also the producer of works written under at least 75 pseudonyms, what he called heteronyms.
He is probably the most famous Portuguese writer of the 20th century.
Famous Portuguese Hip-Hop Tuga Artists
Pursuing my theme of Lusophonia, Portugual has a current musical scene influenced by hip-hop culture and Afro-Portuguese connections, also called Hip Hop Tuga (tuga being slang for’Portuguese’). It was founded by rapper General D who was born in Mozambique but moved to Lisbon and holds a Portuguese passport, so I figure he counts.
Listen to his Vida from 1997
Expensive Soul is a hip-hop duo that has been together since 1999.
Watch their music video Cúpido from 2013
See: All Africa Blogs
This post was written by Julie Tetel Andresen